CHESAPEAKE, Va (WVEC) – A mother who is dealing with a crippling eye condition wants others to know the importance of eye care.
Sherry McIntyre said the pain started after a trip to a cabin in rural Virginia.
She went to a doctor who told her she had to be treated for something called Acanthamoeba. The CDC defines it as a rare, microscopic, free-living amoeba that can cause severe pain and infections.
“I was literally crawling on the floor in pain,” McIntyre explained. “My biggest fear in the beginning of all of this was going completely blind. I have two beautiful, beautiful girls who I just love with all of my heart and soul.”
Doctors said people whose eyes are most commonly vulnerable to the amoeba are contact wearers like McIntyre.
The mom had to go to two doctors before being treated for the condition, but said she was confused because she keeps her contact lens case clean.
Then her doctor asked if she had been in contact with well water and something clicked.
“In May, my husband and I went up and rented a cabin in Shenandoah," said McIntyre. "We’ve been there before. It’s beautiful, but it had well water.”
It's not clear that the mother contracted anything at the cabin, but she said the pain started soon after that trip. She hasn't been outside since the beginning of August.
“It is very painful because the nerves are actively being attacked," said Dr. Eric Crouch, Chief of Ophthalmology at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and Professor of Ophthalmology at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va.
Crouch explained that you can get the amoeba from standing water and even soil. The best way to prevent the condition is basic contact care.
“You should not over wear you contact lenses. If your contact lens goes in and it’s uncomfortable, you should take it out," said Crouch.
Now, McIntyre has to take an eye drop that has a high concentration of chlorine and a long list of others, too.
She’s sharing her story to warn others to go to the doctor and more importantly follow up with appointments because she didn't at first.
This whole experience has changed her life, but she thinks it will be in a good way.
"Maybe I’ll look back and see that God closed one eye to make me maybe turn the other one inside and look and do some self-reflection," McIntyre said. "And hopefully my girls will learn from this.”
Right now, Mcintyre is unemployed because she had to stop running her business. Through this, she said her marriage has become stronger.
Recovery could last for months, even a year after a cornea transplant.