A mum who spent two years being treated for Multiple Sclerosis spoke of her relief today when the debilitating disease was revealed as — a TICK bite.
Mother-of-three Julia Marshall-Wessendorf, 37, was facing life in a wheelchair after being mistakenly diagnosed with incurable MS, which attacks the central nervous system.
But, when her symptoms deteriorated, Julia carried out her own research and discovered she may had been infected with Lyme disease following a bite from a parasitic tick.
Now, after years of expensive drug therapy and daily injections for MS, a simple course of antibiotics has cleared Julia of all symptoms of Lyme Disease.
Relieved Julia, from Bath, Somerset, said: “It is brilliant not to have MS. It is like a black cloud hanging over you. You don’t know what is coming.
“They tell you, you may never have a relapse but then you read that you could be in a wheel chair in 10 years. I used to look at my children and think, ‘I want to be there for you and I won’t be able to’.
“Psychologically, with Lyme disease, you know what you are fighting, you know what can happen and you know how to stop it.
“With MS that was never the case.
“The medicine for MS is so expensive too. I was injecting myself with it every-other-day, which is not pleasant.
“I still have #2,500 worth of medication left which has to be destroyed now.
“It would have been so much cheaper to test for Lyme disease at the start of the process.”
Julia’s troubles first started in 2010 after she went to her GP complaining of a numb finger two months after the birth of her daughter Peggy.
Mum-of-three Julia initially thought she had trapped a nerve carrying new-born Peggy around, but when she was sent to a neurologist she began to worry.
An extensive MRI revealed lesions on her brain and spinal cord, consistent with MS.
“Initially, I was really glad of the diagnosis because MS was a well-recognised illness and a lot of money had been put into researching it and providing medication,” Julia added.
“In hindsight I wonder if the diagnosis was too quick, now I know it is Lyme disease, I wish I had pushed further for more tests.”
It was only when Julia started to get muscle pains – which she was told were not symptoms of MS – she spoke to a friend who told her to check for the tick-bourne disease.
The trained landscape architect could not find a bite on her body however, but, after undertaking some research she learnt she could have been bitten years ago.
Julia, originally from Germany, said: “Ticks are very common in Germany. You are told about them from a very young age.
“Once you get bitten you might have a rash or the flu like symptoms quite quickly, but, if for some reason you don’t get the rash, you might think you are a bit under the weather.
“But if it is not treated it travels through your body and can then cause long term damage because it can cross the blood, brain barrier. That is how a tick bite can be mistaken for MS.
“I spoke to a friend in Germany who told me they tested for Lyme disease before ever diagnosing MS.
“It can lie dormant in you for years so it could have been in my system for a while. I don’t think it is very recent. I’m convinced I have had it for years.”
Julia took her findings to her doctor and demanded a Lyme disease test, which came back negative.
But while another more detailed test was taken and sent to a specialist in America she asked for antibiotics for the disease — just in case.
Within four days Julia’s symptoms had disappeared and just a month later the test came back positive for Lymes Disease.
Julia, who lives with husband Jack, 37, and her three children Betty, six, Albert, four, and Peggy, two, is now calling for greater awareness to be made of the tiny parasites.
She said: “It is so important to get the message out about it. Especially with children playing outside at this time of year, ticks live in grass and could bite anyone at any point.
“More needs to be done in this country to spread awareness, it could save so much hassle, worry and heartache.”
Ticks are abundant from April to October and are most prevalent in rural locations such as forests, woods and grassland, but can be active in urban parklands and gardens.