CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An Eastern Panhandle delegate told fellow lawmakers Monday that she spent five days in the hospital and could have lost her eyesight after the Elk River chemical leak.
Speaking on the House floor, Delegate Tiffany Lawrence, D-Jefferson, said she developed a "severe" eye infection after showering with "flushed" water at a hotel in Charleston.
"I tell this story today, ladies and gentlemen, because I'm just one of the thousands of individuals who have undergone emergency care in response to the chemical spill," said Lawrence, a former Miss West Virginia and a House member since 2008.
Lawrence said her right eyelid became irritated following a shower on Jan. 14 -- after West Virginia American Water lifted its do-not-use water order for downtown Charleston. She initially reasoned that "seasonal allergies" had caused the irritation.
At a legislative committee meeting the next afternoon, Lawrence noticed a bump on her eyelid. She recalled putting warm compresses on her right eye for four hours that night.
"I woke the following morning to find my eye completely swollen shut," Lawrence said.
Lawrence went to the emergency room at Saint Francis Hospital, where she received antibiotics and steroids. A specialist cut a small incision above her eye, but the infection persisted, she said.
Lawrence waited a day before returning Saint Francis' emergency room. She was admitted to the hospital Jan. 19.
"I was given two rounds of [intravenous] antibiotics, a CT scan and MRI," Lawrence said.