Ticks: They’re not just for hikers anymore

By Thomas Gerencer

Fae Healy awoke at 3 in the morning and immediately knew something was wrong — her husband, Patrick, a sound sleeper, was not in bed. Nor did he turn out to be in their Hudson home. It was raining, but on a whim she looked through the kitchen window and saw him lying on the front lawn.

“I remember falling off the front porch,” says Patrick Healy, who also recalls staying on the lawn in the rain because it cooled him off. Fae remembers his nonsensical answers to her questions. She drove him to a local hospital, where doctors found he had a high fever brought on by anaplasmosis, a potentially life-threatening illness carried by blacklegged ticks. Healy, who often found ticks on his body after mowing his lawn, spent 16 days in a coma as the disease attacked his system. Low blood pressure is a significant symptom, and Healy’s dropped to a level that caused kidney damage and put him on continuous dialysis. He spent a month in intensive care; when he was finally released, his doctors declared the then-61-year-old permanently disabled from the kidney damage. Healy, who’d had a long career as a nutritionist, found himself unable to work. That was in 2016, and he has since been able to stop dialysis, though he suffers from memory problems and lacks the stamina to mow his lawn. “But you know,” he says, “I’m doing the best I can.”

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