July Seminar 2021

Deep Colours Bleed

(installation, dimensions variable)

towels sourced from the artist and Auckland hotels, rust, anti-bacterial copper wire, green tea, strawberry and raspberry infusion, English breakfast tea, Rooibos, beetroot stain, school glue, sugar and water solution, conduit duct, black boundary line, magnets, copper tacks.

Mum talks with me about her experience of hemochromatosis (he-moe-kroe-muh-TOE-sis)

“When you have hemochromatosis, there’s an excess of iron in the blood that the body can’t get rid of. When this iron is deposited into vital organs, the body literally rusts internally. I’ve heard people call it the Viking Gene or the Celtic Curse, but this is recent language — my mother and father, your Nana and Grandad, had no idea that they were carriers. The full blown condition happens if you get the mutated gene from both parents, it’s a family thing.

When I found out, I was in my forties so that was over 30 years ago now. I’d had a full hysterectomy after I gave birth to you and so I wasn’t menstruating. Other than a pin prick I wasn’t releasing any blood.

My maintenance process involves managing my ferritin level, which needs to be below a certain measure. My initial reading was 600 + which wasn’t good, but with weekly checks and taking blood it soon came down. Over time I went from weekly blood tests at the doctor’s office, to monthly, and then 3 monthly, now I’m at 6 monthly and this might change again. I do as I’m told and it seems to be working out okay. So no supplements containing iron or, Vitamin C because it attracts the iron. I should stay away from some iron-rich food but this doesn’t seem to matter too much, and alcohol needs to be moderated. On the positive side tea contains tannins that inhibit iron absorption so I don’t feel guilty drinking tea, it’s kind of like medicine that I can self-prescribe.

I have a scheduled blood test on Monday. I’ll drink plenty of water 48 hours prior, as this helps the blood to flow better. They’ll take two test tubes of blood; one for haemoglobin and one for my ferritin. It’s the same vein on my left arm that’s used every time. Sometimes they can’t find the vein right away but they keep trying, and eventually they find it. The day after the test, I’ll call the hospital to check the level and if it’s over the required limit, an appointment is made for the following day to get the oxidized blood taken off. At this point, the blood taken is thrown away, it’s no good. It takes about 30 to 40 mins to get 500mls. I usually squeeze a soft ball to make it pump quickly. I watch the blood coming out, it’s a beautiful dark red blood.

I don’t feel angry with having the gene as it’s something that I can’t take away, it’s in my DNA. If I’m going to have something, it may as well be something I can be active in controlling.”