The blind side: What it’s like having an autoimmune disease


Writer Anahi Mosquera with good friend Madison Murphy.

By Anahi Mosquera, Managing Editor

I was a dancer, a competitive cheerleader and a straight-A student. My fourth grade self was thriving to the maximum. Little did I know, I would wake up one Saturday morning and my life would change forever.

We thought I had pink eye. The CVS Clinic Technician gave one look at my pupil and had a face of fear that I will never forget. I needed to go to the ER, and it definitely wasn’t pink eye.

I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in my left eye called Uveitis. In short, my white blood cells were fighting to protect my eye for absolutely no reason.

This caused periods of intense inflammation every once in a while that made my eye bloodshot and resulted in extreme pain and blurry vision.

OK, I know what you’re thinking; so what’s the cure? The real answer is disappointing. The only thing that could alleviate my flare-ups were steroid eye drops that created a whole other array of complications.

Glaucoma, cataracts, inflammation, low pressure, so many surgeries; I’ve had it all. I always have something to talk about with the elderly — we usually end up bonding over our eye problems.

Having an autoimmune disease is so frustrating because the one thing that calmed down my eye also destroyed it. It’s the reason I lost complete function in my left eye.

All this happened before I started high school, and I felt completely alone. No one understood the damage an autoimmune disease can do to you physically and mentally. Until I met Maddie.

Madison Murphy was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease that affects the colon, around March of her freshman year. Her initial diagnosis, like mine, came at the worst point of inflammation she had ever experienced.

“It was a really intense flare-up,” Murphy said. “I had steroids and then two different medicines that I took in addition to the steroids. And the steroids were really intense.”

Prednisone, also known as the worst medicine ever, was one of the few medicines Maddie and I both took. We both groan in the dreadful nostalgia of the horrible side effects of Prednisone.

Acne, swollen face, depression, mood swings, insomnia, nausea and vomiting are some of the

many negative side effects of Prednisone, according to MedicineNet.

On Prednisone, I wasn’t myself. I didn’t even look like me. It caused me to fall into a deep pit of depression. I didn’t know what was wrong with me — I felt like I had no control over anything. I hated Prednisone.

Then in eighth grade, a rare and horrific infection attacked my eye and I had to have emergency surgery.

I groggily woke up from that surgery and I knew something was different. I thought I was going to bounce back and recover completely. I was so hopeful, but sadly, my eye continued to get worse, and at 12, I became completely blind in my left eye.

The infection ruined me. My doctor was able to save my eye, but were so close to removing it in surgery. This infection still affects me today, and it’s certain I will have to get my eye taken out eventually.

I lost all function in my eye — vision and pressure. My eye would eventually deteriorate to the point that they had to fill my eye with silicon oil so my eye could stay in its socket. This surgery was by far the worst one because for two weeks, I had to lie face-down for 22 hours a day to allow the stupid oil to set. Looking back, I don’t know how I got through that, but I did. And I thank Netflix for keeping me occupied while I was face-planted for two weeks straight.

Fast forward many cruel years, and I’m now a senior. I have two different colored eyes — one’s slightly grey, one’s brown. I’m clumsy, I have horrible hand-eye coordination, I can’t see 3D movies. I get frequent episodes of intense pain, so I miss school pretty often. I bump into people a lot cause I can’t see at all on my left side and it’s usually followed by a spiteful glare in my direction.

I am also a good student, involved in clubs, a good friend, a cheerleader, managing editor for The Warrior. Despite the pain, the many surgeries and complications, I never let my eye stop me from pursuing my goals and doing what I love.

I have to give credit to Maddie too. Throughout high school, we were able to lean on each other when it seemed like no one understood. We have an irreplaceable, strong bond. It’s indescribable, but having someone like her in my life is exactly what I needed. It’s what we both needed, and I’m forever grateful.

Looking back, I do feel bad for my 12-year-old self. On top of transitions, puberty and “finding myself,” I went through all of this and had to grow up so quickly.

But, I grew to become the resilient, mature and insightful woman I am today.

I’m not going to lie, I definitely would not relive that time in my life, but I also wouldn’t change a thing. I’m stronger because of my disease, I grew such a meaningful friendship with Maddie, I’m hardworking.

Autoimmune diseases suck, and it seems that no one has knowledge on them. I want to bring awareness to not just my story but autoimmune diseases in general.

Throughout my life, I used to hide my eye problems. I was ashamed because it made me different from everyone else. I didn’t want people to view me as weak, but now I’ve realized that it makes me the complete opposite.

Finally, after so many years, I’m ready to share my story. This is personal, this is vulnerable, there is no “happy ending,” but it’s real, and it’s me.

I don’t know what the future holds for my eye and honestly, I get terrified every time I think about it. But that’s OK. I feel like now, there is nothing I can’t handle anyway.

My story isn’t complete without my amazing support system. To my parents, my sister, Maddie and Dr. Goldstein, thank you. You all have been with me through it all and my life truly wouldn’t be the same without you. I cannot express the amount of gratitude I have every day for all of you.

Uveitis was the disease that took my vision. Uveitis is also the disease that makes me who I am. Throughout my life, I wanted to believe that Uveitis wouldn’t affect me, but I’m proud to say it did, in the best way.