April 15, 2015
Stollery patient Devin Nahirnak,15, shows off two of his submissions for A Journey Through the Stollery, an art show that traces a child’s journey through the hospital with works created by patients and their families.
Story and photo by Sharman Hnatiuk
EDMONTON — For Devin Nahirnak, creating art has made for a great escape during his time at the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
Since his diagnosis of leukemia last November, the 15-year-old from Two Hills has undergone four rounds of chemotherapy. While he would much rather play hockey with his teammates or hang at school with his friends, expressing himself through art has proven incredibly therapeutic.
Next week, Devin heads to Calgary for a bone marrow transplant, but for now, he enjoyed the chance to admire his three pieces of art in A Journey Through The Stollery — an art show created by patients and family members about their experience in the hospital.
“I remember the day I painted this landscape,” says Devin. “I was sitting in the healing garden. It isn’t exactly to scale, but it was what I saw from the window that day.”
The exhibit traces the different areas and experiences of a child’s journey through hospital through drawings and paintings. The theme of the show is a question posed to patients and their families: What can you teach us about being in hospital?
“Children don’t always use words to express themselves, they may express themselves through their play and through their art,” says Lois Wolgemuth, manager of child life services at the Stollery. “Those are modalities that we use every day to help the children understand and cope with being in the hospital and everything they are going through.
Child life specialists at the Stollery help children and families cope with illness and address their anxieties through strategies such as art, music, therapeutic or medical play. The program provides fun places to safely play and learn through normal life experiences and special events.
The one-day exhibit, held April 15, was visited by patients, families, staff and physicians. Each work in the show contained a message from a child or family member about their journey at the Stollery.
“There are so many things that we learned from our patients and families from this exhibition, it’s hard to focus on one thing in particular,” says Wolgemuth.
“Every single piece of art was another aspect of what it is like for a child to be in the hospital and another window into their experience, and another way of us being able to empathize and understand better and then hopefully bring that into our practice and provide better care and service to them. The child life team is so thankful to every child and family member who participated and allowed us to showcase their art.”