In the blink of an eye

Haley Grooms

“It was hard for someone to understand that my vision was diminishing and I could not not do anything about it.”

Haley Grooms, Editor-in-Chief

Never in my life have I ever felt pain like this. There are no words that describe how it feels to have one’s own eye taken from them. My left eye is all that I have in terms of eyesight. In literally the blink of my eye, everything that I had was gone.
I did not do anything different than what I knew. I had my normal eye care routine that I strictly followed. My contacts were always protected. This is, until I committed an extreme offense to myself without knowing, On impulse, I made the decision to rest my contacts in tap water for ONE night to substitute my regular cleanser. I thought water was the next best thing. I was horribly mistaken.

Next thing I knew, my eye felt like there was a rock in it. Constant itching, swelling, and pain became an everyday feat. I landed myself into the emergency room, the ophthalmologist’s office, and then got shipped off to the cornea specialist. I met my new doctor the same day that he told me something was eating my eye.

To be specific, I had obtained acanthamoeba keratitis. The parasite came from normal tap water and infiltrated my eye through the contact. It is rare, but it is also in my nature to prove everyone wrong when they ask, “Aren’t you done getting hurt yet?” After the first visit, I was prescribed two extremely toxic eye drops that felt like pool cleaners every time they touched the surface of my eye (even though the chemicals really were as toxic as pool cleaners). It was hard for me to explain what was happening to everyone who asked. My eye was red because the amoeba fed on my nerves. My eye was always watering because I could not bear to look at the sun. I had to wear my sunglasses inside my own house. Every little detail about what was happening was on the outside. I could not hide anything even if I wanted to.

While I looked like walking pink-eye, I was also facing another struggle in the fact that I was missing school. Starting out, I went to the doctor almost every day. Even if I did go to school, I could not see any words on a paper. I could not focus because my tears soaked my face and class work. Nothing was accomplished in this time period for me. Junior year, my largest threat to a college career, was being compromised because the only bit of vision I had was deteriorating. It was hard for someone to understand that my vision was diminishing, and I could not do anything about it. Nobody really understood what I was going through. I felt bad sitting in class while I was only there as an obligation, not to learn anything.

Not only did the acanthamoeba take a toll on my education, but it struck my family even harder. My mom set her alarms for every hour to double check that I never missed my eye drops. Throughout the night, both of my parents needed to come wake me up because I might have overslept an alarm in the night. My dad forked out hundreds of dollars on appointments and drops. My brother turned into a narrator for every assignment that needed reading. Nobody was left unharmed by this, but we managed to fight back in our own ways.

I am not a sob story. What happened to my eye was catastrophic and the damage will never be reversed, but it made me into a stronger person. I will never give myself an excuse to not do something because I look back on this experience as a reminder to keep persevering. Through all of the pain, all of the suffering, and every obstacle that I was faced with, I am proud to say that I finished my treatment with a near-full recovery. I got very lucky compared to others that needed transplants or painful surgeries. It took everything I had to keep fighting through the battle for my eye, but I never let anything stop me. One thing is definitely sure, though: I will never put my contacts in any kind of water again.