This woman went blind after parasites burrowed into her eye, but doctors saved her
Contact lenses are extremely useful inventions, allowing short-sighted people to forgo glasses and still preserve their vision. They're cheap, safe and easy to use. Few people would ever imagine that forgetting to change their lens would ever blind them. Unfortunately for Bournemouth resident Emma Jenkins, a combination of unsanitary conditions and plain bad luck conspired to ruin her sight in one eye, after microbial parasites burrowed into her cornea after she took a swim and forget to take her contacts out.
The trouble began back in October 2013, when Emma and her family (Her children and partner Dean) were enjoying an idyllic vacation at a Scottish caravan park. Emma decided to take a dip in the pool - she was only in the water for twenty minutes - yet when she emerged her left eye felt itchy and irritated. She assumed that it was a simple infection, and when she returned home and checked into the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, she was diagnosed with a simple case of anterior uveitis, and prescribed steroidal eye drops to restore her health. Unfortunately, things weren't that simple.
In actual fact, a tiny parasite had managed to make its way into Emma's eye while swimming and had gotten caught between her cornea and her contact lens, allowing the infection to spread. The bacteria were multiplying and were immune to her eye drops. Three days after Emma's first admission, she ended up blind in one eye. She was rushed to hospital again, and this time diagnosed with microbial keratitis and a microcystic corneal oedema - a swollen and infected cornea. Things were looking grim. There was a good chance she might never see again.
Commenting on her condition, Emma stated: "I had no idea that wearing contact lenses in the pool was so risky. I left them in so I could see. It’s really frightening how quickly it happened. I was only swimming for about 20 minutes, yet it cost me the sight in one eye. When I got out of the pool, my left eye was irritated, so I went back to our caravan and took my lenses out, as it was hurting so much."
She added: "Over the next few days, I was getting headaches and my vision was very blurry ... I was in so much pain I couldn’t even open my eye. It really hurt but I was quite calm because I really thought it was going to be fine. I thought it was just a really severe infection ... When I was admitted thought it would get better and get back to normal. But, after a few days in hospital, I was told by the doctor how serious it was and that the vision would never be back to what it was. I was shocked, but at the time, I was in too much pain to really take it in.”
However, Emma was saved by a miracle cure: a cornea transplant from a dead organ donor, which required incredibly precise surgery. After a two month wait, on 1 June 2016 Emma was operated on, and it was a complete success. After half an hour under the knife and Emma's vision was saved and she was able to leave the hospital the same day.
"As it healed, I started to be able to see more and more," Emma commented, "Unfortunately, they weren’t able to remove the full scaring. I can now see more out of that eye but it’s not completely clear. Before it was like looking through a big puffy cloud and now I can see things but they just aren’t perfectly in focus. I suffer from dry eye but it’s worth it to be able to see again ... I’m so grateful for whoever allowed their corneas to be donated as they’ve helped to give me my sight back."
So there you have it folks. If you're going swimming, no matter how clean the pool is, please take out your contact lenses, or you might live to regret it!