WHEN teenager Sam Storey was unable to shake off terrible headaches and blurred vision he went to have his eyes tested – and it proved to be the best decision of his young life.
Optician Pauline Wellstead – who did the eyesight check at the Specsavers shop in Hexham, Northumberland – spotted an abnormality at the back of Sam’s eyes, and realised there could be a serious problem.
She told him to go straight to the eye casualty unit at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, where a CT scan confirmed her initial fear, that Sam had a brain tumour.
He needed immediate surgery and, following an operation to remove the tumour, was unable to speak for several months and lost all movement in the right side of his body.
He underwent seven weeks of radiotherapy treatment, had physiotherapy to enable him to regain his movement and took several months to get his speech back again.
Now Sam, 19, has made a remarkable recovery, and recently ran the Great North Run to raise funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
He is convinced that the eye test he had saved his life.
Sam was able to say a personal “thank you” to Pauline, director and head optician at the Specsavers store in Fore Street, when he returned recently for a follow-up eye examination.
Sam, who lives with his parents Elaine and John in Tynedale Terrace, Hexham, is working as a lifeguard at the town’s Wentworth Leisure Centre.
Yesterday he said: “Going to the opticians saved my life, because if I hadn’t had the eyesight test, who knows what would have happened?
Sam said: “I had been suffering with these excruciating headaches and had double vision for some time and just wanted an answer.
“After my visit to Specsavers everything just happened so fast. Pauline told me that she had spotted an abnormality behind my eyes and she felt I should get straight to the hospital.
“I was told at 11pm that night I had a brain tumour. I remained positive throughout my treatment. I lost my speech for six months and had to learn to walk again. When I look back at it now it feels like it was another person.
“I still have memory problems and am going back to hospital every six months for a scan and every three months for a check-up. I am feeling really good and love my job at the leisure centre.
“I would like to thank everyone at Specsavers, especially Pauline, for ensuring that I got things checked out further. Thanks to them I was able to get an earlier diagnosis. I’m also very grateful to my surgeon and doctors.
“I would encourage everyone to go for regular eye tests. It’s amazing what they can pick up.”
Pauline said: “When Sam came in to see me his symptoms were ominous, and when I looked at the back of his eyes I saw the optic nerve was swollen, which is an indicator of a brain problem.
“I advised that he went to the RVI immediately. I later heard he had an operation but it was only when he came back to the shop recently for a follow-up eye test that I got the full story.
“We are all really pleased that his outcome has been so fantastic. Hopefully it is onwards and upwards for him now.”