AN ULVERSTON mum has revealed how a pioneering eye test triggered a race against time to save her teenage daughter’s life.
Rachel Buckley said her ‘gut instinct’ kicked in when 14-year-old Amber began to show signs of a potentially fatal brain condition.
Mrs Buckley was warned by family optician Tracey York-Andrews that Amber was showing early signs of hydrocephalus, more commonly known as ‘water on the brain’.
The diagnosis was revealed by a state-of-the-art eye test known as the Optomap, which Ms York-Andrews is pioneering in Cumbria.
It detected increased pressure on Amber’s optic nerves and she was referred for hospital tests – but even before anything could be done she began to feel ‘weird sensations’ in her head.
Mrs Buckley, 47, said: “I had a gut feeling that something was not right and asked for Amber to have an MRI scan on January 31. I got a phone call on February 5 explaining that scan showed Amber had hydrocephalus. My heart sank.”
Within a day of the diagnosis, the Ulverston Vic-toria High School pupil was undergoing emergency surgery at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital.
She said after the diag-nosis was confirmed ‘it all happened so quickly’.
“We saw some neuro-surgeons and they advised they were going to have to operate. They were quite shocked that her condition had been spotted by this eye test.
They said they had never known of it before and if it hadn’t been spotted, over time Amber could have lost her sight or it could have been fatal. I dare not think about it.”
Amber had an endoscopic third ventriculostomy, which involved surgeons entering a ventricle in her brain to drain the fluid.
Amber, who has now made a full recovery, said: “After the surgery, I started to feel sick and had really bad headaches. It sounds really weird and I can’t really explain it but it felt like I had a jellyfish living on my brain.
“I was okay when I was in hospital but when I got home I was quite emotional when it hit me what I had been through.”
Now her mother and her father Greg, 49, are urging all parents to take their children for the £14 Optomap test.
Mrs Buckley said: “If I could, I would tell every parent in the land to take their children for this scan. It saved my daughter’s life. I dread to even think what would have happened if Tracey had not spotted what she did.”
Ms York-Andrews who runs Eye Care Excellence in Market Street, Ulverston, said: “Optomap is awesome at detecting disease because of the immense view displaying 200 degrees of the retina, compared to a normal camera which views only 45 degrees of the retina.
“In Amber’s case I recognised the pathology. Optomap provided a clear image of the papilledema, which is optic disc swelling caused by increased intracranial pressure.”
Hydrocephalus is a medical condition in which there is an abnormal build up of fluid in the ventricles, or cavities, of the brain. This may cause increased pressure inside the skull and progressive enlargement of the head.
“Optomap is a very expensive piece of equipment but I said to Rachel that it was worth every penny if it meant that it has potentially saved Amber’s life,” added Ms York-Andrews.
Robin Barnatt, health development officer at the charity Shine that supports people suffering from hydrocephalus and their families, said: “It could be very valuable to request a retinal examination, such as optomap, during regular eye tests. This exam can sometimes pick up signs of raised pressure inside the brain before other symptoms appear, and could be an early indication of developing hydrocephalus or even a tumour.
“If unaddressed, raised pressure can damage the optic nerve, affecting vision, and hydrocephalus can cause very unpleasant symptoms such as nausea and severe headaches, and can even result in coma and death if it remains untreated. If these signs are picked up at a very early stage, the optician can refer you to a specialist.”