Oh No! Say It Ain't So!
It's no secret that geocaching has generated a tremendous love for the outdoors in my own life. It has become much more than a hobby to my wife and I; it has evolved into a way of life. Part of that way of life has led us to visit over 32 of our state parks here in Georgia. We simply love taking these trips and we look forward to planning for each one. But even though we are usually there to find the geocache, we have grown tremendously fond of hiking the trails at our parks. In fact, we have recently decided that when we finish with our Georgia State Parks Geo-Challenge, we will make plans to go back and hike at least one entire trail per state park. When time has permitted, we've always tried to do this, but when we are making a mad dash through two or three parks per day, we simply don't have the time to traverse the full 2-3 miles per trail. We get in, get the cache, and get out.
For those of you familiar with geocaching, or simply being out in the woods hiking, fishing, or hunting, you know how aggravating ticks and mosquitoes can be. And if you do know what I'm talking about, I hope you aren't naive enough to think that just spraying on some bug repellant is enough (I was that naive). It's not. You should really be prepared for the environment that you are going to visit and spend ample time protecting yourself. This is one of the things that I've learned in my new found hobby. I can't tell you how many articles I've read about ticks, snakes, diseases, poisonous plants, and wild animals. I've read other people's accounts, and I've studied the experts tips. While I'm certainly far from an expert, there are some certain precautions that I take.
So what is it that I do to prepare for those pesky blood suckers? Well, for starters, I choose a bug repellant with "DEET" in it. I've recently upgraded to 40% DEET from 29%. I make sure to spray under my clothes, as well as on top of my clothes (being sure to apply to any exposed skin). For my neck area, I usually spray my hands (or use the lotion), and apply by hand. Secondly, I do my best to tuck my shirt in. And lastly, I always do an extensive "tick check" when we are out of the woods (usually at home in the shower). Perhaps these are the most basic steps for prevention, but they are critical nonetheless.
In spite of these attempts of preparedness, as is often the case, some plans don't always work out the way you plan them. In fact, getting bit by a tick was definitely not in my plans. I thought that I'd done everything I could to prevent that! But as reality would have it, I got bit. A simple bite, or so I thought. I caught it rather quickly and removed it within a day, but now I'm left to wonder about its consequences.
Now that the context has been laid, here is where the story picks up. About eight days ago, on a Friday, I started feeling ill at work. And while I couldn't pinpoint anything specific, I just knew I felt bad. At the conclusion of the work day, I went home and retired to bed early, too tired to do anything else. On Saturday, the day we were to go out to a nearby state park to pursue some new geocaches, I simply felt too sick to do so. My entire body ached like never before...every single bone and muscle. I didn't even want to move because it caused too much pain. It didn't take long for us to cancel our plans to allow me a day of rest. Well, that evening around midnight, things continued to digress as I woke with "cold chills". For about thirty minutes I shivered and my teeth chattered violently as my wife did her best to wrap me in a blanket to warm me up. Eventually, I was warm enough to doze back off to sleep. The next morning I awoke with many of the same symptoms: cold chills, fever, and aches and pains throughout my body. My temperature rose as high as 102.5, and that was in spite of taking Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Even so, I continued to be a "manly man" and ride it out. I just knew everything would be okay in the morning. Afterall, I'm hardly ever sick for more than a day or two. I just needed to let this "24 hour thing" run its course.
Monday morning came crashing down on me before I knew it! It was miserable! Heading off to work, I knew I'd have a fairly short day, so I made plans to visit my doctor afterwards. However, just as I had hoped, I started feeling a bit better as the day progressed. When I got off work, I decided to forgo the doctor's office and continue to let the sickness run its course. I was sure that I was on the tail end of it now. Following my own prescribed treatment, I went to bed early that night in order to get a sufficient amount of rest. I continued alternating Tylenol and Ibuprofen every 4-6 hours in order to keep the fever at bay...it continued to fluctuate between 100-101.5. After about two hours of sleep, however; I awoke with a most terrible headache and stiff neck! I got out of bed and went to get into my recliner with hopes that my headache would subside. After two hours of throbs and aches, I was finally able to resume sleeping. Another day would come rushing in far too quickly!
On Tuesday morning I again woke with quite a bad headache, a fever, and an extremely runny nose. Wanting not to risk losing my "manliness" card, and in pursuit of being that "great employee", I set off for another day of work, again prolonging a much needed doctor's office visit. And wouldn't you know it, just as on Monday, as the day progressed, I started feeling a bit better. When it was over, I had again convinced myself that I was getting over whatever it was.
To get to an end of this rather lengthy expose, I did eventually go to the doctor on Wednesday (still running a fever). After an examination and blood work, the doc prescribed a broad based anti-biotic and promised to call me the next day with the results. The call actually came in about three and a half hours later!! Since I was asleep, the voicemail asked that I call them back as soon as possible. Uh oh!!
When I called on Thursday morning, the doctor informed me that I had an extremely low white blood cell count and they needed me to return for further testing and blood work. So I did. During our conversation, I revealed to my doctor that I'd recently removed a tick. He immediately questioned me as to the date of the bite and inquired as to how long the tick had been there. He further explained to me that all of the symptoms that I have are those comparable to Lyme Disease, minus the rash, and until the results of the last batch of blood work is complete, he has prescribed treatment for such. Wow!!
Hopefully, the results will come back negative, but if not, I'm confident that I will get the treatment that I need so that I can hurry up and get back to life outside my door!
PS...in case you missed it, the point of this article was a friendly reminder to be aware of ticks...be very aware!