Award-winning author. Fiction mentor. Lyme patient, campaigner & advocate.
Debilitated, he could no longer teach. He couldn't read for more than a few minutes, let alone write. He was unable to walk unaided.
Needing answers, his wife helped him to research his symptoms. Everything tracked back to the bite and the strange bullseye rash that had appeared a few weeks later. The clinical signs were clear to them - he was suffering from Lyme disease. They became convinced that untreated, it had crossed the blood brain barrier and wreaked havoc in his central nervous system.
Andrew's Lyme test results were a mixture of positive and negative, but didn't quite make it over diagnostic bar. Blood tests in the USA and Europe were positive, but were not accepted by the NHS.
Desperate, Andrew fought for his life for two years until his eventual treatment with antibiotics by a supportive doctor saved him. He still suffers neuropathic pain and other symptoms - a legacy of the damage done.
As he recovered, Andrew started writing again and spent four years crafting Anatomised, a novel set in Kent that draws on his own experience. Locating it in the third person gave him the distance he needed to create a new narrative and Jack Mann (the central character) is a comedian, giving the book its dark humour - though it never shirks from exploring the horrors of Lyme disease, the controversy surrounding its diagnosis and treatment, and its impact on physical and mental health.
Andrew has met and talked to many fellow sufferers over the last nine years, particularly following the publication of Anatomised. He found many similarities with his own journey, because his story was not unusual. Their stories were not unusual. But none of these stories had been told.
Jack Mann's story is shocking in its telling, but his experience is shared by many. That is why Andrew dedicated this novel to Lyme patients and their loved ones everywhere, and why a percentage of profit from its sales has been and will continue to be donated to the Lyme disease charities that gave him knowledge and hope when he most needed it.
Anatomised is a tale of loss, but also of hope. Andrew says that he started out writing a book that explored the darkest aspects of living and dying with a chronic illness, but as he wrote it, it became a love letter to life.
In 2010 Andrew had just secured a two-book deal and published his first novel, A Portrait of the Arsonist as a Young Man; David Bowie had personally allowed him to use his lyrics in the narrative. He'd won international short story prizes and an innovation award for his work supporting new writers in Kent. He taught creative writing at two universities and was hosting sell-out 'in conversations' with internationally accaimed authors like Kazuo Ishiguro.
After years working to achieve his dream, he was on a roll. But everything was about to change...
In May 2010 Andrew was bitten by a tick. For the next year he was troubled by a range of intermittent, hard to diagnose symptoms. Then, in August 2011, he was struck down by a catastrophic medical event. He was initially diagnosed with a stroke, and then a second stroke. Eventually other life-changing conditions like brain tumour and multiple sclerosis were suggested but after several months, perplexed doctors agreed he had none of these. Tests for many diseases from Lupus to Sarcoidosis all returned negative. Yet Andrew's health continued to decline. It was a mystery.
©A. F. McGuinness