Sidmouth residents warned about ticks

Stella warns other of the dangers of ticks.

Stella warns other of the dangers of ticks. - Credit: Archant

A Sidbury woman, who has been left living in pain for the last 17 years after catching a disease from a tick bite, is working to prevent others from suffering the same fate.

Stella Huyshe-Shires, who is chairman of the Lyme Disease Action group, went undiagnosed for three years while her life was slowly turned upside down by the condition.

It started with a rash, which then slowly led to other, more serious symptoms.

Not a lot is understood about it, so despite undergoing treatment she remains uncured and suffering from pains in her spine and burning sensations in her legs.

Lyme disease, which can only be caught from ticks, it is a bacterial infection that can cause pain and swelling in the joints, heart problems and issues affecting the nervous system such as numbness and pain in your limbs, paralysis of your facial muscles, memory problems and difficulty concentrating.

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It can also result in inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord, which can cause severe headaches, a stiff neck and increased sensitivity to light.

Stella, of Roncombe Lane, said that, after being bitten by a tick, the symptoms can set in after about a fortnight and normally start with a rash, but many people did not recognise it so did not seek treatment.

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“After three years, I got all kinds of other symptoms – I lost a lot of weight, had headaches and pains in my back and for a time I lost my hearing,” sais Stella. “Many symptoms came and went.

“It has impacted my life greatly. I couldn’t cope at work and I lost my job - I remember looking around the office and trying to remember my colleagues’ names. There were so many things going wrong with my body, it was a very difficult time.

“Eventually I read about Lyme disease in a newspaper and I asked for a blood test and it was positive.”

Stella was given a first course of treatment which did not make a difference, so she underwent further tests before being given intravenous antibiotics. While she did get better for a while, the symptoms soon returned.

Stella said: “It soon became clear to me they didn’t know how to treat Lyme disease. From time to time, I think ‘what if it is going to be like this for the rest of my life’.

“I hope someone will find the right treatment – if people are treated early they tend to get better, but if there is a long gap between getting diagnosed and treatment, it is harder to get rid of.

“It is so important to make people aware and get the proper treatment early on. At the moment, nobody knows anything – it gets into all the tissues of the body and it’s difficult to eradicate.”

Stella wants to promote awareness in the area, especially with people who run walking groups or work outside. She also wants to raise funds for research to improve the way it is diagnosed and treated.

A charity Lyme disease awareness day - offering tick identification information, as well as bite prevention and the correct removal method of the creatures - will be held at on Tuesday, May 10, at Sidbury Village Hall from 2.15pm. All are welcome.

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