A tick bite can be fatal if the victim contracts a tick-borne illness and is not treated. After becoming a victim myself this past week, I now have a whole, new-found respect for ticks and the life-threatening risk they may pose. Here’s my story…

My wife hangs wallpaper and one of her clients called her for a repair at their beach home. I suggested we make it a mini-vacation and go down a day or two early. She agreed. The repair job was set for Tuesday, so we headed down on Sunday.

The closer we got to the beach, the more my head hurt. I could tell my stomach wasn’t quite right. By the time we arrived, I had a fever, headache, and was nauseated. I got in the bed, and that’s where I remained until we left to go home 3-days later.

I went to my Doctor the following day and blood tests showed the bacterial invasion of my body had nearly depleted all of my white blood cells and platelets. Both were at a critical level, and protocol called for a rescue squad ride to the emergency room.

When I arrived, they put me on an IV with fluids and began tests. Blood tests, urine tests, chest x-ray, CAT scan, and MRI. Nothing was conclusive.

My symptoms closely resembled meningitis, but a spinal tap used to diagnose this disease could not be done because of my extremely low platelet count. The risk of bleeding to death from the procedure was too great.

Out of options, SOVAH Hospital, Martinsville, sent me to Lewis Gale Hospital in Roanoke Thursday evening. Before we left, the Emergency Room physician told me he was going to begin treating me for meningitis with antibiotics through the IV during the hour-long trip to Lewis Gale. He surmised if I indeed had meningitis, this would insure I had the much-needed medicine in my system before it was too late.

Upon arrival at Lewis Gale, tests began and continued throughout the night and most of Friday. By Friday evening, I was exhausted, but my symptoms had begun to fade and by Friday night I was comfortable again. Five specialists analyzed the results of the tests while my IV drip of antibiotics continued around the clock.

By Saturday morning, I was diagnosed with Ehrlichiosis/Anaplasmosis, a tick-borne disease contracted by about a hundred people a year in Virginia according to the Virginia Department of Health. It is the third-most common tick-borne illness in Virginia behind Lyme Disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. By Saturday afternoon, I was declared “out of the woods,” prescribed antibiotics for the next two weeks, and sent home. My white blood count and platelets are still well below normal, but are recovering. Fortunately, the same antibiotic used to fight meningitis is equally effective with Ehrlichiosis/Anaplasmosis.

Later this week, I’ll have more blood work with my regular doctor and a follow up with the Roanoke doctors in a couple of weeks. For now, my 7-day brush with a bacterial infection that made me too sick to stand and too confused to speak, leaves me with a sobering understanding that these things are not to be taken lightly.

I’m thankful to be alive.