Dialysis patients attending CUH have created a limited edition collection of poetry, to thank staff for the kindness shown to them during their many visits, writes MARY HASSETT
At first, patients in the Dialysis Ward of Cork University Hospital didn’t know what to make of haikus. Now they’re dab hands at composing the short, three line poems that originated in Japan.
It’s all thanks to Haiku Island Press co-founders, Tess Leak and Orlagh O’Brien, who introduced the patients to the wonders of haiku making. Now the patients see inspiration for poems everywhere they look. They even have a limited edition collection of poetry coming out in November, titled Tiny, Kind Gestures, which reflects the patients’ deep appreciation for the ongoing kindness shown to them by the staff in the Dialysis Unit.
The title comes from a haiku composed by Olivia: “Tiny, kind gesture, Worth more than a million, Ordinary things.”
The staff, in turn would say that they develop very strong bonds with the patients who have to get dialysis treatment on an ongoing basis. Because their kidneys aren’t functioning, patients need to have their blood filtered regularly to remove excess water and waste.
“As we see dialysis patients three times a week they’re like family and you get very, very close to them”, acknowledges Joanne Lyons, Clinical Nurse Manager, Dialysis Unit.
“I know I have done my job if patients are going out the door having had a good dialysis session and they’re feeling happy and looking forward to coming back the next day”, she said.
That’s why Joanne and all the staff are so delighted that the poetry making project was a perfect match for people attending the Dialysis Ward. Patients have to spend a minimum of three hours a day, three days a week attached to a dialysis machine and so anything that raises their spirits and promotes creativity is warmly welcomed. The haiku format means that poems can be made quickly, collaboratively and with mindfulness.
“I didn’t write any poetry before, I didn’t know I could until I got into it”, one participant pointed out.
“The patients got deeper and deeper into the poetry making as the weeks progressed. They thought about making poems on their way to and from dialysis and on other journeys, when they were at home, and when they were out on walks”, says Tess Leak, of Haiku Island Press.
The patients might be bed-bound for three hours, but in their imaginations they are able to roam freely around the landscapes they encounter on their often lengthy journeys to the CUH.
“We really feel that everyone has the potential to be creative, given the right conditions or supports. Everyone can have that potential to surprise themselves”, claims publisher, Orlagh O’Brien.
As well as uncovering hidden talent the poetry making sessions turned out to be lots of fun. There was a great deal of banter and laughter as Tess and Orlagh engaged with the 24 patients who volunteered to take part in the project.
“I didn’t know what haiku poetry was, but what it has done for the patients’ is beautiful, absolutely lovely”, enthuses Joanne Lyons.
“Coming from home into the hospital the patients are seeing things like bright lights in the sky or falling leaves and they incorporate these images into their poems”, Joanne adds.
The haiku poetry making project started off on a pilot basis last year when Orlagh O’ Brien and Tess Leak approached the CUH Arts Officer, Edelle Nolan who immediately saw the project’s potential.
Joanne Lyons and the staff in the Dialysis Unit felt that anything that might benefit the patients was worth a try.
The pilot proved such a success that it was decided to seek funding for an expanded project. Thankfully Haiku Island Press secured funding from the HSE South Arts and Health programme, Cork City Arts Office, and the CUH Arts Programme.
This enabled Tess and Orlagh to work throughout the summer in assisting patients to create their own poems as they were receiving their dialysis treatment on Monday and Tuesday afternoons.
Now the patients are eagerly awaiting a limited edition handmade publication of their poems due out in early November.
What makes the project so unique to Haiku Island Press is the fact that the whole process from poetry writing to book creation took place within the hospital setting.
One of the poems in the collection was composed by Ann: “Windblown cherry blossom, Carpet of pink under feet, Nature’s colour book.”
Earlier this month, Tess and Orlagh carried out a bookmaking workshop in the Atrium of the CUH within sight of the Dialysis Unit. They painstakingly crafted each individual book and invited passers-by, staff and patients to contribute to the artwork of the finished publication.
The book will be launched in the Cardiac Renal Atrium adjoining the Coffee Doc restaurant near the main hospital entrance of the CUH on Wednesday, November 2 at 5pm.
“It is so uplifting to know that patients have achieved something they would never have dreamed of,” Joanne Lyons points out.
She is acutely aware that a sizeable number of the I67 patients who attend the CUH Dialysis Unit have another dream that they earnestly hope will someday become a reality. They dream about receiving a call to travel to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin for a kidney transplant.
“I would really encourage people to carry an Irish Kidney Donor Card”, stresses Joanne.
“When a patient is called for a transplant the excitement here is unbelievable, the whole place is so joyful. You get goose bumps because you know that this is going to change a person’s life.”
However she knows that some of the patients who travel to the CUH from all parts of Cork City and County as well as from Waterford and Tipperary will be doing so for the rest of their lives as they are not suitable for a transplant. That’s why Joanne and all the staff care for each and every one of their patients as if they were family.
For more on Haiku island Press see: haikuislandpress.com
For Irish Kidney Donor cards see: www.ika.ie