Matt Dawson health: Rugby star underwent heart surgery after being bitten – symptoms
Matt Dawson’s winning formula in rugby seemed to be employing brute-force to overcome unlikely odds. In November 2002, his career came crashing down after he sustained a neck injury during the record 53–3 win against South Africa. Making light work of the injury, he won his 50th cap the next year.
The greatest threat he has arguably faced came off the rugby pitch, however.
A seemingly benign trip to the park ended up with Matt undergoing heart surgery.
The catalyst for this traumatic series of events was being bitten by a tick.
Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures that live in woods and areas with long grass.
The tick bite caused a bacterial infection to spread through Matt’s body.
“I had two days where I felt awful. Very feverish, on the sofa, crashed out,” he recalled.
Eventually he went to hospital where he was diagnosed with Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that can be spread to humans by infected ticks.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: “It was a really scary time for me and my family. Such a tiny creature caused me to end up needing heart surgery.”
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The diagnosis left Matt dismayed: There’s no way that I would’ve walked through a wood or a forest with my kids and gone back home and thought, ‘right, I’ll just check for some ticks just to make sure everything is fine’. I just wouldn’t have thought of that.”
How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a tick that’s given me Lyme disease?
According to the NHS, many people with early symptoms of Lyme disease develop a circular red skin rash around a tick bite.
“The rash can appear up to three months after being bitten by a tick and usually lasts for several weeks,” explains the health body.
It adds: “Most rashes appear within the first four weeks.”
It is worth noting that not everyone with Lyme disease gets the rash – like Matt, some people may experience flu-like symptoms.
According to the Mayo Clinic, if untreated, new signs and symptoms of Lyme infection might appear in the following weeks to months.
- Erythema migrans. The rash may appear on other areas of your body.
- Joint pain. Bouts of severe joint pain and swelling are especially likely to affect your knees, but the pain can shift from one joint to another.
- Neurological problems. Weeks, months or even years after infection, you might develop inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain (meningitis), temporary paralysis of one side of your face (Bell’s palsy), numbness or weakness in your limbs, and impaired muscle movement.
Though Matt did not reveal why he needed heart surgery, complications of this sort may arise several weeks after infection.
As the Mayo Clinic explains, several weeks after infection, some people develop heart problems, such as an irregular heartbeat.
Other longer-term complications include:
- Eye inflammation
- Liver inflammation (hepatitis)
- Severe fatigue
When to see a GP
According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you have been bitten by a tick or visited an area in the past month where infected ticks are found, and you get flu-like symptoms.
Symptoms include feeling hot and shivery, headaches, aching muscles or feeling sick, or a circular rash.
“Tell them if you have been in forests or grassy areas,” adds the NHS.
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