When therapeutic harp practitioner MariAnne Lounsbury arrived in the patient room, doctors and nurses were concerned. The patient was paralyzed on one side from a stroke, and was extremely agitated and unresponsive to their efforts to calm him. “Would some harp music help?” she asked. After playing for just half an hour, his heart rate had slowed, the rapid arm and leg movements had diminished and he had fallen into a peaceful asleep.
The power of art to soothe and heal has been demonstrated over and over since the creation of the Healing Arts program at Parker Adventist Hospital. Through the visual arts, music and other initiatives, the goal of revitalizing the mind, body and spirit of patients, families, visitors and staff becomes reality.
For program director Jude Keller, the art goes straight to the heart of Seventh-day Adventist health care. “Our patients expect and receive excellent clinical care,” says Keller.
“But what truly delights them are the extra things, the ways we’re able to use art to support the healing environment and demonstrate the mission of the hospital.”
A central component of the Healing Arts program is the array of paintings that adorn the walls of the hospital and its three rotating galleries. Local artists are invited to submit works that celebrate themes of dignity, healing and compassion. Patients, family members and local residents are invited to Meet the Artist receptions. “It honors families and gives them a respite, and enlarges the experience for the artist as well,” says Keller.
In a particularly inspiring example, a recent art show featured the work of Judy Haigh. A beloved former Parker employee, Judy had suffered a debilitating stroke that left her with a language disorder that makes it difficult for her to speak or write. Even though her right hand was paralyzed, Judy refused to give in to her new limitations, and began painting with her left. “She’s an inspiration to all of us,” says Keller, “communicating what artistic expression and faith in God can do.”
For Lounsbury, the privilege of working at a faith-based hospital where she can bless others with her heart and musical talents is a continuing source of inspiration. One day recently, she learned that a patient she knew had just passed away. When she arrived at his room, his loved ones were still with him, so she played for them for almost an hour, then continued at the request of the nurses as they performed final tasks. “What an awesome dignity she offered,” says Keller. “It was a message from the hospital to the family, honoring them in their time of loss.”
“God led me to that room,” Lounsbury still believes. “Every day, He shows me where I’m supposed to be and blesses my ministry.”
This article was submitted by Stephen King, senior vice president for mission and ministry for Rocky Mountain Adventist Health System/Centura Health, where he serves the four Adventist hospitals in Colorado. It was written by CMBell Company.