UK paramedic discusses losing eye to flesh-eating parasite

Paramedic Andrew Carthew, 59, had his left eye removed after a flesh-eating parasite became potentially fatal


By EMS1 Staff

CORNWALL, England — A British paramedic had his eye removed after a flesh-eating parasite contaminated his contact lens.

Andrew Carthew, 59, said he woke up with an irritated eye last June, but assumed it was conjunctivitis, reported The Sun.

Carthew, who has been wearing contact lenses for the past five year, suffered severe pain and sensitivity in his left eye and went to the ER for treatment. He was diagnosed with an eye infection, but his pain continued. 

“There was about six to eight weeks where all I did was lay in a darkened room with sunglasses on and the only time I ever went out was to go to a hospital,” Carthew said.

A month later, Carthew was diagnosed with a rare eye infection known as Acanthamoeba Keratitis. The bacteria affects one in 50,000 contact lens users and is normally found in tap water, rivers and soil. The infection can lead to permanent sight loss, but doctors struggled to identify the origin of the infection. 

Officials believe Carthew contracted the bacteria via contamination on his finger. Carthew underwent  months of treatment to save his eyesight, but had his left eye removed in May 2016. 

Following the surgery, Carthew, a 37-year veteran paramedic, had to leave his job. 

“I got a bit depressed, you try to keep upbeat but throughout the whole process I had episodes of feeling quite down about it,” Carthew said. “But in a practical way, if I didn’t have the eye removed, it could have killed me.”

Carthew now works to raise awareness of the infection. “I just want to bring this in the open so people are aware of what a terrible disease it is … and [how] easily it can affect you,” he said. “We want people to be more aware of sight loss, as we all take it for granted."

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