Optometrist saves boy’s life after spotting a bleed in his eye caused by leukaemia 

  • James Morley, 13, was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2012
  • He was lethargic, breathless and suffering temperature spikes
  • Despite a serious illness test, doctors told mother Pamela he was fine
  • After four doctors turned him away his optician found a bleeding

A boy was diagnosed with leukaemia during a visit to his optician after four doctors missed the symptoms in the space of two weeks. 

James Morley, 13, was repeatedly taken to doctors at the beginning of 2012 after his parents became worried he was uncharacteristically breathless, lethargic and suffering temperature spikes.

Doctors kept telling his mother Pamela there was nothing wrong with him, and one even carried out tests.

It was not until James complained that he was seeing everything with a pink tint that Mrs Morley, 47, booked an appointment with an optician in her home town of Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

Optometrist Sunny Boyal found that James had a large haemorrhage and oedema (a build-up of fluid) on his left eye.

Mrs Morley said: ‘As soon as I told the optician what James’ symptoms were they said I must bring him down straight away.’

She told how the optometrist immediately referred James to King’s Mill Hospital, in Mansfield, where the consultant confirmed the bleed and sent the young boy onto a paediatric ward.

There he was told he was suffering from a form of leukaemia and would need to be admitted to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.

Mrs Morley said: ‘As soon as that doctor said something was not right I was singing hallelujah - I knew all along that something wasn’t right and it had been so stressful to be told over and over that he was fine.

‘As a mother you instinctively know when your child has something seriously wrong with them.

‘All his life James had been so hyperactive; he was bouncing off the walls most of the time so we were worried about him when he suddenly changed and was out of breath, tired and getting temperature spikes.’

‘I wasn’t prepared to just accept the doctors’ word that James was fine. And it’s lucky that I did keep pushing for an answer - because the earlier you find the cancer the better the chance of survival,’ Mrs Morley added.

James underwent a number of tests at the Queen’s Medical Centre and was eventually diagnosed with Philadelphia positive acute lymphoblastic leukaemia - a rare illness in children.

Mrs Morley said: ‘When James got his diagnosis it was a huge shock for the family, but thanks to Sunny we were able to catch the leukaemia in the early stages so were stayed positive.’

As part of James’ two-year treatment, which included normal chemotherapy, he became the first child in the UK to trial the drug Dasatinib - which only became available for trial on children immediately after diagnosis.

Even though James was the first child in the country to take the drug, his parents didn’t spend much time worrying about the drug - instead focusing on the improved survival rate from 55 per cent to 85 per cent.

Mrs Morley said: ‘Not much was known about the drug at the time, but we were advised that it would improve James’ chance of survival so didn’t think twice about it.’

Emma Astwood is the paediatric haematology consultant at Nottingham Children’s Hospital.

She said: ‘Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is the most common type of leukaemia, but Philadelphia positive only accounts for three to five per cent of child cases.

‘It means the leukaemia is more difficult to treat than normal.’

But after successful treatment James’ mother, his father Martyn and younger sister Adele, seven can look positively to the future.

‘Things are going well and he is classed as in remission now. He could relapse but we are carrying on with his treatment. It will be five years before he can be classed as in full remission.

‘Our experience really has opened my eyes to how important it is to make sure your children see an optician regularly - I didn’t realise the kinds of conditions that they can pick up.

‘It’s not an exaggeration to say that Sunny saved my sons life.

‘Sunny is definitely on a pedestal - he’s a proper hero.’

James and his family have been supported by the charity when You Wish Upon a Star, which aims to grant the wishes and special VIP treats to children suffering from life threatening illnesses.

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