There's little help or understanding about Lyme disease in Ireland

Four mothers tell Louise McCarthy about the impact of Lyme disease, on the rise in Ireland, has had on their lives

Life was going smoothly for four Irish mothers until a tick bite changed their fates forever.

Julie Farrelly, 39, a mother of two young children, is one of three people newly diagnosed in a tiny village of Eyeries, West Cork. Ms Farrelly lives close to Castletownbere, an area, which Bantry-based GP Denis Cotter says is showing worryingly high levels of Lyme disease. In the past 12 months, 10 adults attending his practice , mainly from that area , have shown positive results for Lyme disease.

Dr Cotter is concerned that a rising deer population could be carrying ticks that are being passed on to people living in the area.

He said: “It has become more common in Castletownbere, there are a lot of wild deer around that area. People need to become aware of this.”

Acknowledging that Lyme is more common in areas with a large deer population, retired UCC zoology professor and key Lyme expert in Ireland, Eoin Healy pointed out that Lyme disease is also carried in cattle, sheep, and goats. Prof Healy says that areas where the vegetation is moist, rough and not heavily grazed is high risk for Lyme disease. He cites the West of Ireland, up hills surrounding the Galtee, Knockmealdown, along with counties Cork and Tipperary and the Wicklow Mountains, as being areas prone to Lyme. He is keen to stress that Lyme can be caught anywhere.

Eyeries village where, according to a local doctor, there is an in increase in Lyme Disease, possibly caused by the increase in the deer population in the area, even though other animals can also carry the tick. Picture: John Eagle

Dr Healy said: “Poor awareness of the existence of the disease and of its symptoms, both on the part of the general public and on the part of the GPs, means that very often the disease is initially overlooked or misdiagnosed.”

Julie is now recovering from Lyme disease. She is desperately appealing for more GPs to test for the condition.

About two years ago, Julie’s health began to spiral downwards. Crippled by tiredness, she felt that maybe having two children, aged five and three, along with a part-time job was too much for her. However, she realised something was seriously wrong when she began to lose sensation in her right and then left hand.

She said: “It was very scary, I had gone to reflexology but was getting no relief. Even putting on makeup or brushing my hair was a nightmare, I had no energy.”

Julie found that her concentration lapsed drastically.

“I am a fashion designer. I could not concentrate for more than one hour. I could not hold the needle, I was dropping everything. I was not able to drive on my own. There was a stabbing pain in my neck and my shoulders, I put it down to a trapped nerve.”

Following a seizure, Julie got blood tests at her local GP in Beara and was diagnosed with Lyme disease just a few months ago. She is already making progress after three weeks of antibiotics treatment.

She said: “Before, I wanted to go to bed at 9pm. Now I want to read a book, I have energy again.The HSE and GPs need to become more aware of Lyme disease and test more people.”

Julie Farrelly, West Cork, with daughters Sarah and Saoirse

Kilkenny-based grandmother Anne Maher, who has suffered from the condition for the past 20 years, is a member of Tick Tock Ireland, an organisation for sufferers of Lyme and their families.

Ms Maher says Lyme disease is now at a worryingly high level in West Cork and Kerry.

She is supporting Dr Cotter and Julie Farrelly’s appeals for people to get tested.

Four out of five patients at Dublin-based biomagnetism specialist Rob Renehan’s clinic are suffering from chronic Lyme disease that was not diagnosed in time.

Biomagnetism, the use of magnets on the skin in a bid to rebalance the body’s pH levels, is increasingly becoming the way to treat people with chronic Lyme disease. Mr Renehan is currently treating a number of Co Cork patients. His brother, Dave, now back working as fireman, battled Lyme disease for several years. Rob Renehan went to America to study biomagnetism in order to treat his brother.

He said: “It is shocking how many people are coming in with Lyme disease.”

Claire, mother of North Cork teenager Sinéad Kearney, diagnosed with Lyme disease aged 11, is now working towards helping other people suffering with the condition.

The community in Bartlemy and Rathcormac rallied together to raise vital funds for her daughter’s treatment in the US in 2015. Ms Kearney is a major advocate of biomagnetism and is now also providing photon therapy to people, which she describes as “effective alternative to antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals”.

She said: “I have spent the last five years learning about all the complexities of the illness and constantly researching to find the unique combination of therapies, self-help strategies and lifestyle changes needed to aid my daughter’s recovery.”

Ms Kearney is concerned that there is not adequate information in the public arena for people suffering from Lyme disease.

She said: “There are people who are so distressed by the lack of supports available and the often conflicting information and advice.”

Anne Harris, aged 50, a mother of three children ranging in age from 25 to 12, is living in Listowel, Co Kerry. She is deeply disappointed with the medical treatment she received in Ireland.

Anne Harris, Listowel, Co Kerry opted to travel to Germany to be treated

In 2011, three months after a holiday with friends at Martha’s Vineyard, NewYork, Ms Harris began to notice flu-like symptoms. She became housebound for 12 months and had to leave her job as a special needs assistant in a local school. She has been unable to return.

She said:” I started to see bright lights in my peripheral vision. I got vertigo, my heart rate was dropping, I got Bell’s palsy on my face. It was difficult to carry out normal, everyday chores. I would have to lie on the sofa between putting clothes in the drier. I was unable to drive. It plays havoc with your mental stability. I had a lot of fainting.”

Three false negative tests in Ireland left her in limbo. It was not until after meeting Armin Schwarzbach at a Lyme sufferers’ conference in Dublin that she decided to travel to Munich in 2013 for treatment.

She said: “We went into a lot of debt to go to Germany. It is a crying shame that this can’t be done in Ireland. I am functioning a lot better now, but I am not like I was before I got Lyme.”

Blood tests analysed in Germany revealed in 2013 that Ms Harris had six active infections resulting from Lyme disease.

Ms Harris underwent eight months of antibiotic treatment, supplemented by Bioresonance treatment in Cork for six months, acupuncture and sitting in an infra red sauna every evening for 12 months. She also changed her diet to gluten and sugar-free, during treatment.

Symptoms of Lyme disease

Include:

  • Rash at site of bite or on other parts of your body
  • Unexplained hair loss
  • Headache, mild or severe
  • Seizures, pressure in head, white matter lesions in brain.
  • Twitching of facial or other muscles, facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy, Horner’s syndrome)
  • Tingling of nose, (tip of) tongue, cheek or facial flushing
  • Stiff or painful neck
  • Jaw pain or stiffness
  • Dental problems (unexplained)
  • Sore throat, clearing throat a lot, phlegm, hoarseness, runny nose
  • Double or blurry vision


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