Local woman's Lyme story helps family find answer to health problems
It was the bravery of Sligo woman Fiona Quilter that encouraged many people to get tested for Lyme disease.
Fiona has spent many years campaigning for better treatment and services for sufferers here in Ireland, after she learned of her own diagnosis.
Having read Fiona's story, a Tuam based family realised that it sounded all too familiar.
Correna Maughan's husband, Kieran, has been unwell since 2006. Having first attended A&E, he was told he had pneumonia and given antibiotics.
Correna explains: "He then developed numerous symptoms over the years. He went to see specialists and tried numerous alternative therapies but he got progressively worse and by the end of 2015 he could barely walk.
"His illness has dominated our marriage and the joy of having a young family. After five negative tests here we heard about Fiona (Quilter) and decided to send Kieran's bloods to Germany for testing."
The blood tests came back positive, and Kieran was diagnosed with Lyme disease in October 2015.
The family were left with no choice but to travel to the Czech Republic for treatment. After nine months of oral antibiotics, herbs, supplements and special diet, he became symptom free.
"This only lasted three months," Correna said. Kieran's symptoms returned, although not as bad as they were initially.
"Although Kieran does have a reduced quality of life, he's no longer able to socialise, exercise or partake in group sports, do any physical work and he goes to bed early in the evenings. This takes its toll on our marriage and family life," added Correna.
Kieran started treatment with Dr. Lambert, who specialises in infectious diseases at the Mater Hospital, and there has been a slight improvement.
"He hopes to start biomagnetic therapy at the end of September and this is supposed to have a very positive effect. All Kieran's treatment is private and expensive which adds extra pressure on us as a family.
"We are very fortunate to have my parents who have helped us pay for some of the treatments, only for them who knows where we would be. We are lucky Kieran can still work maybe four days a week but unfortunately that is all he can do as it takes the best of him, but it allows us to pay the bills," she said.
Kieran's illness alone has taken its toll on the family, but there was more to come.
Correna and Kieran had noticed that something was not right with their son Diarmuid when he was two and a half years old.
"He was more fatigued and irritable than his twin sister Kate. I brought him to his GP numerous times over the next few years with different symptoms and privately to a paediatrician but we were told there was nothing wrong."
Diarmuid's anxiety levels increased and he started experiencing mental health issues.
Eight-year-old Diarmuid missed two days of school last year due to his fatigue and he has not been able to do any homework for 18 months.
He continues to get help at CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service), and he too has been seeing Dr. Lambert since last October.
He was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2017.
"It is a daily struggle to get him to take his medication," Correna said.
"He has started biomagnetic therapy twice a month and I'm hoping this will help him. All of his issues are due to his Lyme and co-infections. He has been neglected by our government and health service as they refuse to accept his illness and treat him accordingly.
"We have been very fortunate to meet a wonderful Psychologist at CAMHS who has been really supportive and accepting of Diarmuid's physical illness and its contribution to his anxiety and emotional distress."
Correna said she feels lucky that she was aware of Lyme disease and co-infections.
"We were lucky to have been in a position to test Diarmuid privately as these tests are very expensive and not everybody can afford to have them done.
"At least now we know that an underlying condition is causing Diarmuid's difficulties and we are able to do our best to get him the appropriate treatment."
She added: "It's too late for Kieran and Diarmuid now but not for others."
Correna's mother was then diagnosed with dementia at the age of 67 when she became debilitated by pain and infections.
"She lost all interest in life," Correna added. "I always believed there was something more than just dementia going on so myself and my Dad decided to get her tested in Germany and she came back positive for Lyme disease. The World Health Organisation now accepts that Lyme disease can cause dementia. "
Since her diagnosis, Correna's mother has been receiving treatment from Dr. Lambert and has improved significantly.
Correna has liaised closely with Fiona Quilter of the North West Lyme Group, who is organising a 'Lyme Disease Awareness 5km Walk' on Sunday, September 30th at 11am, starting from the Riverside Hotel.