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Art program reaches beyond physical healing
Photo caption: Adventist Hinsdale Hospital art cart volunteer Ann Saladino asks a patient whether she might like to work on an art project while resting at the hospital. The cart is a part of the hospital’s Healing Arts program. To see a slideshow of more images, click on the photo.

Hinsdale – Volunteer Ann Saladino pushed a cart filled with art supplies into a patient’s room at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and asked the woman lying in bed if she might like to work on a little art.

The woman was quiet, watching television. She wasn’t feeling well, but she said yes, she might like to do something. Saladino, a blue art smock covering her street clothes, offered her a few options before the woman decided she might like to paint a birdhouse.

Saladino found a wooden birdhouse on her cart, collected a few paints together, and set the patient up. As she painted the sides of her house a deep blue, the patient began to talk, chatting about a paint project she had planned at home.

Saladino was manning the art cart at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, an initiative run by the Adventist Midwest Health Healing Arts program. The cart carries a plethora of art materials – paints, pencils, tissue paper, stamps, stencils, model clay, wooden birdhouses and crosses, notepads, knitting and crochet supplies, as well as many others.

“All of our nurses are extremely caring, and our physicians are well-equipped to take care of people,” said Sue Kett, who leads the Healing Arts program effort. “Art connects with people on a different level, connects them with who they were before they got sick.”

Such was the case for one patient, Kett said, who made a tissue paper flower during a visit with the art cart.

“Suddenly, she remembered she used to be the art mom for her child’s classroom,” Kett said. “It took her away from being in a hospital room. Just doing that simple project created that moment for her.”

Sarah Plotnick-Anderson of Downers Grove has a deep appreciation for the art projects Kett suggested for her during her stay at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. Because of complications with her pregnancy, Plotnick-Anderson spent nine weeks at the hospital on bed rest.

“Being in the hospital with the condition I had, I wasn’t able to walk out of the room and go outside for a while,” she said. “Having the art cart was kind of a nice escape for me, to have something to take my mind off of being in the hospital and the things that were going on.”

During her stay, Plotnick-Anderson painted about 15 different pieces. Her son and daughter also did some art while visiting her room. Before she left, Plotnick-Anderson gave one painting to the nursing staff, thanking them for their care. The rest she took home, and she plans to frame a few to keep them as a memento of her time at the hospital.

“Because you’re in the hospital, you’re away from your family, you can’t help but sit there and think about all the things that are going on with you,” she said. “It’s definitely a great thing to have something to take your mind off of that.”

The cart and its volunteers are also a nice relief for the nurses, who might not be able to sit with patients as long as they might during their busier days. Registered nurse Katie Norris, the staff liaison for the cart, said the nurses have noticed fewer call lights and patients in a generally lighter mood after a visit from the cart.

“I think the art cart shows patients we care about them as individuals,” Norris said. “We’re looking at them holistically, that we’re trying to treat the whole person, their mind and their body.”

For volunteer Saladino, she’s experienced this first hand. She has talked to patients after she has visited their room, and they’ve reported decreased anxiety and pain after they’ve had a chance to work on an art project with her.

Art is personal, Saladino said, and it involves people putting themselves out there, making themselves vulnerable. Not everyone wants to take the risk, but others are happy to embrace it.

Saladino remembers visiting one patient. The woman was depressed, teary-eyed. Saladino offered her some art supplies, but the woman said her hands were bothering her. Saladino found the biggest markers she could and handed them over.

The woman began to draw a cartoon character. And she began to smile.

“It’s fun to see someone go from tears in the beginning to smiling after I’ve left,” Saladino said. “Some of them, I feel like I’ve left them better than when I walked in.”

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Adventist Midwest Health includes Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital. To find a physician, visit www.keepingyouwell.com.

Physicians on the medical staff of Adventist Midwest Health Hospitals are independent contractors, and are not agents of the hospitals.

Media contact: Chris LaFortune, public relations specialist, Adventist Midwest Health, christopher.lafortune@ahss.org; (630) 856-2354.