But we Never Saw a Tick!

Last night, at 6:00 Kim Smith posted an important blog post entitled, “Rare Tickborne Diseases Arrive on Cape Ann.”  I read it right away and, when doing so, realized that I never shared our experience with Lyme disease this summer….which I had intended to do.

Kim’s post is incredibly informative and important as, in my experience, Lyme disease and other tick borne illnesses are either misdiagnosed or left undiagnosed because, in the absence of seeing a tick or discovering a bite, the person determines they are simply run down or sick with a cold or flu.  Kim’s experiences give proof to that as well.

Read Kim’s entire post about her experiences HERE

Back in July, Thatcher woke up in the middle of the night on a Tuesday evening complaining about knee pain. He had no other symptoms and told me that he had knocked it on the side of the boat while out sailing. Just a few minutes later was sound asleep again, so I didn’t give it much thought.

The very next evening, he woke up in pain again.  Even though he was on the brink of tears, which is mostly uncharacteristic of him, he still demonstrated no other symptoms, so I naively figured it was due to the fact that he had gone paddle boarding for several hours (against the current in Jones Creek and the Annisquam River) and then gone to a 2-hour hockey practice.  The next morning he was totally fine.

Later that day, at Finn’s hockey practice, a friend looked at Thatch and asked, “Why are you limping?”  Thatcher answered, “I don’t know, my knee just kind of hurts.”  It was at that point that my mind began to race a bit but, seeing that I was getting worried, he assured me that it “wasn’t bad.” He was in perfect spirits and, otherwise, a pillar of health.  That evening he slept soundly.

Friday morning, even though he hadn’t complained of any pain during the night,  Thatcher’s knee looked a little swollen.  He had no fever and when pressed to think extra hard on the matter, he couldn’t remember any significant injury to it. As I replayed our week in my mind, he had indeed paddle boarded, skated, gone on long bike rides, sailed in his little opti, jumped off the Annisquam Bridge, played street hockey, taken the dogs for walks, and more. During any one of those activities, he could have slightly twisted it or banged it enough to cause swelling.  I wrestled with whether or not to go right to the doctor.  I considered the conversation we would have, the lack of all other symptoms, and the amount of physical activity Thatch had participated in,  and figured there wasn’t much the doctor could/would do. I figured we’d watch it and make sure no fever arose. The day progressed without much incident, but suddenly, almost out of nowhere, Thatcher’s knee was huge.

I called the doctor and they asked if there was a fever.  No, there wasn’t.  They asked if there were other symptoms, there weren’t.  They asked if it was hot to the touch….not at all.  The doctor’s office was closing so we made an appointment for 8:00 a.m. the next day.  They told me that if his knee began to feel hot or if Thatcher presented with a fever we should immediately go to the ER.  Neither of those things happened.

The next morning, however, Thatcher’s knee looked like this!

To avoid making an already incredibly long story longer….I’ll cut to the chase.  The doctor asked lots of questions….and they took lots of blood.  They sent us to the ER for x-rays to rule out drama or injury.  The x-rays showed no injury….which Thatch was thrilled about because, being young and naive to the other possibilities, he was relieved that he could still play hockey.  I, while not necessarily wanting it to be a bad injury, was more concerned with what the blood work would show.  A long three days went by until, finally, on Tuesday morning the doctor called back with the results.  Lyme disease.

By then, with lots of ice, wrapping, and resting (except for a trip to a Red Sox game) the swelling had gone down some.  Thatcher immediately began Doxycycline, and with the exception of extreme sensitivity to the sun, a pretty bad sunburn, and a really wonky issue with his fingernails and toenails growing super thin, turning white, and falling off (yes, yuck) he was on the mend.

Moral of the story is this….  NO tick was found, no bullseye or rash was ever seen, no fever ever presented, no other symptoms at all other than a sore knee that suddenly exploded into a massive swollen joint.  While, in retrospect, it seems obvious that we should have gone to the doctor earlier, it was all too easy to assume that such an active kid had simply overdone it!  I consider myself incredibly lucky that Thatcher’s knee blew up to the point that it could no longer be ignored!  With zero other symptoms it was solely because of the enormity of his knee that we knew it had to be “something”…otherwise we probably would have just continued with life as normal.  If it had been left untreated, things could have become much, much worse.

My little public service message to you remember that sometimes (often) you won’t even know you were bitten….but, in this neck of the woods, don’t allow yourself to not be tested.

Thatch did a four week regimen of the Doxy and is now totally fine….his unfortunate, crazy sunburn healed and his fingernails and toenails are almost back to normal.


  • Great post Nichole. I am so sorry to hear this happened Thatcher, but you are so good to share his story. Thank you 🙂 And very happy to know he is not going to have any long term disabilities from the Lyme.

    The more informed folks are about ticks the less likely they will suffer. I think next spring we should work on a psa program about ticks and related diseases and post it regularly on GMG throughout the summer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes!! I was thinking of creating an info sheet and posting at entrances to halibut pt, etc, which is where we got bitten. Thank you both for these posts…knowledge is power! I have an active pup and don’t have the liberty of staying away from nature, and I certainly don’t want to encourage fear. Keeping them off of us in the first place is key, so until I find a better solution I will stay off of grasses/fields as much as possible and douse ourselves with that tick’m off spray. Feel better, Thatcher and Kim!!


  • Thank you for sharing. There are a lot of people suffering because the medical field has figured this out yet. I dont know why they cant work together on this. I’m glad he is well!


  • Kim is right information is power to stay safe and aware! Thanks Nicole for your sharing also!

    A most needed communication and most important he is on the road to recovery Doxy is pretty potent! Great posts above and yes keeping this in forefront on posting is a good idea. Sometimes hard to figure out a quick shakedown after coming in is advised along with covering up where possible

    Now in Georgia (Warner Robbins AFB very large installation with lots of woods and training area ours was the South Training area. I had a bad run in with chigger’s as this was in Air Force Combat Communications days during our mobility training in field conditions. Were exposed to some vast challenges to include Eastern Diamond backs and typical wildlife I love the outdoors still 🙂 !

    We received intensive training also and me being the outdoors nut type These are the ones you really got to be careful of the military has done extensive research and studies also some available on line publicly as field conditions training when I went through 1980’s was 3 weeks then.

    https://dph.georgia.gov/sites/dph.georgia.gov/files/related_files/document/ADES_allaboutticks.pdf Newer version our’s was hard copy no computers then!

    Black-legged Tick or “Deer Tick” (Ixodes scapularis) Transmits the bacteria that cause Lyme disease and human granulocytic
    anaplasmosis (HGA) Requires attachment for at least 24 hours to cause illness



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