Laser scan allowed a Northampton woman battling eye cancer to watch her grandchildren grow up

Brian Tompkins pictured with Rosemary Harries.
Brian Tompkins pictured with Rosemary Harries.
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A Northampton grandmother who feared she would miss out on seeing her grandchildren growing up after developing a rare form of eye cancer has urged wider use of state-of-the-art laser scanners to protect eye health.

Rosemary Harries, aged 69 from Bugbrooke in Northamptonshire, was diagnosed with ocular melanoma in 2008 following a routine eye examination at Tompkins, Knight & Son Optometrists in Kingsley Road, Northampton.

The check-up, carried out using a state-of-the-art Optomap ultra wide field laser scanner, highlighted an unusual vein movement. Rosemary was referred to her doctors and, ultimately, hospital. Within three weeks she was undergoing surgery to save her sight.

She said: “As I was laying in my hospital bed I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to see my granddaughter grow up. I now realise that having that eye examination, and in particular the Optomap scan, was the most important thing I’ve ever done.”

The specialist treatment at St Paul’s Ocular Oncology Unit at the Royal Liverpool Hospital saw a temporary plaque fitted, which ‘zapped’ the potentially cancerous cells at the back of Rosemary’s eye, saving her sight, and arguably her life.

“It was a scary experience but I’m so glad it was picked up when it was,” said Rosemary. “It could have been so much worse, it doesn’t bear thinking about. The lady in the bed next to mine had to have her eye removed.

“I have been fortunate to see my granddaughter Olivia grow up into a lovely young girl. She’s nine now and I have a five-year-old grandson, Henry, too. I wouldn’t want to have missed out on seeing them.

“I would urge everyone to get their eyes checked regularly. I have an annual examination at TK&S and six-monthly check-ups at Northampton General Hospital. A full exam can highlight any number of health issues and if people put off a check-up thinking they don’t need it they are making a big mistake. A 30 minute appointment could save your life.”

The high-tech Optomap scanner used in the original examination allows for a wider image of the eye to be taken, giving significantly more detail and allowing problems to be picked up which would otherwise have gone undetected.

TK&S owner Brian Tompkins said: “It’s essentially the difference between opening the door and looking into the whole eye or peering through the keyhole. Being able to have that wider field of vision makes a huge difference and in Rosemary’s case it has allowed doctors to prevent the cancer cells from spreading, potentially saving her life.

“Regular eye examinations are vital. Your eyes are a window to your wider health and simple checks can ensure there is nothing untoward.”

For more information on Tompkins, Knight & Son Optometrists call 01604 714413 or visit www.tks-optometrists.co.uk