A FORMER police pursuit driver who went into the opticians for a routine eye test was told he had a rare tumour the size of a golf ball in his brain.
Robert Parsons' eyesight started to deteriorate last year, leading to "dreadful" double vision which left him unable to drive.
But after several eye tests at other opticians who failed to spot the cause, one eagle-eyed expert at Heather Bailey Opticians, in Limpsfield Road, Sanderstead, noticed it might be a tumour and referred him to see a specialist.
Mr Parsons, from Purley, had the brain tumour removed in June and said he was "hugely grateful" to the opticians for spotting it.
"If it had been left much longer I would be blind. I'm very much indebted to them," said the 71-year-old.
The problems with his sight had come on "suddenly" while driving on a trip to Devon a couple of years ago.
"It was getting really bad. When my wife was driving I was seeing double double-decker buses coming the other way. It was awful, I just had to shut my eyes," he explained
"Before I retired I was in the police service as an advanced driver engaged in pursuits, so the fact that it left me unable to drive at all was quite restricting for me."
Specialist doctors at Moorfields Eye Hospital in Croydon confirmed the cause of the problems, with Mr Parsons' vision was a benign pituitary gland tumour pressing on his optic nerve.
"It was frightening to be told 'you have a brain tumour' but then you just have to go with the experts that tell you this or that can be done," said Mr Parsons.
His double vision and eyesight problems were fixed almost overnight by the keyhole surgery.
He added: "As soon as the surgery was done my vision was better, it was absolutely wonderful.
"I've since gone back to Heather Bailey to sort out a pair of glasses though."
Karina Hay, who carried out Mr Parsons' eye test in January, said she had only ever seen one other patient with a brain tumour in 36 years since she qualified as an optician.
"He showed classic signs that he might have a tumour, so I referred him to the doctors," she said.
"It's certainly quite unusual. It's not exactly what you would expect when you go in for an eye test. I don't think that sort of tumour is actually life-threatening unless they're malignant, but they can make one very unwell and even leave you blind.
"The longer it's there pressing on the optic nerve and causing damage, the less well one might recover."
She added it was important for people to have regular eye tests.
"People so often say 'I didn't need new glasses so I didn't want to come for a checkup'. A proper check can pick up these things."