A young musician who was recently signed by Sony has been forced to give up his dream career after his body was ravaged with Lyme disease.
Ren Gill was healthy and active, spending six days a week in the gym, until one morning in 2009 he woke up thinking he had the worst hangover he’d ever experienced.
He has spent the last seven years trying to find out what was behind his devastating symptoms which leave him bedbound for up to 23 hours a day.
When the 25-year-old first visited his GP he was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, before being told by doctors in 2011 he had chronic fatigue syndrome.
But last December – after seeking specialist medical advice in Brussels – he was finally diagnosed with the bacterial infection Lyme disease.
He said: ‘My life changed overnight, I woke up one morning feeling like I’d been spiked – my personality disappeared, I was having muscle spasms and I kept having panic attacks.
‘I thought it was just the flu but the feeling didn’t fade.
‘I feel like I had a promising music career ahead of me I’d just signed with Sony and was working on my album when my health really started to deteriorate.
‘I used to go to the gym six days a week and was generally quite active but now my leg muscles constantly ache and I’m always so drained.
‘I stay in bed for around 23 hours of the day, some days are better than others but a lot of the time even when I’ve woken up from a long sleep I can feel like I haven’t slept in months.’
Mr Gill, from Brighton, had dreamed of a career in music all of his life and was approached by a record label after being scouted when he was busking in Brighton in 2009 – just as his illness started.
He then signed with Sony Records in 2010 and was working on making an album when his health deteriorated to the point where he was no longer able to carry on.
When he was first hit by the symptoms of the then undiagnosed disease he was studying music performance at Bath Spa University and was struggling to attend his lectures.
The condition has caused his body to develop intolerances and he reacts badly to various foods and means he is now only able to eat chicken and salads.
But despite being left with next to no energy he said recording music from his bedside is what has kept him sane and he shares his self-penned songs with thousands of fans on YouTube and Facebook.
‘I’d always had a gut feeling that there was something physically wrong with me, I knew I wasn’t depressed and the antidepressants I was prescribed were just giving me insomnia.
‘When I was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease everything just seemed to make sense, it answered a lot of questions I’d had about my health.
‘Music has always been my life, I’d always dreamed of having a career in it and I feel like it’s really kept me going through all of this – even now I try to make music from my bed when I can.
‘My one hope is to raise awareness of Lyme disease, I hope it becomes more widely known so people won’t have to go through what I have – I’m so lucky to have had such amazing support from my mum and my girlfriend.’
Mr Gill is now raising funds so he can go to Washington to visit a doctor who has been treating chronic Lyme disease patients for years and will hopefully be able to offer him life-changing treatment.
Dr Tim Brooks, Head of Public Health England’s (PHE) rare and imported pathogens laboratory (RIPL) which tests samples for Lyme disease, said diagnosing the disease was difficult as many of the symptoms are similar to other conditions.
‘Blood tests can be carried out to confirm the diagnosis after a few weeks, but these can be negative in the early stages of the infection and a person may need to be re-tested if Lyme disease is still suspected after a first negative test result.
‘This is true of many infectious diseases and is not a peculiarity of Lyme disease,’ he said.
‘PHE are working with national and international partners to study new tests methodologies that may be useful in early disease, and to distinguish active infection from past exposure.
‘All laboratory tests have to be interpreted in the context of each patient and the stage of their illness, in exactly the same way as any other medical investigation.
‘It is extremely important that patients are reviewed properly by a medical practitioner on the whole symptom complex and presentation of their illness, and not treated on the basis of a single laboratory test without supporting clinical evidence.
‘A number of private laboratories abroad offer tests for Lyme disease, but the value of many of these tests has not been published or verified.’