A teenager was a week away from death after delays in diagnosis meant a tumour the size of a GRAPEFRUIT took over almost half of her brain.
Lita Ruskin, 15, was turned away by various healthcare professionals five times over six months before doctors eventually found the 10cm by 8cm (3.9in by 3.14in) growth.
Incredibly, on one of three trips to Specsavers with complaints of blurred version, her mum Emma Gilchrist, 39, was told her daughter was “lying to get glasses”.
Emma also dialled 999 when Lita was violently sick but paramedics said she had “vomiting bug” and didn’t take her to hospital.
But after Lisa described her vision as “like looking through a pinhole” an eye test at Royal Stoke University Hospital found a huge tumour had “crushed” her optical nerves.
She was rushed to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool where surgeons operated on her for 22 hours in July 2014.
Incredibly, now she only has a small mass behind her nose which has to be monitored every six months.
But Lita has to continue to take medication and the damage caused by the tumour has left her with behavioural issues and memory problems.
The schoolgirl, who lives with her parents Emma and Shaun in Blurton, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs., was told she was just weeks away from death.
Yesterday (Mon), mum-of-three Emma, who works in Gregg’s, said: “The surgeons said it was one of the biggest tumours they had ever seen.
“It had taken over nearly half her brain and was starting to push through her skull. If another week had gone by she would have died.
“I do think that it should have been picked up earlier. I knew there was something seriously wrong.
“I want people to know what happened to Lita in case anyone else is going through something similar.
“It is important people understand all the symptoms of brain tumours.”
Lita was so sick her mum called an ambulance in December 2013, but after routine checks paramedics said she had a vomiting bug and didn’t need hospital treatment.
Her face then began to droop but a GP diagnosed Bell’s Palsy – a condition which causes temporary weakness on one side.
After a four-week course of antiobiotics the symptoms to her face went away, but in May 2014 Lita complained that she could not read texts on her phone.
She visited her local Specsavers three times in six weeks, but incredibly her mum was told Lita was “lying to get glasses like her big sister”.
Finally, in July 2014 her vision got so bad Lita said it was “like looking through a pinhole” and Emma took her to a child specialist optician.
The eye exam showed the optical nerves were being ‘squashed’ and a CT scan at the Royal Stoke University Hospital uncovered the giant tumour.
She was immediately sent to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool where she underwent 17 hours of surgery and later a second five-hour operation.
Tests revealed the slow growing tumour was part benign and part cancerous and doctors told Lita’s parents that she would have collapsed dead “within weeks”.
Emma said: “Way back when I called the ambulance, if she had been given a scan it would have revealed it then.
“I remember looking at her and it seemed like she’d had a stroke and was staring straight ahead. I was so worried.
“I actually asked the doctor at that point whether she could have a brain tumour but he said no, they were very rare.
“She never suffered headaches but she did have other symptoms. I’m just so glad I was persistent and I’d urge others to do the same.”
Dad Shaun, who designs shower tray moulds for the disabled, added: “I am very grateful that it was spotted in the end.
“Specsavers responded very well and have changed their practices since, so that any child complaining of blurred vision has to have the back of their eyes looked at.
“But they have handled us quite badly and have deleted my eldest daughter’s records and refused to tell us what dates Lita visited on.
“They told my wife that Lita was lying to get glasses and that there was nothing wrong with her. They said they’d examined the back of her eyes and it was fine.
“After talking to the specialist, she seemed to try and cover for Specsavers but it sounds like they really should have seen what was wrong.
“I can understand why the doctor said she had Bell’s Palsy because the symptoms were the same and it did go away like he said.
“But it’s just worrying how close she came. After her operation we were told that if it had gone on undetected she would have just collapsed in the street one day and that would be it.
“We were told it would have been within a week or so.
“It’s also not over yet, we have our ups and downs and there’s still a chance it could come back.
“If we make it to five years without anything that’s a good sign, so we’re just hoping she’s ok.”
* The Brain Tumour Charity has revealed a third of patients aged 24 and under had seen a healthcare professional more than five times before being diagnosed.
And it said one in five children waited longer than 12 months for a diagnosis.
It also revealed 25 per cent of girls were diagnosed within a month of seeing a healthcare professional compared to 40 per cent of boys.