A FIREFIGHTER who lost the ability to talk and walk after contracting a little-known disease has urged people to protect themselves while out and about during warm weather.
Despite only growing to the size of a sesame seed, adult deer ticks are feared for their ability to pass on Lyme Disease, a bacterial infection which struck 32-year-old Mark Winder seven weeks ago.
Mr Winder, from Forest Park, Bracknell, described his condition as “existing rather than living” when he was left unable to speak or walk after contracting the disease when a tick bit him during a walk through Swinley Forest.
A so-called ‘bullseye’ rash alerted him to his condition, and although seven weeks on he can walk and talk again it has only been possible after raiding his savings to pay for private medical treatment when the NHS prescription did little to battle the infection.
Speaking out about his illness, Mr Winder, who works at Cobham firestation in Surrey, said: “It got to the point I wasn’t able to walk or talk. It’s very, very scary, with my job I’m quite fit and to get these symptoms, not to be able to walk upstairs, was scary.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to drive soon but just six or seven weeks ago I was running 40 miles a week and going the gym six days a week and now I’m just looking forward to being able to drive.
“My wife has been brilliant and has been helping me out with a lot of stuff but she’s a nurse, she works 12 and 13 hour shifts so I have been really dependant on family and friends and being so independent before it’s been really difficult.”
NHS treatment is often poor due to low detection rates, Mr Winder adds, with 70 per cent of blood tests to detect Lyme Disease returning a false negative.
This, coupled with the low dosage medicine available from the NHS, leads to many people battling the disease to pay for private treatment or travel to the USA for treatment.
Day to day just a 20 minute walk a day is exhausting, but Mark keeps pushing himself to walk further around his neighbourhood in Forest Park each day.
“It doesn’t sound like much having been at a high fitness level, but after 20 minutes walking I’m sleeping for 12 or 14 hours,” he said. “The best way to describe it is like having a dead leg, but all over, even your face.
“Not being able to walk was more like existing than living.
“I knew nothing about Lyme Disease until I was bitten, I could have taken extra precautions, wearing long trousers, tucking your trousers into your socks so the ticks can’t get to your legs or wearing repellent can all help.”