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Harriet Hodgson (@harriethodgson1)

Art for Healing

Just Want to Talk | Last Active: Sep 20 11:48pm | Replies (421)

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@harriethodgson1 Wow! I'm so glad you opened this discussion as I've wanted to talk about how important art is for healing and I loved seeing all the art at Mayo. It's kind of like an art museum with some doctor's offices and labs attached and lots more art in the hospitals. I realized that within my own personal experience, I had a lot of resources to help me as a patient. I took my own advice and I used art and music as my therapy to help get past my fears and embrace the surgical treatment that I needed. I am an artist and I was loosing the ability to hold my arms up and control them, and I had worked so hard in my life to achieve that ability. I had long held fears about going through painful tests and surgery, and I was faced with a choice. If my fear made my choices for me, I would have become disabled in a lot of ways, and I would not be able to continue to paint at the level I expected of myself. I also have a biology degree and had worked in research before changing careers to fine art, so I understood medical research that I read, and I understood why I needed spine surgery. When I came to Mayo, I brought one of my own paintings with me to comfort me and give me a place to mentally escape if necessary. I hung it on the wall and looked at it during the nerve tests. I brought it with me when I met my neurosurgeon because I wanted him to understand why getting his help was so important to me. I had already been turned down by 5 surgeons before Mayo because my case was a bit unusual. I brought my camera and asked my surgeon if I could do sketches of him. I told him I needed to like him and this was my way to connect through my art. He liked my art and gladly posed for my camera. I sent him images of my drawings of him. Another painting accompanied me on my surgery day. It was of a trail I had hiked along a creek in Rocky Mountain National Park and I knew it intimately because I had been there and had painted it. Not only did I learn to defeat my biggest fear, but I came through with flying colors. During my recovery, what I wanted to do the most was to paint a portrait of my surgeon, and at one of my follow up appointments, he posed for my camera again and he had a lot of fun doing that. When I came back at my one year follow up, I had a watercolor portrait of him that I painted as a gift. I had to do some rehab to get back my stamina for the physicality of painting. During all of this, music helped me reduce stress and lower my blood pressure. I was measuring it before and after listening to music with deep breathing, and I could drop it significantly. Music also gave my mind a place to go when I was worried. The night before surgery, I was doing my best to loose myself in that painting and the music in my headphones, and in the morning when I met my surgical team I was calm and ready and doing just fine. Coming to Mayo exceeded my expectations and changed my life, and I brought my own creativity as my guide.

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Replies to "@harriethodgson1 Wow! I'm so glad you opened this discussion as I've wanted to talk about how..."

WOW!! Thank you for sharing this. We all need something to keep us pressing onward.

Sometimes words are just not enough to say thank you. I am a fine artist. For a couple years, I had been unable to control my brushes and was in constant pain because of spinal cord compression in my neck. I stopped painting because I couldn't produce the quality of work that I expected. I was getting worse and couldn't find a surgeon to help me until I came to Mayo Clinic and met Dr. Jeremy Fogelson. As the days drew closer to my surgery, I had to find a way to be confident and calm, so I used sketching and listening to music to relax. I had been drawing pencil sketches of Dr. Fogelson as my own art therapy to help me on my journey. It helped me get to know him in my own way. I did other things to confront my fears as well, but I always returned to art and music when I needed to escape for awhile. I was calm on my surgery day and everything I did to prepare myself worked like a charm. While I was recovering, I wanted to paint again and to create something for my surgeon. Prior to my surgery, I was loosing what I cherished most, and my surgeon returned that gift to me.

I called his nurse and we arranged for my followup appointment to be on his surgery day, so I could get photos of him in his scrubs. He enjoyed posing for my camera in the exam room for a few minutes and even made me laugh. I had to work out how to match the photos of him with my photos of the Plummer building to make it look believable. I put the history of Mayo behind him with the beautiful carved doors of the historic building, and that was a challenge to draw and paint them in accurate detail.

It took about a month to create this watercolor painting, and I would have to take breaks and lay down to rest when my muscles fatigued. At my one year followup, I hid the finished painting behind the curtain in the exam room until we finished the exam part of the appointment, and then Dr. Fogelson saw this for the first time. It was a complete surprise to him and he loved it. I really painted this for both of us… to say thank you when words were not enough, and to challenge myself to see if I could do it since it had been so long since I had been able to paint. I'm honored to know that he will enjoy this for years to come. I makes me feel good to be able to do this for someone who gave me back the ability to do the job, and knowing how much it meant to him is priceless.

Art has healing power, and creating art takes that one step further for me. I told Dr. Fogelson that there was an emotional side to healing and recovery, and for me that was to overcome the fears that had help me back in my life. Facing major surgery has a way of bringing all of that into focus. This was truly life changing for me in many ways. All of my experiences at Mayo, and my courage are all in that painting. It also represents the talent, the kindness and compassion of my surgeon. At Mayo, medicine is an art. It's also true that art is medicine.

Jennifer, you are truly an inspiration not to mention an incredible artist. I find you yo be a heroine. Your story was amazing. By now, its Aug 2019, I pray you are most likely doing well and painting once again.
Thank you for posting. Myself, I need help as my husband and I have lost our daughter, suddenly.
I just began to paint, in fact taking lessons. Since our daughters passing I dont want to do anything, but I know I need to.
God Bless You

Heres my story….
Check under Grief and Loss:
Recent, totally sudden, traumatic loss of our daughter.
Thank you.

Bravo Jennifer! Thanks for sharing your story.

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