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Summer bites when ticks attack

Sunday, June 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:14 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2008

I lived almost three decades before I saw my first tick. And the first sighting happened in a dramatic fashion. The children had been outside playing in the yard for the entire afternoon. I fed them dinner and then proceeded to start the baths. As I started scrubbing, I noticed that my 5-year-old had several moles that seemed to have miraculously appeared overnight. I had him stand to inspect the new flaws, and then one of the spots started wiggling. I had worked in the nursing field for more than a decade. I had assisted on amputations. I had even helped with a man who was literally eaten up inside with a staph infection, but when I saw that “nasty, flat, black thing” wiggle and realized what it was, I lost it.

I screamed for my husband and fled the bathroom.

Several minutes and a lot of crying later, my son and husband emerged from the bathroom. My husband told me he had taken more than a dozen ticks off my little boy’s body. He proudly announced that the child was tick-free.

I thought that was the last of it until several days later when we were sitting in the family room having drinks with a couple we had just met. We were new to the neighborhood and we were getting acquainted with our neighbors. Then my son walked into the room without a stitch of clothing. Before I could say anything he stood in front of me and bent over.

“Mommy, what’s this?” he said, pointing to his behind.

There, nestled in a fold, was a tick bloated with blood. I lost it again and started screaming.

The neighbors had several children of their own, so the scene didn’t seem to faze them.

My husband, cool under pressure as usual, left the room with the naked child and returned several minutes later declaring a clean sweep.

That was back before anyone had ever heard of Lyme disease.

I’ve heard all of the horror stories about bites that caused mysterious diseases and how many went undiagnosed until the victim was really sick. There have even been a few deaths. But I had too many other crises to deal with to worry about bugs.

Then about three weeks ago my husband and a friend decided to walk the land down at the lake where we will eventually build a house. When they returned, both men were covered with ticks. I almost reacted as I did 20 years before, but this time I didn’t scream. I took my husband into the rest room and although my stomach was in my throat, I methodically removed the two dozen ticks. Three or four had already dug in, and my husband has a very low threshold when it comes to pain. This time HE was screaming (not loudly enough for his friend to hear in the next room) as I plucked the bloodsucker from some tender area. My husband jumped into the shower, and once again I thought we were done with the nasty black bugs.

I few days later he showed me a welt on his stomach — he said itched like crazy. I gave him a tube of Benadryl and went on with my life.

Then one night last week I rolled over in bed and it felt like I was touching a hot oven. Still half asleep, I couldn’t figure out who was having a hot flash. Then my husband groaned, and I turned on the light.

“I don’t feel well,” he moaned. And I noticed that his face was beet red.

I put my hand to his forehead and he was burning with fever. I took his temperature and the thermometer read 102 degrees. By 1 a.m. were in the emergency room where the staff started an IV and took blood. All the doctor had to hear was that my husband had recently been covered with ticks and she prescribed an antibiotic. That was last week. Since then he has had night fevers, nausea and achy joints.

We just got the results from his lab work, and my husband tested positive for Lyme disease. The good news is the antibiotics will destroy the germ that has infected his system. The bad news is that I have become so paranoid I’m afraid to venture outside without covering myself from head to toe. I check my body several times a day just in case. I’ve discovered a few new age spots, but so far no ticks.

I wrote a column two weeks ago about the problems we are having selling our present lake house. Now my dear husband has been stricken with a disease caused by ticks living on the land we want to build. I may be stubborn, but I think The Man may be trying to tell us something.

If you have a comment or want copies of all of the tick research I have acquired, please e-mail me at jdh@socket.net


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