Waiting Room Syndrome: Storytelling may be the anecdote

My current days are absolutely insane. You’d think I’d be winding down, with an artist practice as mature as mine, and the fact I don’t have use of my hands (I have MS and am a quadriplegic). Quite the opposite, though. My artist assistant Catherine Monahon and I have a lot going on.

An example of one of my DTIs

In the middle of preparing for three upcoming shows and embroidering my next series on Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTIs – a form of neuroimaging which tracks the flow of water through the brain, forming beautiful, interconnected, almost sculptural imagery), we decided, wouldn’t it be fun to start a blog. None of this would have happened without Catherine’s persistence. I mean… assistance.

What will I write about in this blog?

I will be using this blog to expand ideas focusing specifically on this intersection between the arts and healthcare.  If you’ve had a chance to read my bio, you may already know that in addition to being an artist and a former lawyer, I’m also a patient. I will be featuring other artists who contribute to art and health, researching clinical settings that do patient-centered care well, and writing about various storytelling initiatives that catch my eye.

Waiting room syndrome: baby animals & awkward silence

My “aha” moment came to me while I was waiting for one of my own neurology appointments. I was upset when I spent one hour waiting (by no means a new phenomenon), and the only thing remotely stimulating in the office was a huge television screen, on mute,  projecting images of baby animals. I was offended. What, do they think we are all stupid? Baby animals at a Multiple Sclerosis clinic feels like a Band-Aid stuck on the forehead of a person who is facing a life-changing disease.

Powerful, real stories; not band-aids and smiley faces.

That hour, and all the hours that people spend sitting in waiting rooms, has potential. Potential to build community, to improve patient experience, and to reshape the way we interact in healthcare settings.

I am fascinated by the power of storytelling, and I know it has a place in the silence of the waiting room. I’m drawn to the StoryCorps model, and would like to create an art installation that will allow patients to share stories, listen to stories, and pose questions for other patients to consider. Stay tuned for developments on this.


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