Cancer diagnosis delays cost toddler her eye sight believes Hexham mum

19-month-old Dominique Dowson from Hexham had to undergo an operation to remove her eye after she developed cancer

Dominique Dowson, 19 months, with mum Leanne Dodd
Dominique Dowson, 19 months, with mum Leanne Dodd

A mother has spoken of her devastation after claiming delays in diagnosing a rare eye condition cost her daughter the sight in one of her eyes.

Lauren Dodd claims medics at Hexham’s Burn Brae Medical Group repeatedly said her 19-month-old daughter, Dominique, was suffering from an allergic reaction.

Instead of life-saving treatment, she says she was prescribed antihistamine drugs and claimed she was treated like “an over-protective parent”.

She claims she made more than 50 visits to the practice over a 12-month period before Dominique was referred to a paediatric eye specialist who instantly recognised she was suffering from retinoblastoma, a rare type of eye cancer.

By that time the cancer had spread and she had to undergo a three-hour operation to remove her left eye to stop cancerous cells travelling down the optic nerve and attacking her brain.

A spokeswoman for Burn Brae Medical Group last night said it was sorry to hear about Lauren and Dominique’s experience but declined to comment for patient confidentiality reasons.

Lauren, a full-time mother who lives on Valley View, Hexham, last night paid tribute to her daughter’s bravery and spoke of her devastating journey.

She said: “I’m angry - if they had referred her sooner my daughter would not have been in that situation.

“If they had spotted it she could still have had her eye - maybe not her full sight, but she might still have her eye. It’s heartbreaking.”

Lauren, who has not yet lodged an official complaint, first became aware of her daughter’s condition when the youngster was just eight weeks old and suffered bloodshot eyes and swelling.

She claims in one week she attended the Hexham practice five times but nothing was done.

It was only 12 months later, on November 2 last year, that she was transferred to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, where she had an ultrasound scan and was diagnosed with cancer of the eye.

Medics discovered the cancer had travelled more than four inches down her optic nerve and surgeons were forced to remove her eye in a life-saving procedure.

Specialists also began an urgent course of treatment to stop the cancer spreading to her right eye.

Over the past six months Dominique has undergone six rounds of chemotherapy and seven appointments for laser eye surgery to burn away the cancerous cells.

She now has a false eye and is facing months of follow-up treatment on Tyneside and with specialists at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where she goes every three weeks.

Lauren said: “She was about eight weeks old and I was backwards and forwards to the health clinic and they were saying her eye muscles hadn’t strengthened properly.

“It just got worse and worse and it started swelling up and was bloodshot. There was clearly more pressure in the left eye than the other and the doctors were claiming it was an allergic reaction.”

She added: “Dominique has been incredible. She’s so brave despite everything. We nearly lost her in December when she had pneumonia but she’s been so strong.

“She’s been poorly since the day she was born but she’s always been happy. She always seems to fight through and that’s just Dominique. We are so proud of her I couldn’t put it into words.”

A spokeswoman for Burn Brae Medical Group said: “We’re sorry to hear about the experience that Lauren Dodd and her daughter have gone through but we are unable to comment due to patient confidentiality.”

Since her diagnosis, Dominique’s family have tirelessly tried to raise awareness of retinoblastoma, a cancer which attacks the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye.

And they have also started a fundraising drive for the RVI’s Ward 4, where Dominique received treatment. Lauren said: “The nurses were incredible - they are a fantastic charity and do incredible work.”

To follow Dominique’s progress log on to a special Facebook page named Dominique’s Dream.

CHARITY MISSION

Dominique Dodd’s loved ones are embarking on a mission to raise awareness of retinoblastoma.

The rare condition is a cancer of the retina, which is the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye.

Retinoblastoma causes the cells of the retina to grow rapidly and out of control. In about 40% of cases, retinoblastoma is caused by a faulty gene, which can affect both eyes. This may be inherited from the child’s parents or may develop randomly when the child is growing in the womb.

In the remaining 60% of cases, there is no faulty gene and only one eye is affected.

To check for retinoblastoma, an eye specialist will examine the child’s eyes by shining a light into them using special equipment.

A classic sign of retinoblastoma is when a child’s pupil reflects white, sometimes seen in photos taken using a flash.

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