An Amoeba is Eating An Alabama Football Player's Eye

Long story short: don't let an amoeba get in your eye.
April 18, 2016, 9:56pm

This is a pretty crazy story out of Alabama concerning redshirt freshman longsnapper Ryan Parris, who has an amoeba hanging out in his eye socket, trying to eat his eyeball. Parris first started showing symptoms that a one-celled organism might be digesting his eye last November, but things really took a turn last Monday. The (blessedly) rare condition, called Acanthamoeba keratitis, had already done so much damage that it rendered him legally blind.

Ryan's father was there in the doctor's office in Birmingham when his son couldn't read the first letter on the eye chart. "But that's not it," Butch Parris said. "So, after he couldn't read any of the chart, the technician put her hand up in front of his face about two feet." Ryan could see a hand moving, but couldn't count the fingers.

No one is quite sure how the amoeba got in Parris' eye, but it is associated with contact lenses wearers; the hunch is that he didn't clean out his contacts properly. So if you needed a reason to avoid contacts outside of "sticking things in your eye is weird and gross and actually pretty crazy when you think about it," please consider "parasitic amoebae might devour your eye."

Ryan had been taking special eye drops for months, but they seemed to stop working. His ophthalmologist upped the prescriptions—or "bombed his eye with medicine," in Butch's words—and hoped that it would work over the next 48 hours to restore his vision. If not, he would need a corneal transplant, which would likely end his playing days. The meds did work and Ryan was able to play in his first spring game, wearing rec specs, and is expected to make a full recovery. But it's not all sunshine and roses just yet.

The eye drops are nothing, really, when compared to one of Ryan's other medical interventions. The transplantation of "amniotic membrane discs" is an interesting thing. We'll let Ryan's father explain: "They take shavings from the placenta after the birth of a woman who has had a C-section."

Alabama's team couldn't, but I bet Science could beat the Cleveland Browns.