New mural adds comfort to blood draws
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Getting your blood drawn isn’t fun at any age.
But now, it’s a little better in one of the patient rooms at the main lab at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.
Over the past three weeks, the space has been transformed into a soothing blue and green landscape with clouds, trees, a lake, a few friendly bear cubs and a moose nuzzling her calf in a patch of wildflowers next to a stream.
While the mural’s peaceful feel is aimed at comforting the youngest patients, the first person to have their blood drawn when the room opened back up on Monday was an older gentlemen.
“He didn’t want to leave,” said lab support technician Julie Smith.
It was Smith who, along with a donor and an artist, made it all happen.
“We get a lot of kids here,” she said. “And it’s sterile and scary.”
As part of her annual goal-setting, Smith decided to change that.
Through a donation made by Dr. Bill Cox and his wife, Kathy, to the Yampa Valley Medical Center Foundation upon his retirement, Smith found her funding.
Cox worked at the hospital for 16 years, serving as the pathologist, director of laboratories and on the board of directors.
Cox was approached about redirecting his contribution to the mural. He decided it was a great way to directly enrich the lab in which he worked and add something “beneficial for patient good and comfort — and especially for kids.” In his 42 years in the medical field, Cox said he’s seen a lot of tears during blood draws.
Early in his career, things were done in a very sterile manner and with a “stiff upper lip,” Cox noted, but over time, “We realized we are dealing with people, and for little people, it’s terribly scary. And we want to do what we can to soften the blow.”
The main hospital lab averages 120 patients per week and about 5,000 to 6,000 visits per year. All pediatric blood draws, including some from private practices, occur in the main lab.
Kids and babies come in for blood draws as part of regular wellness checks, but kids who are lab regulars — many with cancer and chronic illness — also visit. The process also brings anxiety to the parents, Smith said.
The next step toward her goal to provide more comfort was to find an artist. With a vote before the entire lab staff, the winning submission came from Steamboat Springs artist Chula Beauregard and her North Routt nature theme.
Beauregard approached the project first by thinking about what calms people down, drawing inspiration from the landscape around Pearl Lake and Hahn’s Peak.
She also kept the lab staff in mind and wanted to give them something that felt relaxing and could be a conversation starter — especially about happy things, like camping and moose sightings.
For the kids, there are some good distractions, like “Can you find the little bee?”
It has an interactive and immersive quality.
“I really tried to bring beauty and joy to whatever experience someone is having there — whatever their story is,” said Beauregard.
The vision grew, Smith said, from the initial idea to make the room “a little more pediatric friendly” into a locally-inspired work of art.
Staff members on Monday admired the mural, commenting on the remarkably calming effect of the space and joking about giving the room a double function as a staff meditation room, complete with a recording of a gurgling stream.
“It turned out so much better than I could have imagined,” said Smith.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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