In late August of 2013 I experienced an incident I thought I would never have to deal with again.
I received a scratched cornea courtsey of my daughter. To add insult to injury it also became infected.
It was such a stupid injury! It still makes my blood churn when I think about missing the Sounders game I had been looking forward to for over a YEAR because my eye was hurt.
Even though I was cleared by the base optometrist in Ohio about 2 weeks later... apparently it wasn't over.
Basically every few weeks I would get that same pain in my eye. Think of a sharp, burning pain and the feeling of something stuck in your eye. It usually went away after a few hours or at least by the next day it was gone. I just figured my eyes were dry in the morning and my brain just attributed that dry eye, gritty feeling to the pain of my scratched cornea. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night wanting to scream out because it felt like my eye was being stabbed! It didn't matter if my eye was opened or closed. It was stupid, but I told myself it was all in my head -- the doctors had already said it was all healed up. I asked other friends who had scratched corneas before if they experienced any pain after it was healed and they all said no.
So this went on for months and actually stretched out to about a year and a half. A few times a month, horrible eye pain. I ignored it. I would complain to Ryan and he would tell me to go in to see the doctor, but I never wanted to because I was certain they would tell me I was making it up and I was totally fine.
Well, several weeks ago we had friends come to visit. We hadn't seen them since leaving Japan and they had been stationed in Australia for several years. They came to the states and were doing a cross country drive and visiting old friends on their way to their next assignment. We were more than happy to take them in!
But, because of their international travel and then numerous stops with lots of different people... they brought new germs and were generous enough to share them with me.
By the time they left us I wasn't feeling so hot and spent a lot of time over the next couple days resting and sleeping A LOT.
My eye started bugging me on the Saturday before the Superbowl. I assumed it was because I'd been sick. On Superbowl Sunday it was hurting worse... and it was starting to turn red. I went to the Superbowl party and even commented that I didn't know what the heck was wrong with my eye and really tried not to mess with it. By then it was starting to be very sensitive to light and I just wanted to rub it, but didn't.
Monday morning I woke up wanting to cry because I hurt (it also didn't help the emotional pain I was in from the Seahawks' loss). That morning I think Ryan took the kids to school for me and I called the base optometry clinic to see if I could get an appointment. They said to just walk in, the earlier the better.
So I go in. They look over my history and examine my eye (a bunch of drops and bright lights that seem like torture). Well, a student does this. Then he leaves and brings in another student (I later learn these guys are what the optometrist calls his ex-terns, 4th year civillian optometry students). I can see some happy anxiousness in their movements and speech.
I'm told I have Recurrent Corneal Erosion (or Recurrent Epithelial Erosion) with Etiology. It is not common. Basically, after the original injury the epithelial layer that was scratched did heal, but didn't properly adhere to the eye... it was kind of loose. So, there were times when I would open or close my eye and my eyelid would stick to that epithelial layer that hadn't fully adhered and rip it off - again.
I was freakin' re-tearing the injury open every few weeks... for OVER A YEAR!
When you sleep your eyes become more dry. Being sick and getting all that rest made my eyes become dry, which allowed me to re-injure my eye the worst it had been in a long time.
The optometrist comes in to talk with me over everything and they decide to do a debriding of the epithelials to create a clear area for them to heal and hopefully stick securely to the eye. I could see the excitement in the ex-terns on who would get to do it.
After getting numbed they begin... and it isn't plesant. I won't go into details, but I will say it hurt even though I was "numb."
They rinse out my eye and put on a bandage lense (like a special contact lens) and I'm given steroid/antibiotic drops to use until the lens is removed. They were hoping to take it out within 2 days.
The goal is to have my eye heal, then give it time to securely adhere with months of specialized drops and several follow ups. If this doesn't work, I will have to be referred to opthamology and undergo laser surgery.
That first appointment was not short. I was there for several hours. I basically monopolized the base optometry clinic that morning, I apologize to anybody that had to wait WAAAY past their appointment time. The doctor said they are lucky to see this injury once or twice a year. I have a great case, good history, and am a wonderful teaching tool. (Gee, I wonder where I've heard that before.)
I return 2 days later (Wednesday) and probably spent more time chit-chatting with the optometrist than actually doing anything eye related. I like him. He's very personable, about my age, some common backgrounds. I think if I met him and his wife outside of the whole medical situation I'd probably be friends with them. Anyway, he decides not to remove the lens, has his ex-terns also look me over and understand why he chooses to wait.
I'm back again 2 days later (Friday) and we talk some more and he examines my eye. He tells me that he consulted with an opthamologist about my case and was told that they would leave a bandage lens like the one on my eye for up to a month and not think it wrong, so there was no need to worry about keeping it on there as long as necessary to allow the epithelials to heal in a safe environment. My doc and his ex-terns do not remove the lens and tell me to come back on Tuesday.
Get this: my doc tells me that he is going to write a case report on me. He said I am the most perfect acute case he has come across and I can be trusted to follow through with anything prescribed or told to do which will provide an accurate assessment of his care. Or something along those lines. He is trying to obtain Fellowship (any of you doctors will understand, I'm guessing).
When I came in on Tuesday he removed the lens. As much as the lens felt somewhat strange to me (since I don't wear contacts or glasses), suddenly having it gone made my eye feel vulnerable and sensitive.
Since then I have had to take bunch of stuff. I have to do culluvisc drops (gel drops) 7-10 times a day, give myself sodium chloride drops at least twice a day (which burn like heck!), use an ointment to protect my eye every night when I sleep, and take a low-dose oral antibiotic/anti-inflammatory twice a day. This will continue pretty much for 2 months (except the antibiotic, which is just for a month).
This whole thing has seemed crazy to me. I'm actually a pretty healthy person and rarely need to go to the doctors. Lately it feels like if I ever do have to go it is for some stupid, random things that happen to me!
I am supposed to go back and see the optometrist sometime early next month. I am hoping that my eye is healing well because the sooner I can get this all over with, the better!