How does art impact patients in hospitals?












Posted by John Feight


She said she wanted to fly…she wanted to be free.


Because her bone cancer had progressed unchecked, Beverley was restricted to a bed in Room 221 on the second floor at Northside Hospital in Atlanta.  Her world had become 2 North, the cancer floor.


CBS Morning News was there to produce a segment on how art impacts patients in hospitals.


Multiple ceiling tiles had been painted with the famous Jonathan Livingston Seagull soaring above Beverley’s bed…she had a front row seat to freedom…and she took it.


The CBS reporter asked Beverley how a cancer patient, facing death, could possibly find freedom in such a situation.


Beverley answered by saying “you can’t think of two things at the same time”.   Her beautiful smile made you believe.


She…her mind…was focused on that bird…that bird that had been created with color and form…a shape that suggested a bird in flight…it was a bird…it was Jonathan…flying without limits to his dreams.  Beverley had dreams and she wanted to live them…even from her bed…Beverley wanted to fly.


Beverley helped to put the painting together…over her head.  The tiles were like a puzzle to her…she enjoyed telling me how to position them …directing me on how each piece fit into a pattern…a pattern of hope and joy.  She enjoyed the game. She was  not thinking about her cancer.


The painted tiles transformed the blank ceiling into a bright blue sky with Jonathan soaring…reaching…searching…dreaming.  Beverley wanted to fly…to dream…to be free.


That thought lifted Beverley up out of that bed and for moments beyond the reality of her cancer and that bed…she flew into another dimension…beyond pain…beyond the limits of a one-dimensional thought.  She wanted out of that bed.


Beverley was not alone on that floor.  Margo was just down the hall in Room 216.  Margo had written a poem in reaction to a mural painted on her wall.  The poem speaks for itself…and for Margo.


On a Mural


A mural on the wall

No fantasy, no dream.

An all so vivid picture

Of a restful, rural scene.


A lake reflecting God’s wonders,

Tall trees, branches lifted high.

Mountains echoing his thunders,

The sun to light the sky.


So restful, so serene,

The lake, the trees, the sky.

Can God plan less a peace

When our turn comes to die?


It’s not for us to fathom

What future God has planned.

The answer to our prayers

Is wholly in his hand.


Beverley and Margo had let the artwork take them on a journey…a journey beyond paint, beyond the hospital…beyond cancer.


Positive or Negative Thoughts


Both Beverley and Margo knew they couldn’t think of two things at once.  They understood they could either think positively or negatively…the choice was theirs…is ours.  They chose the positive path to freedom.  While their bodies were trapped in those beds, their minds were free to fly.


They flew like eagles…they flew like Jonathan Livingston Seagull …without limits.


An image with color…an impression that they completed in their heads made all the difference.  They were not trapped in those beds.  They were not limited because of their cancer.  They could fly.


More than art…a chance to fly.