Jun 13, 2018

Bring healing art to children in medical crisis

On  March  1,  2018,  Shriners  Hospital  for  Children  received  a  generous grant  from a Charitable  Foundation.

This grant  was  for  art  therapy. The Child Life Department at  Shriners  immediately  thought  to  invite CHAP to  lead  a  weekly  adaptive  art  class  for  their  patients  in  halo  traction. 

Our first  class  on  Tuesday  morning, April  3rd,  was  a  one-on-one  experience  with  two  sweet  young  girls  in  halo traction, Hana and Chloe.  Both girls were immediately attracted  to  my  bracelets  and  necklace,  and  although  both  were non-verbal,  they  expressed  excitement  in  their  project  choice  with  big  smiles.  Hana did  not  have  mobility  in  her  hands,  but  was  able  to  indicate  with  a  energetic  nod  of  her  head  when Jenn,  the  classroom  teacher  held  up  beads  for  her  approval. 

With Hana  as  art  director,  the  two  proceeded  to  make a sparkly  bracelet.

I worked  with  Chloe,  who  was  able  to  use  her  hands,  although  not  always  constructively.  Before beginning class  I was warned  that  Chloe  had  a  powerful  grip  and  would  often  hurl  objects  that  she  wasn’t  interested  in  holding. Jenn announced  art  time  by  turning  on  lively  pop  music.  And so  we  begin  our  projects  while  dancing  in  our  chairs! I grabbed  a  beading  tray  and  sit  down  next  to  Chloe,  remembering  to  place  the  tray  with  beads  a  full  arm’s length away!  Inspired by Chloe’s pink  sweatshirt  decorated  with  hearts,  I  chose  some  of  our  adaptive  beads, multicolored hearts, big cube-shaped  letter  beads  to  spell  Chloe and  a  really  big  red  heart  to  place  in  the  very  center of the necklace.   I spoke to  Chloe  as  I  assembled  the  necklace,  thinking  out  loud  so  she  could  engage  in  the  creative  process, the story of colors, shapes and  the  special  red  heart  that  we  would  put  in  the  center.  The necklace was finally finished and I  tentatively  placed  it  around  Chloe’s  neck.  All was well for a few quiet  minutes  as  we  held  our  breath,  then  she  pulled  on  the  necklace  and  the  beads  went That was ok.  I restrung the beads and once again placed the  necklace  around  her  neck,  all  the  while  talking  about  the  special  big  red  heart  sitting  next  to  her  own  heart.  This time she smiled with  pride,  patting  her  heart  and  touching  the  big  red  heart  bead  on  her  necklace. 

 When I spoke to her mother the following  week,  she  told  me  that  Chloe  loved  her  necklace  and  didn’t  want  to  take  it  off.

 (the names in this story have been changed to protect privacy)



Mar 15, 2018

Bringing art supplies, bringing joy

A mother's wish for her son
A mother's wish for her son

Parents like doing art, too. We see this a lot at the children’s hospital. On a recent Wednesday afternoon at OHSU Knight Cancer Center, we successfully enticed a mom and dad to spend time creating.  

Their spirits were high. Their son was acting more himself. In previous weeks, the illness, the surgery and the chemo had left so strong an impression on their boy, he really wasn’t the young man they knew. Glimmers were coming through that day. When the boy accepted our invitation to paint, his mother nearly leapt for joy. She eagerly agreed to paint with her son.

CHAP volunteer Julia delivered the palettes of acrylic paint and canvases to the boy's room. Soon though, the medical team needed to do a procedure on the patient. His displaced parents wandered down the hall to the Family Room where CHAP had set up shop. They had their paint in one hand and their canvases in another. 

The husband worked quickly and quietly. His canvas quickly came to life. His wife of many years sat at the art table in front of him. At one point, he teased her by running the end of his paintbrush through the back of her hair. They had great playful energy between them.  

His wife readily shared the good news about her son's treatment while she worked. The husband’s painting was quite sweet and we fussed over him. When we asked if we could take a picture of him holding his painting, his wife feigned irritation that we were giving so much attention to his "masterpiece." We had a good giggle over this and tried to bring a little focus to her project. 

She painted the word ”Hope" on her canvas. When we photographed her artwork, she teased us and said we were just trying to be nice. All this was very light-hearted. The husband and wife worked with us for quite a while. They were clearly happy to have this break, a little time to laugh together.   

We were honored to have a front row seat watching them connect, just by offering a little acrylic paint, some brushes and two small canvases. It doesn't take much to spread joy. We’re certain this good cheer trickled back into their son's hospital room!


Dec 18, 2017

Extending the healing power of art a bit farther


In October 2017, Susan Sherwood (Child Life Specialist on Doernbecher 10 South and long-time partner) pulled me aside and asked if CHAP would be interested in a one-time art event on campus. We immediately said yes, as we are always looking for new ways to reach children and families facing medical challenges. Dr. Blair Murphy was coordinating a Mask Art and Pizza Party on a Saturday afternoon for pediatric radiation oncology patients and was looking for a partner. Susan recognized this as a job for CHAP!

Three weeks later, CHAP was ready to work with Dr. Murphy and the OHSU radiation team. The two-hour event was hosted by Faye, assisted by long-time CHAP volunteer Jeannie. Young patients and their families gathered in the Radiation Medicine Department on the 4th Floor of Kohler Pavilion. This was a part of campus that CHAP had never traveled to before!

The mask we are talking about is called a simulation mask and is used in radiation therapy targeting the brain. Since the head and neck need to be positioned very precisely, a contoured mask is created. It is essentially a mesh replica of the patient's face. To make the mask, the radiation therapist places a warm, wet sheet of plastic mesh over the patient's face while he or she is lying on the simulation table. The therapist then shapes it to fit around the patient's head. The patient is able to see and hear while the mask is on. The treatment often takes two (2) hours and the need for stillness is paramount. The patient is lying down on a table for this treatment. The mask gets fastened to the tabletop to hold the head and neck in place.

The children had all finished their radiation treatment and were doing well medically. This was an opportunity to transform those symbols of stillness and patience into lively creations through the magic of art. The radiation team came up with a great way to ease into the project: They made simulation masks for Mr. Potato Head! The staff had the wisdom to anticipate that some of the kids might have unexpected feelings about decorating their own mask. Mr. Potato Head was ready to serve as a buffer. The children were also given an option to decorate the walls of Exam Room 9, where kids are taken to wake-up from anesthesia after treatment if needed.  

A large conference table was covered with a tablecloth and converted into a temporary art work space. A few Mr. Potato Heads were sprinkled around the table, in between paint, markers and large 3-dimensional mesh masks.  One of the young boys and his mom decorated his mask with a Batman symbol on the chest.  A little girl glued feathers and pom poms to hers. A brave dad allowed himself to be placed on the table and a simulation mask was made for him, his daughter holding his hand the whole time.   

Dr. Murphy was very pleased with how the day went.  It is our hope that she will be calling CHAP again when she plans the next Mask Art and Pizza Party.  This sounds like a tradition worth starting!

Thanks to donations from so many, we are able to take on new experiences like this one – and extend the healing power of art farther. Thank you for your support.


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