By Kathy Walsh
AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)- An educator and mother of four learned a painful lesson about swimming with contact lenses. A microscopic organism caused a rare infection that blinded her in one eye.
Now, Stacey Peoples is warning contact lens wearers about exposure to water. And she's become an advocate for organ donation.
"Never, never heard of it," Peoples told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.
Peoples is Director of Early Childhood Education for Cherry Creek Schools. She's been in education for nearly 25 years. But the noun, acanthamoeba, was new to her and it was terrifying.
"Acanthamoeba," she explained. "Pretty scary little term for a parasite that attaches itself to a person's cornea and effectively eats through a person's eye."
The parasites are in all water. Stacey believes she was swimming with her son in 2014, when the tiny organisms got trapped between her contact lens and her eye.
"What I didn't know was that contacts should never, ever come in contact with water," said Stacey.
Stacey's eye began to hurt.
"It felt like somebody was snapping rubber bands in my eye nonstop with the back of the eye feeling like it was going to blow out," she said.
She said she was repeatedly misdiagnosed.
"Pink eye, then allergic to the pink eye antibiotic drops, then a scratch on the cornea, then the herpes virus," she said. "I was suicidal for a couple days because the pain was so bad."
Stacey was blind in that eye. It took a month to learn she had acanthamoeba keratitis, a rare disease in which amoebae invade the cornea of the eye. She had to use painful drops for more than a year.
"It's basically an acid that they're using to kill the parasite," said Stacey.
In April 2015, Stacey had a cornea transplant that restored her vision.
"It gave me back my life, it gave me my job back, it gave me my kids back," she said.
Stacey's warning: never let contact lenses touch water. Her request: please, consider organ donation.
"It was unbelievable," Stacey said. "True miracle."
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