The Start of a Life
A Day Like Any Other
To fully understand how Lyme can cause an impact so great on one's life that it may be essentially, "ruined", I feel as if some backstory is necessary.
I was 26 years old when I contracted Lyme Disease. Two years into this, and I am making the best of what I can, but there are reminders that I see every day that tell me of who I once was and who I hope I can be again or surpass. At 26 I had a good job, a good car, a bright-looking Military career, a boyfriend, a couple of dogs, many friends, loving parents, two beautiful godchildren, a team of Search and Rescue members who were like my family, and a whole lot of reasons to live and live well. All these wonderful people and life experiences then shift when I was given a little gift by a tick. A gift, that I did not want, but couldn't and can't seem to get rid of no matter how hard I've tried. Yet.
It was a chilly, humid, Kentucky night in August 2015. I, as well as the rest of the team of specialized Search and Rescue members had received the call that we were needed in a neighboring county to look for a little girl who had gone missing earlier in the day. The scene is chaos, as it usually is whenever a youngster goes missing. Every search crew/team in the area has been called out to help look for this little girl in backwoods Kentucky. Including many other 'good Samaritans' who think they're helping by showing up and cluttering the scene, destroying evidence, and any trails the dogs may have been able to pick up on. Our team geared up upon arrival, awaiting instruction from the Chief who was speaking with the Incident Commander to receive our orders, any new evidence, scent articles, and search areas. Our pants were tucked in our boots, our shirts tucked in our pants, and every inch of our bodies were hosed down with deep woods bug spray to keep as many of the pesky parasites away from us as possible while in the field. The cloud of deet hanging heavy in the air, chocking any unsuspecting victim downwind as the clouds pass them by; the bright lights running off of generator power to light up the staging area, people running back and forth as new information is collected or given out to the teams; the Civil Air Patrol circling above trying to see any signs of human life in the woods with their infrared cameras... You know, those kinds of scenes you see in a movie and hope you never have to experience yourself. We went to those scenes willingly in hopes of helping out our neighbors to find their lost loved ones as often as the need arose.
Going to the scene is only part of the battle. Everyone on our team was trained to do what we do. K-9. I was one of the K-9 SAR handlers on the team, with one of the most senior dogs on the team as well as an up and coming pup. When the Chief came back from speaking with the Incident Commander (IC), they divided out the team and assigned us to specific search areas within the larger search area handed down by IC. Myself, my K-9, two other team members, and 2 members of the ground search crew from Civil Air Patrol were to be a group and rely on the dog to help us search our area for the missing child. Our team's internal Command Area did our final checks before releasing us to go into the dark woods. After all final checks were made, we were sent out.
As a K-9 handler, my job is to read my dog and my backup's job was to keep track of our pinpoint location using gps and map/compass with distance and direction as our backup. The other ground search members in our group were doing just that. Sweeping over the ground for any clues to be had of the girl's whereabouts as well as looking for the actual girl. Names the child went by were called out with pauses for any kind of response that my come back. Songs the child liked to sing were sung loudly to hopefully get a response from the child. The dog, doing it's best to track the trail that had already been trampled on by neighbors who just wanted to 'help'. The search led us through the woods, freshly harvested fields, creeks, and a large pond that was so large, many locals referred to it as a lake instead. We searched through the night until the teams were called in by the IC for shift change, where we would all regroup and send out the fresh rescue teams so we could rest for a little while before going out to help them as well. About three hours after being called in for the change, the sun was rising and new hope spread throughout the teams that with the light, we could find the girl. Which, turned out to be hope made of fool's gold; for we found the girl, but she was not alive. She had tragically drown hours before our teams had even been called onto the scene.
As a rescuer, the worst part of the job is having to switch to recovery mode. To tell the parent that their child won't be coming home alive is the hardest thing ever, and probably part of the reason I don't want children. It's a miracle I made it to adulthood with all the shenanigans I got myself into and a copy of that in a smaller version... No thank you.
The drive home that morning was hard. The questions that always come to mind such as, "what else could we have done? Could we have arrived sooner? If we had taken a different turn in the woods, would they still be alive? Is there an issue with the training I've received or have given my dog? Is my dog losing their edge? Am I losing my edge? How many times was the water checked with the boats?" So many questions that will never have a definite answer and really don't make for good dreaming material. Now home, I began the process of unpacking the vehicle. Dogs? Check. Gear? Check. Phone? Check. Sanity? Debatable. Tick carrying Lyme Disease? Check. Wait... What?
Tick carrying Lyme Disease. Check. Not a box I wanted marked, I assure you. I pull the tick off the way I've done a thousand times before and double check for any others. There were no more, so a quick shower and off to work I went. The tick bite itched on and off throughout the day, but no more than usual. No crazy bulls eye to be seen and nothing way out of the ordinary as far as how I felt after being up all night searching through the woods for a missing person. The day was almost over, and I was looking forward to going home for an early night to bed. I leave work, arrive at home, then get a phone call from my dad. Mom's heart rate dropped so low she couldn't move and Dad couldn't move her either. The Ambulance was already at the house and the Paramedics were loading Mom into the vehicle. I fed the dogs, let them out, then went straight to the hospital to be there for my Dad while they tried to figure out just what was goin on with Mom.
She was in the hospital for a week. I went back and forth between my house and theirs, taking care of the animals when I wasn't at work or at the hospital with her. At that time, my boss was a friend of the family and knew what was going on and why it would appear I wasn't at the top of my game at work. A weekend's rest, didn't seem to do me any good the following week, but I pushed on, ignoring the fever and the pain. I thought it was just because I had been tired from the week before. Then, another week passes. I became very dizzy, forgetful, nauseous, couldn't concentrate, exhausted, pain radiated throughout my body at all times, sweat would pour down my face at the slightest excursion, I would run out of breath going up and down the 5 stairs that lead to the door as work, felt like I was going to pass out multiple times a day for seemingly no reason... Something was obviously wrong. It took my boss telling me to go to the doctor before I would go see someone. At which point, they attempted to draw blood for testing. One stick, nothing. Two, nothing. Three, nothing but a blown vein. Come back tomorrow morning after hydrating all night. Okay, that's easy.
First thing the next morning, I'm back, not feeling any better just needing to hit up the restroom more often than normal. They try to draw blood two more times before giving me a note to go over to the local Primary Care facility. Where I would again be stuck a few times with no luck. Primary Care sends me over to the hospital. They finally are able to draw blood, three days later, and all I had to do from there was wait. Hopefully I was just anemic or something from being so stressed out worrying about Mom. Hopefully.
Then the doc calls me back, but rather than saying, "Hello, Your test results were normal, we're going to treat this as anemia for now and see if things get better after a week or two..." I received the words, "Hello, we need you to come in to the office." ***RED FLAG RED FLAG*** Then, my doctor sat me down and told me I had Lyme Disease. Lovely. I asked what can we do about it from here to which the response was, "Well, you're outside the normal treatment time, but we'll treat it as if you have just been bit with a long term antibiotic." Okay, cool. I'll finish those up and get back to being myself. I was very wrong on that assumption. Thus began my life with Lyme as I know it.
The ups and downs of the treatment will be saved for my next capsule of this journey, as well as the medical help received, what worked, what didn't, what is still mending, and where this hellish journey has taken me.
I'll be until.