A mother is urging parents to get their children’s eyes tested after an optician saved her 13-year-old daughter’s life.
Catherine Scott reports.
When 13-year-old Becky Crossthwaite started complaining of headaches her mum thought she needed stronger glasses,
But what her optician found saved her life. Now Becky’s mum Kirsty and optometrist Kiran Lally are urging more parents to get their children’s eyes checked.
“I can’t believe that it isn’t the law that children have to have their eyes tested,” says Kirsty.
“It isn’t just about whether they can see it can pick up things that can save their life, like it did with Becky.”
When optometrist and owner of Hunslet Carr Vision Centre, Kiran Lally examined Becky’s eyes she was surprised by what she saw.
“I had only examined Becky four months earlier and her eyes were fine. But this time there was a lot of swelling of the optic nerve at the back of Becky’s eye called papilledema. I had examined Becky’s eyes just a few months earlier and there was nothing,” explains Ms Lally.
“It is caused by a build up of fluid around the brain and is extremely rare. An optician will probably only see one patient in their entire career with the condition.”
She knew that the likely cause of the papilledema was a brain tumour although she was unable to tell Kirsty and Becky of her suspicions as it needed to be confirmed by doctors after scans in hospital.
“My main thought was not to panic or distress Becky and Kirsty but I knew it was imperative that they get Becky to hospital straight away as it is normally caused by a something in the brain.”
Eight year old Vincent Barker from Ipswich died after an optometrist missed signs of fatal build up of pressure on his brain. In July the optometrist Honey Rose was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter after she failed to diagnose the little boy had papilledema.
Just a few days later Becky walked into Ms Lally’s surgery with similar symptoms.
“We had never heard of papilledema,” says Kirsty. “Becky has worn glasses since primary school and when she started complaining of headaches I took her to the doctor who said it was a migraine and gave her paracetemol.
“When they continued I decided to take her to Kiran who is Becky’s optician as I thought she might need a new prescription.
“Then suddenly Kiran said we needed to go to hospital. She was so calm. I was trying to stay calm too for Becky but it was hard. Then we were in hospital and were being told that Becky needed an operation to drain the fluid from her brain.
“The doctors told us that if Kiran hadn’t spotted the signs of the fluid when she did then Becky would have died, it was that bad.
“We can’t thank her enough for saving Becky’s life.”
Becky under went a number of MRI scans which showed the extent of the fluid round her brain which was putting pressure on her optic nerve which is what Ms Lally had seen.
It also revealed that Becky had a brain tumour the size of a golf ball at the back of her brain.
She under went a three hour operation to drain the fluid from her brain at Leeds General Infirmary while her anxious parents Kirsty and dad David Kostrzewa, hope for the best.
“They had to drill into my skull,” recalls Becky a pupil at Mount St Mary’s High School, Leeds. “I was very scared as I didn’t know what was going on and I have never had an operation before. I had lots of questions but my main one was was it going to hurt?”
Surgeons also took a biopsy of the tumour on Becky’s brain. They are still waiting the results of tests to see whether the tumour was benign or cancerous.
“They are monitoring me and if the tumour starts to grown or the fluid returns they will operate again,” says Becky who says she has really been helped by the support of her best friend and her grandma, Betsy.
“It is difficult sometimes to think what might have happened to Becky if it hadn’t been for Kiran,” says Kirsty.
“When she started back at school I couldn’t help but think that she might not have been here to enjoy all the things that teenagers enjoy. I just don’t understand why parents wouldn’t get their eyes checked. It is free and could save their life.”
Ms Lally says it isn’t just life-threatening illnesses that can be detected.
“If a child has something like a lazy eye and we diagnose it early enough we can do something about it, but I get them coming in ant 15 and 16 and they have never had an eye test and by then it is too late.
“But I also get children coming in at ten and they can’t even see the white board. That is bound to have an affect on their learning.”
Charity, The Eye Care Trust estimates that one in five children has an undetected problem with their vision.
According to national screening guidelines, all school children aged four and five should be offered a vision test. However, a report by the College of Optometrists found that less than a third of local authorities are providing them.
But manager of Hunslet Carr Vision Centre Rona Craig,said the screening wasn’t sufficient.
“While it is important that children get their vision tested, they need to have their eye health checked regularly,” she says.
“There needs to be greater awareness through schools or GPs to inform parents that eye tests are free and are vital. If your child needs classes then the NHS provides a voucher towards the costs so it is hard to understand why they don’t bring them to get them checked out.”
As for Becky there are limits on what she can do and she has to avoid contact sports and anything that might knock her head. But she tries to get on with her life as a normal teenager, mad on the boy band Five Seconds of Summer,and doesn’t dwell on the tumour in her brain.
FACT FILE One in five children coud be suffering from an undetected problem swith their vision, according to the charity The Eye Care Trust.
All children should bo offered screening at school aged four and five
Eye tests are free to all children under the age of 16
Children don’t have to be able to read to have an eye test.
If problems such as a lazy are are detected before a child is seven than they can normally be corrected with the right treatment.
For more information visit http://lookafteryoureyes.org/eye-care/children/
Next week is National Eye Health Week www.visionmatters.org.uk