Connecting through art
Peter Hinchliffe was admitted to palliative care where he met Ros Pollard, an artist and a volunteer with Barwon Health.
When I was admitted, Ros came in for a social chat and to help. At the time I thought “Everyone, please leave me alone.” Nine times out of ten you haven’t processed it yourself and that’s all part of this journey, I guess, but Ros offered the art side of things, which has been good.
I’ve got some brain tumours and it was good to push through that and make shapes and things. Initially that was difficult, but it is a helpful exercise and good therapy. It’s a good barometer of how I’m feeling, and the meditation and breathing exercises Ros does helps with the pain too.
In the hospital, everyone, including my family, started having a go. Everyone’s first thoughts were, “I can’t draw” but once they got started, they found it so absorbing. Ros has got the knack of getting people into it.
It was funny how the drawings brought out childhood memories for my family. One sister commissioned me to do our horses and dogs, so they brought the memories back. And my family seem to appreciate them too. It is good for a lot of reasons.
With the physio and therapy I’m stronger and more independent than I was when I first arrived. Hopefully, I can build my strength up more, become independent and walk out the front door. I normally live on a farm where I’m in amongst the seasons.
I’ve been coming to see Peter for at least six months. I’m a volunteer, so I enjoy meeting people like Pete and spending time with them, because you can spend a lot of time in a hospital room and you haven’t got much else to do except think about your situation.
In 2009 I spent 5 months as a long-term patient in hospital with a life-threatening condition. I did have a lot of time thinking about things. When I got out, my biggest question was that no matter the outcome, how could I spark that bit of joy in people, no matter their circumstance? So I thought if there’s a more enjoyable way of getting people doing something, I think that could be healing in itself.
Every drawing has a story behind it as well. One of the nurses drew her home town from the Philippines and it was expressing what was important to her. I’ve found that especially if you’ve got a few worries, if you start doing a piece, your body can just relax and it’s like a bit of a meditative state. And if someone’s unwell, sometimes people don’t know what to say, and this gets them opening up and chatting.
Peter and I have sometimes done a bit of relaxation and meditation. It’s nice to help them through difficult times; it’s really rewarding being really present and offering kindness to someone else. I guess when you have a little understanding, even though every person is different, you can relate to each other.