My Surprising Encounter with Alpha-gal Syndrome // A small tick created a huge change in my life

By Sarah Israel*

It’s been a year since the day that a microscopic bug changed my life. But here I am getting ahead of myself and starting with the punchline when it really took months of fear to discover that the culprit was a tiny tick. Let me start my story from the beginning.
Living in a rural town in New Jersey, I have the luxury of spending lazy summer days outside with my kids. Many an afternoon will find us playing ball on the grass, catching frogs or swimming in our pool.
One morning when I was expecting my fourth child, I was dismayed to find a tick embedded in my skin. I had it removed, and my doctor confirmed that it was an innocent Lone Star tick, which is not a carrier of Lyme disease. I promptly forgot about it.
A few months and a healthy baby later, the coronavirus was finally becoming a memory, and my entire extended family was excited to be spending Sukkos together. We were a little apprehensive since not everyone had gotten sick with COVID yet. In order to be on the safe side, we all went for testing before Yom Tov. Overjoyed to receive negative results, several families piled into my in-laws’ house, having missed spending time together during the months of quarantine.
After an enjoyable seudah catching up with each other, we settled in for the night. A few hours after falling asleep, I woke up in a panic, unable to breathe. It felt as if my blood was rushing through my body, and my stomach and head were throbbing—feelings I had never experienced before. I woke up my husband, and he immediately called Hatzalah. The paramedics checked my vital signs and discovered that I had a fever. They assumed I had COVID and advised me to stay in my room while the rest of the family quarantined in the house.
I woke up the next morning feeling fine, and with some embarrassment my husband broke the news to the very large group of relatives staying with us. It was quite a challenge to stay in my room with my newborn baby and my rambunctious boys, but for the safety of those around us, we didn’t feel we had an option. When I had not experienced any symptoms on the second day, my kindly mother-in-law took pity on me and asked me to rejoin the family, insisting there was no way I had COVID. I joined the others, feeling like a pariah and davening that I wasn’t exposing anyone. Right after Havdalah I ran to get tested again, and it turned out that I did not have COVID.
Unsure of what had happened, I moved on with my busy life.

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