Wednesday 13 December 2017

A shooting pain in my foot... then it spread over my body

Sean O'Connor was bitten while out running. Photo: Andrew Downes.
Sean O'Connor was bitten while out running. Photo: Andrew Downes.

Celine Naughton

Sean O'Connor is a keep-fit fanatic who ran a six-hour Gael Force endurance race across tick-ridden terrain in Westport, Co. Mayo, in 2010.

"I felt a shooting pain in my right foot and assumed it was a sports injury," says the 34-year-old father of three.

"My doctor agreed, but then it spread throughout the whole right side of my body. I couldn't sleep with the pain and lost all power in the right foot. He sent me to A&E."

It was the first of many visits to hospital over the following weeks as Sean was tested for various conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis.

A former plumber, he had gone back to college to study medical device science and bioengineering, but now even making a sandwich took enormous effort.

He dropped two stone in a fortnight and when he woke up seven weeks later with no feeling in his face, he went back to his GP.

"She diagnosed Bell's Palsy and remarked that she heard it was a symptom of Lyme disease," says Sean, who lives in Moycullen, Co Galway with his wife Siobhan and their three children, Clodagh (4), Luke (3) and Aidan (2). Blood tests confirmed he had the disease and treatment began immediately.

"I spent two weeks on IV antibiotics, a month on oral antibiotics, and had four months of physiotherapy. I'm one of the lucky ones. It was caught early and I've made a good recovery. I'm back running and cycling and actively looking for a job now that I've graduated.

"The experience has taught me that you can't be too vigilant, and Siobhan and I routinely check ourselves and the kids when we've been out for a walk, and throw the clothes in the tumble dryer as a precaution.

"Only recently, Clodagh said, 'Daddy, there's a spider on my leg', and it was a tick! Unfortunately, I don't think people fully appreciate how dangerous a tick bite can be. It's important to raise awareness because if you catch it early, the outcome is very positive."

Irish Independent

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