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new hospital, but says Fred was unable to get the care he needed there because his medical records were incomplete and out of date.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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid