In my journey as a runner, I have been no stranger to shin splints, knee issues, “IT Band” irritation, plantar fasciitis, lost toe nails and bleeding nipples. I sometimes ask myself why I do it, but the answer is clear. Aside from the occasional occupational hazards of the sport, when I am in top running form, I feel so much better and I enjoy the multiple benefits associated with it.
But the oddest running injury I have encountered to date has to be when I injured my eye.
How did I do that? It wasn’t easy.
Picture it… Ottawa, July 2015… a beautiful summer day, as I was coming home from work and the running trails were yelling “André, it’s a beautiful day. Why don’t you come out for a run?” My body responded, “Yes, indeed! Could it be a more perfect day? The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the temperature is perfect for running, the humidity is low and an ever-so gentle breeze will keep me cool. Absolutely. I’d be a fool not to.” You can’t bottle that kind of enthusiasm!
Faster than a Broadway actor in a one-man-show, I changed from my work clothes to my running clothes, filled the cat’s bowl with her favourite dinner, laced up my shoes, picked my perfect musical playlist and went for my neighbourhood run.
When the weather is flawless and mind, body and soul are in perfect alignment, a run can be a beautiful thing. It was phenomenal!
By the time I finished my run and took my shower, I was positively starved for dinner. I decided to just take out my lenses at bed time, something I had done many times before.
However, when bed time came, something went wrong. For some reason, the left contact lens was stuck. I don’t know if it was the lens itself or my eye, but it didn’t want to let go. After a few unsuccessful attempts and my eye was already getting red from the game of hide and seek with my fingers, I was finally able to get it out, but something felt very off.
I felt a sharp pain in my eye. Not just a tickle or a twinge, but it was hurting really badly to the point that I don’t think there were swear words in four languages left unsaid.
I had an unopened bottle of antibiotic eye drops in the medicine cabinet, so I put some drops in, just in case. The colourful language continued.
A few days later, in the middle of the night and a very deep sleep, I was awakened by shooting pain in my eye again and tear ducts that wouldn’t quit. More colourful language. At first, I thought I had something caught in my eye, so I tried flushing it out with cool water. After careful examination there were no signs of irritants but the eye was still throbbing. After an hour of rinsing and no success, I decided to grab a washcloth, run some cold water on it and make a cold compress out of it. After an hour, the eye seemed to calm down and I was able to get back to sleep.
In the weeks that followed, after several repeat performances of the shooting pain in my eye in the middle of the night, I was referred to the local eye clinic to get an expert opinion. The verdict was that I was experiencing “recurring corneal erosion”, a small scratch on my cornea that needed particular attention to heal properly. The probable cause was the battle with the contact lens.
The reason I was getting woken up in the middle of the night was because in a REM sleep cycle, when the eyes dart around under closed eyelids, the injured cornea was likely rubbing against the lid and getting irritated to the point of waking me up from a deep sleep.
I was prescribed a sterile eye lubricant to put in my eye before bed (every night), as well as a steady diet of eye drops throughout the day (every day) to keep that eye moisturized, until it heals. The other recommendation – and this was the hard part – was to not rub my eye until it completely healed.
It was a long, slow road to recovery as every few weeks, just when I thought it was feeling better and I may have slacked off my eye care routine, I’d get the stinging pain in the middle of the night again, as a reminder that the healing process was not over yet.
Believe it or not, it took a full year of ointment and drops for the eye to completely heal and to not wake me up in the middle of the night like a crying newborn.
Since then, I have kept up the daily eye drops routine as my eyes always feel and look much better when they are properly hydrated, especially when contact lenses are involved.
For something that I loosely consider a running injury, of course I was not really sidelined from my sport. For the year that it took to heal, my choices were either to wear glasses (hopping on my nose for the duration of the run) or go without, dodging utility poles and fire hydrants as best I could. Luckily, no other injuries were sustained along the way.
Note: This blog post is for entertainment purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of a physician. For any medical conditions, please speak to your doctor.
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