Amoeba infects Gretna woman’s eye

She said her life has been changed forever.
A woman in Nebraska says she has been battling a rare infection in her eye after she went o the lake. (Source: WOWT)
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 1:46 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2022 at 2:29 PM CDT
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GRETNA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Omaha-metro was startled by news of a brain-eating amoeba that killed a young boy. The same type of microorganism has struck again in the area, but targeted a different organ.

Though it wasn’t deadly for the Gretna woman, it did forever change her life.

Tiffani Zeleny received another delivery of medicine for the bug that got in her eye can’t just be wiped away.

Acanthamoeba keratitis is a horrible infection,” she said.

An amoeba has attacked her eye.

“There is hope and we are very optimistic that a miracle can happen and my eye can be saved,” Zeleny said.

But that involves a constant regimen of drugs she carefully administers herself.

She said she has to use about 60 eye drops a day.

“Two are very hour, four are every other hour,” Zeleny said.

The infection is hard to treat but easy for corneal experts to see how it gets into the eye.

“85% of acanthamoeba infections are associated with contact lenses,” Dr. Ron Krueger said.

Dr. Krueger is the director of Truhlsen Eye Institute of Nebraska Medicine.

“Take ’em out, put them in your little contact-lens kit, maybe wear some glasses, and when you get in the water just take off the glasses, and it’s fine,” he said.

Having worn soft contacts since the third grade, Zeleny wore them on while riding an inner tube this summer.

“Surely, don’t put my head under water; but I may have been splashed in a lake,” she said.

She also showered in well water and helped out around the family acreage.

“I was helping tear down the old fence and cut out trees with no safety glasses,” Zeleny said.

Dr. Mike Feilmeier is a Corneal Surgeon at Midwest Eye Care.

“I would say over the past 15 years, maybe, I’ve seen five or six cases this severe,” he said.

It’s a painfully hard lesson for a patient who wore soft contact lenses.

“Store them properly, clean them properly, don’t sleep in them; try to avoid wearing them while swimming, whether that’s in freshwater or pool water,” Dr. Feilmeier said.

With a sister-in-law driving, Zeleny has been traveling four hours about once a week to the University of Iowa, where a prognosis of a corneal transplant is an eye-opening possibility.

“If I get to save my eye, I’d like to wear contacts again. I’ll just be much more careful,” Zeleny said.

To fight the amoeba that infected her eye, she needs seven different formulas of eye drops. A GoFundMe site has been set up to help pay the costs, which are out of pocket.

The pain and expense, she said, could be avoided by anyone wearing contacts: Just take them out around lakes, streams, and hot tubs. And when wearing them while outdoors, use eye protection.