Local optometrist helps save care worker's life thanks to eye test

Date published: 27 June 2022

An optometrist who works at Specsavers in Middleton and Heaton Park has helped save the life of a support carer after spotting worrying signs during an eye test. 

Ellie Musgrove, 21, a support carer for vulnerable adults with special needs, is now on the road to recovery after undergoing emergency surgery at Salford Royal Hospital to release a build-up of fluid around her brain caused by a benign brain tumour.

Ellie’s symptoms started just after her 21st birthday in January, when she was experiencing severe headaches along with neck pain. 

“I also had blurred and double vision, black spots and started to hear pulsating whooshing heartbeat sounds,” the Crumpsall resident said. “My headaches and neck pains seemed to be worse in the mornings and evenings but were still in the background throughout the day. 

“My GP suspected I had an ear infection and prescribed antibiotics and Ibuprofen, but my symptoms didn’t improve. I decided to make an appointment to see my opticians, Specsavers Heaton Park in Sainsbury’s on Heaton Park Road.”

Aqeel Mahmood, optometrist at both the Heaton Park and Middleton Shopping Centre branches, explained: “At the time, Ellie made an appointment when she couldn’t get to the bottom of her severe head and neck aches and impaired vision.

“I noted swelling of the optic nerves in both eyes and this, in conjunction with Ellie’s symptoms, indicated that something was seriously wrong. Urgent medical intervention was required, so I immediately referred Ellie to Manchester Royal Eye Hospital.”


Ellie Musgrove and Aqeel Mahmood
Ellie Musgrove and Aqeel Mahmood


After numerous scans and tests that day, Ellie was transferred by ambulance to the neurology department at Salford Royal Hospital. She was diagnosed with hydrocephalus – a build-up of fluid deep within the brain – caused by a brain tumour and required emergency surgery to drain the fluid.

“I went from having my eyes tested at 11am to having emergency brain surgery by 11:30pm on the same day. An MRI scan the following day confirmed I had a benign brain tumour between the pineal and pituitary glands, which was blocking the fluid flow around my brain. 

“I was also diagnosed with Addison’s disease. The tumour is affecting my pituitary gland, which is a devastating blow as I will have to take hydrocortisone steroids for the rest of my life.

“I am slowly but surely recovering and will now have regular MRI scans to keep check on the tumour. The neurosurgeons think it’s a slow growing tumour, that only 1% of people develop, so hopefully I won’t need surgery to remove it anytime soon. I may well need further surgery if the fluid builds up again, but at least I know what the symptoms are now. 

“My life has been turned upside down, but I, along with my family will be forever grateful to Aqeel and the Specsavers team. If it weren’t for them, I would not be here today, they saved my life.

“I would also like to wholeheartedly thank the medical teams at Manchester Royal and Salford Royal hospitals – they looked after me so well and were so caring.”

Mr Mahmood added: “Ellie’s story shows the importance of looking after your eye health and if you have any major worries then do get checked out by an optician. 

“Had Ellie ignored her symptoms and put off seeing an optician, it could have been a very different outcome.”

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