Rhea County family warns others about fatal tick borne illness
It is a topic that can make your skin crawl--ticks. They are out in force this season. One tick-borne illness many have not heard about is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. In 2017, there were almost 600 cases in Tennessee.
Living in the woods their entire lives, Cindy and Randy Keahey heard about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever but never thought anyone they knew would get infected. “It is out there, it is real. Just be aware that anymore you can't pick a tick off you and think no big deal, like I have my entire life living in the country,” said Cindy Keahey.
In late May Randy noticed a tick on his stomach. He pulled it off and went on with his day. He didn't think about it again until he started getting deathly sick while vacationing in Florida. “I thought I was dying. I had no appetite; we were on the way home. I had a cold drink and I started shaking, I couldn't even walk,” said Randy Keahey.
He spent six days in intensive care. Slipping in and out of consciousness. “His heartbeat was rapid, unbelievable heartbeat. Breathing was like; I can only relate it to when dogs get hot. Panting, almost like panting,” said Cindy.
Doctors weren't able to pinpoint what exactly was wrong until his wife reminded them about the tick bite. “I told them pretty quick, yea I had been bitten by a tick. Did I really think that was it at the time, not at all,” Randy explained. He didn't notice symptoms until a few days after the tick bite. He regrets not seeking medical attention sooner. “I started feeling strange and sick and I kept trying to be the tough guy. Around here if you are out if you move around, you are going to get ticks on you.”
It's a lesson he hopes others will take seriously. “If you are out and about you are going to get ticks on you in Tennessee.”
The Keahey’s would really like to thank their friends and family who helped during their difficult time.
Randy is still on an antibiotic and will have to be closely monitored by doctors over the next few weeks.
The Hamilton County Health Department says tick-borne illnesses increase in the summer months because of rising insect populations and more people outside.
These are symptoms you should look for:
- Fever and chills
- aches, pains, and fatigue, sometimes joint pain
- a rash, sometimes in unusual shapes like a "bull's eye