Sun, 15 May 2016
TIM Breeze was once a fit and healthy man who used to enjoy an active lifestyle – running, taking leisurely countryside walks and playing with his children in the garden.
But it was his love of the outdoors that has left him virtually bedridden for the last seven months.
In October, the Frilsham father-of-two was bitten by ticks while out playing a game of hide-and-seek with his children in the garden.
He thought nothing of it – until he woke up one day with severe heart palpitations, a tight chest and flu-like symptoms.
After months of illness and several negative tests, the 44-year-old was eventually diagnosed with the potentially fatal Lyme disease.
The debilitating disease occurs when Borellia bacteria from the gut of infected ticks gets into the bloodstream and attacks the immune system.
It can lead to severe illness, and, in extreme cases, brain seizures and heart attacks.
As a result, Mr Breeze has been unable to work and the 44-year-old says he sometimes has difficulty getting out of bed or climbing the stairs.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News, Mr Breeze said: “The only way I can describe it is that it’s like the worst flu you can imagine, mixed with food poisoning.
“It has put a strain on my marriage and I haven’t been able to do much with my two children.
“They think daddy has had flu for the last five months.”
Before his diagnosis, Mr Breeze visited his GP on several occasions – only to be told he didn’t have the disease.
He said: “After having flu-like symptoms for three weeks, I was starting to become really concerned and read about Lyme disease.
“My GP ran tests but it came back negative. They tested for glandular fever and thyroid problems too but again they came back clear.”
Mr Breeze had almost lost all faith – until he came across a private clinic in Hemel Hempstead.
The clinic ran further tests – which confirmed he did, in fact, have the disease.
Mr Breeze says he’s spent more than £10,000 on various powerful antibiotics, treatments and consultants’ fees in the last four months.
And although he is on 25 pills a day and has to make regular trips to Hemel Hempstead and follow a strict diet, Mr Breeze says he’s now feeling “85 per cent better”.
He said: “I was very ill but I am one of the lucky ones. I am fortunate that I am in the position where I have the money to go private.
“Some private clinics have the authority to prescribe antibiotics that are four times stronger than the guidelines the NHS has to follow that is something that needs to be addressed.”
He is now hoping to use his experience to press the Government to change the test for Lyme disease – claiming that the current one is only 20 per cent accurate.
He will join thousands of others by taking part in a protest to raise awareness of the disease in London on May 24.
“People know all about cancer, which is a terrible disease, but people don’t seem to know about Lyme disease,” he said.
“It feels like the Government has just swept it under the carpet.”
Mr Breeze warned that West Berkshire was a ‘hotspot’ for the disease and recommended that people don’t wear shorts when coming into contact with long grass.
He also advised people to spray themselves with insect repellent and to check themselves and their children for ticks after walking in rural areas.
If you do spot ticks, Mr Breeze said to remove them carefully using tweezers or a special tick remover.
He added: “If you manage to remove the ticks within 24 to 48 hours you are usually okay, but after that, the bacteria from the tick’s gut has time to get into the bloodstream.
“Once the bacteria is in your body, it never really leaves, it is just a question of controlling it.”
Classic early signs to watch out for are flu-like symptoms, aching joints and in some cases, the person infected will notice a ‘bullseye’-shaped rash around the area of the bite.
The number of cases of Lyme disease confirmed by laboratory testing in the UK has risen from 346 in 2003 to around 1,000 in 2015.
Public Health England (PHE) acknowledges that confirmed cases do not necessarily reflect all the cases of the disease.
PHE official estimates suggest there could be up to 3,000 new cases occurring in the UK every year. However, the Lyme Disease Action charity says the true number of cases is not known, and is likely to be much higher.