A look inside the complicated politics of Lyme disease.
I was sitting at my desk one Monday morning last May cruising through emails on autopilot when I realized I couldn't open my jaw to eat a slice of toast.
I hightailed it out of the office for an emergency dental appointment. After pressing fingertips along my jaw line, the dentist diagnosed a "slipped disk" in my jaw and sent me home to pop muscle relaxers and sip meals through a straw for a week.
I wasn't too bothered by the temporary inconvenience. With a wedding to finish planning, I was even a little grateful for the time off.
But a few days into washing down pills with juiced vegetables and indulging in pajama-clad daytime TV, I started feeling terrible. Everywhere. Dizzy with chills. Exhausted. Anxious. Not at all what someone relaxing on pills, juiced kale and carrots should feel like.
By Friday a hard, itchy lump was bulging out of my right temple. The dull headache that had been humming for the previous two weeks that I'd attributed to work stress sharpened to a fine point, like a hot poker twisting behind my right eye.
My face became lumpy. Walking got shaky.
I stayed relatively calm. After all, I went to Catholic school, where you don't see the nurse unless you're on fire.
Jesse, my fiance, thought maybe I'd been bitten on the temple by a spider. It was Memorial Day weekend, so we figured it best that I load up on ibuprofen, soldier through and see my doctor first thing Tuesday morning.
But by Sunday my head was crushing in and my arms and legs were starting to twitch and spasm. I couldn't think clearly. Light and sound seared. Afraid I was having a brain aneurism, we took off for a local hospital.
What I didn't know was that an army of spirochetes, spiral-shaped bacteria, was drilling into my muscles, squiggling through curls of my brain and swarming my seventh cranial nerve.
Months later an MRI at Penn showed a ghostly white cloud in the exact spot where my brain had throbbed until I collapsed on the floor of the emergency room.
The question became when and where had the first few Borrelia burgdorferi, the microscopic spirals of bacterium that carry Lyme disease, burst into my bloodstream?
"Were you hiking?" most everyone asked.
The assumption was always that I had to have been doing something outdoorsy or vacationing somewhere exotic.
How else do you catch Lyme disease?
PW's 2015 Gift Guide
Dinner with Luke Palladino