Cork woman Julie Farrelly tells LOUISE MCCARTHY how her health was affected for a long time before a blood test finally revealed she had contracted the tick-based Lyme disease
A CORK mother-of-two is appealing to people around the county to get a blood test for Lyme disease, at a time when a local GP has warned that cases of the debilitating illness are on the rise.
Julie Farrelly, 39, is one of three people in the small West Cork village of Eyeries who have recently been diagnosed with the disease, which is mainly contracted from ticks.
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 there was more wrong with her when she began to lose sensation in her right and then left hand.
“It was very scary,” recalled Julie, “I had gone to reflexology but was getting no relief. Even putting on make-up or brushing my hair was a nightmare, I had no energy.”
She also found that her concentration was lapsing drastically. “I am a fashion designer, I could not concentrate for more than one hour,” she said. “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 decided to get some blood tests done with her local GP in Beara and she was then diagnosed with Lyme disease. That was just a few months ago, and she is already making progress.
“Since I got antibiotics for it, I feel more like myself again,” she said. “I was crying at home, I thought I must be very depressed, I did not know what was wrong.
“I have always been an outdoorsy person. I grew up in a farm, my children and husband have been tested for Lyme and came back negative. I panic now if I see a black speck near my children.”
Ms Farrelly is concerned that there is ‘some animal’ in West Cork carrying the disease.
Meanwhile, Bantry based GP, Dr Denis Cotter, is issuing a social media appeal for anyone developing flu-like symptoms following a tick bite to seek medical treatment immediately.
Dr Cotter said: “Lyme disease is on the increase, especially in West Cork.”
According to Dr Cotter, this is due to the “rise in the deer population, especially around the peninsulas and north-east of Bantry”.
He said: “Anyone living here should make themselves aware of the disease and how to prevent it.”
The GP is appealing for people to check themselves and their children regularly, including behind the ears, under the arms, behind the knees and the scalp.
He advised people who find any ticks to remove them.
Dr Cotter said: “Keep a tick twister in the house. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull upwards. Don’t twist or jerk as the mouth parts of the tick may become detached and remain in the skin.
“After removing the tick, wash your hands and the affected area with soap and water and apply an antiseptic cream or any white alcohol spirit.
“If, after being bitten by a tick, you develop any flu-like symptoms or get a rash, come in and see us as soon as possible.”
Anne Maher, a grandmother based in Kilkenny, who has been suffering from the condition for the past 20 years, is a member of Tick Tock Ireland, an organisation for sufferers of Lyme disease and their families.
According to Ms Maher, Lyme disease is now at a worryingly high level in West Cork and Kerry.
She is supporting the appeals by Dr Cotter and Louise Farrelly for people to get tested.
Eighty per cent of patients of Dublin-based biomagnetism specialist, Rob Renehan, are suffering from chronic Lyme disease, which 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 a popular way to treat people with chronic Lyme disease.
Mr Renehan is currently treating a number of patients from County Cork. His brother, Dave, now back working as fireman, battled the disease for several years.
Mr 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.”
According to Mr Renehan, some people just need a few sessions, while others may need a lot more, to get pain relief and recover from Lyme disease.
Some symptoms of Lyme disease include joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue, tingling, weakness, memory loss, brain fog, dizziness, nausea, and swollen glands along with recurring throat and ear pain.
People living on a country road or who are embarking on a trail are advised before departure to spray their socks and sneakers or boots with a product containing 0.5% permethrin, an insecticide safe to humans but deadly to ticks, and also wear permethrin-treated clothing, which can be obtained at InsectShield.com. Use As you head out, spray or rub exposed skin with a repellent — preferably a strong one that’s made with 20-30% deet. (Most plant-based sprays and lotions do not work well against ticks.)
During and after, wear long pants tucked into your socks.
When you return from a hike or outdoor exercise, take a shower as soon as possible. Toss your clothes into a hot dryer for 10 minutes to kill any lingering ticks.
On Sunday, March 12, at the Sheraton Hotel, Athlone, a national conference on Lyme disease is taking place, starting at 8.45am.