Routine eye test saved Lanark woman’s life

Rubena and Michelle.
Rubena and Michelle.

A seemingly routine visit to her optician’s by a Lanark woman detected a ticking time-bomb in her head which would have killed her in six months.

Happily, Michelle Crawford, 44, is alive and well today and able to talk about the eyesight test that alerted her to a potentially fatal brain tumour in time to have it treated.

Understandably, the mum of two is now full of praise for staff at the Lanark High Street branch of Specsavers who became life-savers when she underwent her examination two years ago, totally unaware of any problem other than slight blurring of the vision in one eye.

The branch’s optometrist and store director, Rubena Kerr, spotted signs of a meningioma grade-one tumour and immediately referred her to Hairmyres Hospital at East Kilbride. The orange-sized tumour was then removed, saving her life.

Her condition was so rare that surgeons and specialists from hospitals across Scotland gathered to watch her surgery and monitor her recovery.

If it had been left undetected, Michelle would have been dead within six months.

She recalled this week: “It took a few months for me to book an appointment at Specsavers as I didn’t think the blurriness in my eye was anything serious.

“I happened to mention to Rubena that the problem was only at the side of my vision in my left eye and that I was also having a problem with things appearing too bright.

“After conducting a visual fields test, Rubena referred me to Hairmyres.”

Said Rubena: “In my over-25-year career as an optician, I have helped to spot a few brain tumours, but I had never before seen a case like Michelle’s. She didn’t have any symptoms often associated with tumours such as headaches or seizures, and there was no sign of any abnormalities in the photo of the back of her eye during any of her eye exams.

“It was so lucky she mentioned that the problem was with the side of her vision as that prompted me to conduct a visual fields test, which isn’t usually performed during a contact lens check.”

Once in the hands of the hospital, Michelle went through a 15-hour operation and months of treatment.

She lost her sight in the affected eye, and her long road to recovery included having to re-learn certain words.

However, she is now alive and well and able to thank Rubena personally for her expertise and actions, commenting: “I owe my life to her quick thinking.”