While their daughters are recuperating from different conditions in different areas of Akron Children’s Hospital, Shannon Findley and Brittany Grant have found they have a lot in common.
Neither expected to have babies with chronic health problems or to spend months watching over them in a hospital room.
“You plan while you’re pregnant and think, ‘I’ll have the baby, spend a couple days in the hospital, get her picture taken there and then go home, just like everyone else’s experience,’” said Findley, whose daughter, A’Kira, was born prematurely at 25 weeks weighing only 14 oz. at birth. “But in reality, we haven’t done anything normal since she was born. Instead, she’s been in critical condition and fighting every day to survive, and we’ve been here in the neonatal intensive care unit since July 13 (2014).”
Grant says she was shocked when her daughter, Kandice, was admitted to Akron Children’s shortly after birth for an undiagnosed congenital heart defect called coarctation of the aorta. This defect is caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to the body.
“It has been a really tough time,” said Grant. “Even though my baby’s doing well now and continuing to get better each day, I am always afraid something bad is going to happen. It has been incredibly stressful for all of us.”
Neither Findley, of Columbus, or Grant, of Manoway, are close to the comforts of home. Both moms stay at the Ronald McDonald House so they can be with their girls as much as possible as they heal and mature.
And most of their time is spent bedside, providing comfort to their newborns.
Working with art therapist Molly Kohut offers a great outlet for parents of chronically ill children. Kohut brings together parents and patients for weekly group sessions to create treasures and relieve stress.
“Our groups offer so many benefits to the participants,” said Kohut. “For some, it allows them control over something when they have so little control over so many other things in their lives. For these moms, all the artwork they do is for their girls. Even when they step away for a few moments to do this for themselves, they are still thinking of their babies and that intrinsic connection comes through in their art.”
Findley recently took brush to canvas to create “Welcome to A’Kira World,” a take-off of the sign many travelers have seen welcoming them to Las Vegas.
“I love Las Vegas and someday I will take her there to see it,” Findley said. “I also included the Eiffel Tower in Paris and scenes from Italy. Art allows me to travel in my mind, a sort of escapism.”
Grant said she feels a difference physically during and after her creative sessions with Kohut.
“To me, it relieves a lot of stress. It is calming and relaxing,” she said. “Ever since I was little, I have always loved making art.”
Because of their babies’ extensive hospital stays, the ladies have participated in many projects and almost have enough art between them for an exhibit.
Today’s project was to paint a picture frame with a heart-shaped opening for the picture. As they discussed which photos of their daughters to put in the frame, it was apparent the moms enjoyed being in the company of kindred souls.
“These moms aren’t able to do all of the typical mom things, like change diapers or give their girls baths or even hold them whenever they want,” said Kohut. “But these artistic experiences give them the opportunity to do something positive for their children, and for themselves. It is so great to be able to be part of that.”
As part of our year-long anniversary celebration, we’ll be telling the story of Akron Children’s through the eyes of past and present employees, doctors, donors, volunteers and patient families. We encourage you to share your own memories and stories about us.