The Annual 4th Of July Barbecue For Patients

Cassie and Wendy at the London Vision Clinic BBQ

In Spain (my home since 1989) I am a member of a classic car club. Before you get the wrong idea, let me make it quite clear that my set of wheels, despite undoubtedly qualifying as “classic”, are not exactly glamorous. That said, I’ve grown rather fond of “Dolly”, the Triumph Dolomite in its rather unflattering mustard shade (officially known as “Inca Gold”). I especially like the fact that many people of a certain age smile with fond memories when they see it.

But what, I hear you wonder, does this have to do with the London Vision Clinic?

Around the Costa del Sol, as in all communities, there are hundreds – if not, thousands – of clubs and societies. Membership is based around similar interests or professions – gardening, theatre, musical appreciation, books, dog behaviour etc  – and one can easily understand how, with the help of guest speakers and tasty meals, many happy hours are whiled away by members chatting about their favourite pastime or pursuit with like-minded people.

Clearly, at all these gatherings – whether in Marbella or Margate – those attending have a lot in common with each other whatever topic is on the table.

When the London Vision Clinic July 4th barbeque invitation popped through the letter box, what, I thought, would these LVC guests – all former patients and their partners –  talk about?

How would this diverse group of people, whose only common denominator is that they have had Laser Eye Surgery at the LVC, get along even despite the attentive, warm hospitality of the clinic’s friendly staff?

I was pondering this conundrum while selecting my “smart casual” outfit (a somewhat tricky and diverse dress code for women) and sensible wedgies (I have learned from bitter experience that heels and grass are not a good combination) and it occurred to me that other glasses-free folk across the country and beyond might be thinking the same thing before setting off to celebrate American Independence Day alongside people they hardly knew. We needn’t have worried.

As for all appointments at the London Vision Clinic, a friendly welcoming smile greeted us on arrival at Fitzroy Square, Fitzrovia.  At the entrance Cassie Crowther , the clinic’s patient education consultant, introduced me to a striking woman in a scarlet mini dress and heels. Wendy, who I later discovered is a business development manager at Solihull Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was waiting for her partner, Tim (who had eye surgery three months previously) and was stuck in traffic having driven up from a business meetingin Wales. Soon we were happily sipping champagne and sharing our life stories.

Later I met a business life coach who works alongside senior captains of industry (it can, apparently, get pretty lonely at the top), two security guards at Heathrow Terminal  1 (definitely a job unappreciated by the public), an accountant, a builder and a dermatologist and found out that not only were they all thrilled with the results of their Laser Eye Surgery but they were also warm, friendly, interesting and sociable people.

We all compared notes on our surgeries – first questions tended to be: “When did you have it done?” and then other conversations flowed alongside the excellent wine. It was as if we were simultaneously discovering the enjoyment of being members of this special club. Meanwhile, I imagine that some partners – still conspicuously wearing their specs or contacts– felt rather left out. The party was soon in full swing with a delicious BBQ dinner and live music from a jazz group joined later by Dr Dan Reinstein and his saxophone.

How many medical clinics, I wonder, hold annual parties like this for all their former patients? I have never heard of it before; but then how many surgeons give patients their mobile phone numbers and business cards? I am sure, not many … if any. It occurs to me – yet again – that the LVC is truly exceptional.

While Dr Dan and his sax certainly get the evening’s music prize, I feel that a special award for enterprise should go to optometrist Emma. As darkness fell at the end of the evening, she, like others who decided on a comfort break before heading home, discovered that it was quite tricky to navigate the portable loos in the dark.  Emma’s iphone to the rescue… who knew that this multi-facetted boy scout of phones had a torch and light bulb option?

So, this blogger – on behalf of all the patients and guests who had such fun at the LVC July 4th BBQ on July 9th – would like to thank the LVC team for being such great hosts and an all round exceptional bunch.