TICKING TIME BOMB: Sherria Powell is travelling the country spreading the message about tick-related illness. She met with affected Hervey Bay family Matthew and Melissa Walsh and their daughter Claudia,7.
TICKING TIME BOMB: Sherria Powell is travelling the country spreading the message about tick-related illness. She met with affected Hervey Bay family Matthew and Melissa Walsh and their daughter Claudia,7. Alistair Brightman

'I felt like I was dying': Family's battle after tick bites

A SIMPLE insect bite was enough to change a Hervey Bay family forever.

Just four years ago, Melissa and Matthew Walsh, together with their three children, spent their days on their property enjoying life with their horses, playing sports and growing their own vegetables.

Now, three Walsh family members are plagued by flare-ups of a disease that at times leaves them unable to work or make it to school.

Melissa and two of her daughters are victims of tick illness, a condition that former pathology worker Sherria Powell describes as a "hidden epidemic".

Ms Powell is on a mission, travelling the country with her caravan to raise awareness of the illness.

She met with the Walsh family this week to hear their story.

Melissa, 34, found a tick on her thigh while in the stable one day.

She scratched it off and went got on her day - after all, growing up on a property, ticks were a common part of life.

However, that night her leg felt like it was burning and she awoke with a red ring around the bite.

Within a week, Melissa started having severe flu-like symptoms, she found herself unable to remember things and had vision problems even collapsing during say-to-day tasks.

"I felt like I was dying, I was really quite ill," she said.

"I went and said, 'I think I have MS' ... and then I thought I had young person's Alzheimer's."

After many doctors' visits, specialists and trips to hospital the family finally found a doctor who tested for tick born illness co-infections.

Getting the diagnosis was only the start for the family.

Only a month after moving away from the Sunshine Acres property, the family's eldest daughter Lauri who was 13 at the time started complaining of joint and muscle pain, tremors, extreme fatigue and joint swelling.

Next the couple's youngest, Claudia, who was five, also fell ill.

"Everything stated to fall apart, and we knew we were in trouble," Melissa said.

"Because it took too long to be diagnosed and find a doctor who could treat me, it is worse. We can't be on antibiotics forever. We have found natural remedies to be the most consistent for us."

As a result, the family survives on a single wage from Matthew's job as a tiler as Melissa cannot work to care for herself and her daughters who battle to make it to their school, Bayside Christian College, during flare-up periods.

The family spends about $1500 every three weeks for medication just to be able to function.

"As a result, our personal savings have been exhausted and we have struggled to afford the medical help we need to be able to make a full recovery," Melissa said.

"We had no idea about tick illness and now we just want to raise awareness for it.

"It's affected everything, it definitely interferes with everyday life because you can't make plans in advance, don't know if you will have a flare up or not. If you do too much in one day, then in bed for the next day.

"Treating it straight away then this whole long painful drawn out expensive process with our symptoms might not have happened."

For more information on tick related illness visit the Karl McManus Foundation for Tick Borne Diseases Research and Awareness.

The Walsh family has set up a go fund me page.



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