Woman, 21, ‘grateful’ to be alive after routine eye test led to emergency brain tumour surgery 12 hours later

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Ellie Musgrove thought she needed glasses after suffering with severe headaches and neck pain

A woman who thought she needed glasses was shocked to discover she had a brain tumour after a routine eye test.

Ellie Musgrove, 21, started suffering with severe headaches and neck pain after her 21st birthday on 5 January this year, but was certain her symptoms were more than just a hangover as she only had two alcoholic drinks to celebrate.

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She then noticed she could not see properly when plucking her eyebrows, which caused her to see black spots and have double vision.

Ellie Musgrove discovered she had a brain tumour after a routine eye test (Photo: Ellie Musgrove / SWNS)Ellie Musgrove discovered she had a brain tumour after a routine eye test (Photo: Ellie Musgrove / SWNS)
Ellie Musgrove discovered she had a brain tumour after a routine eye test (Photo: Ellie Musgrove / SWNS) | Ellie Musgrove / SWNS

After calling her GP, she was prescribed antibiotics over the phone for an ear infection but her symptoms did not improve, prompting her to book an appointment at an opticians.

Elli said: “I had blurred and double vision, black spots and started to hear pulsating whooshing heartbeat sounds.

“My headaches and neck pains seemed to be worse in the mornings and evenings but were still in the background throughout the day.

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“My GP suspected I had an ear infection and prescribed antibiotics and Ibuprofen, but my symptoms didn’t improve.”

Routine eye test led to emergency brain surgery

Ellie visited Specsavers with her dad Mike, 54, on 20 March thinking she needed glasses, but was quickly rushed to the neurology department at Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester, after the optician noticed swelling of the optic nerves in both of her eyes.

There she was diagnosed with hydrocephalus - a build-up of fluid deep within the brain - and just 12 hours later she underwent emergency surgery, before having an MRI the following day which revealed she had a brain tumour that had caused Addison’s disease.

Ellie started suffering with severe headaches and neck pain after her 21st birthday in January this year (Photo: Ellie Musgrove / SWNS)Ellie started suffering with severe headaches and neck pain after her 21st birthday in January this year (Photo: Ellie Musgrove / SWNS)
Ellie started suffering with severe headaches and neck pain after her 21st birthday in January this year (Photo: Ellie Musgrove / SWNS) | Ellie Musgrove / SWNS

The disease is a rare disorder of the adrenal glands and occurs when it is damaged so it does not produce enough of the essential hormones cortisol and aldosterone.

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About 9,000 people in the UK have Addison’s disease and it can affect people of any age, although it is most common among women and people aged between 30 and 50.

Ellie said: “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.

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“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.”

 Ellie Musgrove on her 21st birthday with dad Mike (Photo: Ellie Musgrove / SWNS) Ellie Musgrove on her 21st birthday with dad Mike (Photo: Ellie Musgrove / SWNS)
Ellie Musgrove on her 21st birthday with dad Mike (Photo: Ellie Musgrove / SWNS) | Ellie Musgrove / SWNS

‘I’m grateful to be alive’

Ellie will now need to take steroids for the rest of her life to manage the condition, but says she is “grateful” to be alive as doctors said another day without actions could have proved fatal.

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The 21-year-old, a support carer from Manchester, said: “I knew my headaches weren’t down to being hungover because we celebrated my birthday with a quiet family meal out – nothing crazy.

“I never get headaches, but these were terrible. I thought I’d just slept funny which was making my neck hurt.

“My life has been turned upside down, but it could have been a lot worse – I keep reminding myself of that.

"I’m glad I went to Specsavers when I did - I’m grateful to the optician and the doctors for saving my life.”

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Ellie Musgrove with optometrist Aqeel Mahmood (Photo: Ellie Musgrove / SWNS)Ellie Musgrove with optometrist Aqeel Mahmood (Photo: Ellie Musgrove / SWNS)
Ellie Musgrove with optometrist Aqeel Mahmood (Photo: Ellie Musgrove / SWNS) | Ellie Musgrove / SWNS

Heaton Park Specsavers optometrist, Aqeel Mahmood said Ellie’s story shows the importance of looking after your eye health and urged people to book an appointment if they experience any worrying symptoms.

He said: “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.”

Ellie said she will be “forever grateful” to Aqueel and the team at Specsavers for spotting that something was wrong which ultimately saved her life.

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She added: “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 thank the medical teams at Manchester Royal and Salford Royal Hospitals - they looked after me so well and were so caring.”

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