Art service project in Virginia supports terminal patients

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — It’s inevitable physicians eventually will have to deliver bad news to their patients, old and young — including, sometimes, that the patient has been diagnosed with cancer or another terminal illness.

Dr. Andrew Anderson, owner of Boonsboro Direct Primary Care — soon to be renamed Kaya Health — said it can be overwhelming for the patient, the patient’s family as well as the doctor.

“You see your patients — people you really, really care for — and have done a lot of work starting in medical school and the years leading up to you finally seeing and caring for them and providing them with a diagnosis and options, and then you kind of feel hopeless because not only are we supposed to help them from a physical standpoint but also from a holistic standpoint,” he said.

Wanting to do more than give patients a diagnosis and send them away with a treatment plan, Anderson created a community art service project by connecting with local students in the area.

Anderson reached out to art teachers at Liberty Christian Academy and Jefferson Forest High School to ask if students wanted to volunteer their time to paint inspirational quotes on donated canvases to give to patients.

“So when somebody gets one of these bad diagnoses they can take something off of this wall — one of these inspirational quotes — and they can kind of start this really difficult medical journey on the right foot with inspiration in their heart and in their hands,” he said.

The office now has more than 50 prints filled with landscapes, scriptures and inspirational quotes such as, “When you focus on the good, the good gets better,” and, “The best view comes after the hardest climb.”

Kaya Health is a membership model that has been open about three years. The office was formerly located in Boonsboro near Kroger.

Direct Primary Care physicians do not bill insurance carriers for their services and instead charge patients a monthly subscription fee. For that fee, patients typically have unlimited access to their physician.

“We do that so we can get around all those ugly things that insurance makes doctors do that they don’t want to do, so we can take better care of our patients,” Anderson said.

He said patients don’t want to believe they have a diagnosis until they absolutely have to.

“They come into the doc and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this symptom and feeling this,’ but they don’t want to believe it. They kind of know that something’s going on and that’s why they’re there, but then when they get the MRI result back or the lab work back and then they get told, ‘Hey, you have this life-changing diagnosis’, it becomes official and really real, really fast. And to say the least, really shocking,” he said.

Two students at JF decided they wanted to do more and felt led to create more paintings in their free time. Last weekend they organized a paint party at the school with several of their classmates.

Grace Houghton, a junior, and Hannah Wright, a senior, took the acrylic paints and canvases donated by Anderson and made more than 20 original paintings to give to the doctor’s office.

“I just feel like it means a lot to give back to people who need support,” Houghton said. “My grandmother had cancer and she would have never really gotten through it if it wasn’t for the support that we gave her. So we feel that just by giving our time and our artistic abilities that someone can know we’re thinking of them.”

In Wright’s opinion, it’s not just about what the canvases say, it’s about what’s behind the canvases and that real people in the community care about the patients and support them.

Anderson said the paintings are a tangible reminder people are thinking about these patients.

“Sometimes it can just be a little push in the right direction because some of these diagnoses can provide for some pretty rough and lonely times,” he said.

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