rat lungworm disease

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Tricia Mynar

Tricia Mynar

Tricia Mynar, 47, a Maui preschool teacher who believes she got the disease from eating a salad while on the Big Island.

The only way to test for the disease is through a spinal tap and when Mynar's tests came back positive, she was admitted and spent a week in the hospital.

"The parasites are in the lining of my brain, moving around - The tremors are the hardest part," she said.

"They affect me so badly that sometimes I can't hear my own speech." Her ordeal, which began with flu-like symptoms and later morphed into a smorgasbord of pain.

"I thought I had the flu because I had chills, so I got Tamiflu from the doctor to keep going," Tricia Mynar remembers. "I'm a workaholic."

The veteran preschool teacher and administrator for Kamehameha Schools felt her first symptoms of angiostrongyliasis – rat lungworm disease – on Feb. 24th 2017, while temporarily assigned to work for a month on Hawaii Island.

That is the island where the disease is currently most prevalent in Hawaii. Mynar was living in Waimea five days a week and flying home to Maui on weekends.

"The following Tuesday after I got the flu symptoms I called in sick and went to the doctor," she says. "My flu was better but I had this weird sensation in my right foot, like someone had dropped a suitcase on it."

“I became so sensitive to any kind of wind that blew through my house I had to stand up and rest my head on the kitchen counter to get any kind of sleep. I couldn’t lay down on anything because of the pain.”

She was prescribed more medication.

Two days later, a week after her first symptoms, she thought she was having an allergic reaction to the meds.

"I had pain all over my body, but especially on both sides of my spine. It was like I was getting a shiatsu massage but the person forgot to remove his fingers and was trying to knead his way into my lungs, pushing, pushing, trying to push my back into my chest."

By then she suspected something else was happening besides the flu. When she couldn't feel three toes on her right foot she flew to Maui. Back home, her upper left arm "was so painful I couldn’t stand for anything to touch it, no clothing, no sheet, not even the slightest breeze."

Her doctor gave her an anti-inflammatory shot, but told her "this is strange." He drew blood and test results showed a parasitic level of 19. She said the normal range is 6 or lower.

"I thought maybe I’d gotten something from eating sushi so I got some more medication," Mynar said. "An hour later I called him from home and told him I felt worse."

He told her to head for the emergency room and said he suspected she had rat lungworm disease.

While sitting in the ER at Maui Memorial Medical Center for more than six hours, new miseries overwhelmed her.

"It was like someone suddenly took a lei needle and pushed it through the soft spot on top of my head, then pushed it down below my left ear, then up to my left temple, then moved from back to front behind my right eye. As the lei needle pain shot out through my right eye there were flashing white lights."

Remembering her suffering, Mynar's voice trembles.

"Don't ever say to me that labor is hard," says the mother of three. "Labor is like eating ice cream after surviving the feeling of a lei needle shooting through your brain and out your eye."

She said an ER physician who had been in Hilo had heard of rat lungworm disease. Mynar agreed to a lumbar puncture to test her spinal fluid, the only sure way to confirm the condition. Her results came back positive, she was admitted, and spent the next week in the hospital.

More of her story at: www.civilbeat.org

This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

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