Jeffrey L. Diamond: My tick bite nightmare: Part 2
This is the concluding part of a two-part column that began on Wednesday
RICHMOND — My battle with the tick-borne disease, Anaplasmosis, is a warning for all of us here in the Berkshires. Unlike Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis often strikes with crippling speed, and if not treated quickly, can snowball out of control.
That's what happened to me when I came down with the infection this spring. I pick up my story after being sent home
undiagnosed from the emergency room at Berkshire Medical Center on June 4.
My condition continued to deteriorate the next day, the pounding in my head intensifying, my breathing more labored, my temperature soaring to 103. That's when my wife, Amy, made an appointment with my primary care physician, Dr. Karen Prestwood.
As we left our home in Richmond on Tuesday, June 6, I could barely stand. I have vague memories of stumbling into the doctor's office and of Dr. Prestwood sitting at the computer reviewing the test results from my visit to the emergency room two days before. After noting the timeline of my symptoms, she told us I might be suffering from a tick-borne disease — the first time a doctor had raised that possibility. So she ordered a blood test to confirm her suspicion and placed me on doxycyline, a decision that probably saved my life.
The following day, June 7, was a nightmare. My mind, ravaged by the high fever, was delusional, spiraling from one hallucination to the next. Amy moved me down to the guest bedroom on the first floor worried I could no longer manage the steps. I spent most of the day sleeping, waking at 2 a.m. Thursday morning needing to use the bathroom. I remember
climbing out of bed, the room spinning, then wobbling across the floor and into the bathroom. That's when I fell for the first time, landing in the bathtub.
I remember calling Amy for help, but she was upstairs and couldn't hear me. I began coughing uncontrollably, my lungs burning as I steadied myself against a wall, climbed out of the tub, and headed to the toilet. That's when a new dangerous symptom reared its ugly head. Even with my bladder about to burst, I could only pass a trickle of urine.
Later that day, June 8, my fever climbed to 103.5 and my lungs began filling with fluid. Amy placed a call to my pulmonologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, who asked me if I was strong enough to make the trip to Boston so he could examine me, but I was so incoherent, he stopped me mid-sentence and told me to head straight back to the emergency room.
New crisis point
So we made our second trip to Berkshire Medical Center, Dr. Prestwood calling ahead to tell them to expect me. I was processed immediately and taken to an exam room. A nurse hooked me up to an IV, took my vitals, then drew blood. I remember being in a daze and desperately needing to urinate. The nurse gave me a urinal, but all I passed was a stream of blood. I had reached a new crisis point. My renal system was hemorrhaging.
I remember Amy racing out of the room for help and returning a few minutes later with the doctor. He immediately ordered a catheter to empty my bladder and said I was going into kidney failure — though he still had no idea why I was sick. He decided to continue the doxycyline treatments ordered by Dr. Prestwood for a possible tick bite infection as he awaited the results of her blood test — still not back from the lab after three days — and admitted me to the hospital for observation.
It wasn't until the next morning, Friday, June 9, almost a week after I first got sick, that the attending doctor in the hospital confirmed what Dr. Prestwood had suspected, that I was suffering from Anaplasmosis. Finally, I knew what was wrong with me.
I spent the next four days in the hospital, my body slowly healing. By late Saturday, June 10, I was breathing better, my kidneys were improving, there was no blood in my urine, and my fever and headache were gone. Then on Monday, June 12, the catheter was removed and my bladder began working on its own. The doxycyline had done its job. Later that day, I was
discharged to the Kimball Farms Nursing Care Center where I spent three days building upper body strength and learning to walk again.
Now almost three months after coming down with Anaplasmosis, I'm still suffering lingering side effects. I'm always exhausted, have double vision from a condition called optic neuritis, and face months before I fully recover.
So my experience with this tick bite nightmare is a warning for all of us. Many in the medical community are ill-equipped to deal with the problem, and if my wife hadn't insisted I see my primary care physician after I was turned away from the emergency room on that first day I was sick, I might have died from the infection.
So the lesson here is simple. We all need to understand the dangers. In the end, it could save your life.
An author, award-winning producer, and director, Jeffrey L. Diamond has 40 years of experience in television news.
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