Tom Clements: going ‘blind’ for a day for Moorfields
29 January 2020
Tom’s wife and daughter are patients at Moorfields. To help other people like them, Tom decided to fundraise by spending 24 hours completely blindfolded.
Tom’s wife Georgina and daughter Sophie suffer from aniridia. Over time, their sight has deteriorated and now they are both registered blind.
What is aniridia?
Aniridia is a rare condition where the iris (the coloured part of the eye) is underdeveloped or missing at birth. People with aniridia cannot control the amount of light coming into their eye, which affects their ability to see.
The pupil lets light into the eye, allowing you to see. The iris is responsible for changing the size of the pupil, which controls how much light enters the eye.
In people with aniridia, the iris is missing or not working properly. This means they can’t control the size of their pupils properly, and so cannot control the amount of light that enters their eyes.
This means they often find it difficult to see and to adjust to changing light environments – for example, going outdoors from inside a building.
Aniridia usually affects both eyes, and people with aniridia will often have large pupils, possibly with irregular shape as well. The amount of the iris that is missing varies from person to person, so while some people will experience severe sight loss, others may only experience a mild blurring of their vision.
1 in 75,000
Aniridia is rare, occurring in between 1 in 50,000 and 1 in 100,000 babies worldwide
Most people with aniridia also have a condition called nystagmus, a constant and involuntary movement of the eyes which makes it harder to see clearly.
There are currently no treatments available for aniridia. Many people use sunglasses and sunhats to help with their sensitivity to bright lights, even indoors.
Most people with the condition will visit an ophthalmologist regularly throughout their life, as they are also at greater risk of developing other eye conditions such as cataracts or glaucoma.
Tom is very grateful for the care his family have received at Moorfields Eye Hospital.
To show his appreciation, he wanted to raise £2,100 to buy a special piece of equipment called a tonometer, which allows doctors to measure the pressure in your eye more easily.
To do this, Tom organised to spend a day in the shoes of his loved ones – to become ‘blind’ for 24 hours!
Giving back by going ‘blind’
Tom was nervous. He put on his blindfold, and throughout the day relied on his friends and family to guide him around safely – just as his wife and daughter rely on him to do the same.
“It was daunting at first,” he explains.
Through his experience, Tom learned a lot about what his family go through on a daily basis.
He says that he often got frustrated and his mood would frequently change, as routine tasks such as going to the grocery store became seemingly impossible.
He jokes that he would never know whether Georgina was in the room or not, so he would call out and she would answer from across the house, laughing.
The experience has given him a new empathy with people with sight problems.
In total, Tom raised an amazing £2,283 – enough to buy a new tonometer for Moorfields!
I’m so grateful to everyone who sponsored me and helped us raise so much so quickly. Georgina has been a patient at Moorfields since she was 14, and the hospital means a lot to our family. I’m pleased we could give something back.
Thank you, Tom!