Fay Ballard – Wednesday 13th September 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.

Several colour photocopies of ward nurses, including Godfrey and Connor, were tucked in my rucksack ready for Deborah to cut and paste into her collages. When I arrived, Irving was sitting reading Robert Harris’s novel ‘ Fatherland’ and greeted me warmly. He was feeling much better and able to talk. We embarked on a long conversation about the inequalities of life and intransigent social mobility. Loving parents and an excellent education helped people to excel in life. ‘Everyone has a talent which needs to be harnessed’, reflected Irving.

I looked over to Deborah’s bed on the other side of the ward, and it was empty. Where was Deborah? Collage making would have to wait until next week.

Olive was looking very well and we talked for some time about our families, particularly the love and admiration for her daughters. I noticed Michael was fast asleep, and Cheryl too. Betty was holding a lively conversation across the beds with Akos as Betty made up her face.

With so much sleeping, it was a perfect opportunity to fill the new frames installed recently in the entrance hall of the ward. Reaching for the file of patient work, I framed a selection of drawings and watercolours. The display looked good, and caught the attention of staff and patients passing by.

As I fetched a rubber to clean up one of Michael’s drawings for framing, I noticed he’d woken and found him sleepy. ‘I thought you weren’t here today’, he whispered from the pillow. Replying that I hadn’t wanted to wake him, he insisted I did next week. ‘Please wake me, I want to paint!’ he ordered firmly. With only 15 minutes remaining on his dialysis machine, we talked about the kidnapping of my cat several years ago. Coco liked to wander off down the nearby streets, visiting the kitchen of the local Indian restaurant, the Keats Library staff room on the first floor, the local Conservative Party office for Rich Tea biscuits and tea with volunteers, a lady wearing heavy perfume, as well as jumping through the upstairs bedroom window to the boy next door. One day he was stolen. In despair we posted ‘help’ notices on trees, and Keats Library and the Tory Party helped by displaying posters too. Over a period of six weeks we received about 30, possibly 40, phone messages and calls. Eventually Coco was returned by a young man in an Audi sports car who’d taken the cat for his daughter’s birthday. He claimed it was all our fault for allowing Coco to wander.

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