Friday, September 2, 2005
Carlisle residents tell their tales of Lyme disease
In response to the Carlisle Board of Health's article on Lyme disease in the August 12 issue of the newspaper, the Mosquito has interviewed several town residents who have suffered from this disease that is spread by deer ticks, usually from May through early autumn. We spoke with Carlisle residents Larry Bearfield, Roy Watson, Maya Liteplo and Betty McCullough.
Larry Bearfield of North Road, proprietor of Ferns Country Store, doesn't know when he contracted the disease. He reported feeling tired sometime in May or June. "My knees started to ache as well as my neck. I just chalked it up to old age, " he told me. "I had tick bites in the past, but never had symptoms to go with them," he added.
In mid-July after spending two days at the Boy Scout Camp in Bolton with which he has been involved for the past 43 years, he developed a 102-degree fever and went to the Lahey Clinic in Burlington where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and an ear infection. He was given medications and sent home. Two days later, with a nasty headache behind his eye, he went back to the Emergency Room at Lahey where he was given painkillers and once again was sent back home.
Finally after four days at home, still with a headache, the left side of Bearfield's face turned numb. This time feeling very scared, he returned to the ER where Dr. Malcolm Creighton, a physician who lives in Carlisle, took charge. "He immediately suspected Lyme disease," said Bearfield. "I spent 18 hours in the ER where Creighton pulled in teams of doctors from all departments. I saw doctors from every department except OB/GYN," chuckled Bearfield. This time Bearfield was admitted to the hospital where he spent the next four days getting a MRI, a CAT scan, a spinal tap, and blood tests. In the end it was determined he had Lyme disease, viral meningitis, pneumonia and Bell's Palsy. Finally he was sent home with an intravenous line in his arm, dispensing antibiotics for 27 days.
When we spoke last Friday, August 27, Bearfield pointed out his blinking left eye, still felt tired, but on the mend. His advice to fellow townspeople is to check yourself, look yourself over, for ticks can travel up your legs. He tells people to spray themselves with Deep Woods OFF or Lewey's All-Natural Insect Repellent. "Remember," he said. "We live in a rural environment."
It started this July 4th, while watching fireworks on television, reported Maya Liteplo of Curve Street. "I had chills. After a few more days of chills and fever, I called my primary care doctor. She asked if I had a rash; I hadn't seen one. Did I have a bad cold or stomach problem suggesting a virus? No." She told me she would like to see me, as in the summer if you have an unexplained fever one needs to consider possibilities such as Lyme disease."
The next day Liteplo noticed a red patch behind her knee, not the bull's eye or target circular rash typical of Lyme disease. When the doctor saw the rash, she considered it consistent with Lyme disease and put her on antibiotics for 21 days. "Before the antibiotics my fever went as high as 104 degrees and I felt very sick," said Liteplo. "After a few days on the antibiotics my fever dropped. For seven days I was very sick. But I was lucky. If you catch Lyme disease early it is very treatable."
For Roy Watson of Carroll Drive, it began two years ago in June, on a Wednesday evening to be more precise. As a Carlisle firefighter he was at the firehouse for fire training, dressed in 80 pounds of fire gear, when he started shivering and couldn't get warm. On returning home he broke out in a sweat. Over the next two days, he reported going through six-hour cycles of high fever, chills, breakout sweat and then feeling fine for short periods of time. "By Friday it was clear something was going wrong. Guess I'm a slow learner," quipped Watson. He called his health care provider in Chelmsford and set up an appointment for the next day, Saturday. "I have traveled all around the world, in Third World countries, and thought I might have picked up something over there," said Watson.
On Saturday, Watson got up feeling fine but once again the cycle set in. "I went to my appointment where they did blood tests for exotic stuff, however they never asked me to take my clothes off." He spent Saturday and Sunday at home, and on Monday he called his primary doctor in Boston for an appointment. Later in the day, once in the office, the doctor had him to undress and there in his groin was the profound tell-tale red circle. He was given antibiotics, sent home and told he'd be fine.
At home that evening his fever spiked to 104 1/2 degrees. "I'm an EMT and I was really cooking, so I got into the car and drove to Brigham and Women's. I spent three nights there showing other symptoms, including a hearing loss caused by a combination of medicines. On Wednesday morning, when I could hear the nurse ask me how I was feeling, I said I'm out of here!" For Watson, the antibiotics were successful and it was confirmed he had no residual complications. "I was 100% clear," he exclaimed, two years later.
Betty and John McCullough
Betty McCullough of Mill Pond Lane remembers when it all started two years ago. It was in the spring, when she first noticed a red mark on her leg, much like a mosquito bite. It didn't seem out of the ordinary since she gets mosquito bites throughout the summer months. On a Wednesday afternoon at the Carlisle Mosquito, where typesetter McCullough was putting finishing touches on the newspaper, she reported feeling ill. "I didn't feel well and thought I might be coming down with the flu. Later in the evening at home, I had the world's worst headache and was shivering and couldn't get warm." It was then that McCullough finally noticed the same red spot, which had increased in size. In the morning it had grown larger and was the classic bull's eye in red. "I knew I had Lyme disease and I went right to the doctor and was put on antibiotics." I got better immediately, " continued McCullough. "The symptoms decreased and I was feeling back to normal in four to five days."
That brings us up to this July when Betty's husband John developed a small growth on his leg. He had no symptoms but the growth remained for a week and spread around it were red dots. Having suffered with Lyme disease two years ago, Betty was quick to send her husband to his doctor for a check-up. Luckily John did not have Lyme disease. Although he was put on antibiotics as a precaution, the diagnosis was spider bite, the effects of which were gone several days later.
For more information on Lyme disease see the August 12 issue of the Mosquito (also available on the web site: carlislemosquito.org.)
© 2005 The Carlisle Mosquito