Tick 'em off your list
Canoeist and climber Allan Mitchell spent three years suffering a range of debilitating and increasingly serious symptoms before Lyme disease was diagnosed.
Published Date: 05 August 2010
By Sally Gillespie
A KEEN canoeist and holder of a mountain climbing record is on a mission to warn other outdoors enthusiasts about Lyme disease.
The debilitating tick-borne illness blighted his life for almost three years as medics struggled to diagnose the changing symptoms.Former KOSB army instructor from Lilliesleaf, Allan Mitchell, said: "I had always been as fit as a flea. I'm the kind of person who shrugs things off. I thought it would go away, but it never did, it came back."The father-of-five has had to fight for his life with viral meningitis, a symptom of Lyme disease."I thought it was just a headache. I was rushed to hospital and given a lumbar puncture. I was very, very unwell for a few days," he told TheSouthern.He was later rushed to hospital with oxygen levels in his blood lower than people with the lung disease COPD."I was quite seriously ill. When the oxygen in your blood drops, your blood goes acidic, which causes a lot of pain in your muscles."But most worrying was not knowing what was wrong with him, said the 45-year-old."My wife thought I was going to die. I had periods of generally being all right. It can affect you mentally. You can see how some people are driven off the edge." This from the man who climbed Ben Nevis 20 times (nearly 21 - he was just yards from the top when bad weather forced him back) in a week in 2005 to gain the Guinness world record for the most feet ascended and descended on a mountain in one week.He remembers the tick bite which gave him Lyme disease nearly three years ago."It quickly became red and swollen with a strange rash."The symptoms - sleeplessness, fever, hot joints, muscle spasms - kept recurring, but each time doctors said it was a virus and likely to go. Tests showed the spasms, cramps, muscle twitching, tinitis and other symptoms were not from a neurological disease.Next he got meningitis and recovered. A second neurological opinion said the "benign muscle twitching" would go in time. A week later, he couldn't breathe during the night and was rushed to hospital. It was then that the low blood oxygen levels were identified. But doctors remained puzzled as to the cause of the problem. "At this stage I really thought I was going off my head and was in total despair, wondering what was wrong with me," he said.It was then that he saw Dr Jeff Cullen at Selkirk hospital, who suggested testing for Lyme disease.Even post-diagnosis, it has been a fight. Although the antibiotics worked initially, he has had two relapses.