A mum-of-two from Ramsgate says the diligence of staff at the town’s Specsavers may well have saved her young daughter’s life.
Samantha Emptage, 36, says she wants people to be aware that getting an eye test if you are having headaches and/or sickness as well as sight issues could be just as helpful as visiting a GP.
Daughter Sophie, now eight but seven at the time, began suffering headaches, nausea and vomiting in December last year.
Mum-of-two Samantha says she and husband Darren thought the youngster was getting over-excited about Christmas but then she continued to be unwell and said she couldn’t see properly at school.
Samantha said: “Before Christmas I called to book her in for an eye test and was unable to get an appointment until January 22. We saw the doctor in the meantime but Sophie continued to be unwell.
“Sophie had said she couldn’t see the board at school very well so I thought she might need glasses. At one point she said she had ‘upside down eyes’ which I thought was a strange thing for a child to say but she couldn’t describe what she meant.”
The Ramsgate Arts Primary pupil then had her appointment at Specsavers and it then became clear there was a problem.
Samantha said: “When we attended Specsavers, the room filled with people and they identified she had swelling on both optical nerves and advised they were going to refer us urgently for further checks.
“On Monday, January 24th I was contacted and asked to attend William Harvey Hospital with her on the 26th. We attended and they agreed, after several people looking, that she would require a MRI.
“We were not allowed to leave the hospital. Later that evening two people came in, one to stay with my daughter and the other to take me to a separate room.
“It was explained that my daughter had a craniopharyngioma – a type of benign brain tumour. They spoke with King’s College hospital who wanted my daughter straight away, she had a dangerous hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid in the brain) and needed to have surgery.”
The next day Sophie was blue-lighted to King’s and operated on.
Sam said: “They had to leave a small bit (of the tumour) because it was near blood vessels and vital parts of the brain. Sophie had six weeks and 28 sessions of radiotherapy, using proton beams to kill off what was left.
“She is doing well now although she doesn’t like the blood tests that she has to have on a regular basis. She will have a lifetime of tests and MRIs and we are, at the moment, back and forth to London going to University College Hospital.”
Sophie, who is a member of Stage Door performing arts academy and St Lawrence Brownies, is now recovering.
Samantha said: “She is doing really well, our family has been very supportive and her brother David has been fantastic.
“Without Specsavers it may have been very different. They were fantastic, as were the teams at William Harvey and King’s and all the follow up staff, I can’t praise them enough and just want people to know that even if it is just a headache, go and get checked and make sure there is nothing to worry about.”
In the UK, 16,000 people each year are diagnosed with a brain tumour.