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Babari’s story: How art therapy lifted my daughter’s spirits during her hospital stay

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Babari

Photo courtesy of Anna Ganago

For the last three months, Texas Children’s has been a second home for 10-year-old Babari Ganago and her mother, Anna.  With her mom by her side, Babari spends most of her time in her room on the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) where she continues to receive treatment for a very rare, autoimmune disorder.

“Prior to her diagnosis, my daughter was very healthy and active,” Anna said. “Babari was involved in so many different sports like gymnastics, dance and swimming. Then suddenly, in September 2020, she started having trouble walking and breathing, and then at one point, her fingertips turned purple. At first, I thought she had COVID-19 since her symptoms happened around the same time as the pandemic. For the next several months, we consulted with different pediatric specialists in our home state of Arizona. We had one diagnosis after another, but as an RN, I knew there was something else that was causing her perplexing lung issues, so I kept pushing for more tests. It wasn’t until we were transferred to Texas Children’s Hospital in May of this year, that we finally got a diagnosis. An MRI showed my daughter had systemic scleroderma, a very rare, autoimmune condition that was causing inflammation in her lungs.”

Despite being more than 1,000 miles away from home, Anna is so grateful to the doctors, nurses and physical therapists for taking care of her daughter and giving her the treatment she needs to get better. For many kids, being in a hospital for a long time can be emotionally stressful, but one thing that helps Babari cope is having art therapy sessions. These sessions are a time for her to relax, be creative, create new memories, build new friendships and express her emotions and inner world through the power of art.

“I like drawing and stuff,” said Babari, as she painted a little art bag for her creative art supplies. “I stay in my room a lot, so I I like it when people come into my room to talk with me and do really fun things.”

Babari says staying in the hospital for a very long time is never easy. Through Texas Children’s Art Therapy Program, there are many creative and therapeutic resources and opportunities to help patients and their families cope and adjust to their hospital experience, and to make it as positive as possible.

Whether it’s drawing, painting, and coloring, Babari lets her creativity flow freely during her art therapy sessions. She’s participated in many different art activities during her hospital stay, including the Hearts of Hope Quilt Project, a collaborative art project that brings patients together during the COVID pandemic.

“Since many patients in the intensive care units are in isolation, our team wanted to come up with a large scale hospital collaboration project,” said art therapist Ashley Wood. “While they create quilt squares separately, the end product will be unifying as all of the different art pieces will come together as one. We invite patients to draw something within the heart that brings them a glimmer of hope. Babari is one of the first patients to create a quilt square. She drew different symbols – a rainbow, a cross, angel wings and a halo – that give her hope during her hospitalization. We have 50 children from across Texas Children’s Hospital participating in the quilt project. Once completed, the quilt will be hung within Legacy Tower.”

Anna sees the benefits that come from art therapy. When you walk into her daughter’s room, every wall is filled with Babari’s colorful art pieces and pictures that brighten her day and bring her much joy and hope.

“Art therapy has definitely lifted her spirits,” Anna said. “It takes her mind off of all of the negative. It gives her the ability to express herself. It’s almost like keeping a journal of your feelings. The other part of art therapy is she makes these connections with other people, and she needs that because after awhile of looking at my face, she needs someone else, you know? Her older sister was here and she just went back home and Babari told me, ‘Gosh, it’s been so hard being in here for so long.’ She hasn’t been able to leave her room. So, being able to meet new people and to develop these friendships with her art therapists, physical therapists and other members of her care team, has helped her on this journey.”

In collaboration with
Harrison’s Heroes, The Art Therapy Program at Texas Children’s has helped so many patients and their families adjust during their hospital stay. Click here to learn more about our art therapy program. Click here to read a recent blog from Ashley Wood, one of our dedicated art therapists.

External Author
Anna Ganago, Babari’s mom