Published On: Sat, Oct 16th, 2010

Facebook saves child’s life


LONDON: A child’s life has been saved after a nurse spotted she had cancer by looking at a photo on Facebook.

Nicola Sharp was browsing through friend Michele Freeman’s profile when she saw a photograph of Michele’s two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Grace.

The flash photograph showed Grace with a white pupil in her left eye instead of the ‘red eye’ tint most people would have – a sign of eye cancer.

Nicola, 42, who has worked in paediatrics for more than 20 years, immediately contacted Michele and Grace was later diagnosed with retinoblastoma. She was found to have two tumours and lost all sight in her left eye.

Medics told Michele if the cancer had spread it could have been fatal.

Grace now has to travel to Birmingham every four weeks for specialist laser treatment and will have to monitor the condition for the rest of her life.

Michele, 37, said: ‘There is no doubt in my mind that Nicola saved Grace’s life. There were no signs that Grace had any problems with her eyes and we never would have known without her.

‘There is very little awareness of this condition and only around 50 people in the UK are diagnosed with it each year.

‘Without Nicola, we don’t think we would have discovered there was anything wrong with Grace until she had a routine eye test at school, when things could have been much worse.’

Nicola, who lives in Middleton, is the team leader for school nursing services for NHS Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale.

She said: ‘I was just looking at the photos when I noticed something odd.

‘Normally, you get a red eye tint in photos, but where the eye comes out white it can mean something is wrong. We were praying it was nothing serious, but unfortunately it was.’

Retinoblastoma only affects young children and the most common symptom is that the pupil tends to reflect light as white, like a cat’s eye. When diagnosed early, it is very treatable and can be cured.

Michele, of Mount Street, Heywood, added: ‘I really want to give a massive thank you to Nicola and to all my family and friends who have been so supportive over the past four weeks. It has been horrible and without them I couldn’t have coped.’

Michele, who works for Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, and Nicola know each other through visits to Birch Farm on Doctor Fold Lane, where Michele and Nicola’s daughter Francesca have horse stables.

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