My first day back to work on July 31 was not supposed to end this way. I had just returned from an amazing three weeks of holiday back road ghosting, an incredible family celebration in Winnipeg (more on that in a future column) that included showing off my new grandson Dandy Andy, and ending in four days of restful bliss at home with my naughty but lovable cats.
At about 3 p.m. there was a painful itch in the back of my neck. It felt like a weird inflamed mole. I asked the front office staff to take a look. Graphic artist Jennifer Bath-Yofonoff called office manager Nora Pedersen to take a cellphone photo.
“If that is a mole Johnnie, why are there legs moving?” said Nora. With that alarming observation Jennifer added, “Get to the hospital immediately. That is a tick.”
So off I went, dazed and shocked. On arriving at the Innisfail Health Centre I assumed there would be a long wait for service. Not so. Staff at the hospital took immediate action. This was serious business. There is this thing called Lyme disease, which is far nastier than just the awful sight of a nasty insect creature embedded in my neck. In its chronic form, Lyme disease, with its malaria-like symptoms, can leave people mentally and physically debilitated. It can be fatal in one out of 10 patients, with an increased risk of death in the elderly.
The doctor at the Innisfail hospital expertly pulled the vile bloated tick out. Blood work was ordered. Heavy duty antibiotics prescribed. It was fast and efficient. I will always be grateful for their great service and care.
That night there was a voice mail message from Angéle Vaters, a public health inspector from Alberta Health Services (AHS). She said my case, as in all ones in the province dealing with tick bites, was being investigated. Her office wanted background information on my recent travels, specifically the times and places. I would soon learn there was a concern the bite may have come from a deer tick, the main carriers of Lyme disease.
We connected the following day. Vaters confirmed my bite came from a wood tick, which are not carriers of Lyme disease. I was in the clear. There was no threat . However, I will nevertheless finish the two weeks’ worth of antibiotics, just to be completely safe.
In the meantime, with plenty of summer left, you can become more aware of the risks, and what to do about them by taking a look at the provincial government’s web page, which includes its Submit-a-tick program, at http://www.health.alberta.ca/health-info/lyme-disease.html
I was lucky. But you can do one better. Like the Boy Scouts, be prepared.
Johnnie Bachusky is the editor of the Innisfail Province.