Relieved Wickersley mum: "Eye test saved my daughter's life"

By Michael Upton | 01/07/2019

Relieved Wickersley mum: 'Eye test saved my daughter's life'
Roxanne Knight (second from left) with optometrist Saj Hussain, brother Ayden and mum Irene.

A RELIEVED mum has told how a trip to Specsavers saved her daughter’s life when an optometrist spotted a tumour the size of a golf ball.

Irene Knight (45) took seven-year-old Roxanne to be checked out at Specsavers after she suffered serious headaches for months which GP and hospital staff failed to pinpoint the cause of.

Optometrist Saj Hussain detected the large tumour and Roxanne is back to full fitness after a six-hour operation — and Irene and dad Steve (62) are so grateful. 

Irene, of Green Lane, Wickersley, said: “Maybe it was just some kind of instinct but whatever it was, it was our lucky day when I took Roxy to Specsavers.”

A scan of Roxanne's brain with the large tumour circled

The worried mum repeatedly took her daughter to the GP and A&E over several months.

“It got to the point where the doctor gave us a headache diary to see if there was any obvious cause but there was no pattern,” she said.

“Sometimes she would go to bed with a headache and wake up and it was still there. She could not concentrate at school and was crying all the time.”

Roxanne, a keen swimmer and YouTuber, said: “It felt like someone was punching me in the head. I just wanted something to make it go away.”

Concerned that medication was not solving the problem, Irene followed a hunch at the end of April and booked an appointment at Specsavers’ Rotherham town centre branch.

“I thought maybe they’d say she needed really thick glasses — I certainly didn’t expect what they did tell me,” said Irene.

“We saw an optician called Saj Hussain. He showed me a shot of her eye on the screen and described how there was a mass at the back of the head that was causing a pressure.

“He said they would see something like this once every ten or 15 years and she needed to be referred straight away.

“We went back to Rotherham Hospital and the doctor there said: ‘I don’t want to scare you but it is quite serious’.

A scan revealed a large tumour — the size of a golf ball — surrounded by a thick layer of fluid.

“They explained it had been pushing to the front and causing the headaches,” said Irene, who is also mum to Ayden (9).

“If the pressure had been in a different direction it could have affected her speech, her heart or her spinal cord.

“After we had a diagnosis, it was a weight lifted off because it started to make sense of everything.”

Steve said: “The moment someone uses the word ‘tumour’ you are going to be worried.

“It turned out to be benign but with the pressure building, if it had not been treated it could have been fatal.”

After a few days of steroid treatment to ease the pressure in her head, Roxanne underwent her op at at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Steve said: “Within a couple of days, you could see the difference. She was eating well and up and out of bed.”

The relieved dad praised the care received at the children’s hospital, adding: “But most of all, I have to take my hat off to Irene. 

“If she’d not taken Roxy to Specsavers, who knows what might have happened.”

Roxanne had a phased return to Wickersley Northfield Primary but is now back full-time — and has been showered with cards and teddies by friends.

Optometrist Saj was delighted by Roxanne’s recovery and said her case showed the value of regular eye tests.

He added: “It was evident that Roxanne’s case was extremely serious and the family were right in thinking that something was wrong with her.

“It’s testament to the rigour of our training that it helps us identify issues, and the quality of equipment which let us identify problems in more detail than ever before.

“We’re just delighted that we managed to spot this issue for Roxanne early and that she’s had a happy ending.”

Irene said: “I phoned Specsavers on the Monday after we went to hospital. I said: ‘You have saved my daughter’s life.’ He’s a real hero.”

Dr Patricia DeLacy, the consultant paediatric neurosurgeon, looked after Roxanne at Sheffield Children's Hospital, said: “Roxanne was a great patient and coped very well with all the scans and surgical intervention she needed for her tumour.
“Roxanne had a pilocytic astrocytoma (low grade tumour) in the cerebellum part of the lower brainstem  (hindbrain). 

“She had a build-up of brain fluid (hydrocephalus) due to this tumour causing a blockage of the pathways for cerebrospinal fluid in the brain which was causing severe headaches, especially in the mornings. 

“It’s important to remember brain tumours are rare and can be of all different grades of malignancy. 

“At Sheffield Children’s, we look after children with different types of tumours and each one is individual.

“It's brilliant to see our patients like Roxanne getting back to being well.
“Roxanne fortunately does not need any further treatment as the tumour was fully taken out. 

“As it is low-grade, it is unlikely to recur, although she will have MRI scans of her brain for several years of follow-up.”

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