6 June 2021

Gill’s Story – The Power of Art in Creating Memories and Connections in Difficult Times

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Hospitals can be stressful environments for patients and their families and art can provide a focus, a distraction, and a connection that helps relieve anxiety provides a sanctuary of calmness, and offers a platform to release emotions.

Here Gill Reid, the mother of a former patient, tells us her story of a piece of art in our Tonic Art collection that was particularly special to her and her son.

“My son Michael was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in his teens. He struggled to manage his condition and didn’t look after his health as well as he could have. That was when frequent visits to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh began. Michael found his treatment distressing, so I would take him on walks around the corridors between wards, where we would admire the various pieces of art on the walls. We would stop to gaze at the pieces, and it would prompt discussion between us on our likes and dislikes. One piece stood out for us, the painting ‘Azure’ by Carol Ritchie. The painting with its calming colours meant a lot to us and it helped us connect with each other during our many visits for treatment.

“There was one place in the hospital that was special to us both, a quiet little alcove away from the ward which was our sanctuary. It had comfy seating and featured a painting of the night sky which we both admired. The artwork in the hospital brought us pleasure and took our minds off the stress of Michael’s treatment for a short time.

“Michael’s condition led to kidney failure and he sadly passed away 10 years ago when he was only 22 years old. The nurses who cared for Michael were amazing. In Michael’s last moments, Trish, the nurse caring for him, encouraged me to get on the bed and hold him, an experience which I am extremely grateful for. Those moments the nurse gave me are so precious and I will be forever thankful to her.

“Michael loved art and created his own pieces but was very critical of himself. He kept very little of what he did, so the few pieces that remain are very precious to me. Connections are very important when you lose someone – possessions and special places. The more time passes the more you begin to lose those connections, so you hold on tight to the ones you have left. That is why the painting ‘Azure’ is so special to me.

“I visit wards 112 and 118 every year on the anniversary of Michael’s passing. I bring gifts for the staff to show my gratitude and to connect once again with the ‘Azure’ painting that brought Michael and me so much pleasure during a difficult time. I was shocked and sad when I saw that that painting had suffered recent damage. It felt to me like a lack of respect from other visitors, so I got in touch with NHS Lothian Charity to ask if it could urgently be repaired. I had said that I would cover the costs of the repair as the painting was so special to me and I was absolutely astounded when Carol, the artist, told the Tonic Arts team that she would kindly waive the restoration fee. That was so generous and I am so grateful to her. She understood how much that painting meant to me. Carol also gave me a gift of my own print of ‘Azure’. The painting brings me great comfort and is a lasting connection to those special moments I shared with Michael.”

Gill has generously donated the £300 that it would have cost our arts team to purchase another painting towards improving the experience of more NHS Lothian patients and staff. Thanks to generous donations like Gill’s we can continue to support staff and patients across the whole of Edinburgh and the Lothians now and in the future.

If you are interested in finding out more about our art collection, visit: tonicarts.nhslothiancharity.org/what-we-do/tonic-collection/

Image credit: Azure by Carol Ritchie

With your help, we can continue to provide moments of reflection and distraction through our art collection and improve clinical environments for those visiting hospitals