I went camping. It felt a bit naughty although not against current COVID regulations. I was duly punished by the fates. When I got back home I found something apparently stuck into my skin at the right distance from my middle-aged eyes to just be a fuzzy black thing. Pulled it out – up close could see a multitude of legs. It was a tick.
I read a bit online about Lyme disease and started to worry. I didn’t research that thoroughly but there was something about chronic fatigue and pain that sounded pretty grim. The next morning I felt flu-like symptoms – didn’t have a temperature so went into work but enroute I called my doctors and was able to make a telephone appointment.
It was my day that week to talk to the people who had just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I think I’m becoming more proficient doing the job. I’ve learnt a lot about the condition and the risks so I can explain them quite well but more importantly I know that people can be very anxious and worried, so a lot of what I do is reassurance. Yes, there are some increased risks but the vast majority have completely normal healthy babies.
“I’ve been reading a lot online and now I’m really worried about stillbirth,” said the second woman I spoke to that morning.
“Well,” I began gently, aiming to perfectly pitch between sympathy and wisdom, “there’s been a very interesting study recently which I think you would find reassuring.” Then I went on to talk about a study funded by the charity SANDS which found that providing we did screening, diagnosis and treatment of gestational diabetes correctly then the risks of stillbirth were no greater than a normal pregnancy.
I finished the phone call with that smug sense of having ticked off the box that said ‘provide reassurance’ good and proper. If I was being honest, I have to admit that sometimes I found women who worried so much about a really unlikely outcome a bit of a drain. Why panic about something that’s statistically so rare?
My own mobile phone buzzed. I had forgotten the doctor was calling me and also totally forgotten about all the symptoms I had apparently been experiencing. Weirdly, as I grabbed my phone and left the office to find a handy stairwell all the flu-like symptoms and general weariness returned.
“From the photos you sent it doesn’t look like Lyme disease,” the doctor said after taking a history.
“But I’m feeling pretty bad, not actually got a temperature but kind of hot and sweaty and I’m very tired.”
“Well,” he began gently, “it takes a couple of weeks for Lyme disease to be symptomatic so it’s not likely to be affecting you yet. Monitor where the bite is and let us know about changes. Remember the vast majority of ticks don’t carry Lyme disease and even if you do get it, providing we diagnose and treat it you won’t suffer any long term problems.
Weird and uncomfortable sense of deja-vu set in. I returned to my phone calls with a degree of chagrin and humility.
That was a couple of weeks ago by the way and I’ve been fine.