She said, “The staff here are just going to see a sick old lady in the hospital bed, someone who’s weak and confused. It’s easy to think that’s all I am.”
She said, “I want them to understand what we’re working for.
Sometimes you have to see it to believe it.”
If I’m honest, I have to admit that sometimes I was the one who just saw the sick old lady in the hospital bed.
And trying to capture my mom’s goal in a picture helped me believe in it more myself.
My mom did reach her goal, and a few months later, she walked out of the hospital on her own two feet.
She moved to long-term care, and for the first time her care needs were more managed and predictable.
Now she did still hallucinate about being surrounded by ghostly people.
But my mom and I have always responded to challenges by writing stories, and now we’ve learned to write stories together …like this one.
Here’s me asking my mom, “How’s the writing going?”
And she responds, “Not great. Maybe I need a ghostwriter! I already have the ghost!”
Remember my mom’s doctor, the one who didn’t get it?
That comic about him was part of this same story.
It’s a comic my mom and I wrote together for a magazine dedicated to destigmatizing dementia and supporting people impacted by this disease.
My mom’s name appeared in the byline right next to mine.
And this comic was one of the ways we carefully documented her symptoms, which led to her being able to start a new medication that helped with those ghostly hallucinations.
But more than that, this comic let her use her experience to help others whom the magazine could reach.
And besides, isn't it just cool that a medical magazine these days has comics?
My mom and I have continued to write comics together, and she’s continued to trust me with sharing the stories of life with dementia and life in long-term care during the pandemic.
I think she's been OK with me sharing these vulnerable moments because she knows I’m not just telling the story of a sick old lady in the hospital bed.
She knows I understand that even though I may be the one drawing the pictures, she’s a collaborator with an equal part in the work.
And here’s my mom saying …
“Do not write about that in this comic!”
The reason this all started didn't have anything to do with art or writing or even health care.
It came from me wanting to help my mom.
And that’s the same power you have in your relationships with the people you care for.
You know their health care needs, you live their stories with them.
I understand you may still feel a bit skeptical about showing up at the doctor’s office with a sketchbook,
but you may be surprised to discover that the people in your health care community are already familiar with graphic medicine, the growing movement at the intersection of health care and comics.
They may already know how a picture can be an amazing time-saver or a tool for creating empathy and personal connections.
Just imagine if your new doctor opened your chart and saw pictures that sparked curiosity about the person, not just the symptoms.
When I looked at all the pictures I’d drawn of my mom, I did see her symptoms, but I also see my mom.
She’s there in all the words and pictures that have continued to hold us together.