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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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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.

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Replies to "Sometimes words are just not enough to say thank you. I am a fine artist. For..."

@jenniferhunter thank you for sharing your story and your amazing gift.

@jenniferhunter Hello Jennifer! That painting of Dr. Folgelson is amazing! I bet he was honored to receive that. I love the way you juxtaposed those iconic doors behind him. I too am a fine arts painter. Since my illness; I have lost the creative part of me. I don't know if that will ever return. I have contemplated setting up an official painting studio to see if that would help bring it back. My disease steals most of my energy unfortunately. I am glad that you sought out good help and saved yourself. More than that, you saved your passion.

What an amazing gift to an amazing doctor from an equally amazing patient, @jenniferhunter! Thank you sooo much for sharing that moment with all of us!

I wanted to let everyone know that my personal story about my Mayo spine surgery and the portrait gift that I painted for my surgeon is scheduled to be published on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog on January 9th. I can't wait! We took a photo together for the story with painting in front of the nice stained glass windows at St. Mary's Hospital. It's a story that focuses on me using my own art to overcome my fears and express my gratitude to my wonderful surgeon for saving my ability to paint.

Here it is! My story as a Mayo Clinic patient using my own art for healing…. and thanks Dr. Fogelson. https://sharing.mayoclinic.org/2019/01/09/using-the-art-of-medicine-to-overcome-fear-of-surgery/

@jenniferhunter WOW! Your story and how you helped yourself is very inspiring! Has anyone asked you to speak to groups or patients? You’ve given me some real ideas! Thank you. Becky

Simply spectacular!

I have an update to share. When I painted this portrait for Dr. Fogelson, I recorded a video of the creation of this painting. Not everyone shares my passion for watching paint dry… or has that much time because this painting took a month to complete, so I created a multi-camera time lapse version that shows almost all of my process. It made sense to post it as a reply to my post with the images of the painting. It is 39 minutes and set to music. Here is the link. Enjoy!

With gratitude ~ Jennifer Hunter

My story as a spine surgery patient has been told by Sharing Mayo Clinic, and I had a wonderful opportunity to talk about that in a Podcast that has been published today.

I was interviewed by Catherine Praiswater for a Podcast called "Your Positive Imprint" that is about inspiring stories. We talked about my experience as a patient facing spine surgery and how I coped with music and art, and how I learned to go forward in spite of fear, and then after my recovery, painting my surgeon's portrait. From what I learned about myself, I began to share that here on Connect to help other patients. We also discussed how we can learn from the stories of others to find meaning in our lives.

You can find this podcast where you subscribe to podcasts, and it is titled,
"Doctor, your hands are going to save my hands today. Artist: Jennifer Hunter"

Here is the link to the podcast.

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