A FLAGMOUNT woman is using her new-found literary talent to express her gratitude to an organisation to that supported her to donate a kidney to her husband.
Reah Higgins and her husband Aaron underwent surgery in January 2017 so that the couple could share the gift of life. For a number of years up to that point, Aaron had been on gruelling dialysis to manage his chronic kidney disease.
“I was a live donor in this instance and fortunately it was a success,” said Reah, “We were blessed to be a match and it was a miracle really and life changing, in that we could make plans again. We had been very restricted before with Aaron on dialysis three times a week and often ill or fatigued. He now has lots more energy, less hospital appointments and his spark back.”
Together with their sons Fionn (12) and Stephen (10), the couple have been enjoying greater freedom until the pandemic hit and confined them to home. It was during this time, however, that Reah had the chance to explore her literary and creative side and decided to write about the experiences that the family had been through. After chatting with Eoin O’Hagan and his wife Ruth, who are both presenters on Scariff Bay Community Radio (SBCR), Reah decided to write a fictionalised account of the transplant experience.
“The creative juices started to flow and I couldn’t put my pen down,” she said. After writing the novel, though, she decided it might have been an act of therapy, rather than something she wanted to publish immediately. “You’re very exposed when someone in the family has a chronic illness,” she said. “Everybody at work and at school knows that situation. I found that when I had written the novel, it also exposed us a bit too, so that’s in the cupboard for now. I’m not sure we’re in a place now where I would want to publish it.”
The creative fire was still burning though and Reah found herself producing poetry. Something that surprised her. “I don’t know where they came from,” she said. “It was like they just fell out of me. It could have been the chance to step off the hamster wheel and slow down. That pause during lockdown could have been the spark.
“I was invited on the Oath and Ruin show on Scarriff Bay to chat about my writings and to share two poems on that day. They were very supportive and also shared my poem ‘Final Tranquillity’ at a later date.”
Because of Reah’s German roots, her father is German and her mother English, the titles of the poems are in three languages. “That also just happened!” she said.
The opportunity to take a reflect on the transplant also made Reah determined to give something back to the Irish Kidney Association (IKA) who had been a great supporter during the family’s journey.
“We wanted to give back in some small form and here was the perfect opportunity,” she said. “Our aim is to help maintain a particular service we received along the way which was the association’s Support Centre on the grounds of Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. The staff and service there were exceptional and accommodating to say the least. The centre provides accommodation for patients and their families who are attending the renal department for a variety of reasons. Not only does it take away the added financial stress of finding somewhere to stay in Dublin, it is so practical. You can walk over to the hospital, see the team, get bloods taken or visit somebody on the ward and then return to the centre for a lie-down or to prepare food. It became a home away from home for us.”
Reah also found that being able to meet others who were experiencing challenging times helped the family to cope. “You could have a chat and compare your feelings and experiences with others in the same situation,” she explained. “There was a fantastic sense of community and everyone got great solace and such support from each other.”
The idea of recording Reah’s poems and producing a CD to support the IKA also made great use of the family’s creativity. With a passion for music, Aaron has a studio at the back of the family home and Fionn composed one of the tracks on the CD.
“I used to hear Fionn playing a piece on the piano around the time of the transplant,” Reah said. “When I asked him, he told me he had written it. He eventually agreed that he would record it. After that the CD just developed and took on wings of its own. A CD was never the plan and a collaboration of music and poetry was never anticipated, but it just happened. The poems on the CD by myself are reflections of these emotions of love, fear, hope, sadness, acceptance, relief, joy, final tranquillity and a new dawn. Aaron and Fionn then added the original music compositions to this with singing and piano and harmonica playing, whilst Stephen added an uplifting and affirming introduction.”
Reah believes the CD will appeal to the wider highs and lows of life.
“They aim to relate to life itself and the rollercoaster of ups and downs that can entail for the majority of us,” she said. “It is my hope and ambition that people will connect and associate the words and music collaborations with their own voyage through life. The CD aspires to promote validation of all emotions and to provide hope to anyone who finds themselves on a difficult path.”
The second lockdown has curtailed plans for a public launch for the CD, but it is widely available with proceeds going directly to the IKA.
Reah is inviting people to contact her directly on Facebook or on 087-4138626 to support and purchase a CD. CDs, which cost €13 each (plus postage if requested) will be available at Banes of Scarriff, O’Maras of Flagmount, Scarriff Post Office and Feakle Post Office. “We are very grateful to these local businesses for their support in these trying times,” Reah said.
Support and information in regard to kidney health is available from the IKA directly on their Facebook page or by contacting Clare woman Peggy Eustace on 087-9392148.
Information on how to become an organ donor is available by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01-6205306. You can also FreeText the word DONOR to 50050 or visit website www.ika.ie/card.
‘Relief, Faoiseamh, Linderung’
By Reah Higgins
– ease given by the ending or lessening of pain, anxiety or difficulty
A new dawn has broken.
The light shines through the crack.
Body, mind and soul relaxing.
No longer under attack.
Alleviation at its finest.
A huge exaltation of breath.
Relinquishing and slowly smiling.
Dilemma has found its death.