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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.


Sep 25, 2017

Two by Two

Mom + child creating art together
Mom + child creating art together

Artists continue to be found in all corners of the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) campus. We wanted to share vignettes from a typical week.

On a recent Tuesday, we had two older sisters of a young in-patient at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital working gleefully (paint! clay!) with CHAP on the 9th floor. They had fun with us while their parents spent time speaking with medical staff about their sibling's prognosis.

On Wednesday we engaged a young woman being treated as an in-patient at OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, who beaded two stunning necklaces for her friends. The design of the second necklace started in the Family Room, but the nurse had to ask the patient to return to her room for a medical procedure. Ten minutes before we were scheduled to leave, we walked down to her room – wire cutters and flat nose pliers in-hand – to get her across the finish line by adding clasps to her jewelry pieces.

Thursday, way up on the 13th floor of Kohler Pavilion in the Knight Cancer Institute's in-patient Adolescent + Young Adult Oncology program, two 20-something brothers - one a patient, the other a visitor - worked side by side beading. Periodically one would say something and they'd laugh together.

On Friday morning, two very sweet sisters with perfect braids were engrossed in making jewelry with CHAP outside of Pediatric Surgery on the 8th floor of Doernbecher Children's Hospital, while their parents waited anxiously for news of their sibiling's surgery.

On Friday afternoon, a family on the Pediatric Hematology + Oncology in-patient unit (10 South) covered the front of a cotton T-shirt with their hand prints. The teenage sister lovingly identified each family member's hand. Then she added an inspiring quote – a line from her brother's favorite song – on the back of the T-shirt with her great penmanship and a handy fabric marker. 

They come to us two by two. Brothers, sisters, friends, spouses, mother and child. This is our version of Noah's Ark. We are pleased to provide them with a little solace of art-making, wherever we encounter them. Thank you for making this work possible.


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