15th July 2021
A unique art project was unveiled at the Paediatric Unit in Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise last week. A series of artworks by Fourth Class students at Portarlington Presentation Primary School, the project was inspired by a classmate who has undergone treatment in the hospital. Each piece of art signifies the resilience, courage and bravery of the children attending the Paediatric Unit in Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise.
Beads of Courage
Saoirse Ryan, a Fourth Class student, recently underwent a bone marrow transplant in Childrens Health Ireland at Crumlin while the Paediatric Unit in Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise supported her recovery. On returning to school Saoirse proposed and developed an art project with her teacher Jenny Kelly and classmates. The project was inspired by the “Beads of Courage” project. “Beads of Courage” enables children to tell their story using colourful beads as meaningful symbols of courage that commemorate milestones along their unique treatment path. The children adapted the idea and displayed the philosophy of care and healing through the medium of art.
The art project was officially unveiled by Sandra McCarthy, Director of Nursing at Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise, Saoirse Ryan, her mother Sinead Walsh and her teacher Jenny Kelly with the Paediatric Unit staff. The artworks are currently on display throughout the hospital.
Speaking at the unveiling Saoirse expressed her thanks to all the staff at Portlaoise, saying the hospital “feels like home while I’m there. I am very grateful to my teacher and all of my friends for putting this all together for such a wonderful place in the hope that it will make someone’s stay in hospital a bit brighter.”
Director of Nursing at Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise (MRHP) Sandra McCarthy added that staff were “so grateful to Saoirse and her classmates for this wonderful art project that we are proudly displaying in our Paediatric Unit here in Portlaoise. The collaboration which took place between Saoirse and the school is truly outstanding. It really shows the courage and determination displayed by Saoirse and her family to embrace the philosophy of “Beads of Courage.”
Elaine O' Brien-Doyle, Acute Paediatric Link Nurse(CNSp) at Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise explained that “through Saoirse’s leadership, she has won the support of her teacher and classmates to embrace a project which reflects the resilience, courage and bravery of the children that we see every day in our Paediatric Unit and it is humbling for it to also reflect gratitude from our community for the care that we provide.”
Saoirse’s mum, Sinead Walsh, further added: “Saoirse always felt very safe in Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise. The staff should be very proud of themselves as they always made my daughter feel secure. The aim of the project is to give something back to the Paediatric Unit that supported Saoirse through her journey. Saoirse and her class have underpinned their project with the “Beads of Courage” programme where every time a bead is given: courage is honoured, suffering is alleviated, resilience is strengthened, and the experience of human caring is affirmed.”
The ambition of the project is to reward those that have supported others through challenging times, to demystify medical centres and encourage children to be comfortable through hospital/ medical journeys. By providing this work and exploring children’s experiences in their local hospital hopefully helping children not to be scared if they need to attend the Paediatric Unit at Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise in particular. It is also a way to celebrate Saoirse’s journey through illness and return to normal life.
Fourth Class Teacher at Portarlington Presentation Primary School, Jenny Kelly noted that: “Instead of beads the children used different forms of colour and animals to express the philosophy of care and healing through the medium of art. This project taken on by Fourth Class has infused all students and families with excitement, care and love. We incorporated it as part of the curriculum this year and students diligently put in hours of school and leisure time into it.”
Beads of Courage enables children to tell their story using colourful beads as meaningful symbols of courage that commemorate milestones along their unique treatment path. This international programme helps to decrease distress, increases positive coping strategies and helps children find meaning in illness. Children have something tangible they can use to explain their experiences. Beads of Courage Paediatric Oncology Programme in Ireland at Children's Health Ireland at Crumlin is funded by the Childhood Cancer Foundation Ireland. There are more than 400 children enrolled on this programme from all over Ireland.