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June 2006

Reality Bites: Lyme Disease

A park ranger's struggle with the tick-borne illness.

My physician didn’t see much point in testing the tick. Lyme was a rare disease in California, he said, and if by some wild chance the tick in the bag was carrying it, I was unlikely to get it. Expect some localized redness around the bite; ticks are dirty animals, he said. I followed his advice. When a classic Lyme rash appeared around bite, I didn’t worry; I’d never seen one before.

The first thing I noticed in the weeks that followed was a crushing fatigue that didn’t improve with rest. In August, I went to see another doctor-a cool young general practitioner in running shoes and a white lab coat. I told him about the tick bite, the rash, the fatigue. He sent me to get blood drawn.

“Good news,” he told me on a follow-up visit, “Your tests are all normal.” He felt my belly. “Your spleen’s enlarged, though.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’m not sure.” He finished examining me and washed his hands at the sink, then scribbled something on a prescription form.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“I want you to take Prozac.”

“Prozac? Wouldn’t I know it if I were depressed?” I responded. “I don’t feel sad-well, if I am, it’s only because I’m too tired to play with my children anymore.”

“You wouldn’t necessarily know you were depressed,” he replied, peering at me through his wire-rimmed glasses. “From what you’ve told me you’ve got a stressful job, and there are some forms of depression that are experienced only as fatigue.”

I left his office, feeling embarrassed.

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