Before deer ticks established in Metro-area, Lyme disease was tough diagnosis

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- There's a new health hazard in the Eastern part of Nebraska, and it could be hiding in your own backyard.

Deer ticks are now established in several Metro-area counties, and their bite can spread Lyme disease.

As Molly Heng knows, the disease can be difficult to diagnose. Years ago, she went from doctor to doctor looking for answers about her ailment. Day after day, she was left feeling weak and light-headed with no clear explanation of why.

That is until she remembered she was bitten by a tick in her own back yard.

"I just kind of felt a little bump," she said. "I asked my husband what it was, and of course he's digging through my hair and sure enough he found a tick and yanked it out."

Heng said she thinks she was bitten by a deer tick -- a tick Douglas County health officials are saying is now being found in our area.

"We learned the black-legged tick has established a presence in Eastern Nebraskan counties," spokesperson Phil Rooney said. "Douglas County, Sarpy, and Saunders we know for sure. And we know that is the tick that can carry Lyme disease."

Heng started having flu-like symptoms in 2015. With multiple doctors not able to pin down answers -- and no established Lyme disease cases in Nebraska -- Heng went to Minnesota to receive Lyme testing.

"Before she even tested me, she said I can tell you right now you have Lyme disease, 100 percent," Heng said. "She tested me, and sure enough, I came back positive with Lyme disease."

She was then fitted with a pick line and given IV antibiotics. Blood clots and intolerance to oral medication forced her to seek holistic treatment in Kansas.

"But the problem with going that approach, insurance doesn't cover any of that," Heng said.

The treatment -- although costly -- helped.

But 11 months ago, Heng stopped being able to swallow solid food due to swelling in her throat caused by Lyme forcing her to get creative when it comes to nutrients.

"I just puree that and between that and the Ensure's that's been my meals."

She's making progress. Sunday, she was able to eat a baked potato with her family.

The possibility of Lyme and other diseases caused by ticks is why health officials ask you to check yourself and your kids after being outside.

"If you see a tick on you, you'll want to get light tweezer and pull it out very slowly so that you don't remove the head," Rooney said.

If found early, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics in a matter of weeks.