News / USA

Grieving Widow Sends Political Message Through Art

Washington artist uses personal tragedy to raise awareness about problems in the US medical system

After losing her husband, Fred, to cancer last year, Regina Holliday immersed herself in painting.
After losing her husband, Fred, to cancer last year, Regina Holliday immersed herself in painting.

Multimedia

When Washington artist Regina Holliday lost her husband to cancer last year, she immersed herself in painting. She used her art to express her grief while also raising awareness about problems in the American health care system, which she believes contributed to her husband's death.

Fred's Story

Holliday has always been an artist. But she never dreamt that one day she'd be painting images of her husband as he was slowly dying.

Fred initially did not have insurance. However, after he did acquire it through a new employer, the doctors were still dismissive, according to Holliday. She says Fred repeatedly went to his doctor to find out why he was experiencing severe chest pain. But rather than do any diagnostic tests, his doctor kept sending him home with pain killers.  After several months of debilitating pain, Fred was finally admitted to the hospital where his wife demanded an MRI. The test revealed Fred suffered from an advanced form of kidney cancer.

His doctor recommended surgery and chemotherapy treatment, but Fred never received the care he was promised. Instead, his doctor sent him home with a PCA pump, a device that patients use to self-administer medication to control pain.

"I'd done my research," says Holliday, "I knew what being sent home on a PCA pump was. And my husband cried, and I cried and then he turned to me and said, 'Go after them Regina. You make sure they give me care.'"

Holliday says Fred had been an excellent patient up until then.

"He never complained, he never made waves, he always did exactly what he was told, but the point when they were going to send him home to die, that's the point when he said, 'Try to do something.'"

Holliday arranged for her husband to be transferred to a new hospital, but says Fred was unable to get the care he needed there because his medical records were incomplete and out of date.

Artist Regina Holliday, who lost her 39-year-old husband to cancer in 2009, plans to use her tragedy to change the world of medicine.
Artist Regina Holliday, who lost her 39-year-old husband to cancer in 2009, plans to use her tragedy to change the world of medicine.

Artful advocacy

Holliday says she stayed up nights wondering what she could do to raise awareness about the inadequacies in the healthcare system, so that families like theirs wouldn't be treated that way.

"Since I've painted my whole life and since I met my husband painting and we'd always painted together, I thought, 'You know what I can do? I can make really good paintings, about healthcare, about medical records, about all of these things that have been so hard for us,'" she says.

But for Frederick Allen Holliday, it was too late. He died on June 17, 2009, at the age of 39.



Six days after her husband's death, Holliday started painting a mural about their medical experience on the wall of a parking lot near their home in Washington, D.C.. It was the summer of 2009, a time when the national debate about health care reform was intensifying around the U.S.

As word about her mural spread around town, Regina was inspired to join the health reform movement. She used the example of her own personal experience to make the case for reform, which played an integral role in a newly passed law that stipulates greater patient transparency.

She also continued to paint, integrating her political message within her images. Many of those paintings were on display recently in an exhibit at a medical office in downtown Washington.

'We are all patients in the end'

While the response to her political art has been mostly positive, Holliday does have her critics.

"A lot of people don't like to accept the idea that something is wrong. Like, America has the best medicine. Well, in elements we do. We do have some of the best medicine. But in other elements, we don't. And honestly, if one cog in this machine is not working, everything fails," she says.

Today, Holliday continues to paint, blog, teach art and speak nationally at medical conferences about the need to reform our healthcare system - all while raising two young boys.

Despite the challenges in her young life, this artist-turned advocate says she is pleased that she has been able to use her personal tragedy - together with her artistic talent - to raise awareness and bring about change, to the important issue of patient empowerment.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid