As you may remember, we are busy fixing up our suburban house we can sell it and move into our tiny house motor home in the woods. My husband has been fixing up our master bath, but he took a break from it (and his paying job) to run 2 tons of our stuff over to our shipping container, two hours away. (Remember, we are using the container for cheap storage of our things, until we can get into a full sized house.) So, being a loving wife, I decided I would work a bit on the bathroom while he was gone, saving him a little bit of work and stress. I was going to prime the walls, but I noticed there were a couple of small spots of mold on the ceiling near the shower. "I'll hit those with bleach before I do anything else," I thought.
So I put on old clothes and started applying bleach to the ceiling...as I've done without incident many, many times before. But this time, a drop of bleach dripped off the ceiling and into my right eye.
I let out a loud yowl - mostly because I was mad at myself, but also because it hurt like the dickens. I ran to the other bathroom and began putting handfuls of water over my eye, to flush it out.
My 10 year old was gone with her daddy, so I called to my 7 year old to grab me a timer. I figured I should flush my eye for 3 minutes or so. Then I decided to call my husband, since he often works in shops where they give safety training regarding chemicals in the eye. My youngest brought me the cell phone, and as I flushed my eye, I called my hubby. (So much for taking stress off him!) He said I should flush my eye for a minimum of 15 minutes. Plus he said some other stuff I couldn't understand because his location was bad for reception.
So, I flushed my eye for 15 minutes - actually a little longer - cupping tap water in one hand and then placing it over the affected eye. Toward the end, I called to my 7 year old, telling him to get ready to leave the house right away, because I thought I'd have to go to the doctor.
When I was done flushing, my vision was very foggy. In retrospect, this was probably caused by the water in my eye, but at the time, it was pretty freaky. I called my eye doctor. His receptionist said the doctor could see me in a little more than an hour, but to come down as soon as I could.
So my 7 year old and I hustled to the doctor's office, which is thankfully very close to our house. (A benefit to living in town!) The staff greeted me by asking what exactly I'd done. They said I did exactly the right thing, flushing my eye for 15 minutes. Then they offered something to numb my eye. Though my eye did hurt, I declined. 45 minutes later, the doctor gave my eye a quick look, but it took about an hour before he brought me into the exam room. After running some tests and carefully looking over my eye, he said the bleach had sort of "etched" my eye - but superficially. He felt my eye would recover - although he was nervous about infection and perscribed an antibiotic, just in case.
The rest of the day, I felt like I had pebbles in my eye, had periodic stinging, and periodic blurriness. Reading made it worse, so I mostly walked around with one eye closed. I knew I didn't want to take antibiotics if I didn't need to; not only does this make it more likely antibiotics won't help me if I really need them, antibiotics work against the natural medicines I get through my naturopath. So I called my naturopath to get her opinion on the matter, and she recommended a high dose vitamin A for serveral weeks. (Because I had a horrible time finding vitamin A anywhere, I didn't take any until the next day.)
That night, my eye hurt something awful and I couldn't use the sleep mask that's my nightly friend. The next morning, I had lots of dried goop around my eye, along with slight swelling, but otherwise, I felt much better. Reading (and writing) makes my eye ache, so I'm glad I have several weeks worth of articles already scheduled to post on this blog. Still, I thought it worth a few minutes of eye ache to tell you this story.
Interestingly, all the ladies at my eye doctor's office - the assistants, the receptionist - had ever thought twice about spraying bleach or other cleansers on their ceilings or anywhere else. None of them had ever considered wearing eye protection. So if people whose professional lives are all about eyes didn't think of it, I guess I shouldn't feel too stupid for not thinking of it. But you can bet that from now on, I will be wearing safety goggles when handling bleach - or even mild cleansers - when they might spray into my eye.
And, for the record, the stuff my husband was trying to tell me but I couldn't understand because of a rotten connection was this: Use the spray nozzle on your kitchen sink to flush your eye, if you can. (Set the water flow lower, of course, so it doesn't hurt your eye.) This simulates a workplace eye wash station and allows you to peel back your eyelids for better cleansing. About.com recommends a garden hose before the method I used. WebMD recommends a shower head. And many sources recommend 20 minutes, instead of 15. Err on the side of caution, because without proper rinsing, you could go blind.
Our vision is so precious. It's worth the mild hassle of safety goggles.