Festy Health and Safety
From Bear Care Medical
By Doc Jim
Photo by Roger Gupta
“I’m not that old. Why do my joints ache so bad?” It could be Lyme Disease.
It was an epic season. Days and nights of music, friendship, and camping in the great outdoors. Everyone made it home safe and we had a blast. So now begins the long wait through the dark days of winter, pining for spring when we can break out the gear and do it all over again.
But this winter it seems you don’t feel as good as you did last year. It’s harder to get up and get going in the morning / afternoon / evening. You can’t quite put your finger on it. There are aches and pains you never had before. Maybe you’re just getting old, you may say to yourself.
Or maybe not.
Let’s think back to summer. Remember that little adventure you had when you floated aloft, past the happy dancing trees waving so gaily? Do you recall the liquid bath of light as the moon shone down and wrapped the land in a glow of everlasting love? And the jolly king of the blue rock gnomes you met. How nice of him to invite you to come and live forever on the enchanted mountain and join the revolution against the trolls of the babbling brook. Leaving him, do you remember how you listened to the wood fairy lullaby as you drifted into a golden sleep, waking the next day in the sweet, green grass? Ah, the beauty of festy and the fresh outdoors.
But who else might have been out there with you? A tiny creature, not necessarily cooing in your ear as the fairies did. Instead he was making his way through the grass, relentlessly seeking out young, succulent blood to drink. After all, you were so much better than that nasty old deer he dropped off two days before we all got there. Yes, it’s our little friend Mr. Deer Tick, and he was so small and delicate you didn’t even notice him.
Grateful for a peaceful meal, he dropped away or was scratched off, and went cheerfully back to his friend Mr. Deer. By day four everything was kind of itchy, so you may not have noticed any one thing in particular. His bite went undetected and perhaps he left you a small gift; a microscopic Spirochete bacterium named Borrelia burgdorferi.
“Bordeleo Booger Fairy WTF?!” you ask.
Why yes, Mr. Tick had thousands of them in his intestinal tract. When he injected his anti-coagulant laced saliva into your veins and capillaries, he set some of them free. From there, they went throughout your body, feeding on the ocean of warm, liquid blood and endlessly multiplying in their new home. They had never been so happy, and their cries of gratitude to their microscopic god lift to the heavens.
And now they’re here and your body does not like them. When enough of them make their home in your body it begins to make you sick. We call it Lyme Disease.
“But I didn’t get the red, bulls-eye rash they talk about,” you say.
You may not have. While that is a common first symptom, it is not shared by everyone. It has been reported that one in four never get the rash. Or, without noticeable itching, or masked by general itching all over, as some of you are prone to, it came and went and you may have missed it.
As they continue to multiply, things progress. Generalized fatigue, muscle and joint stiffness and pain, swollen lymph nodes (“swollen glands”), headache, and, less often, fever may occur. Perhaps these symptoms so closely resemble a cold or a hangover that you may have ignored them. Meanwhile, the sirochetes continue their colonization of your warm, gooey insides.
Weeks, months, or even years may pass. Now things start getting interesting. The joints, heart, and nervous system start to suffer. In extreme cases the heart muscle is affected and inflammation may cause erratic heartbeat and even heart failure. If running concurrent with an unhealthy lifestyle, this can pose a very real life risk.
In the joints Lyme disease can start resembling chronic forms of arthritis. This happens most often in the knees. So you see, it might not have been that poorly thought out stage dive or mountain bike wipeout number 857. Generally speaking, people in their twenties and thirties, barring obvious injury, should not start hobbling around like they’re in their eighties. Swollen, painful joints, abnormal for your age group, may be a red flag.
In the brain and nervous system, the little spirochetes take root as well. Signs and symptoms can include facial paralysis (the droopy face of Bell’s palsy), abnormal sensations due to disease in the fine nerves of the hands and feet (known as peripheral neuropathy or “Spider Webs”), meningitis (inflamed brain tissue causing high fever and even psychotic episodes), as well as confusion, depression, and paranoia.
Now understandably, many of you know that these symptoms may come and go for other reasons, such as; Weekend, Birthday, Rock Concert, Sunshine, or Rain and may subside sometime by late Monday or Tuesday with coffee or a Bloody Mary. If they persist, however, and it just doesn’t feel like the usual consequences of life some of you experience, well, it may be an indication that something is clinically amiss.
The bottom line with Lyme is this: We are all at risk of getting it and it affects everyone differently and at differing rates of infection. The more the disease is studied, the more twists and turns it throws out. Some people get the classic symptoms right away and early treatment is undertaken. In others cases, it may come on more slowly, sometimes taking years to fully present, at which point the damage may have been done.
So, if you have any reason to suspect you may have contracted Lyme, by all means go to a health clinic and get tested. If detected, it is treatable with a common, broad spectrum anti-biotic.
For the rest of you, when festy season is upon us again and we meet in the sparkling, wavy fields of electrostatic beat and boom boom, utilize a good insect repellent. There are plenty of deer in the woods for Mr. Tick to hang out with–he can stay the hell away from us.
Until then, this is Bear Care Medical saying rock on safely and see you soon.
Doc Jim is a founding partner with Bear Care Medical, a services outfit providing first aid support to the festival community. He is an advanced life support provider and a remote location medical instructor with many years in hard and not so hard places. www.bearcaremedical.com