Asda customer Emma Ward paid a special visit to our Hyde store to say a big thank you to our optician colleagues who spotted a serious brain condition that could have resulted in death or paralysis if it wasn’t diagnosed and treated.
She’d made several visits to the doctors and hospital with terrible head pain and, after three months with no diagnosis, she decided to go for an eye test to rule out needing glasses.
Optometrist Mubeen Ali found her eyesight was fine but did additional tests with colleague Becky Burns and identified severe optic disc swelling caused by a dangerous build-up of pressure in the brain.
Emma had left without getting the test results so they tracked her down at home and said she needed to get straight to hospital, where doctors confirmed the diagnosis and began treatment.
Emma said: “What they did was amazing – they very likely saved my life. I would encourage anyone suffering from vision problems or headaches to visit their optician.”
She posted a thank you message on Facebook and when she felt better she visited the Hyde store with a card, chocolates and a bunch of flowers to say thank you personally.
Mubeen, who’s been an optometrist at our Hyde store for seven years, said she was concerned about Emma’s condition as soon as she saw her.
She said: “Her demeanour and movements were an instant give-away so, combined with her symptoms, I knew going into the appointment that something was not right.”
After the normal eye test found nothing wrong with Emma’s vision, Mubeen requested further tests and used eye drops to give a better field of view in the examination, highlighting more detail of the optic nerve.
“The retinal photography pictures showed swelling at the optic nerve,” Mubeen said. “Emma had Grade 4 Papilledema, the worst of its kind. It can cause increased pressure on the brain, which can lead to brain damage if left untreated and, in the most devastating of cases, loss of life.
“I immediately wanted to discuss the results with Emma but she was so upset after being put through so much over the last few months she had left the department before I had a chance to.”
Emma said: “I wasn't the most patient or pleasant of customers that day as my condition was worsening and I was fed up of being passed from pillar to post with my symptoms.
“So after being told I had 20/20 vision and to sit in the waiting room for more tests, I had had enough, and left to pick my children up from school.
“In the 30 minutes it took me to drive to school to collect my children and take them home I had eight missed calls from the opticians.”
Mubeen and Becky were deeply concerned they couldn’t get hold of Emma and were about to drive to her home when she called back.
They told her she needed to get straight to hospital – and gave her a letter for the doctors which set in motion various tests and a CT scan that revealed a fluid build-up on the brain caused by Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension.
Doctors drained fluid from her brain to reduce the pressure and the pain, and Emma is now on medication. She'll be having further surgery in the next few weeks.
Emma said: “I cannot thank Mubeen and the optical team enough for effectively saving my life. As soon as I was well enough I made it a priority to go back to the store with flowers, chocolates and a card to thank them for everything.
“The last three months have been so frustrating, being passed from pillar to post without a diagnosis; I was made to feel like I was overreacting.
“I still can’t believe a simple eye test set into motion my diagnosis and recovery but I’m so grateful that Mubeen took my symptoms seriously, and made the extra effort to find an underlying cause – I cannot fault the exceptional service and care I received.”
Emma's story has already convinced others to get their eyes checked.
Mubeen said: "I’ve already seen two patients who know Emma and said they've come in because of hearing of her experience, which is great to hear.
"Lots of people don't realise just how important it is to have a regular eye test so I hope Emma's story will inspire more people to plan a visit to their optician. We can pick up things about your body from an eye test – for example problems with your heart, your lungs and diabetes – so it's not something to underestimate."
Superintendendent Optometrist Claire Slade explains why regular eye checks are vital for your overall health as well as your vision here.