Fay Ballard – Wednesday 12 April 2017 – Auchi Dialysis Unit, Hammersmith Hospital

Artist Fay Ballard is leading a weekly creative workshop with dialysis patients at Hammersmith Hospital. She is writing a weekly blog in response to her experiences. 

‘How are you? Olive asked, and I recounted the visit made to my childhood home yesterday. I took a friend and her guest who turned out to be my old art teacher. How strange to be returning to my childhood home with a key person from the past who’d influenced me so strongly. Olive recalled two strange coincidences about visiting her late mother in Jamaica and her late brother in London. Our conversation touched on bittersweet memories, the uncanny, fate, destiny and superstition. I wondered which plants could be drawn to symbolise bitter sweetness? She sang a hymn softly in my ear, and the sounds of the ward faded away.

Michael was in deep sleep but Akos was stirring, providing an opportunity to share the transfer drawing of her Sudoku puzzles. She burst into delightful laughter and gazed up at the traces of her numbers, transferred by nail varnish remover onto fresh paper.

Where was Chantelle? Another apple plus an orange and several boxes lay waiting in my rack sack ready to be used in a technical drawing exercise.

Irving smiled across the ward and I went over to talk. We discussed his celebration of Passover yesterday and the symbolism of eating bitter herbs to recall the harshness of the slavery the Hebrews endured in Egypt. I mentioned my own bittersweet memories and asked which plants he’d eaten: horseradish root, endive and romaine lettuce. At the end of our conversation, he explained that Chantelle had been transferred upstairs to another dialysis unit.

I went to find Chantelle asleep in a room of four patients on the first floor. On her bedside table, the sketchbook and some new artwork were peeping out of her open bag.

Michael had woken and was keen to paint some buildings and I showed him a selection of photocopies of snaps I’d taken. None was quite right, so we searched the internet on my iPad for cottages and chose one to work from. Within minutes, he had sketched out the scene and was busy painting.

I dashed back upstairs to find Chantelle still asleep and left a note saying I’d come first thing next week.

Returning to Michael, I found him suffering from painful cramp in his hand. In time, this passed and he resumed painting until his dialysis machine completed its cycle. The unfinished painting showed great promise; he would finish it next week. How did he create such a scene with cataracts in both eyes?


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