Allie Steen knew something was seriously wrong when she couldn’t remember the number she was supposed to dial to call in sick to work. Later, at a medical office, she couldn’t remember half of her personal information to complete the patient form. That, combined with achy, swollen fingers and toes and difficulty walking, caused her doctor to suspect gout or fibromyalgia, but those tests came back negative.
“She and I sat down and went over everything I had been exposed to,” Allie said. In the course of conversation, Allie remembered a tick bite she had experienced a few weeks earlier. “It was on my right shoulder blade and my husband removed it.” She also remembered it was an odd-looking tick with a silvery spot on its back.
Her doctor ran a simple blood test and the diagnosis was official. Allie had Lyme disease.
She was given the antibiotic doxycycline, which seemed to do the trick. Allie was on the road to recovery, but a full year later, her symptoms returned and were even worse.
Before the tick bite, Allie had led an active, busy life. Driving a daily route for UPS and delivering packages all day long kept her moving at a rapid pace. These days, it’s a different story.
“I stay tired and have to rest more,” she explained. “And my sleeping pattern is all messed up. I suffer fatigue and sleeplessness at the same time.”
Normally after work, Allie would go home for housecleaning or yard chores, but that became impossible. “My muscles would burn and ache,” she said. “And I had no energy.”
Her doctor referred her to the Progressive Medical Center in Atlanta, Ga. That’s when Allie learned that, due to a serious depletion of certain vitamins and minerals, her heart and other organs were being affected.
She was immediately put on supplements and began receiving immunotherapy drugs through an IV. The treatment is similar to chemotherapy, and she has to go to Atlanta every four to six weeks to receive it.
She has also had to change her eating habits because there are certain foods she can’t have anymore, such as refined sugars and processed foods. Also, she is now prone to dehydration, and must drink water frequently.
Allie is grateful to her employer for working with her as she battles this illness. “They’ve been very understanding,” she said. She was recently promoted to the center’s safety co-chair. She still has the opportunity to drive a truck and deliver packages, but a lot of her work is now done inside.
Allie is optimistic that the IV treatments she’s receiving will cure her of Lyme disease, especially since she knows that left untreated, it can be fatal. “I want to make people more aware,” she said. “If everyone knows the symptoms, the sooner they can be tested and the sooner they can get treatment.”
Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at email@example.com.