Can a tree say “F*ck Off”?

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This is a public service announcement:

Someone near and dear to me (who shall not be named to protect her privacy) recently learned that she traded her end-of-summer jetlag for a Parisian version of Lyme’s disease. As unlikely as that sounds, her bloodwork clearly shows antibodies to multiple strains of Lyme’s bacteria present in Europe, with no exposure to the sole strain known in the US.

The only green space she frequented at the end of August was the Buttes Chaumont park near where she lives. She went there to lie on the grass, walk barefoot on the ground, and spend time with her palms on a beautiful, tall tree (which shall remain anonymous to avoid reprisals), thinking this city version of “Forest Bathing” would help reset her circadian rhythms.

A few days after her last visit to the park, she noticed what seemed to be a large and very itchy mosquito bite on her chest, which began to swell, burn, and spread over the next few days. None of the usual remedies helped. Since there have been reports of tiger mosquitoes carrying Dengue fever and Chikungunya in the Paris area recently, she thought it best to see her French doctor, who thought she was being a hypochondriac. “Can I get a blood test just in case, to be sure?” she insisted. “No, Madame, it won’t show anything,” he laughed. “What about Lyme’s disease?” she asked. “But there is no tick,” he shrugged.

About ten days later she got a splitting headache, but thought it was the rosé wine she drank at a party. Then she started having sharp pains from the middle of her back to her left wrist and thought she had pinched a nerve in a vertebra during her workout. She went to see a noted osteopath, who said the pain would subside over the next few days. It didn’t. When it moved down into her hips, she realized she had allowed herself to be bullied by her doctor.

Cutting to the chase, she managed to get a prescription for the appropriate blood work, tested positive for Lyme’s, and went on Doxyclycline for the next few weeks. The doctor apologized profusely and didn’t make her pay for the consultation.

Luckily, she knows several people in the US who have made a full recovery in similar circumstances. Still, she could have avoided a lot of pain and worry if she had prevailed upon the doctor in the first place. In his defence, no tick was ever found and the rash did not resemble a typical bull’s eye. She did not check herself carefully after being outside because she didn’t know there were ticks in the city.

In addition to her physical symptoms, there was a psychological shock. She says she feels like she’s been broken up with by a loved one. Her favorite green space gave her Lyme’s disease. Was it the lawns or did her favorite tree tell her to “F*ck Off”? In its defence, so many people are touching it now, its thick protective bark is wearing away at the base of its trunk. Is global warming spreading Lyme’s, or is this a long due declaration of independence aimed at obtrusive human beings? Or both?

Moral of the story: Alas, Lyme’s disease has come to this northern European capital. Be careful, check yourself and your kids after time in the park, maybe give the trees some space. It’s October, temperatures are falling, but not all ticks are dormant in winter. Better safe than sorry?