Emotional Medical Drawings, Done in the Moment, Over Time, and Through the End
guest post by Anita White
My darling husband Josh is now of blessed memory. He died very peacefully on April 10th in St Paul, Minnesota. I held his hand to the very end.
Josh was very brave and endured many many medical trials. The last two years were intense, and the last four months were a series of hospital stays in Cardio Renal, and the ER, with blood transfusions and time in and out of a transitional care nursing home. In addition our Minnesota winter was the worst ever with non stop blizzards and Polar Vortex windchills.
Through it all, I did what I had always done. I stuck to his side like glue and loved him, bearing with his pain and helping communicate important issues with all of his providers. I also drew every single moment right up to his death and beyond. I drew as a way of bearing witness to his struggle, and also a way to document important medical details like BP or oxygen levels right on the drawings. I had been drawing his medical issues for over 20 years, but this took on more urgency as I realized all too clearly that he was coming to the end of his life.
I was grateful when humor popped into my drawings and lightened difficult moments. We had been together for 38 years and our accumulated stories kept many a provider spellbound in our “Vortex of Stories.” They couldn’t bear to leave and wanted to hear more.
My husband was transferred to another hospital just days before he died. The peaceful and spiritual atmosphere of Bethesda Hospital is reflected in my last drawings of him.
I miss him greatly and am in mourning. However our playful relationship continues after death as I draw him continuing to give me practical advice even after death. When I went to Social Security to inquire about benefits he admonished me “So don’t just make this an art extravaganza! Pay attention to Reality! Pay attention to the Facts! These ongoing diagogues comfort me greatly as I enter the new and unknown terrain as a mouner grieving the loss of my spouse.
These drawings are part of my extensive medical drawing archive that documents my journey with Josh.
Much of my husband’s care took place at our local county hospital HCMC where I had drawn him extensively 2 years ago. That series of drawings culminated in a show called “Drawing through Crisis with Courage and Humor” (August – October 2017) These documentary medical drawings led to another drawing opportunity. I am currently under contract with the hospital to “Draw a Day in the Life of the Hospital” and have drawn many places from NICU to the cafeteria to hospice to a doctor’s rounds. I also try to pay attention to drawing unseen people like the cleaning staff.
Questions or comments can be directed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Paula Leiter Pergament says
It’s good to see the ‘human’ touch in your visual drawing document.
Pencil in hand, paint on paper, living, breathing heart felt markings , immediate drawings that reflect the moment…
You are the consummate visual storyteller.
You capture the heartbeat of transition and transformation reflecting the human condition we call ‘life’.
Anita I White says
Thanks so much Paula for your heartfelt response. I so appreciate hearing from you.
Laurie Radovsky says
Such a moving tribute to a wonderful man. I am lucky to have known him at least a little and very lucky to count you, Anita, as a talented, courageous and loving friend.