Story from Krista
I’m not a sick person. In fact, I rarely go to the doctor. So when I came down with a 104°F fever, headache, and sore throat during a summer weekend seven years ago my biggest concern was for my baby; I was just over seven months pregnant.
I called my OB-GYN who gave me advice over the phone on how to make myself more comfortable. She wanted to monitor the fever, but her concerns faded when, after three days, the fever broke and the symptoms disappeared. In my mind it was an intense but (thankfully) short-lived cold. For the next two days I felt fine.
Three days after my fever broke, I woke up with excruciating pain in my knee. I stood up and immediately collapsed. This lasted for two days, then disappeared. I would never have called the doctor except two days after the knee pain ended the discomfort reappeared…this time in my ankle. So I called my primary care doctor who ordered some blood work. Lyme disease wasn’t even a consideration.
A couple days later my ankle stopped hurting. I was pain-free for two days and then it was in my shoulder. This pattern of halting and migrating pain was confusing, and I knew my doctor was really struggling in his attempts to solve what felt like a medical mystery. It’s important to know that I knew something was going on but I couldn’t connect the dots. My doctor did more blood tests including a screening for the human parvovirus. During this ordeal, Lyme disease was never discussed or mentioned.
All this occurred over a one-month period during which my primary OB-GYN was on vacation. I was very stressed out, mostly out of concern for my unborn baby. After a month of this, things started to improve, so I essentially put it out of my mind. Since I was approaching term, I went in for my bi-weekly OB-GYN checkup where I brought up my symptoms in casual conversation with my doctor. She encouraged me to be tested for Lyme disease.
I relayed this request to my general practitioner who assured me there was no way I had Lyme disease. After all, I didn’t have a rash, felt fine, and had never found the tell-tale “bull’s eye” mark, a common indicator of Lyme disease. Still, he ordered two tests to ensure accuracy. I waited five days for the results. Both tests came back positive.
My first reaction was anger. I live in Maryland where we have huge deer populations and Lyme disease is known to exist. So why was I never tested for Lyme disease? I later discovered there were two other cases of Lyme disease in our neighborhood. Why wasn’t Lyme disease awareness more prevalent?
While I found relief in finally having a diagnosis, the treatment process was frightening. I was nearing the end of my pregnancy, and no one could tell me about the ramifications of Lyme disease on a fetus. In addition to an infectious disease specialist, I had to see an OB-GYN fetal specialist who monitored my baby while I underwent an aggressive treatment that included antibiotics administered with a daily I.V. and later, orally. After my first treatment I felt like a new person.
I ended the I.V. treatments before I went into labor. After I delivered my baby, the screening for Lyme in the placenta turned out negative. It’s seven years later and my daughter is perfectly healthy and I haven’t had a single reoccurrence of the disease.
I was lucky. Because I was able to get an early diagnosis my long-term prognosis is positive. My advice to anyone who has any symptoms of joint pain and fever and lives in an area known to have Lyme disease is to request a test. Don’t wait for your doctor to suggest one. Lyme disease comes from deer tick nymphs, which are the size of a speck. Only 60-90 percent of humans will show the bull’s-eye mark. Delayed diagnosis and treatment increases your likelihood of Lyme disease causing chronic debilitating problems such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Lyme disease is a reality. You are your best health advocate and with Lyme disease your knowledge and willingness to speak up on your behalf are your most reliable lines of defense.