A little over two years ago, Liam McCracken was as close to the definition of your average teenager as you could get.
He loved his Taekwondo, placing second in the State Championships, he was doing well in school, and despite having a low immune system he was perfectly healthy.
Then, on a cadet camp near Northam in May 2015, he found a tick under his arm and that’s when his mother Karon – an Echo News employee – said everything changed.
The tick was removed by the first aid officer, but the effects of the bites are still lingering two years later and his treatment has opened Karon’s eyes to the controversy surrounding a disease that many believe does not exist in Australia – Lyme Disease.
Most Western Australian doctors don’t test for Lyme Disease due to the belief it doesn’t exist in Australia, so for Karon and her beloved son, getting a diagnosis was 18 months of torture.
“He had a reaction after the bite, his lips and face were swelling but we didn’t put two and two together,” Karon said.
“It was only after I spoke to his maths teacher and she suggested he might have had a reaction to a tick so we went to the doctors, and they said no, don’t have Lyme Disease here, so we didn’t think anything more of it.
“In November of 2015, he was so sick that he had six weeks off school.
“He woke up on a Sunday morning with a sore throat, Monday night I took him to the Doctor and they just said it was the flu, but his throat, body, limbs, you couldn’t touch him, he was in agony.
“They put him on four bottles of antibiotics, he had six weeks off school plus the school holidays.
“He lost so much weight he went from a size 30 to a size 26 in six weeks…we had to take back all the clothes we’d bought him for Christmas, they didn’t fit, I mean he was so sick we nearly cancelled Christmas, and they still said it was just the flu.”
That supposed flu lasted for 18 months and repeat visits to Doctors and emergency rooms.
It still drains the energy from Liam, a teenage boy who comes home from school, goes to sleep, gets up for dinner and then goes back to bed.
He no longer does Taekwondo, and his grades are slipping.
Karon said he has vicious headaches, an extreme sensitivity to light and his memory is beginning to fail.
She also said more than one medical professional had suggested Liam’s illness existed only in his mind.
It wasn’t until recently the McCracken’s had their suspicions confirmed by a Doctor who has asked not to be named, such is the controversy surrounding Lyme Disease in Australia.
“We went in to this doctor, we told him no-one could tell us what was wrong.
“He said to his mind, it was simple.
“He was well, he got bitten by a tick, he has the symptoms, so let’s do the blood test.
“We went back a week later, and he said he had the bacteria from a tick.
“We asked if that meant Lyme Disease and he said we can’t say that because this is Australia.
“He said you can go and spend $850, have a blood test, get it sent overseas and it will come back saying he has Lyme Disease and it still won’t be recognised, and then he’d be treated like a charlatan.”
If you have been bitten by a tick and are suffering from a Lyme-like disease, Echo News would like to hear your story – contact us at ed
By Liam Ducey