Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Acanthamoeba and Other Things I Knew Nothing About

Taken the day before my daughter's wedding, when I had 2 good eyes.

This post could be pages and pages in length but I will condense it so that you and I will both save time.  It may or may not have some gross pictures.  OK, it will.  In a previous post, I talked about having the herpes simplex virus in my eye. This started in July and when I posted about it in August, something else was happening in my eye that I didn't know about.  I'll back up just a bit.  By the end of July, the epithelium over the cornea was starting to slough off.  It caused some pain so I went to my eye doctor.  He put a contact bandage on my eye and I went merrily on my way.  During this time, I was training for a marathon.  I was to the point of running 16 miles on Saturdays.  I ran 4 days a week and the other 2 days, I did water aerobics.  If you know what's going to happen, then you're a lot smarter than I am.  I had no idea it was wrong to wear contacts in a swimming pool.  I've done it for years.  However, this time, I had a "chink" in the armor because of the tiny area in my cornea that had sloughed off.  Did you know that amoeba live in water, including chlorinated pool water? Well, they do. Did you also know that amoeba can get in your cornea, multiply and eat your cornea?  I know that now!  It's called Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK). 

Acanthamoeba keratitis is a rare but serious infection of the eye that can result in permanent visual impairment or blindness. This infection is caused by a microscopic, free-living ameba (single-celled living organism) called Acanthamoeba. Acanthamoebacauses Acanthamoeba keratitis when it infects the transparent outer covering of the eye called the cornea. Acanthamoebaamebas are very common in nature and can be found in bodies of water (for example, lakes and oceans), soil, and air.

In the U.S., most AK cases are in contact lens wearers.  I'm learning that we shouldn't wear our contacts in the shower, swimming pool, lakes or hot tub.  NEVER soak or clean your contacts in tap water.  Use only commercial grade lens cleaner and soaking solution. Consider yourself warned!

 OK, back to me.  When I went to my cornea specialist, the end of July, he was pleased with my progress in healing from the herpes simplex.  My eye looked normal and the cornea was healing.  At the beginning of August, my eye became very inflamed, and my vision was limited.  I went back to the eye doctor and he assumed the herpes virus took a turn for the worse.  He increased the dosage of steroid drops and had me return in a few days.  I learned something else in this process.  Amoeba on steroids are much more aggressive and become stronger.  It took almost 3 weeks to diagnose my problem. By then, my cornea was extremely cloudy and my vision was gone.  I could see light and shadow, but no images.  My eye was sensitive to light, and there was a lot of pain.  My head ached constantly.  I was sent to the Moran Eye Center in Salt Lake City where I was diagnosed by using a confocal microscope and scraping the cornea for a culture.  I left the eye center with 3 different kinds of pills and 8 different drops,  NOT ONE was a steroid drop! :)   I was to put half of these drops in my eye every hour, then the other half the next hour. The doctor let me know that what I had was the worse kind of eye infection and some people have lost their eyesight and/or their eye(s) because of it.  I was overwhelmed and scared.  I went in to the restroom at the eye center, while waiting for all the prescriptions to be filled, and had a little bit of a sob session. 

I work as a speech technician at an elementary school.  School was starting the day after my visit to Moran.  Needless to say, I didn't go.  In fact, I didn't go to work until September 27th.  The days in between were filled with weekly doctor visits, audio books (it hurt to look at a book, phone screen, TV screen, light, or pretty much anything), prayers, pacing, new grand babies (it helps to hold a newborn baby while pacing), sleepless nights, and pain killers.  There were many funny, wonderful, and inspiring things that happened during that time too.  But, like I said at the beginning of this post, I'll try to condense it. 

Nothing better than holding a newborn baby.  Glad he couldn't see that his grandma was a pirate!

The first week in October, Dr. W., my cornea specialist, was concerned that the AK was getting worse.  He sent me back to the Moran Eye Center for another confocal scan.  It showed that the amoeba were dying off, but now I also had a fungus infection!    I was prescribed more drops to put in my eye every hour.  It would take up to 40 minutes to get all the drops in my eye, then, twenty minutes later, I'd have to start over again. I was a slave!  
Almost all of these drops needed to be refrigerated.  I couldn't leave the house without having an insulated "eye" bag with ice and my drops.  I used a spread sheet to keep track of all of it. One of my drops to kill the amoeba was a diluted pool cleaner. 

For the first time, I felt it would be better to just remove my eye. A few weeks after the fungus diagnosis, Dr. W. stated that we need to remove the cornea because it was getting so thin and ready to perforate.  I didn't know exactly what would happen if it perforated, but it didn't sound very pretty and I was ready to have that diseased cornea off my eye. 

I hesitate putting up this picture.  I know it's gross but this is what was under my eye patch before the transplant. You can tell how even the skin under my eye is affected by all the drops. It would have been perfect for Halloween. 

Having the cornea transplant was the beginning of recovery.  The fungus is gone, the acanthamoeba is gone, but it left a wake of destruction.  My eye is damaged in different ways.  The most obvious being the pressure is low and won't build up.  My eye is shrinking. The cornea has "failed" because it is swollen and cloudy, however, I feel it successfully did what it needed to do.  As of this writing, I'm scheduled to have another cornea transplant. Two to four weeks later, I will have another surgery, where a retinal surgeon will inject silicone oil in my eye to help maintain the pressure.  Hopefully, with these two surgeries I will regain some sight.

What I've learned:
Prayer is powerful.  There were many, many people praying for me. God does hear and answer our prayers. There were tender mercies and miracles during this painful and frightening time and still continue to be.
I am blessed.  This is only an eye.  I can still walk, run, play with my grand kids, be with my husband, work, and eat Peanut M&Ms. 
Modern medicine rocks!  
Acanthamoeba Keratitis is horrible!  (I was going to say, "sucks", but I wouldn't let my kids say that so I shouldn't either) I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.  And yet, it's all OK.
Attitude is everything. I had a few pity parties, even got refreshments for the party, but it didn't help.  When I had a more positive outlook, I seemed to heal faster; both mentally and physically.
We can do hard things. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Everyone Loves Babies...Right?

Here it is, the end of 2013!  This year has gone by amazingly fast.  The only thing I'm going to do on this post is update the baby status. 

Moms are: Chelsey, Nicole, Candice.
Babies are in same order as Moms and as their birth.

We had three healthy babies born within a month.  

August 18th, Austyn Marie came in to the world.  She was 7 lbs 10 oz and 21 inches long.

September 5th, Frankie Mae was born.  She was 7 lbs 9 oz. and 20.5 inches long.

Because he's a gentlemen, Eli Heathcote let both girls arrive before he made his appearance on September 15th.  He was 10 lbs 13 oz and 22 inches long.

We are having one more baby in February.  Jeanette is having a boy!  That will be 10 girls and 8 boys all together.  

Here they are; typical, distracted, angels.  

I'm in Grandma Heaven! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Babies, Babies, and More Babies!

I have 14 grandchildren.  The oldest is 11, the youngest,  4 months. The grand babies usually come in threes or fours.  At the beginning of school, I'll have 1 in 6th grade, 3 in 3rd grade, 4 in 1st grade and 5 in various preschool stages. 

Now this is where the exciting part comes in! 

My daughter, Camille, had a baby girl in April.

(This was taken the night before she delivered)

What a joy this baby has been!  

Olivia Brook is well loved. 

She's now laughing, rolling over,

 gooing, and waiting patiently for her cousins to arrive!

Here are her cousins.  All in various stages of development but coming real soon! 

Chelsey's having a girl on August 20th.  This is her first. 
Nicole's due date is August 29th.  This is her first and it's a girl.
Candice is due September 21st.  She's having a boy.  This is her 6th. 

We will be overflowing with babies and love and lack of sleep!

But wait, that's not all!  

This little girl is Jeanette, my youngest daughter. She is due in February with her first!

And we thought the birth of the royal baby was exciting!  psh!

So, in case you're wondering where I'll be for the next month or so...I'll be in Grandma Heaven!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Summer of Herpes

I know this sounds like a low-budget teen film but this has been my summer of Herpes Simplex keratitis, or in other words, Herpes of the ole eye-ball.  When it was told to my daughter, who works at Verizon and deals with apple products and apps, that I have eye-herpes, she wanted to know what kind of an app that was.  

So basically this is a cold sore virus in the eye.  Why this virus thought it would be a good idea to attack my eye, I'll never know, but I'm TIRED of it!  I"m "seeing" a corneal surgeon who has me putting drops in my eye 6 times a day and taking anti-viral pills. 

 I made this small so you don't have to look at it if you don't want. :)

Just in case you're thinking that a good herpes virus in the eye would be fun, I'll tell you what happens. This is basically a medical explanation that you will find on WebMD but much better. :)

It starts with an irritation of the eye that will turn your eye red, cause burning and light sensitivity.  It will be misdiagnosed as an irritated cornea or a scratched cornea. (Who is expecting herpes, for heavens sake?) Antibiotic drops will be prescribed and when you go back to the eye doctor, your eye is flaming red and your sight is blurry.  The eye doc will say, "Whoa!  Let's get you off these drops and try something else for a few days!"  In a few days, you'll go back to the office and it's the same...only worse.  By now, he realizes it could be herpes and he calls the corneal surgeon.  Then, because he's such a nice guy, and your vision has become very cloudy in that eye and it's hard to keep the eye open, he actually drives you to the corneal surgeon. (OK, this may not happen to you, but your eye doctor probably isn't as nice as mine and mine had met me in his office on his day off)  
Now, according to the websites about this condition, once you're on the regime of drops and pills, it will take 2 to 3 weeks for it to turn around and get better.  NOT!  I have been dealing with this since the end of June. A few weeks ago, it started to get better.  My eye wasn't as red, it was still a bit sensitive to light but my vision was starting to return.  Last week the virus returned with a vengeance!  
At this time, my cornea is swollen.  A normal cornea thickness is 540 nm.  Mine is 840. Because the herpes has attacked the cornea directly in the center, my vision is frosty.  The best way to explain it is to look in a mirror after having a hot shower and the mirror is steamy.  You can barely see an image in the mirror.  This is how I "see" out of the eye.  Now, imagine how it feels to have shampoo in your eye.  It burns, turns your eye red, and is hard to open. Yep, that's how I feel now. Oh yes, one more thing.  I can taste the eye drops after putting them in my eye.  They are yuk!  
So, think twice about getting this virus!  It stinks!

Now, the best way to deal with adversity of any kind, is to do service for others who have it worse that you.  This summer has not been fun.  The plans I had to go to Rexburg to see family or  have grand kids spend the night, or drive to go anywhere, have all been shot to heck.  I will admit, I have had a few pity parties.  However, I have a good friend who is suffering with cancer.  She is bed-ridden and is blind in her right eye because of a tumor.  When I go to her house, I realize that my problem is tiny compared to hers.  I can at least get out of bed and go about my semi-normal routine.

Lest you think I'm a cry baby who doesn't appreciate what I have, here are just a few things of which I am thankful:
My left eye!  It is awesome!!  No problem there.
I can still run (I have to be careful while crossing the street because my vision is gone on the right side, but running seems to make it feel better, as long as I run before the sun comes up)
My family (They have driven me places I need to go and they are generally good people)
My faith (I truly believe I will be healed, I'm just a bit impatient)
The rest of my body is OK 
Friends I have a friend who gave me this insulated lunch bag for my birthday. 
I'm excited to take it back to school and have it sitting in the faculty fridge. 

I could go on and on but these are just a few.

 I'm also thankful for this little Tyke!

Until this heals, I am your "One-Eyed Friend", signing off.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Better With Age

Some things get better with age; cheese, wine, (or so I've been told) paintings, and my Mom, Cleo.

We celebrated my Mother's 90th birthday, and what a celebration we had!  Even though I was accused of thinking this party was a wedding reception, we decorated the cultural hall in the church and filled it with people.

These people came with hugs, 

well wishes,




and love, to honor this beautiful, gracious lady.

Mother and her younger sisters. 
Some people were OK having their picture taken.

 Others were not.

(I wonder what my Dad was trying to tell me.)

Happy Birthday, Mom!  We love you!

This was taken at the end of the day.  Half of my kids were gone. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Clear View of Forever

It's hard to believe that it has been a year since we held this sweet baby, kissed his soft, chubby cheeks, and had our heart melt when he smiled. 

Grady, we love you and miss you every day. 

Sue Anderson, a talented and gifted writer, wrote this poem for her friend.  When Grady passed away, she sent it to me. It brought comfort to us at the time and it expresses my feelings and beliefs.  Thank you, Sue.

A Clear View of Forever 

Grady, you came into this world
and made the living sweet.
Right from the start, you owned each heart.
Your smile was bliss, complete.

You rushed to earth…greeted us early…
left us far too soon.
In dark of night, you took your light
and slipped beyond the moon.

A loving Father called you home.
We bow to His command;
yet, though we know where you have flown,
it’s hard to understand.

Our empty arms are aching, and
we yearn to see your face.
Draw near us, please, in memories
that time cannot erase.

Remind us with each star that shines
that you shine brightly, too.
As our eyes watch the sunrise,
stir our souls to rise with you.

Watch over us, that we might feel
the brush of angel wings.
Let your laugh float on every note
the song of comfort sings.

You taught us more of heaven
than we ever hoped to learn;
and should our grief spar with belief,
through you, our hearts will turn.

Because of you, we’ll lift our heads
and stand a little higher.
To live God’s plan the best we can
is need now, not desire.

Your sacred gift to us is this:
a clear view of forever. 
The path to you glows straight and true.
One day, we’ll be together.

In that great day, these empty arms
will reach no more in vain.
God’s work fulfilled, our longing stilled,
we’ll hold you once again.