Mum left blind as eye 'clouded over like a zombie's' after parasite LATCHED on when she swam in contact lenses

A MUM was left blind after a nasty parasite latched on to her eye when she went swimming in contact lenses.

Stacey Peoples couldn't see out of her left eye after it "clouded over like a zombie's" and was left in so much pain she questioned if life was worth living.

Doctors had first thought the 49-year-old had a severe case of conjunctivits.

But after rushing to A&E, medics diagnosed the mum-of-four with acanthamoeba keratitis, a rare infection caused by an amoeba attacking the outer layer of the eye.

Stacey now believes she caught the infection while swimming at her local pool, near her home in Denver, Colorado.

She made the mistake of wearing her contact lenses, while swimming with her son Charlie, eight.

But it wasn't until the family were away in Michigan for the July 4 celebrations, that Stacey realised something was seriously wrong.

"When we got to the cabin for July 4 weekend, I just went straight to bed," she said.

"The pain was so intense.

"It felt like someone was snapping a rubber band against my eyeball every four or five seconds.


A NASTY INFECTION CAUSED BY A COMMON PARASITE

ACANTHAMOEBA keratitis is an infection of the cornea – the clear 'window' at the front of the eye.

It can prove agonising, and leave sufferers partially blind.

The infection is triggered by the parasite acanthamoeba, which is typically found in lakes, oceans and rivers as well as swimming pools, hot tubs, soil and air.

The amoeba is generally harmless, only causing a problem when it infects the cornea.

AK is most common in people who wear contact lenses, because small lesions on the eye allow the bug to "latch on".

Antiseptic eye drops can help to kill off the bug, and should treat the condition.

 

"The back of my eye felt like it was going to blow out the back of my brain.

"I had such an intense migraine on top of everything else. Both my eyes were constantly watering and my nose too.

It felt like someone was snapping a rubber band against my eyeball… the back of my eye felt like it was going to blow out the back of my brain

"My eye looked like a zombie's. It was completely cloudy and the whites of my eye was bright red and so gross."

When the pain became too intense, Stacey went to hospital, in June 2014.

There medics arranged for her to see a cornea specialist who told the 49-year-old she feared it was the amoeba.

According to the Centers or Disease Control (CDC), 85 per cent of acanthamoeba keratitis cases occur in contact lens users.

Contact lenses can create small abrasions in the eye, which make it easier for the amoeba to attach when the eye comes into contact with water.

Stacey was told doctors would try to save her eye, and "worry about vision later".

"The pain was so bad, I asked them to take my eye, but they said they needed to do everything to save it," she recalled.

"I had lost my vision completely by this point. All I could see was white."

Stacey was forced to apply eye drops every two hours for five months, to kill the infection – and was in so much pain she could barely get out of bed.

She had to take seven months off work, after the infection completely destroyed the outer layer of her eye, leaving her partially blind.

"I was prescribed eye drops which essentially contain pool cleaner to kill the parasite," Stacey explained.

"For those months I moved from my bed to my rocking chair and back again.

"I couldn't do anything else.

"I had two or three very dark days where I thought this pain is too much, it would be better if I wasn't here."

Almost a year later, in April 2015, doctors agreed to try a cornea transplant.

Just one day after the op, Stacey was stunned when she was able to see clearly again.

"They removed my damaged cornea and replaced it," she said.

"When the patch came off two days after the surgery, it was amazing.

"I went into hospital unable to see and then came out and could see so clearly.

"It's been wonderful. I have a little bit of trouble with depth perception but with glasses I have 20/20 vision.

"I'm a huge advocate of organ donation now because this wouldn't be able to see if not for my generous donor."

Following her ordeal, Stacey warned others to avoid wearing contact lenses in water.

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The childhood education specialist said she would not have been able to get through her illness without the support of her husband Jeff Peoples, 49, a financial investment counsellor.

"The reason I am sharing my story is to warn people not to wear their contacts in water or even in the shower.

"This is rare but it can happen. Even if you've been doing it for twenty years like me.

"Doctors tell you not to do it. My doctors think I picked this up in the pool while wearing my contacts.

"I'm just lucky I have such a wonderful family. Otherwise I would never have gotten through this."

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