Vancouver, September 22, 2008 – While North Vancouver mom Gillian Parrott can’t answer questions about what caused her 10-year-old daughter Julia’s brain tumour, she can answer the question most often asked of her by other parents: how was it detected?
“By an optometrist,” says Parrott. “He saved Julia’s life.”
For the past three years, Parrott has been telling that story to most parents she meets, focusing on the value of regular, comprehensive eye exams by an optometrist.
“It’s unbelievable. There are so many health issues that can be detected just by having your eyes checked.”
In fact, the B.C. Association of Optometrists confirms that comprehensive eye exams may be able to detect signs of systemic health conditions such as brain tumours before other more obvious symptoms, like nausea, appear.
Julia is still not in the clear, but the prognosis is hopeful. Parrott still shudders at the thought of what could have happened if her B.C. optometrist hadn’t detected the eye health signs that led to her immediate diagnosis and treatment.
One day, Julia suddenly started throwing up and complaining about “seeing copies” of things. In addition to the double vision, she had headaches. She also placed one hand over her left eye and cocked her head to one side to see things. Parrott says she had her daughter in and out of her GP’s office several times and was in the process of getting blood work done when Julia experienced a particularly bad episode. One Friday afternoon after school, Julia’s friend came running to Parrott, telling her that Julia had thrown up all over herself. Parrott found her standing in her soiled dress, staring blankly.
“I thought ‘forget the blood work’ and took her straight to emergency,” says Parrott. But emergency couldn’t find anything, and before they would do a CT scan, they recommended Julia have her eyes examined because, along with a suspected case of the flu, Julia seemed to have a lazy eye.
Parrott found a West Vancouver optometrist who could take her first thing the next day – a Saturday. Julia continued to throw up on the way to the eye doctor and at the optometry office. When the optometrist examined Julia, he detected abnormal pupil reaction and tracking, increased fluid pressure in her eyes, and swelling of the optic nerve – the combination of which often indicates the presence of a brain tumour. He sent Parrott to the emergency of St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, with a referral for an immediate neurological examination.
Julia was transferred to B.C. Women and Children’s hospital where she had a CT scan that confirmed the worst – she had a fast-growing brain tumour. Doctors performed emergency surgery within 24 hours and said that if Julia hadn’t had the surgery, she wouldn’t be alive today.
“It was the most horrifying day of our lives,” says Parrott.
Unfortunately, the tumour was cancerous and Julia required chemotherapy treatment for several months. And just nine months after the end of the chemotherapy, the tumour returned. But because Julia was being monitored closely, the reoccurrence was detected early and Julia was able to undergo radiation. Parrott says the outlook is good, although there’s a chance her daughter will need growth hormones as a result of the radiation.
Parrott says all that is left now is to pray. And, of course, to keep sharing her story so that other parents will take their children for regular eye exams.
Optometrists specialize in examining, diagnosing, treating, managing and preventing diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and related structures. It’s important children have a complete eye exam by six months, at three years, before entering school and regularly thereafter. Adults 19 to 64 should have an eye exam every two years. People with diabetes or age 65 or older should have an exam at least once a year.
For more information on eye health, or to locate an optometrist near you, visit www.whatcouldbemoreimportant.com.
For more information contact:
Mahafrine Petigara, media relations, 604.623.3007