About three years ago, I was bitten by a tick. I know you're thinking, "so what" right? That's about as much thought as I gave it at the time. Fast forward to fall 2018. I ate some ice cream one night and broke out in hives. Strange occurrence as I don't have any food allergies. I put it off to a food additive or dye and changed brands. About a month later, again after eating ice cream the night before, I woke up with my entire face swollen and my eyes swelled shut. I studied the two brand labels looking for ingredients that might be at fault. Nothing really jumped out and I shrugged off two warning signs that something was very, very wrong.
In late April of this year, we were in the usual push getting ready for Maryland Sheep & Wool. Long hours packaging and packing, plus everything that happens at the same time, lambing, farm chores, and my full time, regular job. After a particularly busy day, we opted to grab a take-out burger for dinner and chase it with chocolate shakes. 6hrs later, I was in an ambulance on my way to spend the night in the emergency room. I spent 3 days in ICU. I was in heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure, and my lungs were full of fluid but no one knew why. After being released, my family doctor referred me to an allergist. 70+ tests later, the only positive allergens were beef, pork and lamb. I made it to Maryland while we waited on the results of the blood tests. The results came back and I was diagnosed with Alpha-gal, a tick-borne disease.
So, don't eat any more beef, pork, lamb or any red meat. Simple right? Nope. Not at all. In June, I was at work and ate some mashed potatoes. I didn't think about there being milk and butter in them. They were potatoes and that's a vegetable. Boom! I was back in the emergency room. The stress of two severe allergy attacks so close together caused life threatening heart blockages. Weeks followed in hospitals, local and at the University, tests, procedures with more looming on the horizon this coming winter... but I'm still alive and kicking!
Life has changed since this spring. No more red meat of any kind. No dairy of any kind. I have become that irritating customer that you hear in restaurants grilling the wait staff about food preparation. I am on a whole food, plant based, oil free, salt free, sugar free diet with an occasional piece of chicken or salmon. Gave up sodas. I'm 60lbs lighter. Laughing and shaking my head...wonder if that's a coincidence???
If you've suffered through reading this long saga, here is the moral. No tick bite is insignificant. Yes, we all know deer ticks cause Lyme disease, several ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick Fever. Lone Star ticks carry Alpha-gal. But please note, there are several other types of rickettsial illness and many more being researched. Tick populations are multiplying faster than we can defend. Keep your grass short in wooded areas, use insecticide if you have an infestation, keep chickens or guineas to help control insects. Most importantly, protect yourself and your family. Wear long pants, long sleeved shirts, boots, use insect repellents and reapply according to the label, and check for each other for ticks after you are in an area of potential exposure. I'll be living with the repercussions of a silly tick bite the rest of my life. I don't want you or your families to be in the same situation. Take care of yourselves and each other.