Winter of 2000
Third Year of Medical Residency
It was just after seven o’clock in the morning, and I began rounds on my patients before a long day in the office. I stopped into Kyle’s* room but he was nowhere to be found.
“He’s down there…down the hall,” the nurse said. “He wanted to get up early. He’s very quiet this morning. I’m worried about him…you might want to go check on him.”
I saw Kyle in the distance, sitting in his wheelchair. He was tall and thin with moppy brown hair and a quiet demeanor. At the age of nineteen, he had been involved in a car accident and suffered a major blow to his spinal cord. It had taken away his ability to use his arms and legs. He now used a straw to maneuver his wheelchair through the halls of the hospital. When he puffed into the straw, it propelled the wheelchair forward. When he sucked on the straw, it stopped the wheelchair in its tracks. He stared at a painting and didn’t notice my presence.
“Kyle, are you all right?” I asked.
He leaned his head toward me. “I am,” he said.
“Do you want to talk?” I asked.
He slowly turned his head and stared at the painting. “When I look at art, I temporarily forget about my injury…I go to another world. I believe it helps me heal in a way.” He was in the present moment, the art had touched him, and his injury seemed to be the last thing on his mind.
I understood exactly what he meant. I had spent my free time in medical school writing and collecting art to escape the pain of becoming a physician. We both sat in silence and admired the beauty of the work. No words were needed.
My experience with Kyle was the inspiration for founding the Art Heals Media Foundation. A minimum of 10 percent of sales of What I’ve Learned from You will go to fund the Art Heals Media Foundation. Our vision is to donate art to hospitals to help lift the spirits of patients. We hope to make the hospital a less lonely place, and to allow patients to have some escape from their illness or injury. We want to let them focus on healing. The vision is now a reality. Let the healing begin…
*The name of the patient in this story has been changed to protect patient confidentiality.