The latest update on Andreas Lubitz reveals the Germanwings co-pilot was suffering from retinal detachment, an eye condition in which the eye’s retina separates from surrounding tissue, impairing a person's vision and possibly leading to permanent vision loss if not treated quickly. While investigators remain unsure of the cause of Lubitz’s detached retina — Reuters reports the cause could by either physical or psychological — it’s believed that this eye diagnosis could be connected to Lubitz’s other medical issues, including depression and severe stress.
The revelation about Lubitz’s vision problems could shed more light on investigators’ discovery of anti-depressants at Lubitz’s house, as well as evidence of treatment from neurologists and psychiatrists and a sick note for the day he flew the plane that had been torn up. Reuters reports German newspaper Welt am Sonntag said that police also found personal notes revealing Lubitz suffered from “severe subjective overstress symptoms.”
So, how would a detached retina fit into the story? Well, while retinal detachment can occur organically, it can also be caused by psychosomatic illness, which is when psychological issues bear physical consequences, and some believe Lubitz was suffering from it. The possibility exists that Lubitz’s detached retina could be, at least in part, spurred by his extreme levels of stress. The detached retina reportedly further compounded Lubitz’s stress, as impaired vision could have cost him his job as a pilot.
Aside from these physical and psychological issues, investigators are also reporting the Lubitz might have been suffering emotionally as well. Investigators are looking into claims from an ex-girlfriend who said she noticed signs of instability, and told a German newspaper that he once told her he would “do something” so that “everyone will know my name.” She also said that Lubitz frequently had nightmares from which he would wake up screaming: "We are crashing."
But while some noticed signs that something seemed off with Lubitz, most say they didn’t notice anything amiss with Lubitz or his demeanor. In fact, The New York Times notes that "normal" is the adjective that seems to come up repeatedly when people are asked to describe Lubitz. Lubitz did not inform his employer about his vision problems, and he seems to have left most others in the dark about whatever other issues he might have been working through.
As the investigation into exactly what happened on that tragic Germanwings flight continues, Lubitz's eye injury might very well serve as a window into whatever else might have been going on.
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