The Prime Minister feared he would permanently lose his eyesight when he was admitted to hospital last weekend as he battled pain that felt like blades slashing his eyes.

“It felt as if somebody was shredding my eyeballs – it was so excruciating that for the first time in my life I was crying in pain,” Joseph Muscat told The Sunday Times of Malta.

The incident happened on Sunday when some 60 people who had attended Labour’s weekly event in Żurrieq suffered burns or discomfort to their eyes. Dr Muscat was the worst affected and he was temporarily blinded after suffering radiation burns in both eyes.

I was gripped by this lingering doubt I had gone permanently blind

Sitting back in an armchair in a dimly lit room, with the shutters closed and the curtains drawn, Dr Muscat said he was on the mend but his eyes remained extremely sensitive to light.

A living room in Girgenti became his makeshift office on Friday as he slowly made the transition from home to work. He plans to return to Castille in Valletta tomorrow.

Dr Muscat said that after his 45-minute address to the crowd gathered under the tent he had not felt any pain and he had gone with his family for lunch – it was “a normal Sunday afternoon”.

‘I believe it was unfortunate accident’

Back home he was washing his twin daughters in the evening, when one of them accidentally brushed her hand over his eye.

“It really hurt and I felt a burning sensation, but I thought some soap may have got in my eyes. I rinsed them and decided to go to bed and sleep it off,” he recalled.

But the itching soon woke him up and no amount of eye baths provided any soothing comfort. Soon after he realised that although the light was on he was unable to see a thing.

By 11pm he had called family doctor and Labour MP Deo Debattista, who initially thought it could be an allergy. Dr Muscat blamed the prawns he had eaten earlier, as it was not food he normally consumed. Dr Debattista administered some eye drops and stayed with him to monitor the situation, but the pain became so unbearable around midnight that he was taken to Mater Dei Hospital.

I just doubt anybody will choose to sit behind me now, after what happened

When he was admitted he learnt that 15 other party officials, Cabinet members and supporters were already there complaining of similar ailments and swollen eyes. Police had already started looking into the matter.

A specialist came to speak to Dr Muscat, but nobody was really telling him what was wrong. By then his face and lips had swelled up and he looked as if he had spent too much time in the sun.

“The others who had been admitted were mobile and they could still see – I was the only one unable to see anything. Suddenly I was gripped by this lingering doubt that I had gone permanently blind and nobody wanted to break the news,” Dr Muscat said.

This feeling of dream did not last long because the specialist laughed off the Prime Minister’s enquiries, immediately calming him down. His injuries were compatible with lighting burns caused by exposure to UV radiation, similar to a welder’s burns or snow blindness.

In this case the burns are believed to have been caused by radiation emitted from a light source. Police said they had the full cooperation of the lighting company Nexos Lighting Technology.

Dr Muscat did not wish to comment on the police investigations as the magisterial inquiry was still under way. However, he was still puzzled by what could have caused his temporary blindness as the party had been using the same lighting and set-up for the last two years.

“I personally know the volunteers who have worked on such set-ups and I’ve trusted them for years. I know how dedicated they are and I believe what happened is a very unfortunate accident,” he said.

Dr Muscat, whose fair skin and light blue eyes could have made him more susceptible to radiation burns, joked that the incident had failed to cure him of his colour blindness. The incident has left him anxious that this could happen again, but it will not stop him from addressing the party faithful and today he plans to go ahead with the activity in Attard.

“I just doubt anybody will choose to sit behind me now, after what happened,” he laughed.

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