James Rase may not have formal art training, but he most certainly does have a love of drawing, a creative mind, and a strong desire to make his patients feel more at ease during their time in the hospital. And for the past 10 years, he's been doing just that by drawing pictures of his patients in scenes and settings that take them back to life before illness struck.
Patients lucky enough to have Rase as their patient care assistant often wake to find drawings on the white boards in their rooms. "I've been drawing all my life," Rase tells us. "It's just something I like sharing." His patients and colleagues got their first taste of his skills back when Rase was working on the Francis 5 thoracic surgery unit in Rochester. As staff on the unit began noticing his drawing in patient rooms, "I basically became the resident artist there," he says.
There was the young heart transplant patient Rase helped care for. "I would go up there and do artwork for her," he says. "I drew this long lab coat that had a picture of her during her healthy years doing some of her hobbies. She had these headphones she liked to wear, and so I really customized the drawing to her."
Then, there was a patient who loved trains. "So one evening," Rase says, "I drew a detailed picture of a steam engine from the late 1800s pulling up to a coal station on his white board," Rase says. "Then, every time I'd come back into his room I'd add something new to the scene."
Recently, Rase also helped care for another patient who, despite having lost his speech, was able to communicate to Rase that he'd been a farmer all his life and that he loved watching old Western movies. "And so I drew him in a John Wayne-style cowboy hat with a bandana around his neck sitting on a tractor tilling a farm," Rase says. "And I guess I nailed it because his family seemed pretty impressed. That's putting it mildly, according to the patient's son. "It was so well done and so well captured my dad," he says. "He even captured his facial expressions."
Sadly, the farmer passed away a short time later, but his son says the additional comfort and care Rase provided through his drawing helped ease the family's pain. "James was so kind to my father," he says. "It was pretty normal for my father to just be lying there looking at that picture. It was something that obviously made an impact on him. And that makes what James did even more important."
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