Former resident raises Lyme disease awareness

Aformer Mount Gambier woman brought home more than happy memories following an overseas holiday.

Former Mount Gambier local Trudy Kent was on six night holiday in Phuket, Thailand in 2013, but little did she know she would return home very ill with what would develop into a chronic illness.

Ms Kent, who moved to Bendigo two years ago, unknowingly contracted Lyme disease from a tick bite.

When Ms Kent arrived at the airport at the end of the holiday, she was overwhelmed with fatigue and exhaustion, sleeping at least 14 hours a night and waking up with night sweats.

She had a rash on her stomach area, suffered debilitating fatigue and fainting spells.

“It was like nothing I’d ever experienced,” Ms Kent said.

“I tried going back to work but it was really, really hard.”

Her initial, acute symptoms lasted around a month.

“I kept going to the doctor, they did not know what was wrong with me,” she said.

After seeing a Chinese herbalist who also did not have any answers, Ms Kent was given herbs, which she said helped but the doctor advised her to stop taking them due to the uncertainty of her condition.

After three years of extended time off work and continuous symptom flare-ups, Ms Kent stopped working.

In March 2016, she saw an infectious disease specialist in Adelaide who tested her for Borrelia, also known as Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

Her diagnosis was confirmed and as her symptoms were past the ‘acute’ stage, her condition was classed as chronic.

The specialist told Ms Kent there was nothing they could do, but advised her to try and stay positive and maintain a healthy lifestyle. She was lacking vital nutrients and needed to start taking these to eventually start feeling better.

Ms Kent sought a second opinion from an integrative doctor who put her on a course of antibiotics, which made her symptoms worse.

“I was pretty much bed-ridden after that,” she said.

Ms Kent underwent hypothermia treatment, or ‘fever therapy,’ three times a week for four weeks. And then in March 2018 she spent a month in Mexico getting endothelial stem cells and high-dose vitamin C, coupled with three rounds of ozone therapy.

Maintaining a hopeful attitude, Ms Kent said she recently had a phone appointment with a doctor in Sydney along with some tests. She will be going on another drug which she hopes helps with her symptoms.

Ms Kent, who was fit and healthy before the holiday, said she was pacing herself, monitoring her energy and having regular infusions. She goes for walks and does gentle yoga to keep her body moving.

The advice Ms Kent offered to others with Lyme disease is to manage mental health, find a good doctor, maintain a healthy diet consisting of nutrient-rich foods and little to no gluten or sugar, find a balance between rest and physical activity and listen to your body.

“If you can try and find gratitude in each day and try and think positively about your life, it will have an impact on your health and your well-being,” she said.

“Remember that this day will pass and tomorrow will be easier.”

Ms Kent recommended practices such as meditation or grounding to relieve symptoms and to always have faith that you will get better. She hoped her story would raise awareness and help others with the same condition.

Some preventative measures people can take to avoid contracting Lyme disease is wearing closed-in footwear, long-sleeved shirts and pants, using insect repellent and being aware of your environment, such as keeping out of long grass.

People seeking assistance can visit Lyme Disease Association of Australia at lymedisease.org.au and there are groups on Facebook providing information.

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