Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.00 16 Jul 2021


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One woman suffering from Lyme disease says the coronavirus pandemic is the biggest gift for her and others like her.

Figures are not available for the number of cases of Lyme disease in Ireland, but it is estimated that around 200 people have a positive blood test for it each year.

Nicci St George-Smith says the advent of long COVID means doctors will now entertain people who have long-term symptoms.

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She was diagnosed after getting a deer tick bite in upstate New York.

Nicci told Lunchtime Live Lyme disease wasn't even on her radar.

"I got bitten in the States, 20 years ago, and immediately I had the bullseye rash at the bite area and so they knew that that's what it was.

"You don't think about these things... I certainly didn't know anything about Lyme disease in Ireland

"I may have heard some reference in a movie in the 80s or something, but it wasn't something that ever meant anything to me."

Nicci says her symptoms "ran the gamut of everything you can imagine.

"But it was a slow build, because I would have been very healthy.

"It slowly, slowly, slowly degrades your system to the point where everything breaks down".

'A mental health issue'

But Nicci says the pandemic may have been the best thing to happen to them.

"The biggest gift that we have gotten of late is COVID.

"The reason I say that is because up until a year ago, if you said to a doctor... 'I have had Lyme, I've been tested, treated and I've gone home and two years later I still have symptoms'... they would go 'Oh that's impossible'.

"They'd say 'It's obviously something else' or... many, many friends of mine who were Lyme patients were told 'You've obviously started to identify with being a sick person, it's a mental health issue now, so we'll start going down that road'.

"So that was literally what was happening to people".

But Nicci says the advent of long COVID means medical professionals will entertain longer-term illnesses.

"Because of COVID - and people have gone 'We've got COVID, we've been treated, we've gone home and here we are a year later and we still have symptoms' - this means that now doctors will entertain that fact that you can get something that will affect your immune system so severely.

"And have all these horrendous symptoms, that are very similar to COVID by the way and do similar things in the body, they will now entertain the fact that you could have long-term symptoms.

"That has been incredible and we are grateful for that, but we're so sorry how it has come about".

'A lack of awareness'

Jennifer Brolly was only diagnosed last year after suffering from the disease for 10 years.

She says: "I was quite surprised as I'd been diagnosed with previous diagnosis throughout the years, such as fibromyalgia.

"So it was a great relief to finally know 'Ok, I've chronic Lyme disease' but at the same time it was difficult because there's such a lack of awareness unfortunately in Ireland.

"And a lot of GPs don't recognise it - so it's been a difficult journey in general trying to recognise and research what is going on with my body."

Jennifer says she is not exactly sure when she contracted it, owing to her poor immune system.

"But I remember at 16 I got glandular fever and my mum and my dad both said to me that I always complained from then that I had no energy, I was always so fatigued.

"So I'm not sure, it's in between around then that I think it happened - and we just had no awareness of it".

Jennifer says she has spent "thousands of euros" looking into holistic treatments, herbs and diets.

"I did everything I could and nothing was changing, the only difference was that I was progressively getting worse.

"So even when I got my diagnosis last year, I have progressively got worse since then again".

And she says her new approach has taken her to Germany.

"I've had to research and think outside the box, and I've seen a lot of cases that they went to Germany and they got stem-cell treatment.

"And now they were able to recover their life, work full-time, travel.

"I can't even imagine being able to work full-time again, that would be amazing".

Jennifer says the toughness of day to day living means she had to move home to Donegal from Galway.

"For example if I brush my teeth I have to sit down, it tires me out too much to stand.

"Making meals is too difficult - and even when I gave up the work... I did loads of therapy throughout the years [to] ensure that it was nothing in terms of a mental illness, crossed that off.

"Then when I couldn't work I actually tried voluntary work, and I had to give it up".

Lyme disease sufferer says COVID pandemic is 'the biggest gift we have gotten'

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

Main image: Nicci St George Smith. Picture by: Instagram/niccistgeorge

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