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Youth Column: Transforming Lives

Youth Column: Transforming Lives

Monday January 18 2021

Charlotte Clarkson, a member of an Edinburgh congregation, shares her experience of a rare and devastating eye condition.

Did you know that there are tiny microscopic parasites called amoebas that live in 80% of all natural water sources? Tap water, swimming pools, soil, etc.

I’m telling you this because up until two years ago I was definitely unaware. I was also unaware of the damage they could cause if there was any contamination with my contact lenses.

My name is Charlotte Clarkson, I am 25 years old and I am a member of Carrick Knowe Parish Church, Edinburgh. In 2018, I contracted the extremely rare eye condition Acanthamoeba Keratitis (AK), which has resulted in me losing the sight in my right eye.

In 2020 I was honoured to team up with the charity Fight For Sight, to take part in their “20 Voices for 2020” campaign. The campaign aimed to spread awareness of the personal impact of sight loss and appeal to the government for more funding into greatly under-funded eye research.

This is my story: I was working in Canada at an Outdoor Education Centre. We were situated in the forest on the beautiful Lake Wabamum. I loved my colleagues who became lifelong friends, and working with children in the forest, where I felt most at peace in the world. I was living a life full of meaning and faith and I am so grateful that after everything that happened next, I didn’t take one second of it for granted.

My whole world changed in July 2018. What started as redness and a gritty feeling in my right eye, turned into an ordeal of medical appointments. For months I suffered from extreme pain, a bloodshot eye, blurry vision, and severe light sensitivity. I was a medical mystery to eye specialists in the nearest city, which was an hour’s drive from camp, until a referral to a
corneal specialist resulted in me being sent back home to Scotland with a hesitant diagnosis of Acanthamoeba Keratitis (AK); an extremely rare condition affecting around 50 people in the UK each year.

On my return I spent five days in the Princess Alexandra Eye Hospital where I was treated with toxic eye drops several times per hour, 24 hours a day. The treatment was almost as painful as the condition itself. The following two months I remained in extreme pain with severe light sensitivity and had to stay mainly indoors, hiding behind the protection of sunglasses and baseball caps.

It was an extremely lonely and isolating time for me. I was pretty much bed-ridden but couldn’t watch movies or read books to entertain myself because the world was literally too bright for me. My friends would message me but I couldn’t look at my phone because I was constantly lying in bed holding icepacks to my face to try to numb the pain.

Since then things have improved. I have been slowly weaned off my treatment, but
unfortunately I have lost the sight in my right eye. I no longer have light sensitivity and pain
but still suffer from some discomfort.

These past two years have been the most challenging of my life and looking back I know that the love of my friends and family has been invaluable in supporting me. I am now getting
my life back on track and have just started a Masters degree in Health Psychology.

I am really proud to be fundraising for Fight For Sight and have been made aware of just how underfunded eye research is in the UK. Currently, only one per cent of national funding is invested in eye research but studies show that one in five of us will experience serious sight loss in our lifetime.

Not only would further eye research relieve pressure on our overrun health system,
it could also help to transform lives. 

If you are under 30 with a connection to the Church of Scotland, and would be interested in writing for this page, please email