Caring for COVID-19 patients can be stressful and frustrating especially when you are a daily witness to patients struggling to breathe or even worse watching them die. Jessica Curtisi, an RN working in the medical intensive care unit at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, uses painting to help her cope with the emotional toll.
“At the end of someone’s life, we hold their hands,” says Curtisi. “I’ll kind of touch their forehead and I talk to them and make sure they know that they’re not alone.” Because of the pandemic, Curtisi wasn’t able to do that for her grandfather who died last May.
Painting helped Curtisi to deal with the loss. One of her paintings—a watercolor that featured lungs adorned with flowers—made Curtisi feel especially hopeful.
“I was mourning my own grandfather, and I was mourning these patients, and I was feeling how hard it is to grieve and to find closure when you can’t say goodbye,” she says. “I’m not an artist. Painting is just for fun, but when I looked at the painting, I couldn’t believe that it reflected what I couldn’t put into words.”
Curtisi’s painting also caught the eye of a friend, Craig Dixon, who also works in the MICU at the medical center and is a member of the Ohio State University Nurses Organization/Ohio Nurses Association.“She put her heart and soul into the picture,” says Dixon, who saw the artwork featured in one of Curtisi’s social media posts. “When I read it, I was touched and I wanted to capture something from this positive energy.”
Dixon had the idea to raise money to honor patients who have died from COVID-19 by selling t-shirts decorated with Curtisi’s painting.
“At first, I was like ‘no way.’ I didn’t think anyone would want to buy something I painted,” says Curtisi. So Dixon asked their co-workers if they would buy one of the t-shirts. Everyone said yes.
With the matter settled, Dixon worked with a local company to create the t-shirt, and Curtisi decided proceeds from the sales of the shirts should benefit the United Way COVID-19 Community Response Fund, which helps people in Columbus impacted by the virus.
“I remember the day Craig asked me about turning it into a t-shirt,” Curtise recalls, noting that she thought they “would be lucky if we got $500.”
To date, the sale of Hope Blossoms t-shirts have raised more than $3,800 for the fund.