The former England rugby player Matt Dawson has faced the most horrendous battle with Lyme disease, as have many more like him. It is a particularly complex infection, spread to humans by infected ticks. It can start slowly and feel like flu, but causes life-threatening heart conditions, brain inflammation and neurological issues if left untreated. We have one of the best health services in the world, so you’d think tackling this terrible illness would be simple. Not so. The problem is that there is a serious dearth of medical knowledge within the NHS about the disease.
Even though no one collects extensive data on diagnosis in the UK, it is said that we have around 3,000 cases of Lyme disease a year. I believe this to be a gross underestimation. In France, the rate is far higher at roughly 33,000 recognised cases. In Germany the estimates are an extraordinary 60,000. Does this not give cause for concern? My family has experienced first-hand the impact of the illness, with my daughters Rebekah and Rhiannon, and my son Rufus, all diagnosed. After learning about Lyme’s impact on thousands of people in the UK, I made the decision to found and fund a charity, Caudwell LymeCo, with the aim of transforming healthcare through raising awareness and encouraging improved research.