Victoria man diagnosed with meningitis linked to Lyme disease
By by Dianna Wray - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
Sept. 21, 2012 at 4:21 a.m.
Updated Sept. 22, 2012 at 4:22 a.m.
Alfred Balboa walked into the Crossroads Health Center with an ice pack strapped to his head for the pain.
"It was like having a thousand needles driven into my skull," he said. "I'd never felt pain like that before."
It started with a headache when the 18-year-old Victoria College student woke up Thursday morning three weeks ago. The pain was so intense he started vomiting and couldn't stop. When he couldn't make it to classes that day, he called his mom and told her he thought he needed to go to the doctor.
He had a fever and, after describing how severe the headache was, a nurse practitioner in Dr. Sanjeev Bhatia's office advised them to go to the emergency room at a hospital.
"It could just be a headache, but you'd better go and find out that it really is only a headache," the nurse told Balboa.
He was admitted to Citizens Medical Center that evening and the doctors began running tests to determine what he had. Balboa went through a spinal tap, a lumbar puncture and various other tests as doctors sought to eliminate the possibilities.
His symptoms seemed to indicate meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, usually because of an infection, Bhatia said, but the lumbar test came in negative for the most common forms of the disease.
Balboa was put on antibiotics and during the next few days he began to improve, even while doctors were still unsure about what he was recovering from.
They sent him home at the end of the week and he was back at his job at Academy Sports and Outdoors that Saturday and already hitting the books to catch up on the homework he had missed. Balboa is studying to be a mechanical engineer so he wanted to catch up as quickly as possible.
The next day his headache had returned. He was already in Bhatia's office when the hospital called and told him he had been diagnosed with Lyme disease, an illness transmitted by ticks.
Balboa had been fishing on Goose Island near Rockport the weekend before he got sick when he felt a sharp pinch and looked down to see what appeared to be a fly biting him. Bhatia said it's still uncertain how he got exposed to Lyme disease, but Balboa said he thinks it was from the tick bites he got on the island.
Once he was re-admitted to the hospital, Balboa was tested for a less common type of bacterial meningitis that is not contagious and is linked to Lyme disease. He tested positive, and finally he and his family had the relief of knowing what made him ill.
That had been the worst part, wondering what was causing the symptoms, wondering whether he would be able to recover and feel normal again, he said.
Bhatia said it is believed they caught the virus in the first month. Because they caught both the meningitis and the Lyme disease in early stages, Balboa said he was told there won't be any lasting effects from his illness.
He was discharged as an outpatient on Wednesday and has been fitted with a special type of IV that allows him to move around easily while he stays at home resting for the next couple of weeks.
Balboa is anxious to get well and get back to work and his classes, he said.
"Now that I know what the deal is, I'm just focused on resting up so I can get back to work and back to class," he said.