In an instant, Lauren went from being a normal kid to having to go to the hospital three times a week for dialysis. It all started in February 2013. Lauren hadn’t been feeling very well for a few months and her family decided to take her to the doctor. The next day she was diagnosed with renal failure and put on an organ transplant waiting list. While waiting for a kidney transplant, Lauren had to travel to the hospital every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for dialysis, which meant she didn’t attend a full week of school for 15 months.
Lauren’s illness took a toll on her social and academic life because she wasn’t on the same schedule as her classmates. Some kids at school didn’t even know who she was as she missed so many days.
A few weeks into her dialysis treatments, Lauren met Rachel, Helium’s artist in residence at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, and as her mother Kerry put it, “a spark was lit.” She enjoyed long talks and sketching sessions with Rachel each Wednesday during her dialysis sessions. For Lauren, one of the biggest challenges of her illness is not having enough energy to do the same activities as other teenagers.
So, having the chance to work on creative projects every Wednesday with Rachel was Lauren’s chance to forget about the limitations of her illness and focus on something she loves to do … art!
When I was drawing, it was really good. It was a good way for me to process the way I came into hospital and how everything felt. It’s just good for putting things into perspective.
Lauren has lots of great memories of her time working with Rachel in the hospital. She created a character called the Ocean Fairy who longed to escape back to the ocean where she belonged. Dancer Rachel Ensor brought the Ocean Fairy to life in a magical visit to Temple Street and Lauren constructed Ocean Fairy Russian Dolls that her aunt photographed touring around Ireland. Lauren loved hearing stories of where the dolls travelled and seeing photos of people interacting with her story, which was hidden inside one of the dolls.
It made it much easier to be on dialysis because usually I was doing school or teaching myself something or just trying to keep myself entertained and it just meant that on a Wednesday I had loads to do and I had someone to chat to and on the other days I knew I had it to look forward to.
Lauren finally received her kidney transplant 15 months after beginning dialysis. During those months at the hospital, Lauren developed her passion for art through her work with Rachel and Helium Arts. Lauren’s mum believes that taking part in Helium’s residency programme was fantastic for her daughter because it allowed her to focus on something other than her medical issues and feel like a normal teenager.
When Lauren was preparing to transition from child to adult healthcare services, she reconnected with Rachel as part of Helium’s outreach programme to creatively explore her feelings and apprehensions about this transition. Lauren continues to let her creativity shine in all aspects of her life and would love to study art when she finishes school.
With special thanks to BNP Paribas Foundation and BNP Paribas Group Ireland for funding the Fireflies programme.