AN INNOVATIVE art project at Inverclyde Royal has helped patients deal with gruelling treatment and increased their confidence and self-esteem. 

The Art in Renal Care programme gave dialysis patients the chance to explore different aspects of their creativity with help from a team of experts. 

Artists from Art in Hospital, an organisation which encourages patients to get creative, worked with men and women to help them bring their ideas to life. 

Works created by the budding artists between April and September will be exhibited at the Beacon Arts Centre in January. 

Dialysis patient Bernadette Mackenzie said taking part in the project was a 'really great experience'. 

Bernadette, 51, said: "It added something really positive to my experience of coming to the hospital as it gave me the chance to explore aspects of art that I wouldn't have had the chance to do elsewhere. 

"Knowing I was going to be working with the artists made me really look forward to coming in for my dialysis."

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Bernadette, who is a teacher, discovered a passion for papermaking and also enjoyed learning about cyanotype photography. 

She has been undergoing dialysis three times a week, for four hours each time, at IRH since January. 

Bernadette found out she had kidney disease when she was 19 and had regular checks before her condition started to deteriorate. 

She received a kidney from her sister 20 years ago but the organ started to fail two years ago. 

Bernadette said: "I was really ill in the months leading up to starting dialysis. 

"I was really anaemic and very tired, toxins were making their way through my system. 

"My joints swelled up and I couldn't walk so my husband had to support me a lot at home. 

"When I started dialysis, all of these symptoms were alleviated. 

"I'm now fitter than I've been for a long time."

Bernadette says her dialysis is a 'lifesaver'. 

She added: "It's been great for me.

"It's given me my life back and I wouldn't survive without it."

Patient Mark Devlin, 35, lives with a very rare condition called IgA nephropathy and is awaiting his fourth kidney transplant. 

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He said Art in Hospital gave him 'something to focus on'. 

Mark added: "I had never been into art before but I've really enjoyed this. 

"It was great for keeping my mind off things and gave me something fun to think about."

Patient Bev Nicolson, 39, was inspired by space and the solar system and decided to make a rocket. 

Bev added: "I mentioned to the artists that I wanted to make a rocket and was expecting something small but they brought in a big cylinder.

"I just thought 'go big or go home!'.

"It was something to focus on and look forward to."

Bev, who has type one diabetes, was diagnosed with kidney failure in November 2019 and went on to contract viral meningitis in 2020. 

In 2021, she had to have a below knee amputation, and is currently awaiting a transplant. 

Bev said the art project helped her focus on the future. 

"It was a lot of fun. 

"The staff are amazing here as well, they make you feel like you're part of a big family."

Art in Hospital was funded through Creative Scotland. 

Dr Mun Woo, associate specialist for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's renal and transplant services, helped kick-start the project way back in 2008. 

Lack of funding has prevented continuous delivery of the programme. 

Dr Woo said the art project is 'vital' for improving patients' experience of dialysis treatment and would love to see it funded in future years. 

She added: "Even if it is merely a distraction, it allows patients to focus on something else beyond the stresses of their treatment.

"Trying out new things outwith their comfort zone promotes a sense of achievement and increases their confidence and self-esteem.

"Patients have said they found the activities mentally stimulating and interesting, and also challenged their attitudes and mindset, helping them see the world from a new perspective.

"It really has been such an important additional service to promote the wellbeing of our patients."

*The Art in Renal Care exhibition will run at the Beacon from January 13 to 27, with an open afternoon on January 14.