Making My Mark, an exhibition of artworks by renal dialysis patients, has just opened at the BBraun Wexford Wellstone Renal Care Centre on Sinnottstown Lane, Wexford.  The artworks were created during a pilot art programme, which took place at the clinic from February to June this year.  The aim of the programme, also called Making My Mark, was to support patient wellbeing and promote quality of life through creative activity during the long hours which each patient is required to spend on dialysis.  The programme was delivered by artist Kate Murphy, managed by the staff of the Renal Care Centre, in partnership with Réalta/Waterford Healing Arts, and funded by the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund.

The BBraun Wellstone Wexford Renal Care Centre is a 15-bed unit which accommodates approximately 60 chronic renal dialysis patients from the south-east of Ireland every week.  Each patient attends for renal dialysis for 3-4 hours, usually three times per week.  The Wexford Centre is a satellite unit to University Hospital Waterford (UHW) where Réalta/Waterford Healing Arts has been delivering a wide range of arts and health programmes for decades, including a highly successful Arts Programme in Renal Dialysis.  Understanding the benefits to patients of this programme, the teams in Wexford and Waterford came together to design an art programme for the Wexford patients, and this became Making My Mark.

Speaking at the exhibition launch, Pauline Atkinson, Chairperson of the Wexford Branch of the Irish Kidney Association, and one of the patients who took part in Making My Mark said “The whole thing was so uplifting and so rewarding.  Initially I was a bit apprehensive, I didn’t know what to expect.  But it was all just so positive.  For the first time I started looking forward to going in to dialysis, instead of dreading it.  The artist delivering the programme made a big difference.  Kate kept an open flow, open communication, and I was very impressed with her choice of materials and equipment.  The art trolley held the world!  I couldn’t believe I could work with so many mediums.  I don’t think this could have happened without the positivity and the progressive ethos that the team here in Wellstone Wexford have.  It’s difficult when the medical needs of the patient need to be prioritised, but the holistic journey of the patient needs to be supported too.  They understand that, and that’s what this programme has done.”

Carolann Flynn, Interim Unit Manager of the Wellstone Wexford Renal Care Centre, also reflected on the programme: “The team here wanted to make the experience of renal dialysis better for patients by introducing softer aspects of care and providing a means for the staff and patients to see each other ‘beyond the machine’.  We’re really pleased with the success of Making My Mark: It has given patients the opportunity to develop their own artistic and creative skills, softened the clinical environment and promoted patient motivation and sense of purpose.  Artist Kate Murphy’s approach was always patient-centred, encouraging and supporting patients to make the art they were interested in.  I would like to thank Réalta/Waterford Healing Arts, and the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund for their support, and we hope that this is just the beginning of a creative chapter at Wellstone Wexford.”

Responding, artist Kate Murphy thanked Wexford Arts Officer Liz Burns for recommending her for the programme, she thanked the teams at Wellstone Wexford and at Réalta/Waterford Healing Arts, and she had a special word of thanks for the patients she worked with during Making My Mark: “It has been so lovely to meet and work with you all.  The nature of the way we needed to work – although it could be difficult because the space is small, and because of the limits the machine puts on you – meant that all our work was one-to-one, and that’s the up-side. Having that time to chat, learn a bit about you and focus on what we can do together: I have loved that.  So thank you to all the patients who had never made anything before, but gave it a go; Thank you to those who had made before, and tried something new; And thank you to those who weren’t up to making something this time, but who had lovely chats with me.  It was really lovely to spend time with you all.  And if something worked for you, I hope you’ll continue to experiment with art into the future.”

Claire Meaney, Director of Réalta/Waterford Healing Arts, added “Congratulations to the patients and staff here at Wellstone Wexford on the success of this beautiful project in this wonderful, bright space.  We are thrilled to have been involved in this project and to see the work created by the patients here, and we look forward to continuing to offer our support to future projects in any way that we can.  Our heartfelt thanks to the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund, as always, for their generous support in providing the essential funds to run this programme and in understanding the importance of this type of project for renal dialysis patients.”

James Nolan, Chairperson of the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund, himself a former dialysis patient and a kidney transplant recipient, assured everyone present that he could see how important the art programme at Wellstone Wexford was: “This is a really positive story that needs to be highlighted.  From the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund point of view, we made a small donation, but the team here have reaped the maximum from this for the benefit of the patients and I compliment everyone here.  What you’re doing is having such a positive impact and improving the quality of life of all the patients, not only during their dialysis sessions, but in their lives.  I wish you continued success and well done.”

Photo (l-r): James Nolan, Chairperson, Punchestown Kidney Research Fund; Maeve Butler, Asst Director, Réalta/Waterford Healing Arts; Kate Murphy, Artist; Pauline Atkinson, Patient & Chair of the Wexford Branch of the Irish Kidney Association (IKA); Claire Meaney, Director, Réalta/Waterford Healing Arts; Carolann Flynn, Interim Unit Manager, Catherine Nunan, Clinical Nurse Specialist and Mary Coyne, Staff Nurse, BBraun Wellstone Wexford Renal Care Centre.
Photo by Padraig Grant