Sunday, January 18, 2009

Leeches: 2, Eyeball: 0 [caution: graphic]

When I set out on this journey, I was in search of new experiences, adventure, discovery... Even though it admittedly fits these criteria, 'leeches on the eyeball' is not what I was thinking of.

The prelude to this story occurred a few weeks ago when I was chatting to someone about experiencing the wet tropics rainforest. I can't remember who told me about it, but they told the story of how leeches could climb onto one's face and crawl up under the eyelid, from where they suck blood out of the eyeball. I remember thinking that this was surely an urban myth and inwardly laughed with disdain at the idea.

So on Friday I spent most of the day in the rainforest up at Paluma helping with some JCU ecology projects. It was very wet, pouring down most of the time. I became aware of something in my right eye, as if I'd got something in it or perhaps brushed it on a twig or something. I gave it a bit of a rub but couldn't feel anything, it wasn't particularly noticable or painful.

About half an hour later I could still feel something. I casually asked my companion about the leech-eyeball story, as if I was just vaguely curious about the phenomenon. He was able to confirm that it did indeed happen, but that it was pretty rare - his supervisor had had one, but he himself had never had the experience. "Hrmm, ah, I think that maybe I have one". He had a look and lo and behold, there was a leech. On my eyeball. A leech on my eyeball. Under the eyelid. It was visible if I swivelled my eye to one side. It was only a small one and I managed to dislodge it - it was almost completely engorged and it might have been making its way off anyway at that stage.

So I thought this was pretty amusing. Another half-an-hour to an hour later I felt something again! Suddenly a big (big!) leech crawled out of my eye and dropped off, also completely engorged with nutritious eye-fluids. It felt nice and relieving when it was gone, as you'd expect I guess. This leech's exit was followed by a slight bit of bleeding into the eye, but apart from that there it felt fine. I thought that was the end of that.

Unfortunately, I tend to get a bit of a reaction to some leech bites. I had one on my leg when I was down in the Watagans that swelled up like half an orange. So I awoke on Saturday morning and could hardly open my eye. The eyeball itself was swollen, as well as all the eyelid region. My sight was fine if I strained to raise the eyelid and it was completely pain free. I took a couple of paracetamol for the swelling (didn't help at all) and just put up with it.

When I woke up this morning (Sunday) it was even more swollen, much harder to open eye. Still painless and my sight is still fine! You can see in the photo below how the white of the eyeball itself is red and swollen (who knew that was even possible!). So, I drove myself (carefully, considering the whole one-eyed depth perception issue) to Towsville hospital where I now sit awaiting medical attention. I suspect I'll just have to sit it out, but there's not much else I can do without the use of my favourite eye.

On the plus side, I've been given a great conversation starter... I can see when people notice it and they're sort of afraid to say anything, but I take any opportunity to boast about it. Most are really grossed out. Some probably think it's an excuse I came up with and that I'm really the victim of domestic violence. I caught a little kid staring at me in the hospital waiting room so I opened my eye up as much as I could manage and gave him the full treatment - he hid behind his mum.

And now, in conclusion, the photo you've all been waiting for... taken yesterday:

Leach-bitten eyeball. Ooooh yeaaaah!

Update: just got seen by the doctors. They thought it was pretty cool. I've been given some antibiotic drops and told to take some antihistamines for the swelling. They say the bleeding ('subconjunctival haemorrage') should take quite a while to clear, but the swelling should go down in a few days.

By the way, I've had some very exciting frogging recently, I'll write some updates on that another time... For now, it's to the road again!


Snail said...

There's no doubt you'll be talked about for many years at JCU.

It's amazing that those little beggars make the effort to get under the eyelid when there's easier pickings to be had elsewhere. Maybe they like to keep out of the rain?

P.S. Just don't let them get up your nose.

Anonymous said...

- from where they could get into your brain...

James M said...

Thats crazy, I don't think I would have been as calm with a leech on my eye! You should now walk around town with your good eye covered with an eyepatch, leaving people wondering how much worse you covered eye must be!

Michael Vermont said...

Nelson! Michael here :)
Remembered your davidavid blog whilst sitting here and thought I'd have a gander and then spotted your travelling blog, will catch up on some reading after this message.

Are you having the time of your life? :)

John Scanlon said...

Just saw this news story:

...some wimp got a leech on the eyeball and went to a doctor to get it out. Film at 11.

Peter said...

Just saw the old lady who had it removed by a doctor on CH10, they claimed it to be a first, the boof heads

Anonymous said...

Just got the same experience yesterday after hiking to a mud spring.

She DMontford said...

Please let me know if your eyesight improves after this experience - I have heard it increases the peripheral circulation and thus the eyesight - I have been curious about this for a while now