Marc Stapelberg

How tiny ticks have changed Zowie's life forever

ZOWIE-Sky Tydeman was on top of the world in 2009 - healthy, studying, active and looking forward to the future.

Growing up in the bush around Mullumbimby, Wauchope and in Victoria, she was used to getting bitten by ticks and leeches.

Currently the Lismore woman has been diagnosed with a chronic complex illness and has been referred to the Byron Health Centre.

But she believes the diagnosis is incorrect.

"I have a strong belief that I have Lyme disease as my symptoms are the same as severe cases of the illness," she said.

"At the Byron Health Centre they have a team of practitioners that specialise in diagnosing this type of illness.

"However they don't bulk bill and it has cost us a lot to get to the stage we're at now."

With bills mounting and her car on its last legs, Ms Tydeman has taken to crowd-funding to help her in her battle.

"In the past week alone I've spent $350 on medical appointments," she said.

Lyme disease is recognised by the Australian Medical Association but rigorous research has yet to find any Lyme disease-associated bacteria in Australian ticks. Which makes it hard to test for antibodies and frustrating for those experiencing debilitating symptoms with no known cause.

Murdoch University researchers recently collected more than 20,000 ticks from across the country to study the bacteria they carry and their potential to cause disease. They couldn't find any species hosting organisms that cause Lyme disease.

However they did discover a species of tick that warrants further investigation as it is possible organisms in this tick could trigger a similar illness.

This particular type of Borrelia bacteria is associated with a disease known as Relapsing Fever. It causes fevers that come and go and a wide range of other symptoms such as extreme fatigue and nausea that have similarities with Lyme disease.

Armed with a pathology request for blood tests and a doctor's request for an MRI scan, Ms Tydeman said she was still hopeful for a Lyme disease diagnosis.

"Most of the tests done in Australia come back negative for lyme," she said.

But if that remains the the case, she won't give up.

"I've been criticised by doctors before for bringing up Lyme disease," Ms Tydeman said. 

"If I don't get my answers in Australia we will have no other choice than to go overseas," Ms Tydeman said.

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