Kiwi gets eye infection as souvenir after dunking head in Bali holy water, almost lost sight in one eye

Tirta Empul, Bali’s famous water temple. Photo: Flickr

A kiwi has returned from holiday in Bali with a very undesirable souvenir: an eye infection that nearly took out her sight in one eye.

Auckland woman Jenine Briggs visited Bali on a week-long yoga retreat last month and found out the hard way that the holy water in Bali’s temples can turn out to be quite unholy.

The chronicle of Briggs’ unsightly eye infection was just published on Thursday afternoon by New Zealand news site, Stuff.

During her yoga retreat in Bali, Briggs visited the Hindu Balinese water temple Tirta Empul. Visitors often line up to bathe in the holy water and do a special blessing.

“I dunked my head under the fountain. The water was clear, it looked absolutely pristine,” Briggs said, as quoted by Stuff.

Perhaps not enough people read our report sharing findings by the Gianyar Environmental Agency, that traces of e. coli came up in one of the regency’s temples. Although the agency didn’t exactly identify which temple it was, know that Tirta Empul is in Tampaksiring, Gianyar—we’re just saying.

The following morning, after she had dunked her head in the temple’s water, Briggs says she awoke with “a lot of gunk” oozing out from her eye.

With just two days left before her return back to New Zealand, she says her eye worsened and that she rushed for treatment upon landing back home, taking a taxi from the airport.

“By the time I got to the airport my eye had swollen up quite a lot. The white of my eye had gone completely red and my cheek was also swollen, hot and painful.”

The woman’s specialist at Greenlane Hospital in Auckland says the eye infection contracted was waterborne, from either the shower water or the temple water. So, in all fairness, there’s a chance that her accommodation’s water was to blame, but the woman says that “in terms of timing it makes sense” that it came from the temple. 

“I realized when I got into hospital I couldn’t see anything out of it. The doctor asked how many fingers he was holding up and I couldn’t see anything, that was scary.

“It was like looking into fire, all I could see was this red, orange blur.”

Briggs’ infection was identified by the hospital’s cornea specialist as pseudomonas aeruginosa​. Said to be quite rare but very dangerous, “people who have had the same infection have lost their eyesight,” the specialist told Stuff.

Now, after being discharged two weeks ago after having special eye drops and antibiotics administered hourly, Briggs is recovering at home and apparently didn’t suffer any permanent damage.

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