"Something terrible happened to you.”
These are not words you want to hear from an ophthalmologist. At the time I was sitting in his fancy chair in a dark exam room, my eyes red and hurting, and my vision distorted in the way of pebbled glass. I had no idea at the time and neither did the ophthalmologist, but this was the beginning of my encounter with Lyme Disease. By a series of coincidences--I’d call them miracles--I was blessed to be diagnosed early and treated successfully.
My Lyme ordeal began while I was working at the computer. I blinked and thought, “I need new glasses.” A few moments later I looked in a mirror and saw that both eyes were bloodshot. I figured I had conjunctivitis and met a friend for lunch as planned. By the end of the meal, my eyes weren’t just red. They hurt every time I changed my focus. That evening I developed the strangest fever I’ve ever had. It spiked at 103 degrees and then disappeared.
I saw an ophthalmologist the next morning. He diagnosed anterior uveitis and started me on steroid eye drops and dilating drops. He suspected the problem had been caused by exposure to cleaning chemicals, but that seemed unlikely to me. I’d cleaned the bathroom a few days before, but I’d used the same products I always use. When my eyes improved only slightly with treatment, the ophthalmologist referred me to my regular doctor for blood work. Anterior uveitis can come on for no reason, or it can be related to autoimmune disease.
By now I was feeling sick. My knees ached. I had stabbing pains in my neck. Fevers came and went. I couldn’t think clearly. I tired easily. I developed a Bell’s Palsy-like facial numbness. Something was clearly wrong, and my family doctor was on vacation. This is where God opened a door. I was working for a dermatologist at the time. She stepped in and wrote the orders for blood work. By an amazing coincidence, she consulted with a second ophthalmologist who said, “Be sure to check for Lyme.”
Sure enough, the blood work came back positive for Lyme Disease and I was started on antibiotics. There were good days and bad days until I had another miracle. I’d been on Minocyclin for ten days when I got the call that my mom was in the ICU in Los Angeles. I was in Washington DC. She had severe COPD and I knew this was the end. I had to get on a plane no matter how I felt. I went to sleep with a prayer on my lips, and I woke up feeling normal. My mom passed away five days later with her family around her. My symptoms never came back.
When I look at my Lyme experience, I’m extremely grateful for an early diagnosis. Only one doctor thought, Lyme, and he wasn’t even someone I’d seen. It was a coincidence, a blessed one, that led to my diagnosis. Not even the Infectious Disease doctor I saw at the very end of the treatment would have suspected Lyme with my eye symptoms. I never had a rash, don’t recall a tick bite, and had eye trouble before the other symptoms started. On the other hand, I lived in northern Virginia across the street from a park where deer grazed, and I later learned my neighbor also had Lyme.
Education is everything with this disease. When I returned to the first ophthalmologist, he told me about another patient who’d presented with anterior uveitis just like I did. This time he tested for Lyme. Sure enough, the blood work came back positive and she received early treatment. She benefited from my experience, and I hope other Lyme sufferers do too.
Victoria Bylin, Kentucky