"Colours on canvas. Just like in my dreams."

Nillay-Aydingglu, Fresenius Medical Care dialysis patient

Nilay Aydınoğlu used to be a patient at FMC Bahçelievler Dialysis Centre in Istanbul. We are using the past tense here for a reason: Nilay recently had a kidney transplant. Years ago, to help cope with her personal struggles, Nilay turned to colours. Through her remarkable paintings, she expressed her feelings and gave her life new meaning. This is her story.

First of all, tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in 1988 in İzmir, Turkey. My mother is a nurse and my father is a mechanical engineer. Just after I was born, I was diagnosed with spina bifida, a condition in which the spinal canal and backbone don’t fully close. As a newborn baby, I underwent my first surgery. 15 days later I had a second one to place a shunt on my head. But my body rejected the device and, as a result, I went through several other surgeries.   Why am I sharing this? To explain the hard start I had in life. I was lucky my parents were always there for me, through thinc and thin. When I was in second grade, I became a big sister to my little sister, Melike. Today she is my best friend in the whole world. I am also lucky to have a mother who is a nurse. She has always used her natural compassion to care for me. She often helps me deal with life as a disabled person, like when I had to drop out of school.

How did you get into painting?

A new window to my life was opened when I learnt about the Turkish Spinal Cord Paralytics Association (TOFD). Nur Pakize Eraslan, founder of the painting studio at TOFD and a painting teacher, told me I was welcome to come by and paint. But I didn't really believe him. Always encouraging, my mother picked up a canvas for me and stood by my side during class.  

Nur Pakize Eraslan convinced me that art has no authority. It was up to me to rediscover the world on canvas, if I wanted. Having someone support me and believe in me changed my life. There have been times when I’ve had to take a break from painting, for example when I was too exhausted during dialysis, but today I look forward to picking up the brush again and I am also pursuing new hobbies.

What does painting mean to you?

What started as a hobby opened the door to the art world for me. Actually, my paintings bring me a kind of pleasure that I liken to a vivid, colourful dream. One day it occurred to me that if I like painting so much, perhaps others would enjoy seeing my pictures. That’s how I came to share my works of art with other art lovers.  

The interplay of colour on canvas, whether realistic or surreal, transports me into completely new dimensions. Making art is a break from the daily grind, which isn’t always easy, and gives me new perspectives on nature and the world around me. The things I seek to reflect on canvas are traces of intangible, inexplicable beauty.  

At first, I mostly painted landscapes; nature and places I want to go to. But nowadays, animals like cats and dogs are the most common subjects. They are unique creatures, thought to be ungrateful because they have such strong personalities. In fact, they simply reflect what you give them. Give lots of love and you’ll get lots more back in return.

When did you learn you would start dialysis?

Although it came as no surprise that I had to start dialysis, it was still hard news to take. We delayed it as long as possible, but on 30th January 2015 it was time to begin. My world was tuned upside down at first and I had a hard time accepting my new reality. Thankfully, my family was there to support me.

How did you first come into contact with NephroCare?

I didn't know what to do when we learnt I needed dialysis, so my mother started researching. A kind lady who was a patient at NephroCare before receiving a donor kidney recommended the centre to us. There, the head nurse gave us a warm welcome and told us about the dialysis process and what we needed to do. I was scared during my first dialysis session, but the team supported me and I got used to it quickly.

You recently had a kidney transplant. What can you tell us about your experience?

Soon after starting dialysis, my name was put on the transplant list. During the night of 23 February 2016, I was told there was a compatible kidney available and in no time I was in the operating theatre. I am happy about the experience and my decision. Now I look forward to focusing again on painting!