In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

October 17, 2017

Respiratory Therapist Uses Art to Inspire Patients to Lead Healthier Lives

By In the Loop

When the Dept. of Pulmonology and Respiratory Care at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire moved into a newly redesigned space with a window in its Pulmonary Function Testing Room, lead respiratory therapist, and stained glass artist, Maureen O’Donnell knew just how to decorate it for their patients.

Respiratory therapist and stained glass artist Maureen O'Donnell added a personal touch to her department's new work space at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire.

Years ago, Maureen O'Donnell took a class to learn how to create stained glass artwork. She didn't have any big plans for this new skill. "I just thought it looked really interesting, and pretty, so I decided to give it a try," she tells us.

She's kept her talents to herself, save for the "pretend window" she made for her windowless office at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, so she can bring a little light to her work as the Department of Pulmonology and Respiratory Care's lead respiratory therapist.

When Maureen's department moved to a new floor of the Wishart Building in Eau Claire, however, Maureen decided it might be time to share her artistic talents with others. And she had just the thing in mind for her patients. "We have a window in our newly redesigned Pulmonary Function Testing Room, and I just thought that a pair of lungs might look kind of cool there," she says.

So with the go-ahead from her director, Ann Johnson, Maureen got to work. There was just one initial hurdle. Try as she might, Maureen wasn't able to find an existing pattern of what she wanted to create. Lungs, it seems, are not common subjects in the stained glass medium. "So I had to make my own," she tells us.

And that was just the beginning. Maureen spent the next two years painstakingly bringing her vision to life. (It's no simple task, and she did keep her day job.) "I worked on it primarily at night and on the weekends, so it took a while," she says. "You have to start by cutting your pattern out with a special scissors, and then you put the pattern pieces onto the glass and trace around them." Then there's cutting and grinding the glass, soldering and framing, to name a few.

Now that all of that work is done and the finished product is in place, Maureen says she hopes it will be both visually appealing and inspiring to her patients. "Real lungs are much more beautiful and do a lot for you," she tells us. "I hope it inspires our patients not to smoke, not to vape, and if they have a dusty job, to wear protection so that they don't ruin their lungs."

And patients seem to be taking note. Maureen says that so far comments have ranged from "that's kind of weird having stained glass body parts" to "it's quite lovely," though she tells us, "Overall, it's all been positive."

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Tags: Department of Pulmonology and Respiratory Care, Employee Stories, Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire

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