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Triangle family recovering after tick bites bring health, financial woes

A Triangle family says they've gone bankrupt fighting the effects of tick-borne illnesses.

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Rick Armstrong
, WRAL producer, & Renee Chou, WRAL anchor/reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — Warm weather months are the most active time for ticks and the diseases they spread, and a Fuquay-Varina family says they have gone bankrupt fighting the effects of tick-borne illnesses.

"It's been two years (since) this whole thing started," said Steve Sickles, who told WRAL News that each member of his immediate family has tested positive for a variety of illnesses, including a tick-borne disease.

His wife, Nicole, says it happened on the job at a home and garden store while handling plants.

"I looked down and I noticed that I had a tick, and I just popped it off," she said. "I went to stand up and I went completely blind."

She said she couldn't see for over a minute and had difficulty breathing.

She said she experienced chills, shakes and vomiting later in the day. At a hospital, doctors saw a rash on her arm before tests results came back as positive for lyme disease.

Steve Sickles fell ill two months ago - and she had him tested.

"He was positive for bartonella, ehrlichiosis and rocky mountain spotted fever," Nicole Sickles said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, ehrlichiosis is a bacterial illness transmitted by ticks that causes flu-like symptoms. The signs and symptoms of ehrlichiosis range from mild body aches to severe fever and usually appear within a week or two of a tick bite.

The Sickles said more positive tests revealed answers to health issues among all five of their children.

The couple says they've spent a lot of money to make their yard safe from ticks, including skin repellents and special plants.

"We have lavender, and we have several citronella plants around that we've planted," Nicole Sickles said.

Insurance covered many health care costs but they also turned to alternative medicine providers along with a variety of vitamins and herbal remedies. But the family found themselves not fully covered.

"The majority of the treatments for this type of disease are not covered," Steve Sickles said.

After racking up about $150,000 in debt, the Sickles filed for bankruptcy.

"We're fighting for our health and for our family," Steve Sickles said. "And that's worth it."


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