Volunteer Waterlooville teacher suffers brain damage from tick bite

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A TEACHER bitten by a tick suffered life-changing brain damage despite thinking he just had flu – with him unlikely to ever make a full recovery.

Keith Poultney, 40, was struck down by a devastating brain injury caused by encephalitis after a tick embedded itself into his ear when he was teaching English as a volunteer in Nepal during 2017.

The tick bite suffered by Keith Poultney (pictured right)

The tick bite suffered by Keith Poultney (pictured right)

Despite feeling unwell, the Waterlooville resident thought he just had flu before he began to feel worse, leading to him admitting himself into a local hospital in India where he had subsequently travelled to.

Although Keith was treated with antibiotics, his infection was resistant to the treatment – resulting in his condition exacerbating before he decided to fly home to the UK as planned.

Once home, Keith was admitted to hospital in Portsmouth where it was thought he had a tropical infection. After showing signs of recovery he was discharged within a week.

But after suffering hallucinations, severe headaches and confusion he was readmitted to hospital. Doctors discovered he had an infection called Rickettsial Typhus which had been lying dormant and reactivated encephalitis – causing swelling in his brain.

Tick bite victim Keith Poultney, from Waterlooville, during his trip to Nepal

Tick bite victim Keith Poultney, from Waterlooville, during his trip to Nepal

‘I felt different in myself. I had real problems with my balance and was unable to walk in a straight line,’ Keith said.

‘I physically felt as though I was impaired or drunk. I could not gauge space or distance and would often walk into door frames or knock things such as drinks over.

‘I also kept having audio and visual disturbances causing me at times to feel like I was in some form of alternative world.

‘I lost weight and had little appetite. I found that most of the time I was emotionless and cold to everything. However things could quickly change and simple sights or sounds could flip my emotions from sad to happy with no real explanation.

A close-up of the tick bite Keith Poultney suffered on the back of his ear during what was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime to Nepal

A close-up of the tick bite Keith Poultney suffered on the back of his ear during what was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime to Nepal

‘I still continue to have real problems concentrating, planning and problem solving. I was very noise and light sensitive and avoided going out or socialising where possible.’

Keith was thrown a lifeline after receiving support from Headway in Portsmouth – a charity that helps people live and recover from brain injuries.

He said: ‘The care I received in hospital was first class but once I was discharged I felt very alone and forgotten.

‘The NHS did not prepare me for what lay ahead, thankfully Headway Portsmouth was there to pick me up from a very low point in my life.

The tick embedded in Keith Poultney's ear after he was bitten during a trip to Nepal

The tick embedded in Keith Poultney's ear after he was bitten during a trip to Nepal

‘Without its help I know my recovery would have been slower and more frustrating. Headway provided me with what I needed and gave me the chance to talk to people who had been through and are still going through similar circumstances.

‘Being able to talk to them and know what I was experiencing was normal in the circumstances gave me great reassurance.’

Keith still struggles with fatigue, emotional and memory problems, as well as cognitive issues, but has been able to return to work for his old employers.

He added: ‘I hope to continue to recover but feel I have reached a point where I can accept and live with the complications I am left with.

‘I know my brain has been altered and that will most likely never change. But I also know that I shouldn’t try and deal with this on my own.’