Eye check saved life of retired Fife head teacher

Alison Wright with Specsavers optician Kirsty Bidgood
Alison Wright with Specsavers optician Kirsty Bidgood

A retired head teacher from Cupar has praised her local optician for a hospital referral that ultimately saved her life.

Alison Wright (63) visited Specsavers St Andrews for a routine eye health check when the optician Kirsty Bidgood spotted a dark area on the tissue within her right eye and referred her to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee for immediate attention.

At the hospital that afternoon, a doctor arranged an ultrasound which confirmed Alison had a melanoma behind her eye.

Alison said: “Things moved very quickly from here, I was referred to Gartnavel General Hospital in Glasgow for an operation in December to have markers placed to outline the tumour.

“This was followed by specialist radiation treatment in January at Clatterbridge Hospital in Wirral, Liverpool.”

There are only three hospitals in Europe that can provide this specialist proton beam therapy which Alison received.

Proton beam therapy is a type of radiotherapy which uses a beam of high energy protons, rather than high energy x-rays to treat specific types of cancer.

The radiation in Alison’s body will continue to work for up to 18 months, and Alison will attend check-ups every six months for the foreseeable future, which will include a MRI scan to check if the cancer has spread, but her prognosis looks positive.

Alison added: “Until last year, I hadn’t been for a sight test since 2007. I can’t recommend enough the importance of keeping up to date with visits to your local opticians – a sight test is free through the NHS in Scotland so there is no excuse for delay.

“The last thing I wanted to hear when I retired last year was that my health had been compromised in any way.

“I suspected that I needed glasses but could not have imagined the extent of the problem that was discovered.

“The sight in my right eye is poor at present but the situation could have been much worse. I’m so grateful to the professional and prompt service I was given at Specsavers.”

Research published by Specsavers and charity the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), shows one in five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime despite at least half of all cases being avoidable.

The statistics also show that 300 people in the UK start living with sight loss every day.

Store director in Specsavers St Andrews, Julia Campbell, said: “Alison’s case, although very rare, is an example of just how vital an eye exam can be.

“We recommend getting your eyes checked every two years as they can detect several underlying health conditions, not just changes in prescription.

“I’m proud to have Kirsty as a member of our store team and we’d like to wish Alison a long and happy retirement.”