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

TEXT SIZE - +

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new hospital, but says Fred was unable to get the care he needed there because his medical records were incomplete and out of date.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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid