Sprawled on the floor of the Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Hospital Pediatrics waiting area, artist Darren Greenwood was trying to sign the bottom of the underwater mural he painted on what was once a blank, 25-foot wall.
“Oh darn, the writing’s all at an angle,” mutters Greenwood. Indeed, his signature in white paint and the gratitude note he wrote to the Pediatrics Unit staff was slightly askew, but it was perhaps the only off-kilter part of Greenwood’s “thank you” mural to the doctors, nurses and staff of Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara who saved his son’s life.
The mural, painted over several weeks of long days, beautifully captures an underwater scene, possibly in Hawaii, Greenwood’s favorite place. There are two mounds of coral, covered with colorful undersea critters, and several schools of multi-hued tropical fish “floating” lazily by. An expert with paint, Greenwood was able to capture the underwater light, delicate ripples and sandy bottom.
“I wanted to create something so that if you’re here, feeling scared, and wishing you were somewhere else, you’d have a soothing scene to look at,” says Greenwood.
Greenwood himself knows that feeling, and that’s why he decided to paint a mural on the wall of the inpatient pediatric unit at KP Santa Clara. He spent over 6 weeks in the hospital at KP Santa Clara worrying about his child.
“My son Joseph was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2011, and he was treated in Kaiser Santa Clara for a long time with many clinic visits and hospital stays,” says Greenwood. “He’s doing very well and it looks like they’re going to save my kid, so the least I could do is come back and paint a mural for everyone here.”
Pediatrics Nurse Manager Mitch Sprugasci thought it was a wonderful project and “carried the ball” on Greenwood’s offer to paint the mural. Sprugasci got the necessary approvals, and Kaiser Permanente painters primed the wall and covered the floor for Greenwood to start painting. The mural’s not only a “thank you” to Kaiser Permanente for his son’s care, but a gift to other families with children in the hospital.
“To see the families and people sitting here at probably the worst time at their life, I thought maybe I could paint something on the wall that would take their mind off of it,” says Greenwood.
“We have excellent outcomes treating cancer like Darren’s son,” says Dr. Catherine Albin, Chief of Inpatient Pediatrics at KP Santa Clara. “We’re a comprehensive cancer center for pediatrics.”
Albin says Greenwood’s mural has more than a little bit of therapeutic value to young patients and their parents at KP Santa Clara.
“The children, families, grandparents come out to the waiting area and count the fish, they choose their favorite one, they give them names,” smiles Albin. “The mural is a soothing bit of fantasy in what can be a very serious place.”
The mural covers one wall but the “water” arches across the ceiling and covers a small underwater scene painted on part of a wall across the room. The effect is like one is walking underwater into the pediatric waiting area. Albin is already talking to Greenwood about more murals at KP Santa Clara.
“This has been wonderful for us,” she says.