A Ballymena man has urged people not to ignore potential symptoms of poor health , after recently suffering a brain bleed, which was ultimately diagnosed by a local optician.
30-year old Darren (Daz) Tweed has been speaking to the Guardian about his recent health scare, which saw him experiencing excruciating headaches, periods of severe vision impairment and draining fatigue.
And he has revealed how it was an optician who warned him that what he was experiencing was more than just migraines. Now he wants his experience to spur others to take their health seriously.
“I had been to football training on Wednesday December 4, when I started to get a really sore head.
“I actually had to go home and was then violently sick and ended up spending the next three days in bed,” explained the North Ballymena Rangers player.
“On the Saturday of that week I called Doctor on Call explaining about the headache and also my blurry vision so they advised I go to A&E. I was disorientated and still in alot of pain, but my tests came back clear, including one for meningitis. I did fail the vision tests though, however I was sent home with an aspirin, as the doctor just thought I was having a bad migraine.”
Unfortunately, Daz got no better, and two days later his partner, Amber decided to contact his GP.
“Amber rang my GP on the Monday morning, however there were no appointments for 10 days.
“We told them it was an emergency as both myself and Amber were getting increasingly worried about my condition. I was then prescribed painkillers however still had not seen the GP.”
The father of two waited a further two days, still suffering from severe head pain and poor vision. His partner Amber Henry, took up the story, explaining: “I rang the GP again and stressed how worrying the situation was. It was now a week since the headaches started, so something had to be done.
“Daz got an appointment for a direct assessment in Antrim Hospital that day, but he was so weak he had to be taken in a wheelchair and he still couldn't see.
“The Doctor that day did the same vision test, and again he failed it miserably. He had got to the point where he was begging for pain relief.
“The doctor on that occasion thought he had a sinus infection so he was given stronger painkillers and decongestion tablets along with antibiotics.
“To our amazement he was discharged, even though he physically couldn't walk out of the hospital.”
Daz was determined to give the new tablets a chance to work, and was pleased that in the beginning the pain did start to ease.
“I thought the tablets were starting to take effect, but a couple of days later, on the Saturday I had my worse headache to date.
“I couldn't get out of bed and was literally screaming with the pain. Without really knowing what to do next Amber booked me an appointment with Specsavers for the next morning, just to try and get some answers about my vision, and because the doctor in direct assessment said to only return to hospital if the pain hadn’t improved in 7-10 days.”
Amber told the Guardian: "Walking through the Fairhill Centre to Specsavers was even a challenge for Daz with the pain he was in and not being able to see properly, but thankfully we saw Karen, who was just great.
“She did the eye tests and discovered that the left side of both his eyes were not working as they should and that was why he was seeing double.
“She knew something was wrong and told me to take him straight back to A&E.
“She wrote a report for a doctor and told me not to leave the hospital without making sure Daz would be scanned.”
Amber admitted both herself and Darren were frightened at that point.
“Being told to go back to the hospital was scary. We have an eight year old and a five month old, so our baby son had to come with us.
“We got back to the hospital and had to wait three hours for a CT scan, bearing in mind this was now eight days after Daz had originally been there.”
To the couple's horror, the scan revealed that Darren had suffered a bleed to the right hand side of his brain.
“I was completely shocked,” explained Daz.
“I thought I had to try and stay strong but I was in total disbelief.
“I was also very frustrated because I felt it should have been picked up over a week before when I first went to the hospital.”
Amber admitted to being terrified.
“When they told us he'd had a bleed in his brain I was terrified. Daz is only 30, he's really fit and healthy and has a great diet, so to hear this was hard to bear, especially thinking of our two boys.
“He was immediately started on IV pain relief and steroids to try and reduce the swelling.”
Darren spent the next three days in hospital before being discharged with a number of medications to complete at home.
“Looking to the future, I need to take it a day at a time,” Daz said.
“I won't be able to return to work until my vision is back to normal, but thankfully the head pain is getting less every day.
“I will have another CT scan at the end of January to see if there has been any damage left by the bleed and to see exactly what is underneath it, but in the meantime I am just thankful that it was finally discovered and I'm very thankful to Karen in Specsavers for alerting us to it.”
Amber says the cause of the bleed is still a mystery.
“We don't know why it happened. Doctors wondered had Daz hurt himself when playing football that Wednesday but he hadn't. We're just waiting for his next scan, hoping that everything is OK.
“This has defined our lives for the past month and had a big impact on our family, especially over Christmas and the new year, as Darren couldn't really go out, he can't drive and he really missed socialising with his family and friends.
“He hasn't been able to play with the boys like normal and can't really care for our baby.
“Daz is always so full of energy and life, so to see him like this has been very hard.”
The young dad says he has to keep ‘fighting on.
“My main priority is getting better and getting back to my old self. I am getting there, but at the minute everything is just very uncertain and I'm hoping there is noting else underlying when I go for my next scan.
“The whole thing is scary.”
The couple want to raise awareness of how neglecting your eye health can be very detrimental to your health.
“If we hadn't gone to Specsavers and seen an optician when we need who knows where we could have been today, I dread to even think.
“Don't neglect any problems with your vision, get them checked out and be persistent until you're receiving the proper treatment you need.”
A spokesperson for Specsavers issued a statement to the Guardian, reinforcing the plea made by the couple.
Valerie Penney, optical director of Specsavers Ballymena said: “The staff of Specsavers, especially Mr Tweed’s optician Karen Dinsmore, are relieved that his condition was detected promptly.
“His conscientiousness to go to his optician was the right choice of health service to use and may have prevented his condition from getting worse.
“Specsavers encourages people to have regular eye tests and if anyone notices a change in their eyesight such as blurred vision or pressure behind the eyes to get it checked by an optician straight away.”
Valerie added: “We hope that Mr Tweed makes a steady recovery and continues to remain in good health.”