A trip to a Didcot opticians resulted in the diagnosis of a brain tumour for eight-year-old local boy, Winston French.

The youngster had been experiencing headaches and vomiting for a number of weeks so his mum, Felicity French, took him to see a local GP who then suggested making an appointment at an opticians.

First eye test 

Having been a Specsavers customer for a number of years, Mrs French made an appointment at the store in Didcot. In what was his first eye test, Winston was seen by store director and optometrist Rukhsana Bi. 

‘When I examined the back of Winston’s eye I could see that an important feature at the back of the eye, the optic nerve head, was swollen,’ said Rukhsana. ‘This, coupled with his symptoms, meant I was sure it needed further investigation. Without panicking Mrs French, I explained that he needed to go to hospital.’

Winston was seen in the critical assessment unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital where he had some further tests, including MRI and CT scans. These confirmed that he had a golf ball sized tumour behind his eye and between the two hemispheres of the brain which would require an operation to remove it. 

Successful treatment 

‘After the surgery, which removed 95% of the tumour, Winston was in hospital for eight days,’ said Mrs French. ‘He then had to have courses of radio and chemotherapy to make sure all of the tumour had gone. The radiotherapy was every day for six weeks followed by eight rounds of chemo in six-week cycles, which equated to approximating a year and a half of treatments in total. He was absolutely brilliant throughout, never complaining and just getting on with it.’

Thankfully the treatment was a success and Winston, now nine-years-old, has been given the all clear and is back at school. 

‘I’m so grateful to Specsavers for picking up the problem,’ continued Mrs French. ‘I’d always just thought eye tests were about how well you can see, I didn’t realise they could do so much more than that. Rukhsana was brilliant, as although I could tell something wasn’t right, she was really calm and reassuring.’

Importance of eye tests

‘It’s great to hear that Winston has made a full recovery,’ commented Rukhsana. ‘I’m just pleased that we were able to help in confirming his diagnosis so that he could get the right treatment. We recommend children should have a sight test from the age of three and then every two years afterwards. If you notice any changes in your vision though, you could make an appointment immediately.’ 

Research published by Specsavers and charity the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), shows one in five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime despite at least half of all cases being avoidable. The statistics also show that 300 people in the UK start living with sight loss every day.

The optometrists at Specsavers in Didcot have accreditations in minor eye conditions (MECs) and a certificate in glaucoma. It means the store can offer eye health services to help manage a number of eye conditions allowing more people to be treated in-store rather than having to go to their GP or hospital. Anyone experiencing symptoms such as pain, redness or flashes of light in their vision can access these services. 

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