We get a lot of questions from readers about what you can do to help a hospitalized family member or friend. Patients love the sentiment, but most have their fill of robes, fluffy slippers and lavender scented lotions and potions. Recently, friends of OncoLink, Stephanie and Whitney, shared with me what they did for their friend Dito, who is undergoing a lengthy hospital stay. They wanted Dito to feel the love of his friends and family while going through his treatment. Together, they came up with the idea to create photo collage posters that hang in Dito’s room. They are a daily reminder of Dito’s community. Even though they can’t be physically present, their faces adorn his room and bring him joy. Here is what they have to say about this project.
What do these photo collages mean to you?
I have this constant wave of faces cheering up my room, remembering there are people out there, thinking of me, laughing at silly and fun moments in my life, and feeling the warmth of being buoyed by so many smiling faces. The nurses are also big fans of the collages and they are def conversation starters.
How does having them impact your experience as you go through treatment and isolation from some of the people who care about you?
I guess I’m only starting my experience here, but as I have to spend around a month in the hospital, maybe their meaning will change over time. I’m not sure, but certainly the joyful effect I hope will remain the same. I find that when you have a lot of photos out that you discover new details in them if you look at them day after day.
What do the photos say about you and your support network?
Well, first of all they out me as a drag queen.
But mainly they serve as a reminder to keep my sense of humor, to keep feeling the joy of the people who are thinking of me, and to keep looking forward to getting back to normalcy!
What made you want to put together these posters for Dito?
Dito is one of those rare, bright lights–a person with the innate ability to ignite happiness just by bouncing into a room. If you catch sight of his signature gait walking down the street, you will smile without even thinking about it. He’s also an incredibly wise and attentive and playful friend, brother, son, partner, nephew, cousin, performer, creative collaborator, neighbor (the list goes on). He’s nurtured an impressive number of these relationships for decades and gains new friends with ease as he moves through life. So by this point we are a big, gangly, international group who proudly call ourselves his people. A few of us thought that it was only right that during this tough stretch when he’s hospital-bound and when we won’t always be able to be there in-person that he should be surrounded by images of those who adore him.
What was it like telling the story of friendship through putting these posters together?
I can’t speak for everyone who participated, but as one of the people gathering the photos I will say that it brought ME so much joy to see all of these images of my friend laughing, celebrating, hugging, holding babies, performing to sold-out audiences, etc. There is so much pure joy and humor and love in these images (which span decades) and it was exciting to know he’d be surrounded by them all soon.
What would you tell someone else wanting to do this for a family member or friend?
- Set up a shared folder (hat tip to our friend, Stephanie, for doing that in this case) to make it easy for people to dump photos into one place.
- Ask that photos be high res.
- Set a conservative deadline (i.e. build in plenty of time to format the posters and ship from Shutterfly or whatever service you’re using).
- Make posters in different sizes (it’s tempting to make them all huge but it’s hard to know in advance how much and what kind of wall space you’ll have).
- Consider non-poster items the photo service offers (we couldn’t help but use some of the photos to make ceramic mugs, playing cards, photo cubes, etc).
What technology helped you create the posters?
I was in charge of setting up the google drive for folks to upload photos. This made having the photos more accessible to build the posters. We used Shutterfly to create the posters. There are many online services where you can create these types of posters. The posters are fairly inexpensive—so it’s an accessible thing to do for most…don’t forget to factor in shipping costs.
What did it mean to you when you saw the poster’s in Dito’s room?
I was so happy to see him surrounded by the faces of his family and friends in what is otherwise a very nice but plain space.
Thanks to Dito, Whitney and Stephanie for sharing this fantastic idea to bring the support squad to the hospital room.