In part 1, my Aunt Missy told the beginning to her story of how she put on her regular contact lenses for Halloween after storing them in her case for about a month. I want to stress that she was not wearing funky Halloween contact lenses, but that there is alway an inherent risk involved with wearing contact lenses. And when your eye doctor inconveniences you by charging you extra as he/she’s evaluating your eyes for contact lens wear, remember my Aunt’s story. Because her experience is the worst case scenario that we are trying to protect you from.
Part 2, the corneal transplant and beyond…In her words:
“The corneal transplant required 26 stitches to hold the new cornea in place and they would often come loose and drive me crazy! After the transplant I was on a steroid drop called Pred Forte. It prevents inflammation and/or rejection. Also needed drops for glaucoma, because pressure in the eye was high, which could in time effect the optic nerve. (And that cannot be fixed once it is damaged).
A few months later, I had a laser procedure to break up scar tissue and an Express shunt was inserted next to my iris to help lower eye pressure and improve drainage. But because of my age and health, tissue ‘grew over’ the shunt and prevented it from working properly. And then the steroid drop caused a cataract, so THAT surgery was done in May 2013 and an iStent for drainage was placed in to my iris angle at the same time.
I will remain on drops indefinitely, especially the steroid, which has resulted in long eyelashes on my right eye! I am unable to wear any eye makeup/mascara ever again because of bacteria it may cause, I will never chance that! And I am unable to drive at night anymore.
I needed another laser procedure in October 2013, again for scar tissue from the cataract implant. This time I immediately got a headache/burning/itching/and redness, this lasted almost a week. And NOW I have floaters! The next step is to get a special hard contact fitted so that my vision will improve. As of now, it’s like I am looking through frosted glass or an unfocused camera.
The lab results came back with the name of the fungus: Lecanicillium Fungicola, which is a fungus that attacks white button mushrooms….so I had a fungus that eats fungus! HA
The Express shunt was a waste of time, in my opinion…but it is a trial and error with my case. It is not textbook, by any means. Also, the only surgery/procedure done in Houston was the transplant and all others were done here in Corpus Christi. After traveling to Houston for months, we were so tired of it. I decided to get the other things done here.”
So I wanted to post this story as a way to educate and warn other contact lens wearers about the worst case scenario that eye doctors worry about. Who knows how many thousands of dollars this cost in her medical care? With more costs to come.
One of the most unfortunate parts of this whole story is that the fungal organism that attacked her cornea (Lecanicillium Fungicola) was so rare. I googled it trying to link it to contact lens wear or solutions and nothing came up. Any eye doctor would have treated this as a run-of-the-mill bacterial infection and, most likely, the same devastating sequence of events would have occurred no matter what she did when the first symptoms occurred. I remember emailing her in the beginning stages of this, advising her to do exactly as her doctors told her or else she’ll end up in a ophthalmology textbook one day. Sadly, she did do everything she was told, and that may still be case.
Since this terrible event, I’ve been making more of a point to review the proper cleaning regimen with all my contact lens wearers. Unfortunately, too many take for granted that their “no rub” solution will do the job. I find they take a lot of shortcuts. I now advise a lens rub every single night followed by storage in fresh multi-purpose solution. Lenses shouldn’t be stored for more than a few days without switching out solution. But did I always make it a point to tell that to my patients? No, but I do now.
I want to thank my Aunt Missy again for sharing the story. Some day if she makes it to San Antonio, I’d be really interested to take a first hand look at that eye and take her out for some good barbecue or Tex-Mex! And please share this story with the contact lens wearers that you know, especially if they need a good reason to take better care of their lenses.