That’s what happened big-time recently when doctors in England misdiagnosed a patient with Lyme disease.
As reported by the U.K.’s Daily Mail, a hair stylist who became bedridden with the condition is lashing out at physicians for laughing at her after concluding — wrongly — that she was making her symptoms up.
Sarah Jackson deeply criticized the country’s National Health System (NHS) for physicians’ lack of understanding a condition she says has transformed her existence into a “living nightmare.”
The Daily Mail notes that Jackson was healthy and happy as a young hair stylist professional when she was stricken with the disease after a visit to Australia four years ago. But now, after anticipating moving and starting a better life Down Under, she’s housebound and bedridden and is forced to rely on her mother, Julie, to provide her with full-time care.
Her condition left her requiring open-heart surgery. She also suffers from seizures, vision and eye problems, extreme head-and-neck pain, loss of memory, damage to nerves and unending fatigue.
And because the disease left her overly sensitive to light, she must also wear sunglasses inside her home.
She’s been left to appeal for help in funding what she believes could be life-changing treatment in the United States after she says she has no more treatment options available to her under the NHS. (Related: Treat Lyme Disease with Over-The-Counter Chinese Herbal Medicines.)
“My disease is now affecting my heart and brain so it is very serious but from speaking to some people in the NHS here, it's as if they don't care,” she told the paper.
“I know from speaking to a lot of people on the online forums that they are going through the same challenges as me,” she added. “If you cannot show medical professionals the rash from the bite it is as if they don't believe you.”
“It is a living nightmare. I have gone from being a happy-go-lucky person able to work for a living to someone having to rely on my parents for care and financial support,” she continued. “Doctors here don't seem to realize that Lyme disease can be a life-threatening condition, especially when it reaches the stage I have.
“If you have a broken arm or leg, then it is an easy fix but because this is trickier to diagnose, they seem to lose interest,” said Jackson. “I’ve even had GPs laugh at me and as good as told me they think I am making it up.”
She said she thought she might have gotten bit by a Lyme-carrying tick as a teenager and the disease remained dormant for a number of years. “I had only been out in Australia since the end of January and I was loving it there but had to come home as I was so ill,” she said, noting she went to Australia’s Gold Coast in April 2013.
A number of Lyme disease sufferers have talked about it taking years before they were accurately diagnosed as well, the Daily Mail reported.
Eventually doctors confirmed that Jackson had Lyme disease more than a year after she first got her symptoms in July 2014, but only then when she went outside of the NHS and got private blood tests.
She was given oral antibiotics but health experts note that if treatment for Lyme is delayed then there is a high likelihood sufferers won’t make a full recovery.
"The neurologist and my USA Lyme specialist both said I'm at a very high risk of another seizure, so I am now on multiple anti-seizure medications to try to prevent any further episodes,” she said.