Ticks: So Little, So Dangerous

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2009

Late last summer, Duane Knopp was suffering from the flu.

At least, that's what it seemed like at first.

However, the achiness, fevers, and nausea didn't go away with normal over-the-counter medication. Within a few days, he was suffering from severe headaches that caused unbearable pain on one side of his head. Tylenol, Advil, and other pain relievers didn't help.

Normally very active, Knopp was weak and unable to eat. He lost 20 pounds in one week at one point during the illness. He was off work and bedridden. Even his young children were afraid to play with him for fear that they'd hurt him more.

Throughout the ordeal, Duane and his wife, Sandy, who live in central Pennsylvania, made numerous trips to local emergency rooms and doctor offices. Over and over, they were told it was a viral condition and would clear up on its own.

"We had to be very persistent with the emergency rooms and doctors," Sandy said. "They acted as if this was a typical flu, but I live with him every day. I knew it was something more. I had that gut feeling that something was really wrong."

Finally, the persistence paid off, and the Knopp family received some answers. Duane was suffering from Lyme disease. He got the illness from the bite of a small tick, no bigger than the tip of a pencil.

However, the recovery was far from over. After months of treatment, including four weeks of medication fed daily into a tube that ran through one of his veins directly into his heart, Duane started to regain his energy. Little by little, he was able to return to his daily routine. But the lessons learned will remain with them forever.

"The kids still remember it. We had to keep reassuring them that everything was going to be OK," Sandy said. "We have really changed our outdoor habits. It's a shame, really, that so many doctors act as though it (Lyme disease) doesn't exist in this area."

She said their family is proof that it does, and that everyone should take the disease seriously. "We spread Seven (a bug repellent/killer) on the lawn. We spray our kids down with bug spray before they go outside. We do thorough tick checks as soon as possible after they come inside," she said.

Even with the precautions, they found a small tick embedded on their 2-year-old son, Garrett. After struggling to get it removed thoroughly, they went to the emergency room. Sandy said that they kept the tick in a dated plastic bag just in case Garrett got sick. She recommends that all parents do the same.

"Who would have thought that a little bug like that can have such a powerful affect on a body -- on a whole family," she said. "It isn't even just the sickness and symptoms, but all the effort that goes into getting it out of the body, too. We take Lyme disease seriously."

If you would like to share thoughts with Duane and his family, send an e-mail to dlknopp@yahoo.com