The UK recently marked National Eye Health Week. However, the awareness may be too late for Nick Humphreys, a UK reporter who permanently lost his eyesight from wearing contact lenses in the shower. (No optician ever told him not to!) But luckily for Chaya Tesler,* a former Brit living in Eretz Yisrael, she was narrowly spared.
Until two years ago, Chaya wore her monthly lenses every single day. She wore them since she was 13—to school, while swimming, while showering—without a hitch; her eyeglasses rarely saw the light of day.
One day, she felt like there was something in her eye. After a few days of discomfort, she dug out her glasses and went to an optician to be examined. He found nothing. Skeptical, she went to a highly-acclaimed private eye specialist in Shaare Zedek, but he too assured her that her eyes were clear and in perfect health. Over the coming days, her eye became red and she became increasingly sensitive to the sunlight. She went to another doctor, who claimed there was a speck of mascara in her eye. Removing it with a flourish, he told her she was all good. Out she skipped, her step lighter.
But her hope was fleeting. When she stepped outside, her sensitivity to daylight was very much still there and her eyes were still running and red. She consulted with yet another doctor, who told her she had a bacterial infection called keratitis and sent her home with antibiotic eye drops.
Nada. None of it helped. The pain, the redness and the sensitivity were at full throttle. She wore sunglasses whenever she went out, rain or shine, night or day, eliciting all sorts of remarks from unknowing friends who thought she was being snooty. To make matters worse, she had to put her career of graphic design on hold; the screen time was a non-starter. But when her vision started to blur a few weeks later, she rushed back to Shaare Zedek to that first doctor, who was reputed to be an expert in his field.
“When I removed my sunglasses,” recalls Chaya, “he gasped. He couldn’t believe I was the same patient he had seen a few weeks earlier.”
He suspected she had eye herpes, a viral eye infection, and prescribed her certain eye drops to use over Shabbos. But she was in such agony that on Shabbos morning she and her husband went right back to the hospital. The Shabbos staff looked her in the eye, clueless, and sent her home with painkillers.
She spent the rest of Shabbos on the couch, trying to survive the sensation that she describes as “having a pebble in the eye.” On Motzaei Shabbos, still in excruciating pain, she called the doctor at home and he told her to come over. “I watched his thoughts swirl and, slowly, as if the words were growing in his head, he announced that I might have a very rare, serious infection called acanthamoeba keratitis. It is so rare, only a handful of people suffer from it in Israel each year.”