Three years ago, Annette Davies suffered flu-like symptoms which laid her low.
A rash then appeared a few weeks later but she never associated the two.
What Annette didn’t realise was that she’d actually been bitten by an infected tick and had contracted Lyme disease.
But it would be two years before the mum of three and grandmum of four was finally treated.
And she suffered for many months, being wrongly diagnosed with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis before the real cause was discovered.
Now being treated by an infectious disease doctor based in Dublin, Dr Jack Lambert whose family hail from Kirkcaldy, Annette decided to share her story during Lyme Disease Awareness Month.
She hopes that her fellow Fifers will be spared her suffering if they learn more about the risks.
Annette (54) worked as a nurse and for Fife Council for many years, helping adults with learning difficulties.
But she had no choice to retire from the job she loved due to her symptoms.
She said: “I used to walk our dog, Murphy, for six miles a day but in February 2016 I took this flu and ended up bedbound.
“I had chronic pain in my neck, back and spine and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.
“But the symptoms just seemed to get worse and worse as time went on.
“At my work, I used to write out care plans and take meeting minutes but I wasn’t able to string a sentence together – I seemed to have word and number dyslexia.
“I couldn’t remember at times how to turn a light or kettle on and had to give up driving because I was experiencing double vision.
“I was also vomiting all the time and had horrific headaches too.”
Rather than lying down to her fate, Annette started researching her symptoms with the help of her daughter Laura (35), who is a nurse.
“Lyme disease kept on popping up,” said Annette. “I’d sent Laura a picture of my rash and it seemed to tie in with the bullseye rash some people suffer following a bite from an infected tick.”
Annette joined Lyme Disease UK online and discovered that, although her Lyme test was negative, that was often the case.
She said: “The test is not very accurate; around 50 per cent of patients with Lyme receive negative results.
“I only found this out one and a half years after it all started. It’s hellish people are left to research their own symptoms when they’re so ill.
“I thought I was dying, as did my family. I was in tears many times.
“One doctor even said that I’d been there almost every week for months. I felt like saying, you’re lucky I’m not here every day because I’m in so much pain.
“Don’t get me wrong, there were some very understanding professionals within the NHS but their hands appeared to be tied by the NICE guidelines.”
People who present with Lyme symptoms, under those guidelines, receive a three to four-week course of oral or intravenous antibiotics, depending on the severity of symptoms.
But people who have been initially misdiagnosed are left with chronic symptoms and often have to source their own treatment.
Annette explained: “I was lucky as I had been medically retired from my post so I had money to pay for private treatment from Dr Lambert over in Dublin.
“I was in a real state the first time I went over but I have been travelling there every three months for a year now and I’m so much better.
“My family and friends have seen a huge difference in me and I’m starting to feel more like myself again.
“I’m not totally there yet but I’m a long, long way from where I was last year.”
Annette, who lives in Lower Largo, has also been supported every step of the way by her husband Jim, their three children Chris (36), Laura and Connor (23) and four grandchildren.
“My family have been incredible and so supportive – I wouldn’t have got through this without them,” she said
But Annette decided to speak out in the hopes that other people won’t have to suffer her fate.
She added: “If an infected tick bite is not treated immediately, you will develop chronic Lyme.
“I spent nearly three years of my life bedbound, in unimaginable pain that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
“As May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, I wanted to help others avoid these monstrous infections.
“My advice would be to act quickly and don’t leave your GPs without antibiotics – or you could face years of chronic pain and fatigue.”
Take precautions to avoid tick bites
It’s been a tough road for Annette but the treatment prescribed by Dr Jack Lambert appears to be working.
She is on a cocktail of antibiotics, antiparasitics and vitamins to combat not only Lyme but the many coinfections that seem to go hand in hand with it.
Dr Lambert was brought up in Clydebank but he also had family links in Kirkcaldy.
He left Scotland to study in New York where he treated many patients with Lyme. He has made a career out of treating infectious diseases but is finding Lyme to be his biggest challenge yet – not least as chronic Lyme disease seems to have divided the medical profession.
However, Annette has nothing but praise for the doctor who has finally helped her claim her life back.
She said: “I found Dr Lambert through the Lyme Disease UK website and I’m so glad that I did. I can’t thank him enough for all he’s done for me.
“Dr Lambert has been treating patients for years. It’s just a shame that he can’t filter his knowledge through to the rest of the medical profession.
“I saw doctors and nurses who were convinced my rash was ringworm – they never joined the dots to Lyme and, if they had, I may not have had such severe symptoms for so long.”
While Annette dearly wishes her symptoms were diagnosed earlier, her mission now is to help prevent other people contracting Lyme.
She added: “With the advent of climate change, ticks are on the rise so it stands to reason more will become infected and, in turn, infect more people. “People should know about this and take every precaution to prevent bites in the first place – such as appropriate repellent.”
To find out more visit www.lymediseaseuk.com.