About 10-20 minutes after removing the left contact, irritation ensued, followed by weepiness. It seemed at first to just be a normal level of irritation, like that experienced from any small scratch, etc. But each minute it started to grow more and more painful, and the water was just pouring out. At that point, I decided that going home was the only option - after all, I couldn't really enjoy being out any longer, as the pain was increasing while my ability to see was decreasing. I still thought that I simply needed to get home and apply a cold cloth and some eye-drops.
But as I tried to make my way through the crowd, I was less able to open either the wounded eye or the good one, and had to solicit an on-site paramedic to help me get out of the amphitheater to a taxi. Once in the cab, I initially asked to be taken home, but as the pain grew worse every second, I eventually asked the driver to take me to the nearest hospital.
To make a long story short, I spend an agonizing period of time in the ER, during which I think they thought I had only a minor injury and was being a bit of a baby. But when Tony arrived to find me huddled over a chair with a blood-speckled paper towel pressed to my face (still not sure where the blood came from), he begged them to move me up the priority list and after a while we were admitted into the eye room. [Side note: another stroke of bad luck was the fact that eye injuries were abnormally frequent that night.] Once they froze the eye and injected the yellow dye - which highlights any scratches or cuts in bright green - my entire cornea glowed bright green. Though they were quite baffled and alarmed, the entire surface area of my cornea was basically stripped off. Hence the alarming, panic-inducing, mind-scrambling pain - apparently the cornea is the most sensitive area of the entire human body, and contains the highest concentration of nerve endings. The two doctors assured me that any response - tears, trembling, panic, fainting, vomiting - are entirely normal for cornea injuries. Thankfully, I only endured the first three!!!
Tony and I were given antibacterial drops and T3's and were sent home with orders to apply the drops every hour all night long, and told that the pain would increase towards morning. It was a lengthy and painful night, to be sure! We returned to the hospital in the morning to be seen by the ophthalmology resident, who confirmed that the cornea was effectively removed on the top layer of tissue, and cautioned that the pain would be, for a couple of days at least, "exquisitely painful" [his words]. Then we went down to the cornea specialist, who measured the wound and inserted a corneal bandage [basically a giant protective contact lens]. I knew the injury was severe and unique because all of the doctors were quite interested in the eye and wanted to have a look!
After another day of lying around in my codeine-haze, we returned for another follow-up. The cornea specialist was pleased with the healing that had already occurred. He confirmed that the wound was a chemical burn, and said that there shouldn't be much in the way of permanent damage, though I may experience some recurring pain in the eye.
On Monday, I am supposed to take out the corneal bandage ... I do not look forward at all to this, as the prospect of touching or putting anything in my eye is utterly horrifying right about now! But I will say that I am very grateful that nothing more serious occurred, and that the eye appears to be healing swiftly. I have posted a picture below, and you can see that it looks almost normal - no longer red and swollen shut!!! It still hurts on and off, though to a much lesser degree, and is extremely sensitive to light. I am actually astounded that I have been able to type this long, while staring at the glowing screen!
Needless to say, I will certainly be more careful if and when I resume using contacts. Though it now seems surreal and almost impossible that it ever hurt as much as it did for the first three days, I don't think I will ever forget the level of discomfort. It was truly the most pain I have ever had to endure [just to put it in perspective, the doctors in emergency said they have seen a 400-pound football player throw up from a small scratch, and that corneal injuries can be more painful than childbirth ... yikes!]. The one good thing about these mishaps is they do make you grateful for every minute of health and happiness, and make you ever more eager to take good care of yourself ... I know it sounds cheesy, but it's true! Plus, all of the kind words and concern remind you of those who care about you, which is totally amazing!
So here's to the health and safety of you and your loved ones!!! And now, back to the couch for me!
This was taken with Photobooth, so it is actually like a mirror image ... left eye looks like the right one!