A woman was left partially bedridden for 14 years after her doctors misdiagnosed her chronic fatigue for depression when in fact she had life-wrecking Lyme disease.
Lisa Vallo, 49, saw nine doctors in total who she begged for help for her bizarre symptoms which included extreme tiredness, nausea, arthritis, breathlessness and a racing heart.
The mother-of-two spent entire weeks sleeping at a time – which medics also once wrongly believed was myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).
She first became ill after being bitten by a deer tick in 2002 which she suspects her cat brought home.
At one point Lisa was so desperately sick she was ready to give up.
She recalled: ‘I knew I wasn’t going to get any better and ended up planning my funeral.
Yet it wasn’t until two years ago that she was finally diagnosed with Lyme Disease – which is contracted by ticks – after persuading her GP to send a blood sample off to a private clinic abroad.
She said: ‘My battery was always flat. I would be asleep downstairs on the sofa then go upstairs and fall asleep on the bed.
‘The effort of just climbing the stairs left me gasping for breath and I would not make it back down the stairs.
‘I would literally fall asleep anywhere – the most bizarre place was at my daughter’s hip-hop dance class on the floor.
‘I went completely off alcohol – the nausea was like the worst hangover you’ve ever had but every single morning.’
Lisa joins a host of celebrities who have spoken out about their battles with Lyme disease including Bella Hadid, Martine McCutcheon and Avril Lavigne.
Experts warn the illness could be officially classed as an epidemic within the next decade.
Self-taught artist Lisa, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, first suspected she had the condition in 2010 after watching a TV interview with Phones4U billionaire John Caudwell – whose family is afflicted with Lyme – and she recalled her tick bite.
She said: ‘I just woke up in the morning and there it was on my tummy so I just pulled it off thinking it was a piece of dirt.
‘There was a little speck of blood and that was that. But I started feeling fluey for quite sometime afterward – that went on for years.
‘I was ill more than anyone else around me and I started sleeping for days at a time.’
But it was about seven years down the line when Lisa realised something was really wrong.
She had emigrated to Limoges, south west France, with her two children and then husband when the symptoms of the disease seemed to accelerate.
Lisa was spending 75 per cent of her time in bed while every waking moment was filled with pain and fatigue.
The condition was so debilitating that she visited her local GP surgery every week for two years.
But they couldn’t find the cause, instead diagnosing her with depression and prescribing a powerful sedative which made her fatigue even worse.
Finally, Lisa’s worsening condition and the break-up of her marriage convinced her to move back home to England.
As soon as she arrived back in Bradford, she persisted with trying to get answers from her GP, demanding different tests to find the cause of her problem.
A real low-point came in 2015 was when Lisa’s GP sent her to be tested for ME.
She said: ‘The staff at the ME clinic knew I didn’t have ME and I knew it.
‘He said, “I am sorry Lisa – there is nothing I can do for you.”
‘I came out of there weeping. And by May of last year I knew something was really wrong because I was sleeping so much more.
‘I was thinking, “is this it?”‘
In one last ditch effort to get some treatment, Lisa persuaded her GP to send her blood to be tested at a private clinic in Germany.
She said: ‘Low-and-behold the blood came back and I test positive for Lyme disease.
‘It was absolutely amazing to get a diagnosis – I was ecstatic.
‘But I also felt really angry about all those lost years – I wanted to stick my fingers up at the whole medical profession.’
But for Lisa, who works as a full-time commissioning artist, the chance of treatment was slim.
‘There are clinics in America but you are talking £100,000.
‘Where was I going to get that kind of money?’
Spotted quickly, Lyme disease is halted with antibiotics. But if left untreated for years, its impact can be devastating – in 25 per cent of cases, the nervous system is affected, causing numbness and memory problems.
Lisa was eventuality treated by a specialist in East Yorkshire with antibiotics – but she says it made her feel even worse.
After three months of the treatment she stumbled upon a holistic treatment from America while researching the disease online.
She said: ‘The treatment uses natural supplements which build up the strength in your body to fight the bacteria.
‘I’ve been on the treatment for four months and I feel better 95 per cent of the time.
‘For the first time in years I’ve been able to have a drink – it’s great.
‘I have felt ill for so many years that I am trying to make the most of things now.’
But Lisa doesn’t take her own recovery for granted and is desperate to raise awareness of Lyme Disease.
In England and Wales there are 3,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease each year according to Public Health England.
However, charity Caudwell Lyme says the figure may be drastically higher at as many as 45,000.