Life-saving operation saved an Edinburgh youngster following a routine eye test

A CATALOGUE of unusual symptoms including headaches, blurry vision and a limp had plagued Ava Dovesi for months.

9 Year Old Ava Dovesi had her condition identified by an optometrist at Specsavers Mornignside. Picture; Ian Georgeson

But it wasn’t until she went for a routine eye test that it was discovered just how seriously ill the nine-year-old from Morningside was.

Thanks to an optometrist’s quick thinking, the family were sent straight to hospital, where the schoolgirl was found to have fluid on her brain.

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If she hadn’t been treated, she could have lost her sight.

Daniel Herbert had spotted severe swelling on Ava’s optic discs caused by a significant amount of pressure inside her brain.

She was rushed straight to Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children, where an MRI scan confirmed she had a build-up of fluid on her brain.

The condition Chiari malformation, which causes the lower part of the brain to push down on to the spinal chord, had been the reason Ava was experiencing blurred vision, headaches and had developed a limp.

Mum Joanne said: “The surgeon told us that the fluid had been building up for a very long time and that the brain was so swollen it no longer had any room left in her head.

“Ava’s head was so swollen it was almost the size of an adult male.

“I felt relieved to finally know what was causing Ava so many problems. As soon as she recovered from her operation she said, ‘Mummy, my head feels so light now’.

“She was so used to pressure in her head that she believed it to be normal.”

Digital retinal photography used by Mr Herbert, optometrist at Specsavers in Morningside, showed something was amiss.

He said: “I recommended that Ava visit the hospital immediately, as vision loss can result if the underlying condition causing swelling of the optic nerves is not treated.

“She was referred to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, where a prompt diagnosis meant doctors could give her the treatment and medication she urgently required.”

Six months on from the operation and Ava’s optic nerves have returned to normal and she no longer experiences tremors in her hands or balance issues. Her motor skills have also improved, while her memory is getting better each day.

The keen basketball player and pianist is also enjoying getting involved once more in the things she loves.

Her mum has noticed a big difference in her basketball and piano playing since her treatment.

Joanne said: “I have seen a huge change in Ava since the operation. She is no longer tired after school, her balance is perfect and she is a bright, cheery child full of life.

“I can’t thank Daniel and the team at Specsavers Morningside enough – Ava is better than she has ever been – she is a brand new little girl.”

Optometrist Daniel said Ava’s story was a reminder of just how important it is to seek expert advice. “I’m really pleased that Joanne brought Ava in to see us when she did.

“When she started to explain her different symptoms I was concerned, and when I saw her optic discs so swollen, I knew she needed to visit the hospital urgently for further treatment.

“Ava’s diagnosis is a reminder that it’s essential to seek a professional opinion if you experience anything unusual – don’t ignore warning signs.

“And even if you don’t have any symptoms that are out-of-the-ordinary, don’t forget to go for regular eye examinations as they are an important health check which should be a part of everyone’s overall health routine.”