Strange Things Happen From a Trip to the Woods

photo by jachan devol

photo by jachan devol

Time for a personal tale. Once upon a time, about two years ago now, I was bitten by a tick. Unbeknownst to me, things started changing in my chemical makeup. I actually went a few months before this tick bite starting letting me know something had happened.

It was a Saturday in November and I was out with my son for the morning. We had an early lunch at a local dive. I ate a hamburger. Little did I know it would be my last.

That afternoon I went to visit a friend who had not been feeling well. She decided she could come out to my house and spend the rest of the day since our husbands were hunting together.

Around four o’clock that afternoon, we were coming home and I was itching like crazy. By the time we arrived at my house, my friend’s eyes were looking like saucers when she looked at me. I had the worst case of hives I’d ever had.

After putting up the things we brought into the house, I took some Benadryl and decided this might warrant a trip to the emergency room. I was beginning to have some shortness of breath and chest tightening.

Once in the ER, the difficulty breathing worsened and I required epinephrine. My friend had finally reached our husbands who arrive just as the epi was taking effect and the hives were going down.

One month later, this reaction happened again about two o’clock in the morning. I awoke with my throat swelling. I took a few Benadryl - well several-, woke my husband for a possible trip back to the ER. This time the Benadryl helped with the breathing but the hives were persistent.

By nine o’clock that morning, my daughter was driving me to an allergist. He was amazed at such an acute reaction. He asked a battery of questions, took blood samples and told me not eat meat or drink anything but water and no over the counter medications.

Six weeks later the doctor called me. He told me my “alpha-gal” level was off the chart. That’s a shortened name for a protein found in red meat. Normal is like less than .35 and mine was 26. He then asked if I had ever been bitten by a tick. Certainly, I live in the country was my response. He said I was the first female patient he had seen with this.

He went on to explain that some people with certain tick bites (Lone Star tick) develop an allergy to red meat. Somehow whatever the tick secretes when it bites you causes a chemical reaction which develops this allergy, known as Alph-gal Syndrome. The thing about being allergic to the protein is that it doesn’t work like normal food allergies in which you react immediately. The reaction occurs when you digest the protein some four to eight hours later.

Believe it or not, my first reaction to the news was, “Oh, thank God that’s all it is.” Now mind you, not getting to eat red meat is more difficult since we raised cattle at the time and live on venison (well, my husband still does). I learned I can only have fowl or fish. There are those who say you can have red meat every once in a while, but my doctor said every reaction will get worse. I fear the next level of reaction I am up for is anaphylactic and I want no part of that one.

During those few months of not knowing what caused the allergic reaction and my primary care physician reminding me that we may never know what caused it was torturous to me. So even though I can’t eat red meat I am so thankful that it’s nothing worse. And best of all, God answered my prayers in allowing us to find out the cause and it being as simple as avoiding a particular food group!

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 1 John 5:14

Alpha-gal Syndrome reminds me all the time of the goodness of Jesus Christ. He is with me in every single part of my life. I am never alone! He hears me when I pray and He answers my prayers. He is good. He is my HOPE! Is He yours?