Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ticked / La Garrapata

La versión español está después de la primera foto.

WHILE LIVING IN what we called "the country" in Guilford, Connecticut in the late '80s and early '90s, we were always working outside in our gardens. More than half our property was wooded. And we were in the heart of what was at the time Lyme Disease country — just a hop, skip, and a tick-jump from the towns of Lyme and Old Lyme, Connecticut, where the syndrome, Lyme Disease, got its name.

Lyme Disease is transmitted to humans by ticks that are carried on other mammals, such as deer and birds. If you're interested in learning about it in detail, check out the information on Wikipedia here. Most people who are bitten by a tick do not contract the disease. I was not so lucky. It's a longish story with a happy ending, so I'll give it to you in two or three daily doses.

Lyme Disease isn't easily diagnosed because the symptoms vary and resemble so many other illnesses. Mine started with severe pain in my head. Not a headache. Severe pain. Thankfully, I can't really remember it well enough to describe it, but I know it was awful. I didn't sleep for three days. On the third day, a dull and constant ache appeared in my right shoulder. The pain would disappear for a few minutes at a time. So there was at least some relief.

Since my sister Dale had brain cancer when she was 26 before dying of bone cancer at 29, I of course thought that my turn had come. I kept the thought to myself.

I went to my doctor after the second day. He did a bunch of tests. So, all I could do was wait. San Geraldo's mother was visiting and we drove down to New York as planned to visit The Dowager Duchess, who gave up her bed for me.

After a while, I slept. I woke up in the morning rested and pain-free. I was elated. I walked into the kitchen to announce the good news and San Geraldo looked at me and said, "What's the matter with your face?"

The face I've always had and had never really been happy with? Thanks loads for acknowledging the flaws.

"Nothing," I lied.

"One side is drooping."

I looked in the mirror and saw he was right. Bell's Palsy, I thought. The Kid Brother had it. But then I thought, "No, just another sign of a brain tumor."

My mother insisted we pose for a photo together. I knew exactly what she was thinking.


MIENTRAS VIVIÁMOS EN lo que considerábamos "el campo" en Guilford, Connecticut, a finales de los 80 y principios de los 90, siempre trabajábamos afuera en nuestros jardines. Más de la mitad de nuestra propiedad estaba arbolada. Y estábamos en el corazón de lo que era entonces el país de la "Enfermedad de Lyme" (en inglés, Lyme Disease) muy cerca de los pueblos de Lyme y Old Lyme, Connecticut, donde el síndrome recibió su nombre.

La Enfermedad de Lyme se transmite a los humanos por las garrapatas que se llevan a otros animales, como ciervos y aves. Si tienes interés en aprender más, haz clic aquí. La mayoría de las personas que son mordidas por una garrapata no contraen la enfermedad. No tuve tanta suerte. Es una historia larga con un final feliz, así que te la daré en dos o tres dosis diarias.

La Enfermedad de Lyme no se diagnostica fácilmente porque los síntomas varían y se asemejan a tantas otras enfermedades. La mía empezó con dolor intenso en mi cabeza. No un dolor de cabeza. Dolor severo. Afortunadamente, no lo recuerdo lo suficientemente bien como para describirlo, pero sé que fue horrible. No dormí durante tres días. Al tercer día, un dolor sordo y constante apareció en mi hombro derecho. El dolor desaparecería durante unos minutos a la vez. Así que había al menos algún alivio. 

Porque mi hermana Dale tenía cáncer cerebral cuando tenía 26 años antes de morir de cáncer de huesos a los 29, por supuesto pensé que había llegado mi turno. Me guardé el pensamiento para mí.

Fui a mi médico después del segundo día. Hizo un montón de pruebas. Así que todo lo que podía hacer era esperar. La madre de San Geraldo estaba de visita y nos dirigimos a Nueva York como estaba planeado para visitar a Mi Madre La Duquesa Viuda, que dejó su cama para mí.

Después de un rato, dormí. Me desperté en la mañana descansado y sin dolor. Estaba exultante. Entré a la cocina para anunciar la buena noticia y San Geraldo me miró y dijo: "¿Qué le pasó a tu cara?"

¿La cara que siempre he tenido y nunca había sido realmente feliz? Gracias por reconocer los defectos.

"Nada. Es perfecta", mentí.

"Un lado ha caído", me dijo.

Me miré al espejo y vi que tenía razón. Parálisis de Bell, pensé. El Hermanito lo tenía. Pero entonces pensé: "No, sólo otro signo de un tumor cerebral".

Mi madre insistió en posar para una foto juntos. Sabía exactamente lo que estaba pensando.



  1. Lyme disease is no joke. All sorts of tick borne diseases are rapidly increasing this year on the East coast. I was just listening to a story on my local PBS station about it the other day.

    I'm so glad you're ok now. And how scary to have reason to believe you might have a brain tumor.

    1. Jennifer:
      Nuts I know, but I spent years waiting for MY brain tumor. I don't have those thoughts (so much) anymore!

  2. Yikes! That is scary. Glad you have lived to tell the tale.

  3. Oh Mitchell, how frightening! Lyme disease is everywhere in the news here too. We used to enjoy hiking in our local parks but now I am too scared to. Huge signs at all the entrances warning of ticks.
    Obviously very glad your story has a happy ending.
    I lost a dear cousin to brain cancer at 34.

    1. Robin:
      And so many people are apparently not affected by the bites -- Jerry for one; he was in all the same places. We learned all the clothing tricks -- light colors (so you can see the ticks more easily), tucked in socks, long sleeves.

  4. Not what I was wanting to hear from you, Mitch. However, your story helps to put an understanding to Jim's sister who is going through Lyme Disease just at this moment. Yes, the East of Canada is in the news as well re: Lyme. I am so worried that we might get bitten. Sophie has a pill for ticks and fleas so I am not so worried about her.
    I had 2 ticks on me a couple months ago, one of which I flicked off me so fast not realizing what it was. I was on my way to my Naturopath, who happened to be staring at me at one point saying, "Ron, I do believe you have a tick on you".
    SHe grabbed it and put it in a tissue, stored it to use for her potions. I haven't been back to see her since but understand that the tick died. Oh my, waiting for the cold weather to hit.

    1. Ron:
      These specific ticks are so tiny (smaller than the head of a pin) that they're rarely even noticed. Many people do have the tell-tale bullseye rash, which helps. I wouldn't want to visit YOUR naturopath and her Tick Army (well, at least it died).

  5. As Ron has mentioned above my sister, Jo-Ann, is coping with this disease as I type this. Just talking with her and she says the headache has returned and she continues to search for a medical doctor who will give her her second needed prescription of antibiotics. For some reason in Canada the medical profession is hesitant to treat lyme other than with one(and only) prescription.
    She is getting more relief from 'alternative' therapies but still needs to have more antibiotics to get rid of it. Very frustrating.
    I am sorry you went through this, Mitch. It must have been terrible not knowing initially what was going on....especially with your family's medical history prior. Happy all got better over time I suspect.
    I will lead my sister to your blog to read this. Thanks.

    1. ....Happy things got better over time.

    2. Jim:
      I'm glad the alternative therapies offer relief from the symptoms. I did whatever I could to help myself, too. I wasn't on antibiotics very long-term, but I know I was on a decent dosage to ensure the disease had been stopped. I hope Jo-Ann fully recovers and soon. Yale University has always been a leader in Lyme Disease research, which really helped us, living right there. Give Jo-Ann my warmest regards. I'd be happy to answer any questions she might have if she'd like to write to me. Who knows, maybe I can be of help somehow.

  6. You and your family look sooooo alike

    1. John:
      Uncanny, isn't it? A friend at university stopped by my parents' apartment during spring break one year. Dale was the only one home. My friend's description to our other friends: "They look exactly alike! Except that she's beautiful and her eyes are bigger and brighter. And her hair is lighter and smooth and glossy. And they're built alike except that she looks really athletic and not all scrawny. And they have the same shaped face except that she's got better bone structure and a really nice smile." It made me so proud...

  7. Oh, bless her heart for wanting a photo. I'll be very interested to read the next few daily doses. Growing up here in Indiana, I would find ticks on myself in the summer time fairly frequently, and I wasn't even that much of an outdoors girl. I remember worrying about getting Lyme disease when it was in the news back then, but had no idea where the name came from.

    1. Michelle:
      Knowing how I looked I really didn't want a photo and came close to throwing it away several times. Now I'm glad I kept it. It was a bit chilling to see it the one of Dale. These ticks are so tiny, smaller than the head of a pin, they're rarely noticed. Really awful.

  8. That's too much damn disease and death for one family, and such a nice one too. So sorry, Mitchell.
    But I'm also relieved and happy that your story had and will have a happy ending.
    Lyme disease is really scary, but it seems they've made some treatment progress. No?
    I'll stay tuned.

    1. Robyn:
      I don't know what progress they've made. Treatment was good for me at the time. One of the biggest problems is catching it early enough to avoid long-term damage. Quite often, the symptoms resemble so many other things that doctor's don't even test for it.

  9. I think my friend got it once, he didn't suffer much

    1. Adam:
      I'm glad he didn't suffer much. I don't know of the prognosis has changed but I was told at the time that once you've had Lyme Disease, you can't get new Lyme Disease. You might relapse within the first three years (whew), but you can't contract again from a tick bite. Still, who knows what else you can catch!

  10. Sad that you had to go through this, but I'm glad it didn't cause any permanent problems.

    1. Stephen:
      As you'll see from today's post, the only permanent problem is that my face is not as young and supple as it once was. I'm sure that was caused by the Lyme Disease. Definitely. Definitely.


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