Contact lens parasite leaves mum blind and paralysed

A simple contact lens sparked a nightmare chain of events for Claire Wilkinson. Picture: Press Association
A simple contact lens sparked a nightmare chain of events for Claire Wilkinson. Picture: Press Association

"I KNEW conjunctivitis wasn't meant to be that painful."

Claire Wilkinson's horror story began in February 2007 with an itch in her eye.

That itch triggered a nightmare chain of events that has left Claire blind, bald and bed-bound for months, reports Kidspot.

She is unable to go out into the light and her feet have swollen to almost twice their normal size.

It was business-as-usual the morning it all started.

Claire - who is stepmum to Lachlan, 19 and mum to Connor, 15 and Abee-Louise, 13 - put in her contact lenses as usual and went about her day.

About half an hour later, when she arrived at the doctor's surgery where she worked as a receptionist, she felt a pain in her left eye.

A doctor at her work prescribed eye drops, but Claire said: "The pain got worse and worse. I've been through childbirth, I've dislocated my knee repeatedly - but this pain was 100 times what I experienced with both.

"I was in such agony I wanted to die," she said.

"It felt like shards of glass were ripping through my eye."

Claire headed straight home and contacted her husband David Rochford, 44, who has since become her full-time carer.

A local GP diagnosed Claire with the common eye infection conjunctivitis, a mild condition often known as "pink eye".

"I knew it wasn't that," Claire recalled.

"I knew conjunctivitis wasn't meant to be that painful."

Later that night, Claire felt something crawl across her eye.

"It was the parasite," she said.

"I could tell when it was awake and when it was snoozing."

Four days after first feeling the itch in her eye, Claire finally saw an eye specialist at Princess Alexander Hospital in Brisbane.

It was found that she had the acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) parasite in her left eye, caused by her contact lens solution not working properly.

The contact lens solution was later recalled from the market.

As much as Claire was horrified to discover that her parasite fear was true, she was doubly mortified when "the b**** went on to have parasite babies in my eye. It was disgusting".

Claire was prescribed strong chlorine-based eye drops to use around-the-clock every 15 minutes for seven weeks.

After two weeks she was so tired she could barely function.

Her mum took over administering the treatment so Claire could at least get a small amount of rest.

The parasite appeared to be killed by the eye drop treatment, but 10 months later it was back and the pain refused to go.

"Because of the parasite eating my eye, I'd been diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia - extreme and sudden facial pain," Claire said.

"It has been described as one of the most painful conditions known."

In a desperate bid to be pain-free, Claire underwent brain surgery at Princess Alexandria in 2011 to cut the nerves from her face and stop the pain.

Instead, Claire suffered a stroke on the operating table which left her paralysed and bed-bound for months.

"It was horrible for my children, seeing their mum bed-bound and tube fed," she said.

Even though the parasite is long gone, the extreme trauma of Claire's trigeminal neuralgia and stroke have made her hair fall out and her feet to swell.

She is still in intense pain, 24/7.

Claire has been told that there is no further treatment available for her here in Australia, so she is planning to move to the UK to seek treatment there.

"I would do anything to get better," she said.

Topics:  editors picks paralyse

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