Salt Lake City, UT (03/26/2009) – Medicine doesn’t always come from a bottle or an IV bag. Sometimes it can be found in a simple magic marker.
Patients at LDS Hospital have transformed an expansive stretch of sheetrock wall into a canvas for their thoughts and feelings about their battle with cancer. The wall expresses the wide range of emotions a cancer patient might feel — from hope and despair, to anger and acceptance, to gratitude and humor.
“It started with one patient and it’s led to all the patients writing on the wall,” says Barb Adams, assistant nurse manager for the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at LDS Hospital. “It’s become a bonding place for the patients, and a profound, inspirational thing for their families.”
The canvas is actually a temporary wall that workers put in place as they construct 16 additional rooms in the unit. One patient’s vision has transformed the 140-foot-long wall into a mural for all the patient’s thoughts and feelings.
“I stayed out here one night for about two and a half hours and drew,” says patient Bruce Daughters, who launched the wall with a modern-art masterpiece that encourages others to “Live Strong.”
Other messages say, "We love you, Dad," "Laugh at every dumb family memory" and "Cancer sucks!"
"Now that I'm bald, I can really see my face and my eyes, and they're beautiful, and I see my heart in them," wrote cancer patient Brandi Chase.
Caregivers in the cancer unit say it’s been a great form of therapy.
“It can be hard to get our patients up and moving. Sometimes they’re cooped up their rooms for two or three months at a time,” says nurse Tony Hall. “This gets them out and they can see what other people are going through. It helps their mood and makes them feel like they’re not alone.”
It’s also been a source of strength for their family members, many of whom have met and made friends at the wall and then exchanged phone numbers so they can stay in touch once treatment is complete.
Staff say they’ve also been touched by their patients’ art.
"Even for us as nurses, we'll have a bad day, and you can come back and look at the wall and it's inspiring to us. It helps us remember the good patients and the good times. It's a healing wall all the way around," nurse Kammi Lemmon said.
Work on the unit remodel will be completed by the end of this year, but the hospital plans to continue the wall tradition even after permanent walls go up.