How it all began

Jennie explains: “I have always been so careful with my contact lenses. I always remove them when sleeping and always use contact lense solution to wash them.” Jennie was completely unaware that you should never use contact lenses whilst swimming or in the shower.

A few days into the course Jennie’s left eye started to feel a bit red and sore and by the end of the course she had started to develop an aversion to light.
 

Seeking emergency help

As soon as she returned from the course she visited a minor injuries unit who transferred her to an Eye Casualty unit in Southampton. Initially she was advised that she had scratched her eye, was prescribed drops and asked to come back a couple of days later.

She says: “A couple of visits later it was decided that I might have a rare infection called Acanthamoeba Keratitis which is caused by naturally occurring amoeba found in water. I was taken straight to the operating theatre as an emergency case and spent the weekend in one of the wards eye beds on intensive eye drops every half hour day and night.”
 

A turn for the worst

Highly serious, Acanthomobea Keratitis is a very painful condition which exposes the nerves in the eyes leading to extreme photophobia (light aversions). The amoeba is very hard to kill off and as such Jennie underwent a series of operations, intensive treatment regimes and stays in hospital. “I’d left work one afternoon for a quick hospital visit but wouldn’t re- turn for 6 months. During that time I was literally confined to my bed- room with black out blinds at the window."
 

Stuck within four walls

"The only thing I could do was to listen to the radio. One evening, I was so desperate to look out of window to get a glimpse of the outside world that I opened my curtains in the middle of the night. As soon as I did this the moon shone in my eyes and it really hurt! I didn’t do that again in a hurry!”

Jennie has started treatment to repair the damage to the eye. To re-move some of the scaring Jennie’s treatment has included a pioneering operation which uses a membrane transplant from an umbilical cord and her treatment is still ongoing.
 

What my future looks like

“My left eye will certainly never look the same again but at the moment my focus is on the cataract. I have no vision at all in my left eye, it is completely dark. Although this has meant I can get out and about as there is no light aversion; I am having to adapt to no depth perception and loss of my peripheral vision.

"I have no vision at all in my left eye, it is completely dark."

"The most basic of tasks require much more concentration and being in public places is challenging, I’m forever knocking into people. I’m looking forward to the next operations as it’s a step towards getting things back on track.”

Luckily specialists discovered Jennie’s disease within three weeks. “I am so grateful for everything the hospital has done for me so far. I am lucky they picked up this rare infection so quickly and had some of the country's only eye beds available to me.

"This is why I am fundraising for their charity Gift of Sight. The hospital has seen an unprecedented increase in cases this year. There are questions and investigations being undertaken to better understand this worrying trend, which can be so easily avoided. This is why I am so keen to make more contact lense wearers aware that water and contact lenses simply do not mix.”