Woman Gets Flesh Eating Bacteria in Eye and Goes Blind After Texas Mud Run

I’m usually not one for sensationalist media, but I must say that headline is 100% true, though super unlikely to happen to you. I’m an eye doctor during the week when I’m not running in the mud or tackling obstacles, so I really needed to weigh in on this one.  You can see the original story as reported by Dallas CBS here, but it comes down to this:  Brittany Williams, a young woman from Texas, completed her first ever obstacle challenge at a local Mud Run, but her left eye was cut by debris during the event.  She felt like her eye was injured or something was there (we call this Foreign Body Sensation), but did not seek immediate medical attention.  Within 24 hours the bacteria ate through her cornea leaving her blind in the left eye.  She woke up the next day to completely white vision on that side.  After spending a week in the Hospital the doctors could potentially save her some vision doing a corneal transplant, but since she opted out of her company’s medical insurance, she can’t pay for it.  So what can you do to avoid the same flesh eating bacteria?

Check Yourself After Every Mud Run

Do an inventory of your body and any injuries after every obstacle race or mud run that you do.  Even though Brittany got a flesh eating bacteria in the eye, it’s possible to get that in any cut on your body.  Your skin is your first defense against bacteria, so make sure you clean off at the venue with soap and a scrubber if possible.  Next, clean any cuts you have with antiseptic like Bactine.  Put antibiotic ointment and a bandage on any deep cuts or scrapes.  If you wear contacts, throw out the ones you used in the race, flush your eyes with saline, and wear your glasses home.  Don’t put new contacts in until you are properly clean.

If you can’t get rid of the feeling of something in your eye by simply flushing it, go to the eye doctor immediately!

Getting the proper care right away could have saved her vision.  If you can’t get in to see your regular eye doctor, keep in mind that most big box stores like Walmart will have an Optometrist there until late or even on Saturday (and Sunday!).  They will likely see you as a medical walk-in emergency, and they have the same eye doctor degree as me.  As long as they are licensed to prescribe topical antibiotics you are good to go.  Your local urgent care general practice doctor and even most ER doctors are not equipped to properly deal with corneal abrasions and ulcers.  If no one is open, go to the ER, but demand to see the ophthalmologist on call.

Get Health Insurance

This is a no brainer, but Brittany doesn’t get a do-over.  We participate in a dangerous sport and not having health insurance is just plain dumb.  I get it, you’re a single guy, with a crap paying job, and health insurance is too expensive.  STFU.  Not an excuse.  Seriously, it’s the law.  Get health insurance.  Now Brittany is asking people through a GoFundMe page (link is in original story) to help restore her vision, which is a noble cause, but certainly avoidable.

This kind of story is always tragic and since it’s in my field, I feel especially bad for this young woman, but let her story be a lesson to the rest of us and hopefully this will never happen again.  When you think of the millions of people who complete an OCR or Mud Run every year, it’s actually pretty great that we haven’t seen more injuries like this and even the death count is lower than Triathlons and Marathons.  Let’s be safe out there, and keep it that way.

This is not Brittany's eye, just a public domain photo of something similar.

This is not Brittany’s eye, just a public domain photo of something similar.