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You are here: Home \ Trust \ News \ Jul - Dec 2015 \ Cream teas and birthday celebrations raise cash for the RD&Es Rheumatology Fund


Cream teas and birthday celebrations raise cash for the RD&Es Rheumatology Fund


Caroline Parris, a dairy farmer’s wife, from Upottery, has raised £6,000 for the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital’s Rheumatology Fund as a way of saying thank you for the care she has received. She raised the cash by holding a big 40th birthday celebration and a Cream Tea party for friends and family at their farm near Honiton.

In 2000, Caroline was diagnosed with Adult-Onset Still’s Disease, a rare immune disease related to Rheumatoid Arthritis, which inflames and damages joints, but also causes fevers, rashes, reduced appetite, anaemia and enlarged lymph glands, liver and spleen. Having previously been a very active person, in the years following her diagnosis, Caroline endured countless treatments and was prescribed a variety of potent drugs to control her symptoms. However, nothing worked long-term and she was forced to give up her job as a primary school teacher and many of her sports as a result.

Caroline said: “I had always been so fit and healthy and it came as such a shock to suddenly become ill, and it was devastating to hear the consultant tell me I had Rheumatoid Arthritis. I hit rock bottom just before Christmas in 2005. By now Dr. Haigh, my Rheumatologist, was probably sick of the sight of me and running out of ideas, as I’d tried most of the drugs they usually prescribe.  However, he knew of another drug, Anakinra, which may work and campaigned tirelessly to gain permission to prescribe it to me.  Within a few days of starting it, the swelling in my joints disappeared. Life slowly returned to normal and by 2008 I was well enough to start a family.”

To celebrate her 40th birthday this August, Caroline hired a marquee and organised a party for 130 of her friends.  Instead of presents, she asked for donations to be made to the RD&E’s Rheumatology Fund and raised £1200 on the night. On the Sunday she roped in her family to help with another fundraising event by organising a Cream Tea for local people. Everyone pitched in to help with her sister-in-laws getting up early to make over 400 scones, her niece organising a prize draw and her mother-in-law running a homemade cake sale, with the rest of the family helping out with the washing up.

“It was a great family effort and I couldn’t have done it without them.  We were totally overwhelmed by the support we had.  Even people that couldn’t come to the Cream Tea still gave a donation and the grand total of £4800 was far more than we ever imagined it would be” added Caroline. “I will never be able to thank Dr. Haigh enough for what he has done for me.  I would like the money to benefit the Consultants and staff at the hospital who have helped me so much.”

Dr Richard Haigh, Consultant Rheumatologist, said: “I had to watch Caroline suffer for a good number of years with this nasty disease, and saw a number of initially promising treatments fail, one after another. Ultimately, we were fortunate that Anakinra treatment melted her disease away and that she has been able to claw her life back, which has been fantastic to see. We are humbled and so grateful that Caroline and her family decided to raise and donate this money to our fund.”

“We set up our Rheumatology Fund in order to improve patient care, pump prime research projects and support staff. My colleagues have their eye on a new High Definition Ultrasound probe which will improve early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis in our award winning Early Arthritis Clinic. We will also purchase touch screen pads for patients to directly enter their ‘patient related outcome’ and ‘patient experience’ data in OPD.”

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