When school got out for the summer, I had visions of beaches, long summer nights around the fire pit with friends and road trips. I was eager for the slower paced days and catching up on all the books collecting dust on my night stand. No lunches to pack, no homework to check, no screaming at the Fruit Loops at 7:19 because “WEAREGOINGTOMISSTHEBUSSOMOOOOOVEIT”.
Summer is bliss, people.
What I didn’t expect to factor into our plans was Lyme Disease. For the record: I have a bone to pick with the dirty little tick who threw a wrench into our summer bliss.
On a hot summer night early in July, Hubby, the Fruit Loops and I had just returned from a long, lazy walk in our neighborhood. As we chatted with some neighbors outside, we sent the Fruit Loops in to have a popsicle and get ready for bed. Fruit Loop #2 raced up the driveway on her scooter, eager to have a summer treat. She was full of energy and raced her brother to the freezer. Summer perfection personified.
Twenty minutes later, she wasn’t fine.
Far from it, in fact.
She came downstairs, red faced, flushed and flu like. She was scared because the symptoms came on quickly. She felt feverish to the touch and she was complaining that a spot on her back hurt badly.
When we looked at her back, we saw this:
And, being medical professionals, Hubby and I knew. Although we tried to rationalize to ourselves that a spider or mosquito had eaten our child alive, we both instinctively knew that our summer was going to change. I also knew that the I had a new way to spell LIME and I was NOT OKAY with it. As it was late, we gave her some Benadryl and put her to bed, hoping that, in the morning, summer could go back to normal.
When she woke up in the morning, her back looked like this:
Oh, good. Lovely. It’s worse. Awesome. Thankfully, I have our doctor on speed dial…..
As we sat in the doctor’s office and heard the words I didn’t want to hear, my eyes filled up with tears and I panicked. Couldn’t breathe. I was just so afraid for my little girl.
Because when you hear of Lyme Disease, ALL YOU HEAR ARE THE HORROR STORIES.
The worst case scenarios.
The “my daughter had it and she’s been debilitated for seven years” stories.
The “my son has it and it’s ruined his life and he was never normal again” stories.
And, as a nurse, I am programmed to assume the worst because I know too much about medicine.
(Side bar, if I may: If you’ve experienced a worst case scenario with Lyme Disease please know that my heart reaches out to you. Really. However, please, please, PLEASE remember that when a friend is terrified for her child and comes to you for advice, in that moment, she wants to hear it will be okay. She does NOT want to hear that her child could be permanently damaged. Save the scary stories for when she’s actually living the scary, not when the scary has just come to visit and is unpacking in her house, m’kay?)
I am here to tell you that if your child has just been diagnosed with Lyme, your child will be okay.
Read that again: YOUR CHILD WILL BE OKAY BECAUSE MINE DID JUST FINE AFTER HAVING LYME.
Yes, we caught it early. Yes, we were extremely, EXTREMELY lucky that the disease presented itself in a textbook manner and yes, we are fortunate to have immediate access to a physician that is knowledgeable about Lyme in this area and who was able to talk me off the ledge when I heard the word in his office.
What I learned that day:
1). The ticks that cause Lyme are almost never visible and most people report never having seen the actual tick that bit them, as was the case with Fruit Loop #2.
2). Lyme is a bacterial infection that is easily treated with very simple antibiotics (shout out to Amoxicillin!).
3). A Lyme rash is not raised, does not itch and is not hot to the touch. Spider bites, mosquito bites and other insect bites are often itchy and will be a raised welt.
4). The erythema migrans rash, commonly known as the “bullseye” rash is formed as the bacteria burrows under the skin and spreads through the tissue, thereby creating the unwanted Target Store sign on your skin.
5). When it’s caught early, Lyme is treatable, manageable and YOUR CHILD WILL BE OKAY.
Was the course of antibiotics easy on her? No. A fourteen day course of any kind of antibiotic is challenging, no matter what the disease. Did we have some skin complications because of the summer sun and the antibiotics? Yes. Was her case slightly complicated because she ran through a patch of poison ivy a few days after diagnosis? You betcha. Has our entire month of July sucked massive donkey balls? I’m going to go with a resounding YES.
But, five days into her treatment, her back looked like this:
And today, one month out from diagnosis: her back is clear, she is healthy and recovered and I’ve started to relax. She is OKAY. And I am grateful.
While Lyme Disease isn’t entirely preventable, there are things you can do to help keep those dirty little ticks from ruining your summer. Some tips:
1). Spray your child with bug spray that contains DEET. Yes, I know no one likes DEET. Yes, I know my organic readers just dropped dead. I’m sorry, but I don’t care. DEET kills and repels ticks and frankly, it’s a lesser evil than 14 straight days or more of pumping chemicals into your kid’s veins to treat Lyme’s.
2). Check your children head to toe when they come in from playing outside. Check behind their ears, nape of their necks, behind their knees. All are places these insipid little buggers like to hide.
3). If you find a tick, don’t panic. Call your doctor for advice on how best to remove the tick. And, it’s okay if you need to take a shot of vodka before you get the tweezers. No judgment here.
4). Monitor your kids and their skin. If you see a strange looking area, get it checked IMMEDIATELY. Lyme is best treated within the first few days of the bite and the chances of a full recovery are much higher.
Now that Lyme is behind us, I can go back to focusing on the real business of summer: gin and tonics on my patio with a nice twist of a green citrus fruit.
I believe I’ve earned as many of them as I want this summer…..