Pamela Bean, of 56 Chicken Branch Road, in Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee, is one of five diagnosed cases of the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which is contracted from a tick bite, in this small community.
Rocky Mountain Fever is a potentially serious bacterial infection transmitted to humans when an infected tick attaches to your skin and feeds on your blood. The infection then has the potential to spread to your bloodstream and other areas of your body and if treated promptly it is usually fairly mild. But in a small number of people, the disease can be fatal, especially in older adults when the fever progresses rapidly.
“I started getting sick in August of 2008, with a high fever, vomiting, and diarrhea,” Pamela said when contacted by telephone last Friday afternoon, “and I was completely dehydrated and had lost all my electrolytes by the time my daughter got me to Macon County General Hospital. They immediately sent me on to Hendersonville Medical Center by ambulance, and after my heart almost stopped, they thought I had a heart attack. My kidneys were failing and the infection had gotten into my bloodstream.”
Pamela remained in Critical Care for five days and they couldn’t find anything medically wrong with her. “I was in the hospital fifteen different times and stayed a week each visit. They did every test possible on me, and I was still not diagnosed, which eventually led them to believe it was all in my head, but I had a fever and I knew something was wrong.”
After her 15th hospital stay, Pamela returned home and one afternoon her son ask her to go with him to see a neighbor’s horse that was for sale, and she ended up with 18 ticks on her body, which actually was a blessing in disguise.
“The very next day, I made an appointment with my regular physician, and he checked me for tick related diseases,” said Pamela. “It took two weeks for that test to come back and during that time I had started having seizures and my heart almost stopped again. Luckily my daughter was there with me and called the ambulance and it was during this stay that the test came back positive for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The medicine I was prescribed was suppose to be taken for two weeks and I only took it for one.”
After struggling just to survive, it was only forty-eight hours later, when Pamela was hospitalized yet again in Sumner Regional Hospital in Gallatin, Tennessee.
“They finally sent an infectious disease doctor to visit me and I was treated with the same medicine and it took two weeks for me to begin improving, after almost dying three times,” Pamela continued. “You have no idea what a relief it was to finally have a name to my illness, but of course I still have side effects especially with my kidneys. The early clinical symptoms of Rocky Mountain fever are nonspecific and it resembles so many non-infectious diseases that it was hard to diagnose.”
“Tick bites are painless and they frequently go unnoticed, so it was easy for me to forget the little insect last fall, that was the size of a grain of pepper.”
“Please be very cautious when you are outside, especially if you spend any amount of time in the yard or tall grass and if someone you know or love is exposed to a tick and they have the symptoms I had, get them to a doctor immediately. As I said before, the disease is difficult to diagnose in the early stages, so please let the medical professionals know you found a tick and you probably will save their life!”
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a seasonal disease and occurs throughout the United States during the months of April through September. Although this disease was first discovered and recognized in the Rocky Mountains area, relatively few cases are reported from that area today.