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Fort Macleod man’s life changed by lyme disease

Dave Carlson spoke at Fort Macleod Library about his experiences dealing with lyme disease.

Dave Carlson has had a difficult journey since he contracted lyme disease four years ago.
Lyme disease has affected every aspect of life for the Fort Macleod district resident, a sheep shearer by trade.
“My mind isn’t working the way it did,” Carlson said. “My body isn’t working the way it did. My emotions aren’t working the way they used to.”
Carlson spoke Feb. 15 at the Fort Macleod Library about his experience with lyme disease.
Carlson believes he contracted lyme disease while shearing four years ago in April on a farm in the Okanagan region.
The Okanagan trip is one Carlson made every year, putting in gruelling weeks shearing at various farms.
He had been working 28 straight days under stressful conditions, with little sleep and poor nutrition.
“All of these played a major part of where I am today,” Carlson said.
A tick the size of a mustard seed transferred to Carlson’s body bacteria.
The bacteria delivered by the tick took advantage of Carlson’s weakened immune system, and it wasn’t long before he developed the flu-like symptoms associated with lyme disease.
He lost 25 pounds in 10 days after the bacteria took hold.
Carlson could have handled the flu-like symptoms, but the effects of lyme disease are much farther-reaching.
“Lyme disease is very individual,” Carlson said. “It’s personalized. Every person who gets it is going to get a little different version of it.”
One of the problems Carlson developed because of lyme disease is migrating pain in his bones, muscles and brain.
For no reason he will be struck with sometimes incapacitating pain that lasts sometimes for hours before it is gone.
The bacteria from lyme disease eats the myelin that covers nerve endings. Carlson describes the resulting pain like a red hot poker applied to his body.
Sometimes a spot that feels like it is wet develops on the back of his calf for about 30 seconds before it is gone, thanks to lyme disease.
When the pain strikes, Carlson has to talk his body through it.
Lyme disease has also affected Carlson’s cognitive abilities. Once able to create in his mind a system for shearing in a particular barn, Carlson now has to draw it out, and he can’t always get it right.
He used to take pride in being able to calculate in his mind while shearing the invoice he would present to the farmer. Now his mind won’t let him concentrate.
Lyme disease has disrupted Carlson’s ability to sleep. Sleep deprivation in turn affects the rest of his life’s work.
Carlson struggles with emotional control at times, moving from calm to rage in moments over things that previously would not have bothered him.
It took a long time for doctors to diagnose lyme disease. The disease has to be active in a person’s blood stream when a sample is taken.
He underwent many tests for ailments such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
“I know I’m not pregnant,” Carlson said with a laugh. “There’s hundreds of things I don’t have.”
Carlson scored 72 on tests in which if you score above 40 there is a good chance you have lyme disease.
Carlson has managed to mitigate the effects of lyme disease somewhat through a very restrictive diet of natural foods and some natural remedies.
After being off work for about a year, Carlson is only now taking on shearing jobs.
He keeps a positive outlook, buoying his spirits by enjoying the times when lyme disease is not impacting his daily life.
“If I don’t have a positive outlook on this, it’s tough looking ahead,” Carlson said.

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