A FOOTBALLER who contracted a mystery illness went from attending the gym one day to struggling to get out of bed and nearly dying the next.
Steven Williams, 36, was known for being active and fit – he regularly went to CrossFit classes, played football and even was in a band.
But his life changed forever last February when he began noticing getting out of bed had become a massive struggle.
The Welshman said: “I’ve never had any kind of mental health issues previously.
“I suddenly started getting very intense anxiety and panic attacks for no reason.
“Literally over the course of a few days, everything changed.
“I went from being one week before in CrossFit class and exercising and fit and healthy, to being off work for eight months.”
Steve, from Maesteg in south Wales, called the ordeal “terrifying” and remembers almost being rushed to A&E for treatment because his panic attack had becoming so bad.
Every day tasks like getting up, or getting washed and dressed became too overwhelming and he began experiencing extreme shaking – sometimes for 18 hours a day and constant ringing in his ear.
“I almost lost my life in the summer, it was absolutely horrific,” he said.
Steven got help from his GP, who suspected the 36-year-old might have had an adrenal gland tumour or brain tumour.
He was referred for scans but due to the ongoing pandemic and NHS delays, he decided to get private medical treatment.
But the scans showed no traces of tumours in Steve’s results.
He was then placed on anti-depressants but found these made his symptoms worse.
He was eventually referred for ketamine therapy but found that also didn’t work.
Thankfully, the doctor in charge of his therapy noticed Steven’s unusual response, having seen it in another patient before.
“He’d seen another patient respond like this and they happened to have Lyme disease, so he recommended I get checked,” Steven said.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by infected ticks, which made sense to Steven.
He said: “I live in the valleys and I spent a lot of time throughout lockdown up in the mountains walking my dog.
“It made sense because there wasn’t that much else to do. I thought I was looking after myself and being healthy.”
Steven was finally diagnosed with chronic late stage Lyme disease in November, which meant the infection had spread to his nervous system and caused inflammation in the brain.
He has since been put under the care of a specialist doctor and nutritionist and is now on a strict diet to help stabilise his condition.
He said: “It’s helped me get back to work and start to function again, but it’s not curative.”
There’s no cure for Lyme disease available in the UK and so Steven is hoping to get treatment at a specialised centre in Germany.
“They heat your core temperature up to 43 degrees for six hours because the bacteria can’t survive at that temperature,” he said.
“They also give you antibiotics intravenously alongside to kill off the bacteria. You’re there for about three to three and half weeks, it’s very intense.”
The treatment is expensive and Steven can’t afford it after having already spent over £20,000 on private medical costs.
His friends have now set up a GoFundMe page to raise cash to cover those costs.
Mate Alecs Donovan, who set up the page, said: “He’s just the nicest person and he never would have done it himself.
“He’s never one to complain and he’s very modest about just how much pain he has been in.
“When he said about how much the treatment would cost, and possibly looking at mortgaging, I just told him people would want to help.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the support, even from strangers, and I’ve just said if 30,000 people gave £1 each, they wouldn’t notice it but it would change everything.”
She added: “If I had the £30,000 I’d give it to him with no hesitation, but this is just something small I can do to help.
“I’m overwhelmed by all the love and support from everyone,” Steven said.
“Even complete strangers, it’s just been beyond kind and I’m absolutely floored by their kindness.”
What is Lyme disease?
LYME disease is a bacterial infection which is spread by infected ticks.
The ticks feed on the blood of humans and animals and can be found in the UK, Europe and North America.
Most people develop a distinctive red rash the shape of a circle with a ring around it between three and 30 days after they were bitten.
The rash can vary in size significantly and can expand over the course of days or weeks.
However one in three people who contract Lyme disease won’t develop a rash and some people experience flu-like symptoms; tiredness, muscle pain, headaches, high temperatures, joint pain, chills and neck stiffness.
If left untreated, Lyme disease sufferers can develop much more serious symptoms including:
- Serious joint pain
- Nervous system pain which can lead to paralysis of facial muscles, memory problems and difficulties concentrating
- Heart problems, such as inflammation of the heart muscle
- Inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord as with meningitis
Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics and you should visit the doctor immediately if you develop any of the symptoms described after being bitten by a tick.
Most people require a two to four week prescription depending on how developed the condition is.
For particularly severe cases, patients are referred to a specialist for antibiotic injections.
There is currently no vaccination to prevent Lyme disease.
Source: The Sun