Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My years-ago visit to the Moorfields Eye Hospital and wandering back to my old home via Google Earth

I was watching an episode of Downton Abbey last week, and a scene brought me back to a place and time over ten years ago, when I lived in London. 

In the scene, the abbey housecook, Mrs. Patmore, close to blindness and unable to manage her kitchen duties, is sent off to Moorfields Eye Hospital for cataract surgery. 
Poor Mrs. Patmore 
I lived in London for two years, and my son son was born there. When Daniel was about three months old, he was sleeping nestled in bed with us in wee hours of the morning, when he started to whimper. His father groggily turned to reach for him and instead poked me in the eye and scratched my cornea with his fingernail. I was instantly startled awake from my half-hearted slumber with searing pain. And having never scratched my cornea before, I did everything I shouldn't have to soothe the terrible pain. I tried rubbing my eyes, then tried rinsing them with water, placed a wet, warm facecloth over them. I tried everything, but the pain only worsened, so it was off to the emergency room. There the doctor diagnosed me with a corneal abrasion that I'd only worsened with all my desperate eye-rubbing. He gave me immediate relief with eye drops that numbed the pain, an effect that would soon wear off, oral pain meds, and then sent me off to Moorfields Eye Hospital.

I don't remember much from that point forward, as the pain meds set in and the three of us hopped into a taxi. Foolish young mom me had forgotten my breast pump and soon my breasts were filled to the brims with pain med tainted milk, and my baby boy was stuck abruptly switching to formula. I remember being in the waiting room of this relatively ancient hospital (founded in 1805) and feeling pity for not only myself but also the tens of others waiting to be treated for a dizzying array of eye afflictions. Some people were crying, others moaning. Some wore eye patches; others had heads completely wrapped in bandages. I felt like I'd been transported back to the days of Charles Dickens.

I felt nostalgic now thinking of this incident, and curious. So I wandered over to Google Earth, because I can't quite go back and wander to my old London neighborhood so easily. There it was, my old home on Vicarage Road, where I brought home my bumbling baby boy almost 12 years ago.

A visit to my London home of long ago via Google Earth
Our bed, with the pink velveteen headboard, the site of the infamous eye abrasion incident, was located just next to that large first floor window.
Baby Daniel with a stoic British expression on his sweet face

It was fun showing this to Daniel  - the window where he caught his sunbeam of light from, the spot where I parked his buggy. I scrolled up and down the streets, visiting once again the stop where I'd catch the double decker bus, the bakery where I bought buns, the corner store where I bought pints of Haagen-Daaz dark chocolate ice cream when I was pregnant with my firstborn.
The High Road in our east London neighborhood: Leyton

In Green Park with my bumbling baby boy
I am thankful that I am now able to tell the eye abrasion story and laugh about it. If someone had whispered into my ear while I was in the Moorfields Eye Hospital waiting room, a diaper stuffed into my soaked nursing bra and crying from eye pain, that someday I'd laugh about this incident, I'd never have believed them.

Some places that I remember from my London neighborhood no longer exist, others have morphed into new businesses. We often forget to take pictures of the scenes of daily life, choosing to focus on big events and holidays. I'm going to make a point this year of capturing more of the small places and things that fill up our daily lives with joy and a sense of home.
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  1. Great post Amy! I lived in London for a semester when I was in college. I studied there at Birkbeck College (part of the University of London) during the winter/spring of my junior year in 1996. I LOVED living there, in our flat in Notting Hill Gate. I think the street was called Pembridge Gardens, but I will have to double check. What an awesome idea to look up my old haunts via Google Earth and also to be able to show my husband and kids one of these days, to tide us over until I can take them there someday and show them myself.

    Thank you for sharing your experience (that must have been challenging and painful) and how it connects you to one of my favorite TV shows! Can't wait for it to return this Sunday night! I love me some Downtown Abbey and London town. Happy New Year and have a great weekend!

  2. What a horrible experience! I'm glad you can laugh about it now.
    Great reminder about the everyday things too... I often forget to photograph the daily scenes and stick to holidays and events, but I really need to make an effort to remember and photograph more!

  3. Thank you for your comments, Kathy and Saraj. Enjoy the season premir tomorrow!