For Johnny

I’m haunted by the ghost of a man I’ve never met but am told that I’m distantly related to. His name was Johnny Fowler and he died at the age of seventeen from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. From all indications from my father, Johnny was a great guy. He was full of life and dreams and was taken away far too young because advances in medicine weren’t as advanced as they are today. Even today Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease are two of the most dangerous tickborne diseases that a person can have. If they aren’t caught soon enough, the results can be deadly. Those two diseases can make a person a shell of who they used to be.

Lyme disease is a beast of its own. There are people in my life who are fighting this disease every day and several of them have become distant and socially awkward. They don’t want anyone to see them in pain or the agony that they endure day in and day out. To them, the disease is something they wouldn’t wish upon their worst enemy. They’ve done their research and found no cure. Many of them fight to have a semblance of a normal life but it’s difficult because it’s one of the diseases that is impossible to cure. My heart aches for them.

Johnny died in 1959. Sometimes I swear I think he’s right there with me because I can hear whispers in my ear of things that are gentle reminders of where to look about RMSF and Lyme Disease. One night I had a dream that I was talking to him and he spoke of the fact that he knew I would never fully comprehend how dangerous the disease was but that getting treatment early for those diseases is imperative. It’s important to keep up with the newest treatments because our seasons are getting funky. Ticks are showing up year round. They are less common in the winter but on warm days, they get confused, as do snakes, and other creatures that normally are dormant in the cold. A person should never assume that they are safe from tick bites. Especially if they are prone to be outdoors a lot.

In my dreams, Johnny tells me that there are millions of people who are affected each year and don’t get the right kinds of treatments. He mentions that people need to be made aware that it’s a serious issue. Most people don’t want to think about these illnesses because they think it will never happen to them. I know a man who was like that. He now fights one of the most painful battles of his life with his Lyme Disease because he didn’t get the proper treatment early enough.

For those who aren’t familiar with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever here is the best description I could find to explain it. “Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a bacterial infection spread by a bite from an infected tick. It causes vomiting, a sudden high fever around 102 or 103°F, headache, abdominal pain, rash, and muscle aches. RMSF is considered the most serious tick-borne illness in the United States.” ( The CDC gives the following symptoms on their website. “

Early illness (days 1-4)

  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, anorexia)
  • Abdominal pain (may mimic appendicitis or other causes of acute abdominal pain)
  • Myalgia.
  • Rash (typically occurs 2-4 days after the onset of fever)
  • Edema around the eyes and on the back of hands.”

“What happens if Rocky Mountain spotted fever goes untreated? When left untreated, the bacteria can cause damage to blood vessels throughout the body leading to organ and tissue damage. RMSF can be fatal, even in previously healthy people. If not treated correctly, death can often occur within eight days of symptoms starting.”

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It’s important to note that RMSF doesn’t discriminate against someone’s color, gender, or any type of other discriminatory verbiage that we use today. Anyone can be infected if the tick transmits the disease. What’s important is getting treated very quickly.

The same is true for Lyme Disease. Medline Plus describes Lyme Disease as the following: “Lyme disease is a bacterial infection you get from the bite of an infected tick. At first, Lyme disease usually causes symptoms such as a rash, fever, headache, and fatigue. But if it is not treated early, the infection can spread to your joints, heart, and nervous system. Prompt treatment can help you recover quickly.”

It’s symptoms include:

What are the 3 stages of Lyme disease? Lyme disease occurs in three stages: early localized, early disseminated and late disseminated. However the stages can overlap and not all patients go through all three. The following information was taken directly from

Stage 1: Early localized Lyme disease (1 to 4 weeks)

Early localized Lyme disease develops days to weeks after you become infected. You may have:

  • An expanding, circular red rash (erythema migrans).
  • Flu-like symptoms, with or without the rash. The symptoms include:
    • Lack of energy.
    • Headache and stiff neck.
    • Fever and chills.
    • Muscle and joint pain.
    • Swollen lymph nodes.

In some cases of Lyme disease, the person doesn’t notice any symptoms during this stage.

Stage 2: Early disseminated infection (1 to 4 months)

If Lyme disease isn’t found and treated while early symptoms are present, or if you don’t have early symptoms that trigger the need for treatment, the infection may affect the skin, joints, nervous system, and heart within weeks to months after the initial infection.

Symptoms may include:

  • An expanding, circular rash at the site of the bite. More rashes may appear on other parts of your body as the infection spreads.
  • Pain, weakness, or numbness in the arms or legs.
  • Not being able to use the muscles of the face.
  • Headaches or fainting that continues to happen.
  • Poor memory and reduced ability to concentrate.
  • Conjunctivitis (pinkeye) or sometimes damage to deep tissue in the eyes.
  • Brief episodes of pain, redness, and swelling in one or more large joints—most often the knee. Joint problems are common.
  • Occasional rapid heartbeats (palpitations) or, in rare cases, serious heart problems.

Late persistent Lyme disease

If Lyme disease isn’t promptly or effectively treated, damage to the joints, nerves, and brain may develop months or years after you become infected. It is the last and often the most serious stage of the disease.

Symptoms at this stage may include:

  • Arthritis that most often affects the knee. A small number of people eventually get chronic Lyme arthritis, which causes recurring episodes of swelling, redness, and fluid buildup in one or more joints that last up to 6 months at a time.
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, or back.
  • Feeling very tired.
  • Not being able to control the muscles of the face.
  • Problems with memory, mood, or sleep, and sometimes problems speaking.
  • Heart problems, which are rare but can occur months to even years after you are bitten by an infected tick. The most serious heart problems—such as inflammation of the structures surrounding the heart (pericarditis)—usually resolve without any lifelong damage. Unfortunately, heart problems can be the first sign of Lyme disease in a small number of people who didn’t have early symptoms.

Stage 2 and stage 3 symptoms may be the first signs of Lyme disease in people who didn’t have a rash or other symptoms of early infection.”

I copied that information directly so that I didn’t misuse the information but even though I never met Johnny, I know that he would want me to make sure he didn’t die in vain. Johnny’s life was taken far too soon but he’s one of many that would be among the first to tell others to never assume they know why they are getting sick. Get it checked out. If you don’t think that you are getting the right diagnosis, get a second opinion. Don’t play with fate. Little ticks that can kill are not only aggravating but are a very dangerous enemy. The first step in defeating them is to find ways to heal. If you are unable to completely heal, I pray you can find treatments that will help you live your lives to the fullest as pain free as possible. It’s not an easy journey. Nor is it an easy life when the life you once knew is stripped from you. There are ways to get some of your life back. Focus on the positives. Be ready for opportunities. Johnny would be the first to tell you to treasure each day with those you love because you might not get another chance. Be well my friends.

Sources include:

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