Australia and New Zealand, 17/08/20 | Story | Life Science Solutions Avalon's pursuit of a Microscope - an inspiring story about a woman and her passion

Meet Avalon - an almost 80 year-old woman living in the coastal lines of Wellington, New Zealand. We first met Avalon through Lee Botes (Sales Specialist - Microscopy) five years ago when she first reached out to Olympus looking to purchase a microscope.

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Avalon 2020 - Post-1

Being retired for quite some time, you can imagine money can be tight. However, the fiery-spirited Avalon gets by through government support and teaching English to immigrants, where she can. Despite financial struggles, there's one that Avalon has not given up on and that's rotifers!

Image of a Rotifier [Photo credit - Philippe Garcelon]

Rotifers are an invertebrate that lives in fresh water. They are small, about 0.1 to 0.5mm, and are commonly referred to as “wheel animalicule” because of the characteristic circular wheel of cilia which sweep their prey into their “mouth".

Five years ago...

It was about five years ago when Avalon called Lee to discuss purchasing a microscope. She had been using an ex-student's microscope which was too old and basic to give her the details she needed to identify the rotifers.

"When I first met Avalon all those years ago, I had assumed that she needed a good quality student microscope to keep her hand and eye in. As I listened to her requirements, my heart sank. I knew she had $7,000 in savings, but the longer we spoke, the clearer it became she needed a high quality research microscope which was well above her savings - my first quote was over $40,000", explained Lee.

Despite the price, Lee demonstrated a range of microscopes and tried to manage the expectations of her budget but Avalon was determined and would have none of it. She wanted the Olympus BX53 microscope with Differential Interference Contrast (DIC) and the $40,000+ hurdle was simply not going to get in her way.

After the demonstration, Lee suspected this would be their last meeting and she was right. She hadn't heard from Avalon in quite some time.

Five years later..

This year, Lee received an unexpected surprise. A letter, addressed to Lee's home from a very familiar person - Avalon. As a retiree, Avalon didn't have the luxuries we all have grown accustomed to, this included the not-so-humble computer, let alone an internet connection. She had been using the computers in the local library to check emails every now and then but since New Zealand had gone into lockdown due to COVID-19, she was no longer able to access the library and had to revert back to snail-mail.

It turns out, the reason Lee had not heard from Avalon was because she had only one goal in mind. To raise $40,000 and purchase the microscope of her dreams. Avalon decided to forfeit buying a phone, gave up coffee and her beloved trips to the New Zealand symphony orchestra and opera. She didn’t leave her flat unless it was absolutely necessary, she walked everywhere and didn’t buy any new clothes or items deemed unnecessary in her eyes. She saved 50% of her income until she had just enough.

Settling for anything but the best wasn't an option. She had received quotes from other companies, but in Avalon's eyes, Olympus was the only one that took the time to find out what she really needed and demonstrated a microscope that met her needs, rather than her budget. She felt confident that she was making the right choice and if you ever meet Avalon, you quickly get a feeling that not a lot can make her change her mind once it's made up!

When she had finally reached her goal, Avalon reached for Lee's old business card, which of course had an old office address. But, if raising $40,000 wasn't going to stop Avalon from reaching her dreams, overcoming the barriers of an old address, no phone, no internet access, and a global pandemic sure weren't going to! Determined, Avalon managed to find Lee's home address in the phone book and wrote to her explaining she had saved $43,000 in five years and was ready to make her purchase. Since, Lee and Avalon's communications have all been done through letters in the mail.

The ending you've been waiting for..

Avalon explained to Lee that nothing came easy in life. She knew what she wanted, did her homework, and was ready to make sacrifices to make her dream a reality. She explained, "at my age, I want the best while I can still get to use it".

When Lee delivered her dream in a box, well it's safe to say, sometimes pictures speak a thousand words.

It may have taken five years, but Avalon now has her Olympus BX53 microscope!