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Dorset Teenager Left Almost Totally Blind By Brain Tumour Aiming For Paralympic Swimming Success

Boy Backing Irwin Mitchell’s Disability Sport Campaign After Family Instructs Lawyers


Andrew Hewitt, Press Officer | 0114 274 4255

A teenage swimmer left almost completely blind after developing a brain tumour is targeting Paralympic glory in the pool.

Luke O’Dowd was admitted by ambulance to Dorset County Hospital in March 2017, aged 12, complaining of a headache, dizziness and sickness.

On his admission doctors had a working diagnosis of migraine. Following tests he was sent home, with Luke’s discharge notes saying he had gastroenteritis.

However, six weeks later following a routine optician appointment, Luke, of Portland, Dorset, was referred back to the hospital.

Following a scans and emergency surgery he was diagnosed as having a brain tumour which had affected his vision.

However, Luke was determined not to let his illness get the better of him and just two months after surgery was back swimming with the Tornadoes of South Dorset Swimming Club.

Now aged 14, Luke has made great progress winning a number of para-swimming competitions. He now wants to represent Team GB in the future.

Luke is getting involved in Irwin Mitchell’s Don’t Quit Do It campaign in a bid to promote the benefits of taking part in disability sport. Expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell are also investigating the care he received under Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Expert Opinion
“Luke has faced a very difficult couple of years but has shown incredible determination and self-belief to not let what he has faced stop him from swimming. He is a hugely talented young sportsman and we are sure he is destined for major success in the future.”
Rebecca Brown, Associate Solicitor

Luke was admitted to hospital on 31 March, 2017 and stayed in overnight for observation. However, it was decided by hospital staff that he would not undergo a CT brain scan.

During his eye test on 6 May his optician noticed Luke’s optic nerve was swollen. He was referred straight back to Dorset County Hospital.

Luke underwent surgery to remove some of the tumour and relieve the pressure.

Following the surgery, there was some improvement in his sight, but he still has no peripheral vision. On his return to school, he needed to use a laptop to be able to zoom into words to read them and also had to adjust to using audiovisual aids in his lessons

Following his diagnosis, Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust carried out an internal investigation. The Trust’s root cause analysis report found that an earlier scan “could have meant longer term better vision” for Luke.

Expert Opinion
“As well as supporting Luke to help him achieve his goals in the pool we have been instructed to investigate his care from Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

“If during the cause of our investigations any areas where patient care can be improved are identified it is vital these are acted upon.”
Rebecca Brown, Associate Solicitor

Now racing in the visually impaired classification 12 category, Luke has enjoyed plenty of success since returning to the water and secured gold medals in both the 50m and 100m freestyle at the Junior Para National Competition held in Southampton in April 2018.
Luke, who wants to be an architect after competing in the Paralympics, said: “At times it has been difficult trying to come to term with what happened but my family and friends have been really supportive.

“I loved swimming before I lost my sight, but after what happened it became even more important to me.

“Getting back to swimming made a huge difference to me after what I went through. I love being in the water and it has helped me realise that my loss of vision shouldn’t hold me back from anything. It gives me a chance to show my independence, my strength and really challenge myself.”

Luke and his family are supporting Irwin Mitchell’s Don’t Quit Do It campaign, which is backed by Paralympian Hannah Cockroft MBE, and British number one wheelchair tennis star Alfie Hewitt, and which aims to increase the number of people with disabilities taking part in sport.

Check out Luke’s story at www.irwinmitchell.com/dont-quit-do-it/luke-o-dowd