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Mum-of-three's life saved after routine Specsavers eye test reveals "ticking time bomb" brain tumour; EXCLUSIVE: Simona Futter, 28, woke up on the morning of her daughter's fifth birthday to an excruciating headache, partial blindness and waves of intense nausea.

Byline: Liz Dunphy

A mum-of-three's life was saved when a routine eye test at Specsavers revealed a "ticking time bomb" brain tumour.

Simona Futter, 28, woke up on the morning of her daughter's fifth birthday to an excruciating headache, partial blindness and waves of intense nausea.

Simona told "I thought I had had a stroke in my sleep. Half my vision was gone, I couldn't keep anything down, my headache was so, so bad and light was very annoying.

"The doctor thought I had an inner ear infection, put me on antibiotics and sent me home. But the symptoms persisted.

"One day I was driving home and suddenly felt so ill that I had to pull the top I was wearing out in front of me to throw up in it in the car. My clothes were wet through by the time I got home.

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"I went for neurological tests at the hospital where they put me on a drip because I was so dehydrated from being ill, but they did not do a MRI and thought it was an inner ear infection there too.

"The symptoms persisted for about four or five weeks so I thought I'd get my eyes tested."

In April 2016, Simona's eye test at Specsavers probably saved her life.

Optometrist, Hardeep Bahra spotted swelling of the optic disc, a condition known as papilledema, when she looked at Simona's eyes using a binocular microscope.

Papilledema indicates raised pressure inside the skull, which could be caused by deadly conditions like a brain tumour or bleeding.

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Simona, from Bracknell, was urgently referred to King Edwards Hospital in Windsor where a MRI scan confirmed papilledema.

A second MRI detected a non-cancerous lump on her brain and a bleed during a follow-up consultation with her neurologist.

Pressure on her brain was relieved with lumbar punctures but her tumour was not considered life-threatening so medics chose not to remove it.

Simona said: "They found a lump in my head but it was so deep inside that operating on it could cause memory loss, or change my personality or affect my speech. So they decided not to operate.

"But in December I woke up at about 2am feeling very unwell. I called mum and asked her to take the kids.

"She came and called an ambulance which took me to Frimley Hospital where they said I had a brain bleed.

"I was transferred to Charing Cross Hospital where I was for Christmas.

"Christmas was really sad in hospital. It was my first Christmas as a single mum and my kids were spending it with their dad.

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"I didn't even have time to buy them presents so my friend gave them presents for me.

"I remember going to the bathroom and just crying it was so miserable. I had no glasses or contact lenses so I couldn't see and I was sitting there blind and alone unable to see any other people in this enormous ward at Christmas.

"We had to order our dinner from a menu but I couldn't see so I ordered the wrong thing and didn't even get potatoes."

Simona was discharged but in January 2018, she began to lose vision in her right eye prompting her to visit Specsavers again to see optometrist, Rina Binder.

Rina diagnosed the return of papilledema and Simona was referred back to Charing Cross Hospital.

"It was just after the New Year so the hospital was really busy and I was waiting for nine hours.

"When they saw me they said my vascular tumour kept bleeding so they decided to operate because the risk of having a stroke and the damage that could cause outweighed the risks of surgery.

"The tumour was 4.5cm but they had to wait and monitor me in hospital until the swelling in my head went down enough so they could operate.

"It was like a ticking time bomb in my head. I never knew when it was going to bleed again and I just wanted it out.

"Eight days later they operated. 15 doctors were there, Charring Cross is a training hospital too so some surgeons watched the operation to learn.

"They cut my head open while I was asleep and they got it all out. The operation took eight hours.

"When I woke up I couldn't communicate properly anymore. Everything came out jumbled and backwards. My brain was trying to make connections but it was like the connections were loose.

"I thought I'd be stuck in my body and not be able to tell people what I wanted for the rest of my life.

"After the operation I was on an airbed. But the hose pumping air into it came out and it slowly deflated to nothing. I was so uncomfortable I was nearly in tears but I couldn't explain to the nurses what was wrong.

"It was so frustrating that I developed a nervous twitch.

"I couldn't remember my name or who I was. But I remembered I had three children, and I recognized them and my parents although I couldn't remember their names.

"I couldn't read anymore. I'd just point to things on the lunch menu in hospital and every day whatever arrived was a suprise.

"I couldn't text anyone and watching videos or TV was really surreal, technology just seemed so alien. Understanding natural things was ok but technology is not a basic instinct, you have to learn it.

"I had my birthday in hospital and the other mums from the school run did a collection to buy us passes to a theme park and made a video singing happy birthday to me which was really sweet but when my mum showed it to me my eyes couldn't understand what they were seeing.

"My short-term memory was affected too. I'd get really panicked and ask questions as soon as they came into my head because otherwise I'd just forget them again.

"When my children came to visit I was really grateful to see them, but I was still so tired they had to be really quiet and careful with me.

"But gradually my memory came back.

"I had a giant c-shaped scar on my head with staples and stitches in it. I looked ridiculous and got my mum to shave my head in hospital. My little girl was there too.

"My kids were quite traumatized by the scar and my little boy would ask me to put a hat on but that operation saved my life."

Simona was released from hospital in late January but was re-admitted two weeks later after contracting meningitis.

She recovered and was discharged where she continued to heal until her first seizure struck on April 14.

She said: "I had come back from shopping and I was standing talking to dad when I tried to mention the TV app terrarium and I suddenly got stuck on that word.

"I kept saying 't, t, t, t, t' and then I couldn't remember how to breathe. Everything went black and I collapsed on dad and cut my chin on his zip. I was on the ground for 2 - 3 minutes and dad didn't know what to do. He hates the word 'terrarium' now.

"The ambulance came in minutes and took me to hospital. They did an MRI but everything was fine so they put me back on anti-seizure medication.

"Now, I'm pretty much back to normal although I get tired quickly. I'm ready to go back to work but I want to start a new career. I worked in childcare before but I can't be in noisy places anymore, it affects me too much.

"Midwifery is my dream job but I may not manage the hours minding my children at the moment so dental nursing might be better."

And Simona's new life plans are now possible because her tumour was discovered on time and she is encouraging people to visit their optician this National Eye Health Week.

She said: "I would say to anyone who hasn't had an eye test within the minimum recommended period of two years to have one. If you also experience any concerns about your sight or have bad headaches, do visit your optician."

"I am so thankful to optometrists Hardeep and Rina. I had a feeling something wasn't right with theheadachesI was experiencing and if I hadn't gone to Specsavers, I dread to think what could have happened."

Optometrist, Hardeep Bahra said: "Signs of optic nerve swelling are something every optometrist dreads, especially in a young mum like Simona.

"We were all very relieved to hear that this was caught and then put Simona on the right path to get further treatment and her brain tumour removed."

In support of National Eye Health Week (24-30 September), Specsavers will be offering free eye tests in participating stores throughout September. For more information or to book your free eye test


Credit: MirrorPix

Simona Futter, mum of three, was diagnosed with papilledema that causes pressure inside the skull following her eye examination

Credit: MirrorPix

Simona's 4.5cm tumour was removed during an eight hour operation in Charring Cross Hospital, London

Credit: MirrorPix

An MRI scan revealed the tumour lurking in Simona's head after optometrists noticed swelling of her optic disc

Credit: MirrorPix

Simona spent weeks recovering in hospital following the operation while her brain healed

Credit: MirrorPix

Simona now pictured with her three children, Sophia, 7, Oscar, 5, Rosie, 3
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Title Annotation:News,UK News
Publication:Daily Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 29, 2018
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