A South Yorkshire schoolgirl has had her life saved thanks to the sharp eye of an optometrist who identified a problem during a routine eye test, leading to a diagnosis of a brain tumour.
Niamh Kane was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a fluid build up on the brain caused by a benign brain tumour.
In March last year, Niamh’s parents took their then 13-year-old daughter to Vision Express Meadowhall following concerns that the teenager’s frequent headaches were due to a need for glasses.
Niamh’s dad, Iain, 45 said: “Niamh had started to suffer from headaches and migraines and although there is a family history of these, we thought we’d get her checked out in case it was related to a sight problem.
“We’ve always taken Niamh and her younger brother Joshua for regular checks. I’ve worn glasses since I was 15 and know how important it is to look after your eye health.”
During the test, the concerned parents mentioned the recurring headaches to the Vision Express optometrist.
“The optometrist considered Niamh’s complaints and completed a thorough eye test, which showed a slight abnormality around the optic nerve,” Mr Kane said.
Although Niamh was not experiencing any other obvious symptoms to indicate a serious condition, Vision Express made a referral for the youngster to be seen by a specialist.
A fortnight later, Niamh’s mother took her daughter to Sheffield Children’s Hospital expecting no problems, however tests showed Niamh had hydrocephalus - a build-up of fluid on the brain which causes pressure. The potentially fatal condition was due to a benign brain tumour and needed urgent treatment.
Mr Kane, who is Director of Finance and Operations at Sheffield High School for Girls, where Niamh is a pupil, said: “The doctors said it was a fantastic spot by the optometrist and mentioning the headaches had helped.
“Niamh had two options for emergency surgery and made the brave decision to have the bigger operation which would mean she wouldn’t need any future procedures.
"She asked me ‘am I going to die?’ If the tumour hadn’t have been caught, it would have been life-limiting and we are all very grateful to Vision Express for their help with the diagnosis.”
The next morning Niamh had surgery to relieve the pressure on her brain.
Mr Kane added: “It was only a 15-minute procedure but we were waiting tensely for almost two hours.
"Within two hours of the operation, Niamh was sat up having a bacon sandwich and we were able to take her home the following evening.
“Niamh’s progress has been amazing - she returned to school three weeks later. One month after the surgery, tests showed she had 20/20 vision and she no longer suffers from intense headaches and migraines.”
Niamh’s parents have also noticed an improvement in their daughter’s performance at school since the surgery and the 14-year-old is now hoping to pursue a career in medicine or healthcare.
Describing the experience as ‘life-changing for the whole family’, Mr Kane expressed the family's gratitude to Vision Express.
He said: “The tumour is still there, but it’s benign and won’t change. Niamh will continue to be seen for regular check-ups and MRI scans, but 12 months on, she’s a normal teenage girl.
"You would never know what she’s been through."