LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Perhaps your Memorial Day weekend includes some time outdoors. If so, a warning: Watch out for ticks.
A local woman learned how dangerous and almost deadly a tick bite can be. It's a situation we followed closely here at WAVE 3 News because the woman is the sister-in-law of Chief Meteorologist Kevin Harned.
Bobbi Harned of Bardstown remembered the great June weekend last year on Rough River, which included a walk through the woods.
She always knew to check for ticks.
"I did feel the tick crawling on me and I took it off. It wasn't embedded, so I didn't correlate that with a bite," Bobbi Harned said.
Two weeks later, Bobbi, a critical care nurse, felt flu-like symptoms.
"I was shivering. I had a fever. I was achy. A lot of pain all over," she said.
She went to the doctor and tested negative for the flu. The doctor treated her for a urinary tract infection. But one week later, she was much, much worse.
Her husband, M.T. Harned, took her to the emergency room at Flaget Hospital.
"From being coherent to not being coherent to not understanding, and really the pain wasn't being subsided at all," M.T. said.
Bobbi's condition was deteriorating fast.
"They weren't able to get an IV in me," she said. "My blood pressure had bottomed out. I was very, very lethargic."
Bobbi was transferred to Norton Hospital in downtown Louisville where she fell into a coma and was intubated.
"She's swollen as all get out. Almost unrecognizable," M.T. said.
The doctor told M.T. to prepare their three children for the worst.
"Hardest thing I've ever had to do was to say 'Your mom is going to be really sick, may or may not come out of it, but have hope,'"M.T. said.
That time in the woods nearly three weeks ago had nearly escaped M.T.'s memory, and they didn't think a tick had actually bitten Bobbi. But the doctor decided to treat her for a tick bite.
Bobbi started to recover. She was diagnosed with ehrlichiosis, a bacterial illness transmitted by ticks. In her case, it was likely the lone star tick, known for the white spot on its' back.
It turned out that antibiotic Bobbi was taking for the UTI lowered her immune system, allowing the infection to take over her blood stream.
The couple wants others to know if you feel sick after being outdoors, tell your doctor to consider a tick bite.
"Make sure they speak up. When we went, we didn't think about it. But the doctors don't know. With symptoms, they're not thinking of tick bites," M.T. said.
Bobbi has taken care of many sick people in her career. But she never imagined she could get so sick from a tick bite.
"It was eye opening for sure and I'm very, very grateful," Bobbi said.
As a result of the swelling to Bobbi's brain, she lost her hearing in one ear and has a paralyzed vocal cord, which is treated with an injection. She said she never lets her loved ones spend time outdoors now without treating their clothing with permethrin.
Dr. Paul Schulz, an infectious disease doctor with Norton Hospital, said we are now in tick season in WAVE Country. He said tick bites can lead to ehrlichia as well as rocky mountain spotted fever. Lyme disease is not endemic to the area, Dr. Schulz said.
It's important to take precautions to prevent tick bites by wearing pants and long sleeves, and do tick checks after being outdoors, especially on kids, Dr. Schulz said.