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A routine eye exam discovered Jordan had brain tumour

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 25/09/2015

Jean McCormick and her son Jordan enjoying a breezy stroll at the harbour in Donaghadee
Jean McCormick and her son Jordan enjoying a breezy stroll at the harbour in Donaghadee
Optician Stuart Douglas

A mother-of-two has spoken of how an optician saved the life of her son when he was the first to spot her little boy had a brain tumour during a routine eye test.

Jean McCormick from Donaghadee said she believes Jordan, now 19, would not be here today had she not taken him to the optician.

Speaking out to raise awareness during National Eye Health Week, Jean had grown incredibly concerned with her then five-year-old boy's health.

He had visited the hospital numerous times complaining of severe headaches and vomiting, but nothing had been diagnosed.

Then, during a rescheduled eye test at the Bangor optician's, the optometrist spotted pressure behind his eye.

That started "ringing alarm bells" and he referred him immediately to hospital.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Specsavers optician Stuart Douglas, who spotted the problem, explained: "When I started the test, I knew something was wrong immediately and that Jordan needed urgent medical attention.

"Of course we didn't want to alarm Jean and Jordan, so I wrote a letter and sent them straight to the Ulster Hospital A&E."

That same day Jordan's parents took him back to hospital and he had a CAT scan,

"I just kept watching the faces of the doctors when they were looking at the scan.

"I knew that if they smiled and laughed while it was happening it probably would be OK. But there weren't any smiles or reactions," Jean (47) said.

Mum and dad Gary (50) were then told the heartbreaking news that their youngest son had a brain tumour.

Jordan later underwent lifesaving surgery and cancer treatment.

"When they told us, I think they could hear me scream in Belfast," she said.

He went to the Royal Victoria Hospital for 12 hours of surgery to remove the pressure in his brain and to have a shunt placed into his head.

"We were told he may never walk or talk again, it was just terrible," said Jean. "But we knew they had to tell us the worst case scenario. After the operation they told us the tumour was cancerous and that we had a long road ahead."

Jordan then underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

"He had to lie face down on a table with a mask on during the treatment and stay still; for any five-year-old that is hard," she explained.

Jordan suffered some brain damage from the tumour and his growth was slightly affected, but he did walk again and is a "happy, thriving young man" with a part-time job and attending North Down Training Tech in Newtownards.

"I look back on our journey over the last 14 years and think that we are lucky Jordan is still here," Jean said.

"One surgeon actually told us that Jordan wouldn't see his teenage years, which was very hard to hear. Well, he has proven him wrong, he is here and he is a happy boy.

"We can't thank Stuart enough."

Jean, who also has a 23-year-old son Mitchell, wanted to highlight the importance of regular check-ups.

Sight loss among the population of Northern Ireland is set to increase by 25% between 2011 and 2020 - although half of this is believed to be preventable,

Stuart added: "An eye examination can detect signs of various health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, glaucoma and even tumours.

"We advise people to have their eyes tested every two years."

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