IMAGINE being bitten by a tick and developing a horrendous disease, only to find that Australia's world-class health system is unable or unwilling to accept that you have that specific illness.
When Philip Jones, 48, had a 'lymphatic drainage' massage a few years ago, he had no idea it would bring on a state of paralysis. He believes the massage activated lyme disease that he believes he had that was dormant.
"At the start I didn't know what was wrong with me... I was paralysed and I was sick - then it sort of dawned on me that maybe it was from this tick bite I received many years ago and maybe the massage brought it on," Mr Jones said.
After a six-week stay in hospital during which he could hardly move or sleep, he emerged in a wheelchair.
"I couldn't even pick up a cup of tea, let alone sit down or stand up... there was nothing left of me."
An alternative medicine practitioner suggested that he had lyme, a bacterial disease not officially recognised as existing in Australia.
"At that stage, hardly any doctors believed it was here... only now are they opening up their eyes," said Mr Jones.
NSW Health says there is little evidence it occurs in Australia… but there may be other infections carried by ticks that may cause an infection similar to lyme.
After selling his engineering business to focus on his healing, Mr Jones combined heavy doses of antibiotics, Chinese herbs, acupuncture yoga, meditation and a Peruvian rainforest herb.
He swears by daily dosages of colloidal silver, an alternative treatment claimed to be a blood cleanser.
Yet four years later he's finally feeling normal, he's surfing again, playing golf and doing yoga at least five days a week.
He now has people contacting him from Australia and the US desperate to seek answers to the disease.
"It debilitates everyone in different ways ... but it's like you're living in a grey haze - like a permanent hangover," Mr Jones said.
About LYME DISEASE
- Early symptoms: Flu-like illness and sometimes a bullseye-shaped rash.
- Long-term symptoms: Continued chronic flu-like bouts, muscle tremors - this can affect vision, balance, joints, hearing, sense of smell, memory, swallowing, breathing, speech. Can ultimately cause death.
- Who's at risk? Children, as they are outside more than most adults (30% of lyme disease patients in the USA are children) and people who work outside.
- Initial treatment: Six-week course of dual antibiotics is recommended by the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.
- Diagnosis: Blood testing for lyme disease is unreliable because the bacterium is hard to culture in the laboratory.
- More info: health.nsw.gov.au/fact sheets/infectious/lyme_ disease.html.