It’s like something out of a sci-fi horror film: a tiny tick jumps off a deer frolicking in the woods, and lands undetected on a human being.
Later, a mark like a tiny dart board with a bull’s eye appears on the person’s skin – and that person then spends the next few decades dysfunctional with exhaustion and sickness while doctors and friends alike tell them they’re imagining it.
But, this isn’t sci-fi. It’s reality.
Last month, researchers at New York Medical College managed to unlocked the cunning survival mechanism of the bacteria that passes on this dreaded Lyme Disease.
And once again, sci-fi horror springs to mind: The bacteria have “sleeper cells” which basically help the bacteria shut down when they sense there are antibiotics in the mix.
During this shut-down, the sleeper cells outwit the treatment as antibiotics can only work if bacteria are still busy replicating. They also take on different forms – until the coast is clear.
Then, when treatment stops, they re-emerge, ready to exhaust their victims, making them feel nauseous, debilitated and psychologically worn down in the process.
It took three decades and a life almost wrecked by exhaustion before Frances Dupierry, a South African woman who moves between SA and Vienna, was diagnosed.
No doctors in Europe or South Africa “would even consider” that her symptoms were the result of Lyme Disease.
Eventually, a diagnosis was made but it was the “total exhaustion” that pushed her into an unbearable phase of dysfunction.
“I could not do anything to help myself and ended up in bed for months on end relying on others to do everything for me, even making me a cup of tea,” she said, “This put huge strain on my relationships with family and friends. I lost many connections to people during this time because I constantly let them down by cancelling appointments and dates.”
She said it differs from “normal exhaustion” because “your brain feels exhausted and you cannot think”.
She said that being considered “lazy” rather than “sick”, demoralized her completely until her self-esteem “dissolved into zero”.
“This made me extremely vulnerable towards anyone who was kind or nice to me, both men and women,” she said, “I allowed the people who helped me walk all over me, even steal from me and I tried to compensate financially because there was nothing else I could do for them.”
As with many other sufferers, being called a hypochondriac only made her feel worse.
The new research seems to offer some vindication.
Gaby Alban, the American businesswoman who was found murdered in a Camps Bay hotel in 2015, also suffered from Lyme Disease. Her father, Howdy Kabrins, says that everything Dupierry describes of her experience of the disease “mirrors what Gaby went through”.
He told TimesLIVE, “Gaby used to travel around the world meeting high-powered executives. She was full of energy, and she had chutzpah. After she got Lyme Disease, it all changed. We would invite her for lunch at around 3pm and she would only arrive at 9pm from just ten miles away. Getting dressed, having anxiety attacks, feeling nauseous on the way there … all these things would slow her down. And then she would arrive and just keep apologizing and saying she couldn’t even explain what she had gone through for such a simple arrangement.”
BY TANYA FARBER
SOURCE: TMG DIGITAL