I caught Lyme disease after being bitten by a tick at a BBQ in north London

(Picture: Simtee Few)

In 2015, I was bitten by a tick while at a BBQ in north London.

The next day I started getting flu like symptoms: stiff neck, sweats and fatigue, and I also felt extremely anxious.

I turned to Google and researched ‘tick bite’ – straight away, Lyme disease came up.

I had never heard of Lyme disease before. I immediately went to my GP and suggested she test me for it, to which she agreed and performed the standard test.

The results came back negative, which I now know is because the pathogens of a tick take up to six weeks to show up in the blood.

I trusted the doctor and assumed I didn’t have Lyme disease, so I put my symptoms down to postnatal depression. Despite feeling unwell, I tried to stay positive and pushed myself to keep working and looking after my kids.

I had previously been a very active person, doing boot camps and running, so I tried to adapt to the weird symptoms believing they would pass; in fact, they just got worse.

I had a headache that wouldn’t go away and then I started getting numbness and tingling sensations in my arms and legs in the middle of the night, like I was about to have a stroke.

I started getting extreme panic attacks in my sleep – it felt like I was dying. There were a few times when I really did think I was going to die, and even wrote lists for my kids.

I was in and out of hospital but every time I was sent home with antidepressants and told to get in touch with mental health services.

Deep down I knew something wasn’t right, and then one day, I realised I couldn’t remember how to start the car.

(Picture: Simtee Few)

Because I had already had a negative test for Lyme disease on the NHS I was refused another, so I went to a private clinic and samples of my blood were sent off to America and Germany.

Nearly a year after I was bitten, the test came back highly positive for what had now become chronic Lyme disease.

I was actually relieved. I finally knew what was causing my debilitating symptoms.

I took my results to my GP but I was refused treatment because my tests had been done abroad and were not recognised in the UK.

Lyme disease is caused by borrelia burgdorferi sprirochete, a spiral shaped bacteria that digs its way into your skin tissue like a corkscrew.

It causes inflammation of the brain and can affect everything from your memory and perception to your emotions and overall functioning.

If treated early enough, a course of antibiotics is enough to cure Lyme disease but if it’s chronic, it starts to affect the vital organs in your body.

I immediately started treatment in a private clinic in the UK but saw no improvement.

Lack of awareness among healthcare professionals, and the public, means that a lot of people are being misdiagnosed and end up suffering for years.

I started doing some research and came across a clinic in Germany that treats the disease with fat stem cells and blood stem cells.

We’ve had to re-mortgage our house, use up all our savings and rely on fundraising to be able to afford all the treatments I’ve had both privately here and in Germany.

According to Public Health England, 2,000-3,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported each year and statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that in Europe, there have been 360,000 reported cases of the disease over the last 20 years.

I felt abandoned by the NHS. I don’t believe that blood tests for Lyme disease in the UK are always accurate, which results in people receiving false negative and false positives.

It is difficult to both diagnose and treat, and lack of awareness among healthcare professionals, and the public, means that a lot of people are being misdiagnosed and end up suffering for years.

There is also a misconception that you can only catch Lyme disease in rural areas but this is not the case.

There have been reported cases of people catching Lyme disease in Richmond Park and ticks are found all over the world, including throughout Europe.

It’s time for the NHS to take action and give more funding to effective and efficient testing and treatments for Lyme sufferers.

The majority of GPs in the UK have not had recent training on how to recognise the early signs of Lyme disease.

We must train GPs to recognise the symptoms quickly – even if people don’t have the tell-tale ‘bulls-eye rash’, as only around one-third of people present with it.

The truth is that there is no cure for chronic Lyme disease, it only goes into remission.

I still battle with a lot of symptoms on a daily basis, such as fatigue, severe chest pains, vision problems, migraines and leaky gut syndrome to name just a few.

According to some doctors, chronic Lyme disease doesn’t even exist. Yet here I am, and there are so many others being denied proper treatments sick, suffering in silence.

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