After contemplating taking part in a sponsored abseil of the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the UK’s tallest sculpture in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in order to raise money for Moorfields Eye Charity, my sister decided to organise a charity tea party instead. Her decision to abandon the idea of throwing herself off a 114.5 metre eyesore in central London in favour of sitting down to drink tea and eat cake in a leafy Surrey village was one which was wholeheartedly endorsed by myself. She arranged the event for the evening before my check-up appointment with my original consultant at the Royal Surrey County Hospital so that I’d be around to help with the baking and eat plenty of cake… err, I mean take part in the event itself. She christened the evening ‘Twinkles at Twilight’ as the fundraising was for both Moorfields Eye Charity and Marie Curie. For anyone who doesn’t quite follow Lucy’s logic, the ‘twinkles’ relate to a twinkle in the eye and ‘twilight’ refers to the time at which Marie Curie nurses begin their shifts to provide night-time palliative care for patients in their own homes. The reason she wanted to support these two charities is probably best explained in her own words:
“Palliative care nurses enable terminally ill patients to spend their last days at home with their family. Caring for a very ill relative is emotionally and physically draining, involving being up numerous times in the night. Marie Curie nurses give relatives a night of cover so that relatives can get an undisturbed night. This enables the carer to recharge their mind and body as much as possible in the circumstances. Current funding levels only allow a limited number of nights’ cover. They were my twilight angels when my Grandad was ill.
I grew up aware of how my Gran’s sight trouble increasingly limited her activities as it got worse. Then in 2014, my sister had a retinal detachment. This is when the reality of potentially facing sight-loss really sank in. She has now had five surgeries to reattach it as she is in the minority (10%) of people who suffer recurrent re-detachments. Each time her retina detaches, she loses more sight. The fear of losing her sight is very real. Moorfields are affiliated with University College London Institute of Ophthalmology and carry out sight-saving research. They also raise awareness of eye health to help prevent problems. Close your eyes for 60 seconds and imagine you can never open them again. That’s why I support Moorfields.”
Once the theme was set, we cracked on with the serious business of baking various eye and star themed goodies and getting other bakers on board to help. The final creations included cupcakes with the Moorfields Eye Charity logo in fondant icing, fairy cakes with little faces made out of chocolate buttons and edible eyes, star-shaped shortbread, and a dazzling array of fairy cakes adorned with various types of edible glitter and tiny stars. Fairy lights were borrowed from people far and wide, and the Duke of Edinburgh student volunteering at my sister’s workplace was promoted to Artistic Director of Operations and did a fantastic job of tastefully decorating the place. Lucy had also come up with a few games to keep people amused throughout the evening, including ‘guess the number of stars in the jar’, and ‘guess where the shooting star is in the sky’. My Eye to Eye walking buddy and myself were in charge of these, and it’s just occurred to me that there were no eye-themed games. We could have got people to guess how many retinal detachments the pair of us have had between us. Then again, that may have been tempting fate. Anyway, the evening went swimmingly and people were extremely generous both in making donations and stumping up money to participate in the games (£1 a go – a bargain!). We had a couple of rather over-excited boys to thank for interest in the games, as they were so determined to win prizes that we became slightly worried that their father might be reduced to bankruptcy during the course of the evening.
Cupcakes with the Moorfields Eye Charity logo in fondant icing
I crawled out of bed at the crack of dawn the following morning after a restless night which could probably be blamed equally upon excess sugar consumption and pre-appointment dread. Even though it was just a check-up with my original consultant and I knew he wasn’t going to suggest any treatment due to the fact that I’m currently under Moorfields, I still hadn’t been able to block out the familiar fear of, “but what if he finds a hole or tear in my ‘good’ eye?” or “what if the detachment in my bad eye has got worse?”. So I sat with my sister in the chilly air-conditioned waiting area, shivering as much with cold as in fear. An hour passed, and I was called in by the nurse for the initial sight test. Another half hour passed, then another, and the clinic gradually became a little less crowded. After another half hour, those of us who were still patiently waiting glowered in disbelief as a patient arrived, handcuffed to someone else with a prison officer in tow and was promptly fast-tracked through the system. “Ah!”, remarked my sister, “So that’s the way to skip the queue in the eye clinic!”. I briefly considered whom I could murder in order to achieve this status but was fortunately interrupted in my musings by the familiar soothing Irish tones of the consultant calling my name. I leapt to my feet and practically ran to his door before he could change his mind and call in another patient instead.
“So how are you doing then, Emma?”, he asked. “Ploughing on”, I trotted out my stock answer before remembering that actually I could tell him the truth without fear of him either rolling his eyes in boredom or telling me not to be negative, as many people seem to do these days. “So what are Moorfields planning for you then?”, he enquired, at which point I launched into a brief run-down of the rough plan. He nodded approvingly, adding admiringly, “Well, you have learnt a lot about your eyes, haven’t you?!” I thought it probably wasn’t the time to tell him about my plan to go on Mastermind with the specialist subject of ‘retinal detachment’, and left him to get on with the usual business of checking my eye pressures and inserting dilation drops before sending me back out again to wait while they took effect.
Twenty minutes or so later I was back in his consulting room for the dreaded retinal check. Fortunately, it was all fine. Or as fine as it can be with my eyes. We said a cheery goodbye and bolted for freedom. The fact that we were the very last people to leave the clinic after having spent the entire morning there no longer mattered. Nor did the fact that we suddenly realised our parking ticked had expired over half an hour earlier and we may have a huge parking fine to deal with. We called into the hospital cafe for celebratory tea and cake (well… the previous evening’s sugar rush had subsided by this time), and hurried back to the car in the bright afternoon sunshine, as fast as my dilated eyes would allow.
Note: The final amounts raised at the Twinkles at Twilight Tea Party were: £210 for Moorfields Eye Charity and £178 for Marie Curie. Huge thanks to everyone who supported the event, whether it was baking cakes, eating them, or both! 🙂