Shanghaied by a Tick: Part 1

It's been a long time since my last post. Beyond procrastination and copiously chasing my tail on the project, I've been busy dealing with a lot of health issues. If you're wondering why I'm blogging about Lyme on a garage-oriented site, it pretty simple. I need to be alive and have the energy to finish the car. Secondly, I've become a bit of a Lyme advocate and this is the best way for me to tell my story, at least for now.

While I'm man enough to admit that part of the reason for my positive outcome was due to persistent, unsolicited input from my wife and mother, I'd like to be 100% clear that such admission isn't an open invitation to layout coordinated outfits, comment on when I should cut my hair or to reiterate that you don't like the "moving fin thing" (i.e., dynamic wing discussed in this post) on the back of the car.

There's a basic lesson here for all of you proud "man card" carriers out there – if you're getting tag teamed on health issues, you might want to listen. Women, if the man isn't listening fire up a team.

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It all started with a vein popping under my left cornea causing me to lose almost all my vision in that eye. During my vision test I could see the wall and just one small corner of the eye chart poster. Other than that, I couldn't even tell that there was a poster on the wall. They fixed that with three shots to the eyeball, each a month apart. I have a needle phobia and they don't knock you out, so that wasn't a lot of fun. They do a couple of applications of dilation drops, then a couple of applications of numbing gel, and then a couple of applications of cleansing gel. After that they tilt your head back and put a metal clip to keep your eyelid open – that started kicking my flight response into gear and I asked "I'm getting the shot now?" The doctor with the bow tie simply responded, "Yes."

Where's the calming gel? Nope, pull out the man card and sit still. WTF, they're prescribing opioids by the ton and they're dispensing marijuana a quarter mile from the high school, but there's no calming gel? They need to work on that protocol. It wasn't nearly as bad as my mind imagined and, as the doctor had told me, the burning after the numbing gel wore was much worst than the actual injection. In any event, my sight is almost normal now, but I am susceptible to having a repeat in both eyes.

So what does this have to do with a tick? Hang on, I'll get there...

Ejection Fraction

Although the doctors were certain that the issue with my eye was caused by angiod streaks and had nothing to do with cardiovascular issues, my mother didn't care and she forced me to get a nuclear MRI at a research facility run by a family friend. They stick you in a tube for two hours and inject you with something that places stress on the heart and makes you feel like your peeing – who invents this stuff? They indicated that "the study is 100% at your discretion and if you start to get claustrophobic just squeeze this ball and we'll take you right out." Ha, my mom will send me back so no matter what don't take me out. A couple of days later they told me to come back to the hospital where they explained that my Ejection Fraction was 26%. Normal is 55% or higher and anything under 36% is bad and you're deemed to be in heart failure.

So what caused that? Surely my years of stress running a company combined with not eating and not exercising properly. Nope, my cholesterol was fine, my arteries were clear, I don't smoke, I don't do drugs, I don't drink too much (except on vacation), so they diagnosed me as having cardiomyopathy, which is doctor speak for they don't have a clue what caused the problem. Their best guess was that "some virus" wacked me and they prescribed me some drugs, but they didn't do much to figure out what has caused the problem. The challenge is that if the drugs don't work to remodel the heart (they haven't) and the heart gets worst (it hasn't), the only surgical option would be a heart transplant. While I understand that's not a moon shot these days, it's not on my bucket list! 

So my mother repeatedly suggested that I see a leading "functional medicine" doctor. Unlike most doctors who operate in a very tall and narrow silo, a functional doctor looks at the big picture. He told me that the medication that the other doctors prescribed were "mopping up the water on the floor" and that we needed to "figure out what was plugging the sink." Apparently functional doctors can have a functional conversations with their patients.

They took a lot of blood and I filled out some long forms with a lot of personal questions. One would think that there was nothing left unanswered, but he asked if there was anything else that wasn't covered. I mentioned that I run hot and sweat a lot. On some nights I soak multiple pillows and need to change my shirt. This was a point of long-term martial stress because my wife would need to buy new pillows.

Borrelia spirochetes

Borrelia spirochetes

He then declared, "I think you have Lyme." I insisted that I didn't and he asked me what made me think that. My mother had Lyme and I didn't have any of the symptoms; achy joints or crippling fatugue. He then explained that I perfectly described babesiosis, a common Lyme co-infection. Apparently its blood parasite that's very similar to malaria. If You Think Lyme is Bad, Meet Babesia! does a great job explaining it. I recognized a bunch of symptoms described there and in particular the description of one of her patients who had a“hot flash” so severe that it fogged up the front windshield of the car. In fact I pretty much exactly described that in my Human Heater blog post well before I knew I had Lyme:

I have an amazing ability to steam up a car. I’m not sure what the hell the issue is, but it starts at the window nearest me and migrates out in a radial pattern.

Good thing I'm not a woman or the average doctor would have told me that I was just going through menopause! 

It's important  to understand that if you're in the United States, get bitten by an infected tick and you notice the classic bull's-eye rash the medical community will treat it with antibiotics and you'll very likely be cured. However, if you don't detect it early and Lyme becomes chronic, the treatment you'll get from the vast majority of the doctors in America is FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair), I was going to use Fouled, but the nasty word is appropriate. Many don't believe in chronic Lyme and if they treat you at all they will likely wreck both your health and finances. I would put as much faith in the majority of their views as I would a tweet from Trump at 2:30 AM in response to some perceived slight. Their views are as arrogant, misinformed and as destructive as anything I've seen from that megalomaniac.

A recent study by Tulane University exposed ten primates were exposed to ticks carrying B. burgdorferi spirochetes. Half received treatment with 28 days of oral doxycycline. Some key takeaways;

  • All subjects treated with antibiotics were found to have some level of infection 12 months post treatment.
  • Despite testing negative by antibody tests for Lyme disease, two of 10 subjects were still infected with Lyme bacteria in heart and bladder.
  • Few subjects displayed a rash. Although all subjects were infected, only one of the 10 displayed the classical bulls-eye rash. The subject that developed this rash, interestingly, never mounted an immune response to five borrelia antigens throughout the study period, prior to and following treatment.

Part 2 can be found here...