A rare case
When Rémi Barbeau experienced swelling in his leg during March Break, everyone thought that the problem would soon go away.
He had probably suffered a minor injury while skiing. But the swelling in his left calf worsened. “The pain continued,” says the 10-year-old from Alexandria.
Eventually a “baker’s cyst” developed on the back of his knee.
As the malady persisted, doctors continued to be baffled by the cause of the symptoms. At one point, the theory was that Rémi had picked up ring worm from one of the family’s dogs.
After a battery of tests, and a long hospital stay, it was determined that Rémi was in fact demonstrating signs of stage 2 Lyme disease. This was not a typical case. “Nobody even thought of Lyme disease because he did not have the normal symptoms, such as the bull’s eye mark,” recalls his mother, Nathalie.
Also, since ticks spread the disease, it was highly unlikely that he became infected in the middle of winter.
Symptoms usually appear within three to 30 days after a tick bite.
Doctors later concluded that he had been bitten six months before the baker’s cyst appeared.
The diagnosis came after Rémi spent a week at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, where blood tests, fluid extractions and ultrasound were used to try to solve the mystery.
Treatments to relieve swelling had limited success.
Steroids were prescribed to try to deal with whatever was causing Rémi to run a high fever and suffer night sweats. He would later receive doses of antibiotics.
Analysis of an opaque liquid drained from his leg showed no signs of infection. “I don’t like needles,” says Rémi. “It was intense,” his mother recalls. Finally, April 19, results from a special laboratory that tests for Lyme disease concluded that he had tested positive for the ailment.
A month of antibiotics successfully treated the disease.
“He was lucky,” observes Ms. Barbeau, noting that in some cases Lyme can lead to serious, long-term health problems.
Rémi, a grade 5 pupil at École Terre des Jeunes who plays football, soccer and hockey, is back to normal. “Everything is fine,” he says. Understandably, the family is more wary of what tiny, potentially lethal, creatures that may be waiting outdoors. “We are very careful when we go outside,” says Ms. Barbeau.
The Barbeaus have three dogs and two cats; two dogs have had Lyme disease.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit, which is following Rémi’s case, has been trying to raise awareness about the disease, offering free tick removal cards to local residents.
The region that encompasses StormontDundas-Glengarry and Prescott-Russell is a known risk area where blacklegged ticks have been identified and where individuals have the potential to come into contact with infected ticks.
What to look for
Lyme is an inflammatory disease characterized at first by a rash, headache, fever, and chills, and later by possible arthritis and neurological and cardiac disorders, caused by bacteria that are transmitted by ticks. Symptoms are similar to the flu. Most people experience mild flu-like symptoms soon after being bitten, while a small number may have more serious symptoms, sometimes weeks after the bite.
If left untreated, more severe symptoms may occur and can last from months to years. Severe symptoms may include severe headaches, facial paralysis, heart disorders, neurological problems such as memory loss, confusion, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, nerve pain, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
In rare cases, Lyme disease can lead to death usually because of complications involving infection of the heart.
MYSTERY SOLVED: Rémi Barbeau, shown here with his mother, Nathalie, and sister, Maya, managed to successfully combat Lyme disease the 10-year-old from Alexandria probably contracted from a tick bite last year.