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Shorewood clerk urges guarding against tick bites

Brock A. Stein | 10/16/2014, 8:10 a.m.
Tracy Ragusa was surprised to learn she had Lyme disease, and is now warning others how easy it is to ...

After feeling tired and “off” for months, Shorewood resident Tracy Ragusa finally decided to pay a visit her doctor. She learned, to her surprise, that she had Lyme disease.

Ragusa said that she’d chalked up her constant exhaustion, and foggy state of mind to getting older she said.

“I could not concentrate on anything,” said Ragusa, who's been the village’s clerk since being in 2013.

She resolved to eat better and get more exercise but new symptoms surfaced including hot flashes that she thought might be the first signs of pre-menopause. As the months progressed other maladies arose including joint pain in her elbows and heel pain that made it difficult to walk and later to sleep.

As a mother of two boys, ages 12 and 8, she was used to soldiering on through her days, regardless of how she was feeling, preferring not to complain.

“So then I thought well I’m getting older,” she said. “So I just always found an answer for all of these weird things.”

She then began having digestive troubles that she thought was a gluten allergy along with heart palpitations and shortness of breath. She also began having episodes that felt like a light bulb surging in her head accompanied by a roar in her ears that lasted for 2-3 second bursts. Not knowing what was happening caused some deep seated despair she said.

“I was getting to the point where I thought I was on my way out at some point soon,” she said, “It was really scary.”

Her husband urged her to see her doctor but she felt unsure how to describe her vague assemblage of symptoms. When she finally did schedule a visit, he ran a full panel of bloodwork that included tests for gluten intolerance and anemia which all came back as negative. He recommended she see an immunologist who specialized in putting together unconnected symptoms. When she arrived at his office in Westchester she had her doubts.

The immunologist, she said asked non-standard questions that focused on the types of animals that came in to her yard and the amount of carpeting in her home.

“Just off the wall kinds of questions that doctors don’t normally ask,” she said. He also ran a new panel of blood tests that included those for arthritis. At the last minute he also decided to add a test for Lyme disease though he was doubtful that was the cause of her problems.

Ragusa said that she isn’t an outdoorsy person, mostly venturing outside to pull weeds or work on landscaping in her yard. She’s not a hiker or a camper so she was shocked when she learned the results of her bloodwork 10 days later that showed she had the disease that is spread through tick bites.

“He said at some point you have been bitten by a tick,” she said. Aside from a shoulder that itched uncomfortably about a year ago, she is confounded where she came in to contact with one of the insects.