Veterinary nurse tells of long road to Lyme disease diagnosis

A veterinary nurse has told how her road to diagnosis for chronic Lyme disease took almost two years and 22 doctor, including consultant visits.

Siobhan Coleman, a native of Listowel, Co. Kerry, who has worked as a veterinary nurse for over 20 years, was finally diagnosed as having Lyme disease in 2017 after what she said were several medical misdiagnoses.

The former senior head nurse of two equine hospitals in Co. Kildare has been supported by her husband Eamonn in her battle to get a correct diagnosis after being severely neurologically affected. She is now passionate about creating awareness of Lyme disease and working for patient advocacy.

Array of Symptoms

Siobhan was first suspected of having Lyme disease when she experienced an array of unexplained symptoms beginning with fatigue; bursitis; joint pains; memory issues; and migraines; to then neurological symptoms including body tremors, balance issues and seizures.

“I was forced to become my own health advocate after several medical misdiagnoses. I don’t recall the distinct ‘bullseye rash’ despite being symptomatic of the disease,” Siobhan said.

“I am of the belief that veterinary professionals or those that work in the agriculture sector may be at higher risk of exposure of tick-borne infections. I contracted Lyme disease in Ireland and not abroad.

Lyme disease is very much an active health risk in Ireland. The numbers reported per year in Ireland are contested by patient support groups as standard tests used are inaccurate.

“Many patients like myself have tested negative on the standard ‘ELISA’ [enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay] blood test. Lyme Disease is not a rare condition in Ireland; recent research studies support this.

“My bloods were sent abroad to an accredited laboratory specialising in tick borne disease which I myself organised. A clinical diagnosis was made by the only infectious disease specialist in Ireland treating patients with longstanding Lyme Disease,” said Siobhan.

Treatment

“My treatment included 16 months of a combination of antibiotics, supplements and herbals. I also combined alternative therapies, namely biomagnetic pair therapy, to aid recovery. Many patients are forced abroad for treatment of this complex and multifaceted illness.

“Thankfully I am progressing slowly. The illness has the potential to cause devastating effects on the body if not treated in a timely manner. A patient has understand the disease to in turn learn to manage and treat it. There is hope of full recovery and remission,” she said.

“For any individual concerned about this disease, I would direct them to the Tick Talk Ireland webpage. On this site there are clear lists of symptoms; advice; prevention; patient stories; research; treatment and diagnostic tests which i found invaluable on the start of my journey,” Siobhan added.

“Unfortunately, there is a lot of inaccurate and misleading information available on the internet so it is therefore important to do your own research. I would lastly add that if a person may have any exposure to tick-borne infections or is concerned, please educate yourselves. Sadly in this country awareness is lacking, doctors are not educated on it and testing is not accurate,” she contended.