THEIR faces said it all: first terror and then relief as, two by two, they lowered themselves 100ft over the side of a hospital.
In total, 159 people took part in the abseil down the women’s centre at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital yesterday.
All had personal reasons for raising cash for the hospital causes : the Children’s Hospital, Newborn Intensive Care Unit, Heartfelt Appeal, Oxford Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Group and Oxford Transplant Centre, all based at the hospital.
There were cheers and claps for Andrea Burbank, who was once treated for cancer and underwent a mastectomy, when she got stuck on a balcony halfway down. One of the abseil instructors whizzed down his rope James Bond-style to help Ms Burbank pluck up the courage to complete the event.
Ms Burbank, of Drayton, near Abingdon, raised about £100 for BRA. She said: “They saved my life and my friend’s life. They do a lot of good work and I feel indebted to them for their help.”
Fellow abseiler Jenny Ingell, 44, of Thame, who had her breasts removed, raised more than £400, and said she was “elated” to get her feet back on the ground. She added: “I thought we’ve been through so much, why can’t we lower ourselves off a building for these women?”
Father and daughter Tony and Rebecca Poffley, 53 and 25 respectively, have raised about £1,000 to thank the group for helping their family.
Wife and mother-of-two Jackie Poffley, of Didcot, was diagnosed with sarcoma in 2006 and, before she was due to start chemotherapy, found a lump in her breast in March last year. Afterwards, Mr Poffley said: “I loved it.
“We did this because of Jackie and all the things she has been through since 2006. Last year we found out she had breast cancer – it blew our world apart. But we have stuck together as a family.”
Surgeons and nurses, including men, from the plastic and reconstructive surgery department also wore decorated bras for the abseil to raise awareness of breast reconstruction. Niki Petrie, a locum plastic surgery consultant, set up the BRA group in December with nursing colleagues. She said the group helped patients and their families prepare for surgery, and what happens afterwards.
Cash raised for the group will fund a DVD for husbands and boyfriends, and a cartoon book for children to show what mum is going through.
Ros De Oliveira, 49, a regular visitor at the hospital, wore white bloomers with the slogan ‘Does my bum look big in this?’ for her abseil to raise £920. The mother-of-two attended six-weekly BRA meetings before and after her single mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery. She said: “It’s giving something back. You see some of the people coming through surgery and they are petrified.”
Abseil events are held two to three times a year, raising more than £800,000 in the past 10 years.