Ruby goes State­side to get her life back

Kapi-Mana News - - WHAT’S ON - DEI­DRE MUSSEN

Ruby Pen­ney has headed back to the United States to re­visit a spe­cial­ist who has been treat­ing her for Lyme dis­ease.

The Pukerua Bay teenager has had a long bat­tle since she con­tracted the dis­ease and other in­fec­tions from a tick bite af­ter in­no­cently pat­ting a kan­ga­roo at a Gold Coast theme park in 2010 while on hol­i­day with her par­ents.

On April 11, Ruby re­turned to the United States with her fam­ily to see the spe­cial­ist for the sec­ond time, amid hopes the treat­ment of­fered would im­prove her qual­ity of life.

At home re­cently her body was some­times racked with seizures and she was un­able to stand with­out help, walk or feed her­self, let alone con­tem­plate nor­mal ac­tiv­i­ties 13-year-olds love.

Her pas­sions of horserid­ing and net­ball were put on hold.

‘‘It’s like a roller­coaster that’s up and down con­stantly,’’ her mother Rachel said last week.

Rachel said she vividly re­mem­bered that fate­ful day when she flicked a tick off her bub­bly, ac­tive daugh­ter’s hair af­ter Ruby had pat­ted the kan­ga­roo.

The fol­low­ing evening, the then 7-year-old com­plained of a sting­ing feel­ing on her neck, like a cut, but noth­ing more was thought of it.

A month later, back home in New Zealand, she de­vel­oped a nasty rash, high fevers and headaches, which pro­gressed to life-threat­en­ing seizures and hal­lu­ci­na­tions. Nu­mer­ous hospi­tal ad­mis­sions fol­lowed.

Seven months later, her par­ents took her to Aus­tralia to see in­fec­tious dis­eases spe­cial­ists af­ter sus­pect­ing ticks were to blame.

She spent seven weeks there and was started on an­tibi­otic treat­ment for Lyme dis­ease, an in­fec­tion trans­mit­ted via the bite of a tick. The treat­ment helped greatly, but af­ter that was stopped three months later, she had a re­lapse.

In 2013, on her Aus­tralian spe­cial­ist’s ad­vice, the fam­ily headed to the US to see a tick dis­ease spe­cial­ist, who started her on in­tra­venous an­tibi­otic treat­ment, which im­proved her health sig­nif­i­cantly.

‘‘She was able to go back to school, start horserid­ing again and play net­ball,’’ said Rachel, who has given up her job as a nurse to care for Ruby full­time.

Again, af­ter that treat­ment stopped, she had a nasty re­lapse.

The fam­ily fundraised more than $50,000 via Givealit­tle, and the RubyRedTrust. Now she’s back in the US, hop­ing for the best.

PHOTO: ROSS GIBLIN

Pukerua Bay teenager Ruby Pen­ney, who con­tracted Lyme dis­ease nearly six years ago af­ter pat­ting a kan­ga­roo in Aus­tralia, and her mother Rachel, pre­par­ing for their trip to the United States.

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