A mature student from Southport owes her life to an optician who spotted signs of a life-threatening problem during an eye test.

Headaches and worsening eyesight

Churchtown resident Louise Heys visited Specsavers in Southport after experiencing headaches for nearly a year and noticing a slight deterioration in her eyesight.

She initially put the problems down to her age and stress caused by the death of her father and moving house. Louise took painkillers to deal with the headaches but her symptoms got worse and she became depressed.

The headaches became so bad that the pain started waking her up in the night and she started struggling to find the right words when she was speaking.

Her son, Matthew Hey, 24, noticed the change in his mother and when her symptoms became more severe, he suggested that she should seek professional help and advised she visit her local optician.

Louise booked an appointment for an eye test at Specsavers in Southport and was seen by optometrist Philip Wardle, who put her at ease with his professional approach.

She says: ‘The optometrist was so calm and discreet. He did the test and then quietly left the room afterwards, in retrospect he was clearly concerned about what he had found, but all the same he gave me no reason to feel alarmed. He came back and told me that I had swelling around my optic nerve, and that to be on the safe side, he wanted to refer me to the eye unit at Southport and Ormskirk Hospital the next day.’

Philip Wardle, optometrist at Specsavers in Southport says: ‘The eye examination showed that Louise’s optic nerves were very swollen which gave me cause for concern. Unfortunately this is usually an indication of something serious, at worst there is a risk it’s a cancerous tumour. I therefore had to act quickly and calmly so we could get her to the specialist eye unit as soon as possible.’

Philip explained to Louise that the referral to hospital was normal procedure for her symptoms, and made sure she felt calm and at ease when she left.

Huge tumour

At the hospital, Louise was sent for an MRI scan which confirmed her worst fear; she had a huge tumour on the membrane surrounding her brain. Thankfully the tumour was benign, but the doctors advised her that it could severely damage her health if she didn’t have surgery to remove it as soon as possible.

Louise was referred to The Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery and was booked in for an emergency operation to remove the tumour five days later.

Her tumour, known as a benign meningioma, is very rare and its cause is unknown. Louise’s large tumour was removed successfully and after a few weeks of rest she was feeling fit and healthy again. Following recovery from surgery, Louise also noted an end to her painful headaches, a slight improvement in her eyesight and a general sense of feeling more positive and energetic.

She says: ‘The headaches and other symptoms went on for a whole year and were obviously linked to my growing tumour. Thank goodness I had the eye test when I did; it was a horrible experience feeling like that.’ Louise is required to go back to the hospital once every five years for a check-up, and says she will also have her routine eye test every two years.

She says: ‘This whole experience has really taught me how important it is to have eye tests. My health was deteriorating critically and my optometrist referred me to hospital just in the nick of time. I can see why Specsavers in Southport has won awards for customer service; I felt in such good hands when I was there as they were all incredibly professional.’

Eternally grateful

She continues: ‘The optometrist at Specsavers, my son and the brain surgeon at The Walton Centre are the three people that saved me, and to them I am eternally grateful.’

Louise now regularly donates to the Brain Tumour Society and is back to her proactive, bubbly self. She recently set up and is managing a Twitter page for her village and is enjoying learning more about social media.

Louise is also enjoying her Open University studies where she is working towards a degree in humanities.

She says: ‘The whole experience has made me value life and feel grateful for what I have. I was frightened for my life and I am really happy to be feeling like the old me again. I’m glad I can still enjoy time with my son and husband Brian.’

All Southport store information. 

Back to News