Losing a loved one is never easy, especially when you have no warning at all. When Crissy Naticchia’s husband of 26 years developed a fever, she was pretty concerned considering she had never seen him sick before. She took him to the emergency room, hoping to get an answer but all tests came back negative. His illness continued to get progressively worse which escalated Crissy’s worry.
“He had been having drenching sweats— so bad he would have to change his clothes and bed sheets,” Crissy said.
“Urgent care tested his urine and diagnosed him with raging kidney infection, and prescribed him antibiotics. The fever and sweats went away but he still felt weak and not well.”
It got so bad that one day he had to leave work to go to the emergency room and just 12 hours later he was on a ventilator in the ICU.
Even though the tests were coming back negative, doctors did determine that his kidneys and liver were shutting down.
Soon he was transferred to a center that specializes in liver malfunction, which is where they received the diagnosis. Crissy’s husband had been suffering from Babesia, which is a tick-borne illness that attacks red blood cells and his case was particularly severe considering he didn’t have a spleen.
When doctors gave her husband medication, Crissy started to feel optimistic as she headed home for the night. But things took a turn for the worse when doctors called her at 4:30 am the next morning, urging her to come to the hospital because his blood pressure was dropping and his spleen was giving in.
Just two hours later, Crissy’s husband passed away.
As a result of the devastation, Crissy is on a mission to educate others on the parasitic infection that took her husband’s life, particularly those who don’t have spleens or are otherwise immuno-compromised.
“My son, now a junior in high school, has no father to teach him how to drive, to talk to him about girls, to help him choose a college— nor to see him reach all of these milestones,” said Crissy, who is regretful that they weren’t educated on the infection. “My husband was all about his family— he did everything for us, unconditionally— which we took for granted like most people do. Now that he is not here, we feel lost and scared and alone.”
Babesia, also called Nuttallia, is an Apicomplexan parasite that infects red blood cells transmitted by ticks. Over 100 species of Babesia have been identified so far. The parasite typically infects livestock worldwide, wild and domestic vertebrate animals and occasionally humans where it causes the disease babesiosis. The Babesia species are spread through the saliva of a tick when it bites. Already at its nymphal stage, a tick bites into the skin for a blood meal. The tick, if not removed, stays attached for three to four days, with longer periods of feeding associated with a higher probability of acquiring the parasite. The parasite can survive in the tick as it molts through its various developmental stages, resulting in all tick stages being potentially infectious.