A mum-of-two had to have her eye removed after she accidentally popped out her cornea while drying her face with a towel.
Claire Willis, 45, was on holiday with her husband, Timothy, in Turkey when the incident happened; the couple were getting ready in their hotel room when Claire stepped out of the shower and patted a towel to her face.
The 45-year-old said she felt a ‘pop’ followed by extreme blurry vision and ‘excruciating’ pain, and so immediately found a mirror fearing her eyeball had fallen out of the socket.
It hadn’t, but she couldn’t see out of her eye – which was extremely red and sore – so Timothy rushed her to the nearest hospital.
Once there, medics told her she had perforated her cornea and told her to fly straight home, something which ‘devastated’ Claire. ‘I just couldn’t understand how my life had come to this or where to go from here,’ she explained.
Claire, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was on a flight home within hours with a huge bandage over her eye, something the mother described as ‘mortifying’. Then, as soon as she landed, she went straight to Royal Stoke University Hospital.
Despite her quick action though, doctors were shocked to see how infected her eye had become during the flight; the right eye had been fused shut with infection which forced medics to clamp her eyelids open to look at her eyeball, which had turned completely yellow.
An ophthalmologist from the hospital said Claire ‘had particular circumstances that led to a thinner than normal cornea in her case’. The woman spent the next nine days in hospital as doctors attempted to fight the infection, but nothing could be done and they told the mum-of-two an amputation was needed.
I felt so isolated in the hospital, and when they suggested amputation, I was totally against the idea. My dad ended up convincing me to have the eyeball amputated, and although I was devastated at the idea, I was in so much pain that I knew it needed to be done.
There was no saving my sight, but the surgeon decided to perform a partial removal of my eyeball rather than a full one. He removed the middle of my eye – the retina and cornea – and fitted a cosmetic shell over the lens of my eye.
The surgery was a success and Claire was allowed to return home just one day after her operation. She did have to keep the bandages on for a further week after the surgery though and she wasn’t able to look in the mirror until eight days after the removal.
The 45-year-old said she ‘looked like an extra from The Walking Dead when the bandages came off, saying the reality hit her immediately and she had to leave her cleaning job at a school because she ‘didn’t want to scare the kiddies’.
I was having anxiety issues in public, which really isn’t like me. I had to learn alone how to cope with a half amputated eye – it was sticky on the lids and I was scared to clean it in case I knocked the cosmetic shell out.
I never hid my eye though. I didn’t wear sunglasses, I’ve just worn my everyday glasses and I know it’s not forever, it’s only until the prosthetic eye is fitted. I fought my demons, and every day, I pushed myself to go out and slowly but surely, I started feeling more confident.
She now has to wait until the socket heals so she can get a prosthetic, but the mum-of-two doesn’t know exactly how long that will take.
Thankfully, Claire says Timothy and their two children, Ben, 22, and Daniel, 20, have been supportive and are helping her ‘lots’ around the house.
The mother says she is trying to stay positive and hopes to go away on holiday again before the year is over.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).