A woman from Oregon was in Alaska when her eye became irritated and thought an eyelash was stuck in it. However, when she went to the mirror to remove it from her eye, she was left horrified by what she pulled out instead.
In August of 2016, Abby Beckley was given the opportunity to work on a commercial salmon fishing boat in Craig, Alaska. A few weeks after she arrived, her eye began to become irritated as if a pesky eyelash was stuck inside. She eventually decided to use a mirror, but she never anticipated what she would find.
“My left eye just got really irritated and red, and my eyelid was droopy,” Beckley recalled, according to Pix 11. “I was getting migraines too, and I was like, ‘What is going on?’” After suffering from her eye discomfort for five days, she decided enough was enough.
“I pulled down the bottom of my eye and noticed that my skin looked weird there,” Beckley said. “So, I put my fingers in with a sort of a plucking motion, and a worm came out!” Yes, you read that right. She pulled a worm out of her eye that was nearly half an inch long. Although it died within a few seconds, her story was far from over.
After freaking out, she did a little research and convinced herself that it was a salmon worm, but when she searched for similar cases on the Internet, she couldn’t find anything. She even went to see a doctor and ophthalmologist in the area who had never seen a case like hers.
“They said they had never seen anything like this,” Beckley said, adding that, during that time, she pulled another four worms from her eye. “And then I could see them moving across my eye at that point, too. There were so many.”
Eventually, her concerned boyfriend, friends, and family, encouraged her to come home and visit Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. She went directly there from the airport. While she was there, her doctor sent off some of the worms to the CDC for identification. For a while, she would return frequently for vision tests and eye washes designed to flush out any additional worms, but the flushes were unsuccessful.
“I just kept pulling the worms out of my eye at home, but when I went to the office, they would flush, and nothing would come out,” Beckley said. “They were trying to figure out what to do because there was no roadmap, no protocol for this,” she continued.
“I tried not to go to the darkest place, like, are these worms going to paralyze my face or infect my brain or impact my vision? I was definitely in distress, for sure, but I also started making jokes, because I had to, to deal with it,” Beckley said, according to CNN. “It’s so gross to think about, but it was happening to me.”
Beckley finally relaxed when her doctor explained that the worms would only remain on the surface of her eye, and eventually, it was determined that Beckley was infected by “Thelazia gulosa.” The species is unique to cattle and has never before been seen in a human eye. That meant that Beckley was infected by cattle near her home before she left for Alaska. Her case has since been published in a case report.
“This is only the 11th time a person has been infected by eye worms in North America,” explained Richard Bradbury, who is the team lead for the CDC’s Parasite Diagnostics and Biology Laboratory. “But what was really exciting it that it is a new species that has never infected people before. It’s a cattle worm that somehow jumped into a human.”
Bradbury added, “It’s possible that there are cases that were misdiagnosed as another species of the worm, californiensis, because people just assume that it will be. But, through our work, we were able to understand that a brand-new species can now infect people who are around cattle.”
Twenty days after pulling the first worm from her eye, Beckley discovered the final wiggling worm — which was the fourteenth one. Once that was out, her unusual ordeal was finally over. Thankfully, her eyesight is the same as it was before the horrifying experience.
Abby Beckley spoke out about her condition to provide an answer for anyone else who might also endure this scary occurrence in their lifetime. She just wants to let them know that although it may be terrifying to pull a worm from your eye, they go away and you will be fine. Now, as for the rest of us, the next time we have an eyelash stuck in our eye, we will hesitate in fear that we might pull out a wiggly little worm.