A young woman who was bitten by a tick on a holiday has travelled to Germany during the coronavirus pandemic to receive treatment for a rare illness.
Madi Rapa, from Ocean Grove in Victoria, has been battling Lyme disease, a tick-borne infection, since she travelled to the US in 2014.
The 29-year-old, who was fit and active before the trip, was officially diagnosed with the disease two years later – despite suffering extreme symptoms from the illness.
Ms Rapa has endured seizures, tremors, numbness, vomiting, insomnia, excruciating pain, fatigue and heart and lung issues due to her debilitating condition.
With limited options in Australia, Ms Rapa has now travelled overseas for treatment which should hopefully help her overcome the symptoms.
Madi Rapa (pictured), from Ocean Grove in Victoria, has been battling Lyme disease, a tick-borne infection, since she travelled to the US in 2014
The 29-year-old, who was fit and active before the trip, was officially diagnosed with the disease two years later – despite suffering extreme symptoms from the illness
‘It’s hard enough being stranded overseas, but when you’re sick and alone it adds another layer to it,’ she told Geelong Advertiser.
‘I’ve been fighting so hard for my life because I want to live it.’
Ms Rapa’s best friend Alexandra has created a GoFundMe page to help ease the financial burden of the journey.
‘The most beautiful, kindest friend you could ask for has been suffering with Lyme disease for almost six years now,’ the page reads.
‘Living with the disease for two years before being diagnosed properly, she had seen 50 doctors and specialists without getting an answer.
‘Now her doctor is hoping one last treatment in Malaysia will help kick her Lymes in the butt so she can go back to a normal life that a 29-year-old should be living!’
But COVID-19 travel complications has meant Ms Rapa’s initial treatment plan in Malaysia was changed at the last minute – and she will need to fork out more cash.
In an update to the fundraising page in August, Ms Rapa said she was headed for Germany, which would be more expensive.
Ms Rapa said: ‘I’ve been fighting so hard for my life because I want to live it’
‘Unfortunately I can’t get into Malaysia due to COVID-19 so I have had to pivot and go to Germany instead,’ she wrote.
‘It’s a lot more expensive and I wouldn’t have been able to do that without you, so thank you all for helping me to keep fighting.’
‘I feel very blessed to have so many special people in my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.’
The page has raised more than $15,000. It’s estimated Ms Rapa and her family will need to pay $50,000 for the treatment and travel costs.
Ms Rapa told the Geelong Advertiser her health declined shortly after returning from a trip to the US in 2014.
Doctors initially thought Ms Rapa had glandular fever. Despite consulting 50 doctors and specialists, no one could get to the bottom of her health struggles.
Ms Rapa spoke to someone who had Lyme disease and they recommended she have her blood samples sent overseas. It was then she discovered she had the crippling condition.
Ms Rapa has endured seizures, tremors, numbness, vomiting, insomnia, excruciating pain, fatigue and heart and lung issues due to her debilitating condition
With the support of her family, Ms Rapa travelled to Malaysia to seek medically-induced hypothermia treatment.
The 29-year-old recalls handling the symptoms better after that trip but her condition worsened again last year.
Ms Rapa and her doctor tried to figure out what caused her to deteriorate again.
‘We came to the conclusion that after going undiagnosed for so long and because of how rapidly I was declining I needed to go overseas urgently for more specialised treatment,’ she said.
The NSW government states the condition is contracted in temperate forests in Europe and America, and that although some bites from east coast ticks can give similar symptoms to Lyme Disease, they blame ‘poor characterisation’ for the relation.
‘While there is no evidence that Lyme disease is caused by Australian ticks, there may be other infections carried by Australian ticks which may cause an infection which is similar to Lyme disease. These infections remain poorly characterised,’ the government fact sheet reads.
‘Lyme disease is not a notifiable condition in NSW.’
WHAT IS LYME DISEASE?
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria that is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected black-legged ticks.
The most common symptoms of the disease are fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash called erythema migrans.
The disease can typically be treated by several weeks of oral antibiotics.
But if left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, heart and nervous symptoms and be deadly.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ARE INFECTED?
During the first three to 30 days of infection, these symptoms may occur:
- Muscle and joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Erythema migrans (EM) rash
The rash occurs in approximately 80 per cent of infected people.
It can expand to up to 12 inches (30 cm), eventually clearing and giving off the appearance of a target or a ‘bull’s-eye’.
Later symptoms of Lyme disease include:
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- Additional rashes
- Arthritis with joint pain and swelling
- Facial or Bell’s palsy
- Heart palpitations
- Problems with short-term memory
- Nerve pain