Twenty three years ago when my husband and I joined in holy matrimony, we moved into a small condominium and planned to stay in our residency for five years, and save for our dream house. Soon that day came and after searching for five long months, we finally found the perfect three bedroom house across from the National Lakeshore. If we would have built a house, we could not have done a better job than what we had discovered. The private driveway wound back through the woods which lead to a house sitting upon a hilltop. The only thing that could be seen was the lush forest with countless varieties of plants, a continuously running creek that ran through the back property, the peaceful songs of birds and scampering feet of little woods animals, and a lot of treasured peace and solitude to soothe our fidgety souls.
All summer long we went for long discovery walks through the quite woods with our family dog and followed never ending deer paths, hung out bird feeders to attract wild birds, and then decided instead of just throwing away dinner scraps, we would share with the raccoons and watch them eat. On very rare occasions in the evening or early morning, we would spot a roaming deer and thought it would be nice to attract deer so we began to put out corn for them, but the deer never came to feed and it sat virtually uneaten.
That year winter was very harsh and all our cherished animal friends had vanished, except for the birds. Until one late night, my husband spotted a heard of hungry deer nibbling the pine trees across the street. I immediately went and filled up a bucket full of corn to lure them, but the second I made a sound, the deer instantly vanished into the woods, and I thought they were gone forever, but I dumped the feed on the ground anyway and in the morning it was gone. I was ecstatic that they came back, so I continued doing this day after day and soon my new friends were coming to feed earlier and earlier and in time they started waiting for me to bring them food. Soon there were several herds coming at various times, and eventually I started pouring out corn, deer feed, alfalfa, oats, and apples as an occasional treat. By the end of winter they didn’t run away anymore, but always kept their distance. By mid spring they were gone again and nobody saw them on a regular basis until the next late fall.
My husband and I fed the animals on a regular basis all year around for many many years. Each season, anticipating and estimating when our summer friends would appear and when the deer would return bringing their adorable fawns. We marveled at how generations remembered us and taught their cherished babies not to be afraid.
One mid-summer I noticed a small red spot on the middle of my thigh and took it for granted that it was some type of heat rash so I didn’t pay attention to it since it didn’t itch or bother me. A week later I realized this spot had become a red circle with a clear middle. My husband told me to go have it looked at by a doctor because it looked like Lyme disease. I told him he had an over active imagination because Lyme disease is not in the Midwest. According to the local news stations, the only incidents of the disease is in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Delaware.
Three days later I was totally exhausted and could hardly get out of bed and thought I must have a cold because my body ached. Later that night a fever, chills, and headache, set in and I reasoned that I was getting the flu. Before midnight the symptoms had elevated far worse than before and my lymph glands in my neck were so swollen, and then I began to profusely sweat.
My husband picked me up and carried me to the car and took me to the emergency room at the local hospital where I was told my temperature was 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Then a test called an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was performed to screen for the Lyme disease antibody. The test came back positive, but a confirmation test called a Western Blot had to be performed to be 100% sure, and the result was positive for the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi . I had Lyme disease.
I was immediately given intravenous antibiotics and pain medication. When my fever went down, I was allowed to go home and was told to follow up with my family physician after I had finished my months’ supply of oral antibiotics.
Then the county Board of Health called my house to ask me questions about where I was and what I was doing when I got the tick bite and any information that I could remember. I didn’t know anything about Lyme disease or how to prevent from getting it again so I did some research at the local library.
Lyme disease acquired its name from the town Old Lyme, Connecticut where the first cases of the disease was reported in 1975. Lyme disease is acquired primarily from a deer tick bite genus (lxopes) meaning hard tick. Once bitten by the tick, a bulls eye rash (erythemia megrans) occurs in 70-80% of infected victims and in an average of seven days the symptoms occur. The most susceptible people are children between the ages of 5-9 and adults 45-54 years old. After the tick is attached to the skin for 36 to 48 hours, the bacteria enters the bloodstream.
To prevent the risk of coming in contact with a deer tick, wear protective clothing (such as long sleeves, long pants, and a hat) when any type of activates take place in a wooded, grassy, or bushy area. Spray on an insect repellent that contains DEET directly to the skin (such as Colemans Insect Repellant), or Sawyer Clothing Repellant which contains permethrin (this should only be used on clothing, and never the skin). When coming back from outdoor activities take a shower and meticulously look for ticks the size of a pin head on the body especially the thighs, buttocks, underarms, and between joints especially behind the knee. Always wash all clothes that you wear outdoors in hot soapy water with bleach.
If you do spot a tick it can be removed by using a fine-tipped tweezers by grasping the part of the tick that is closest to your skin. Slowly pull the tick straight out and be sure not to twist it. Do not use a match, nail polish, petroleum jelly, or topical ointments to remove a tick. One the tick is removed, save it in a clean jar for identification purposes.
My family and I still go on our long walks through the woods and enjoy every second of living in our perfect house, but we now all take precautions to prevent coming in contact with ticks. Even the family dog now wears a flea and tick collar along with monthly applications of flea and tick medicine we buy from our veterinarian. The area that we feed the deer has been moved across the street and we do not walk in that area. We shower after being outside in the woods, wear protective clothing and check our clothing after each outing, tenaciously observe ourselves, and have been tick free ever since my experience with Lyme Disease.