How a tick bite changed the course of Hayley’s life: Dundee mum on lasting symptoms of Lyme Disease

Dundee mum Hayley Donnelly was all set to become a PE teacher when she was struck down by Lyme Disease.

Having been capped for Scotland in badminton when she was younger, Hayley was very fit until the tick bite, causing Lyme Disease, changed things.

Here she tells us:

  • About the symptoms and lasting physical effects of her Lyme Disease
  • How illness and ‘negative coaching’ affected her mental health but led to her business

Hayley, 38, had finished her teaching degree and was doing a post grad in PE, when she and colleagues took a day trip to Loch Tay.

“We got to the top of a hill and I had an allergic reaction to some plants,” Hayley explains. “I was distracted by whatever I’d touched, so I didn’t see the tick in my neck.

A circular or oval shaped rash around a tick bite can be a sign of Lyme disease.

“It wasn’t until a few weeks later, when I was on a placement in Perth, a circular target rash came up on my neck. And the left side of my face just drooped.

‘Something has happened to your face’

“Another teacher said to me ‘something has happened to your face’ and I thought yes it does feel funny. She took me to the hospital and a detailed test showed I had Lyme Disease.

“In the immediate aftermath I was floored. I was living with my parents and in bed for months. As well as joint pain I still had the rash and bad headaches.

“I had to get a PICC line put in my arm, for IV antibiotics. I had to go to the hospital every day for weeks.

“When I finally felt able to work I realised I’d have to leave the PE behind.”

The wound on Hayley’s neck.

Hayley’s symptoms worsened when she fell pregnant – first with son Murray, 11, and then with Fraser, 9.

“When I was pregnant I was off my feet pretty early on, and on crutches. I had to have elective sections as my hips had seized up.

Arthritis

“The Lyme Disease causes arthritic problems so I get six-monthly steroid injections in my hips.”

Now, 14 years later, Hayley is still affected by the disease.

“I can’t play badminton at any level any more or train like I used to. It has affected my joints – knees, wrists, fingers – and I have arthritis in my neck.”The Courier logo

Hayley with Murray, Fraser and her parents.

Despite her health issues, Hayley’s passion for sport remained.

And after having Fraser, she decided to set up a franchise business that can be managed by other people if her physical strength deteriorates.

Racquet Buddies – local badminton and racquet skills classes for nursery and primary school children – now has 35 local classes across Tayside.

Mental health impact

“There might come a point where I can’t physically deliver the classes. But getting involved with the children is manageable just now.”

Positive coaching in the classes is very important to Hayley.

“I vividly remember, after I beat the Scottish number two in badminton, when I came off the game, my coach had two crosses on a diagram. Instead of saying well done he had two negatives for me.

Having fun at Racquet Buddies.

“Being told I was not good enough from an early age in sport really affected me. I often wonder how far I could have gone if it had been different.

“The mental health impact of my early coaching has led to the positive environment we provide for the kids now. Access to support and encouragement makes all the difference to youngsters’ self-esteem,” she explains.

The next Andy Murray?

“We have sticker charts and star transfers for their t-shirts. This makes it rewarding and fun for them.

“If we uncover the next Andy Murray, great, that’s a bonus, but kids involved in sport and happy is what matters most.

“Getting Lyme Disease was terrible at the time – but it has led me here.

“And, although my joints aren’t great, I would not have had Racquet Buddies, which I enjoy so much.”

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