My Yellow Brick Road

My Yellow Brick Road“Make me feel like I’m normal.”

As heard on The Ray D'Arcy Show

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We all know what it’s like to feel stuck in a rut and how hard it can be to get out of it. ‘My Yellow Brick Road’ is a new series beginning on RTE2 tomorrow night that focuses on giving people the jump-start they need to get back on track. Claire Balding, insta-famous for candidly documenting her struggles with alopecia, is one of four mentors on the show and 27 year old Laura Gahan needs their support. Both women dropped into studio to tell Ray D’Arcy all about the show.

Laura has a genetic condition called Nail Patella Syndrome, which is generally categorised by abnormalities of the nails, knees, elbows and pelvis. The condition varies in severity for each individual, so Laura described her symptoms.

“When I was born I had club feet … I can’t fully extend my arms. I have a very small patella, which is a knee cap, I have an absence of finger nails. I produce too much protein in my kidneys, which over time gave me kidney failure, so I ended up on dialysis when I was 22.”

Laura lived with the condition relatively unfazed for a number of years, but as her condition worsened and her dependency on dialysis increased, things had to change.

“I was working, I was well, I was happy, I was going out with a guy at the time, I was living independently. Then when I got sick, I moved back home.”

It became obvious that the only solution was a kidney transplant. Laura’s mother had assumed that she’d be able to be a living donor for her daughter, but when she turned out not to be a match, her brother stepped in.

“My brother offered to give me his kidney. Glen looked at me in bed around Christmas time, I couldn’t eat my dinner or anything and he said ‘I’m going to give her a kidney’.”

And to think some people just give vouchers.

Laura’s transplant was an instant success, but the recovery time required and the years of dialysis preceding it, had dented her confidence and left her feeling a little lost.

“It wasn’t just because I got a kidney transplant … I felt like I’d put up borders because of my disability with my arms and stuff … the big gap in my CV too from being on home dialysis, I felt like who’s going to want to employ this girl.” 

Three years on, what she craves more than anything is the routine of work and that ‘Friday feeling’ all of her friends enjoy after a productive week. 

“Make me feel like I’m normal, like I have the same structure and routine as my friends.”

Step in Claire and the other mentors on the ‘My Yellow Brick Road’ team. Keen to clarify that they’re not experts, Claire and the gang are more like friendly supporters who’ve weathered their own storms and come out shining.

“We’re just normal people that were once in Laura’s position or that of the other six participants, we can see a lot of ourselves in each of them. It’s a nice message I think, that we all go through hard times, we all have a bump in the road that we need to get over … Once you’re able to tell your story, or tell a part of your pain, your pain starts to diminish then.”

Ray was adamant that he’d steer clear of spoilers, so see how Laura got on when ‘My Yellow Brick Road’ begins Weds 13th Nov at 9.30pm on RTÉ2.

You can listen to Ray’s chat with Laura and Claire, in full, here.

Jan Ní Fhlanagáin

© The Listener 2019

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