Sunday 16 June 2019

‘I was rushed from my Specsavers appointment straight to hospital’: Irish woman on the optician who spotted tumour and saved her life

Claire Shorten lost her sight when she was 20
Claire Shorten lost her sight when she was 20

Patricia Murphy

An Irish woman who was left blind after undergoing emergency surgery on a brain tumour has said seeing the faces of her loved ones is what she misses the most.

Claire Shorten (25) from Ballinteer in Dublin began to experience migraines in 2011 which her GP believed to be tension headaches, however the student’s optician became extremely concerned for her welfare during an appointment that summer.

Speaking on The Ryan Tubridy Show on Radio One Claire said: “I remember getting a migraine and I had never got migraines before or any headaches. I was quite shocked when I got it. I didn’t think much of it, I just let it slide. A few months later, I got another one. It was an absolute killer and I knew it was weird. I went to my local GP and she just assumed it was a tension headache from studying in college.

“It came to the tenth or eleventh of June. I noticed that my eyes just went a teensy bit blurry one morning when I woke up. I was smothered with a cold but I just thought it might be that.

“A week later my eyesight still wasn’t a hundred percent. I decided to go over to Specsavers thinking it’s me just not wearing my glasses,” she said.

During the appointment, the optician became concerned about Claire’s inability to see a bright light and advised her to seek immediate medical attention.

“I could see the ABCs fine, but when it came to the white light, I couldn’t see it at all. Now the optician was getting quite worried that I wasn’t seeing this white light. She asked if someone could come collect me and bring me to the hospital. Obviously straight away, I broke down. I knew that if I had to go to the hospital it was quite serious,” she said.

In St Vincent’s Hospital Claire underwent a MRI scan which revealed a growth in her brain, which was particularly difficult to cope with as she has lost her mum just three years before. The History and Geography student in Maynooth was rushed to Beaumont Hospital, where emergency surgery was scheduled for the next day.

Claire pictured with Ryan Tubridy this morning
Claire pictured with Ryan Tubridy this morning

“Me and my family had only lost our Mammy a few years before in 2008, she had skin cancer which was extremely rare and random. She died at 49 years of age.

“I was rushed straight to Beaumont it was quite serious.

“The surgeon and the radiologist there met me there and told me it was a large brain tumour but benign, which we were so thankful of, especially because of what happened to Mammy.

“I had to have emergency brain surgery the next day on Sunday the 18th. I don’t think it really hit me how serious it was going to be,” she said.

Although the procedure was a success and the majority of the tumour was removed, Claire’s eyesight was severely impacted and rapidly deteriorated during her recovery.

“They really thought that my eyesight was going to come back no problem. Because the surgery was in the brain, my face and my head were all very swollen.

“My eyesight was deteriorating very slowly. Bit by bit it was getting worse. I went home from hospital a week later and my eyesight just kept on fading. I remember my general nurse from Beaumont called me and I just told her that this is getting really bad. I went into Beaumont they hooked me up on steroids. The surgeon didn’t know what happened, it wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t anyone’s. I’m completely blind in my left eye and I have an bit in my right eye which I’m very grateful for. I can see lights and contrasts of colour,” she said.

The 25-year-old admitted that seeing the faces of her family and friends is the thing she misses the most since the surgery.

“I had times where I did break out and cry or got really annoyed that I couldn’t just do something myself. It would be about ten minutes before I told myself to cop on.

“I miss seeing people’s faces. Even though I can still imagine people... my baby nephews and nieces. It’s hard to be unable to do certain things with them. I’m restricted.

“I used to miss driving but you have to just get up and go. I miss going impulse shopping. Now I have to rely on people on what they think suits me,” she said.

Claire spoke emotionally about her boyfriend of four years, Dave, who she said never treated her any differently from the day they got together.

"Me and David were together when we were kids when we were 14 or something. I was completely in love with him. As we got older it kind of faded away.

"The first year after losing my eyesight I had to understand that everyone else needed to understand as well. Nobody knew how to adjust to the new reality of me being blind. I met Dave at a 21st and not once did he treat me any different. He just treated me like a person and we’ve been together ever since, four and a half years,” she said.

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