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How visit to optician saved my life when he spotted I was having a stroke

By Lisa Smyth

Published 29/10/2015

Denise Wilson from Lurgan with optometrist Eamonn Murray
Denise Wilson from Lurgan with optometrist Eamonn Murray
Eamonn at Specsavers in Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon

A 61-year-old woman has told how a visit to her optician saved her life when he spotted signs she was suffering a stroke.

Denise Wilson, from Lurgan in Co Armagh, made an appointment to see Eamonn Murray when she woke up with double vision in March.

And while she was concerned about the sudden deterioration in her eyesight, she had no idea that her life was hanging in the balance.

"I had heartburn the night before and took a load of indigestion tablets and went to bed," she explained. "But when I woke up the next morning I had bad double vision, it was really horrible.

"I got straight on to the optician to try and find out what was wrong with me and they made me an emergency appointment.

"I went along to the optician and saw Eamonn and the next thing he was sending me to A&E."

Denise was seen as soon as she arrived at the emergency department at Craigavon Area Hospital and it was not long before medics discovered she was having a stroke. It transpired she had already suffered a series of mini strokes, or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs).

A TIA is an event where blood flow in the brain is temporarily disrupted, leading to stroke symptoms that resolve within 24 hours and do not cause permanent damage.

"I had absolutely no idea I was having a stroke and there is no doubt that Eamonn saved my life," continued Denise.

"Every minute I went without treatment meant my brain was being damaged but I didn't realise how seriously ill I was and so I didn't go to the hospital."

Mr Murray, ophthalmic director at Specsavers Opticians in Craigavon, explained: "What happened to Denise shows that there is much more to an appointment with an optician than just getting glasses.

"The eyes can be very important in telling us if something is wrong, it is a direct link to the brain.

"Basically if someone comes in with sudden onset double vision, you know there is a vascular going on. It could be the result of a trauma, such as with someone who has been in a car crash, but obviously Denise didn't have that.

"It's not common that you would have someone coming in who has had a stroke, but Denise shows that it can happen."

Denise added: "Apparently I had had quite a few mini strokes in my sleep, but I had no idea it had happened.

"The first couple of weeks after I found out I had had a stroke I didn't want to go to sleep at night in case it happened again and I wouldn't wake up again.

"But I know I have been very, very lucky really and I rang Eamonn a couple of days after I got out of hospital and told him he saved my life.

"I always thought that if you had a stroke you would be completely paralysed down one side as that is what they seem to say on the television.

"I had no idea it could affect eyesight, so I can't thank Eamonn enough."

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