Warning: Some readers may find these images disturbing
An Ottawa woman who is living with the effects of a botched eye tattoo says she doesn’t regret speaking out about her ordeal despite the backlash she’s received on social media.
Since getting a “scleral tattoo” earlier this month to dye the whites of her eyes purple, Catt Gallinger has been posting pictures and videos showing how badly the procedure went.
The 24-year-old tattoo and body modification model now says allowing herself to be convinced to get the tattoo done was a “massive mistake” – one she wants no one else to make.
“I want to warn others not to do this. And if they absolutely insist on it, I want them to do their research. But my recommendation is just don’t do it,” she told CTVNews.ca from Ottawa Friday.
In a “scleral tattoo,” a small amount of ink is injected into the membrane around the eye, called the conjunctiva, to stain the whites of the eyes. But Gallinger says the tattoo artist who did her procedure didn’t know what he was doing, used too much ink, and the wrong-sized needle.
With eye tattoos a growing trend among the body modification community, Gallinger said she wanted to warn others that the procedure could result in vision loss or even the loss of an eye.
Gallinger has written several Facebook posts about her experience and while some have thanked her for raising awareness about the risks, plenty of others have lashed out at her.
“I’ve had people tell me I deserve to die, that I deserve to be blind. Some have told me they hope I never reproduce,” she said. “People have been very harsh. There are a lot of keyboard warriors out there.”
While at first the backlash hurt, Gallinger has now decided to rise above it.
“Most of the backlash is from people who don’t understand why I chose to go public with this. And they are people who don’t accept difference. To me, I just think that’s a very sad way to live your life,” she said.
Gallinger takes responsibility for making the wrong choice, but the tattoo artist needs to share the blame too, she says.
“I have openly admitted it was mistake to give into the pressure to get it done. But it’s not my mistake that it went this badly. And if people refuse to see that, that’s their problem,” she said.
The tattoo has left Gallinger with intense swelling on her eyeball, requiring her to take steroids and antibiotics to try to help the eye heal.
While Gallinger has been told it’s a good sign she still has her vision at all, that vision remains blurry and she expects she will need glasses at some point.
She has seen several doctors, an ophthalmologist and a corneal specialist and may have to undergo surgery, but she is trying to stay hopeful that her eye will not get any worse.
Ottawa-based ophthalmologist Dr. Setareh Ziai says Gallinger could have gone blind from the tattoo, as several others have.
“She got lucky… It could have been a lot worse,” Dr. Ziai said.
As for why the tattoo caused such a large amount of swelling in Gallinger’s eye, Dr. Ziai says it is difficult to say but she thinks it “speaks to the lack of experience of the person who did this.”
With so few published papers about others who’ve had this procedure, it’s also difficult to speculate on Gallinger’s prognosis and how her eye might look after it has fully healed.
“It’s completely unpredictable what you will end up looking like when you let someone with no medical training inject something into your eye,” Dr. Ziai said.
She wants to remind others thinking about getting this procedure that it‘s completely permanent -- unlike a tattoo, which can at least fade with laser treatment.
“This is a 10-minute procedure that you will never be able to change your mind about,” she said. “There’s no way to take this away. There are no procedures to remove it. She will have a purple right eye for the rest of her life.”
As for Gallinger, she’s received many messages of support from all around the world, including from some who have told her they were once considering eye tattoos but have decided not to risk it after seeing her experience.
“I want to keep promoting awareness about this,” she said.
If people don’t talk about his and make it public, people are still going to take the chance. And I would hate to see others lose their vision or lose an eye or go through the process I’m going through.”