A Hadassah University Medical Center art program that was conceived by the mother of a courageous child who died of cystic fibrosis (CF) at age 11½, just celebrated its fifth anniversary.
The little girl–Ruth Ettun–left a legacy of love and hope in the words she recorded in her diary. “The physical power in my body may be small,” she wrote a year before she died, “but the power in my heart is renewed.”
Ten years after Ruth’s death, her mother, Rachel, a family therapist whose specialty is helping families deal with chronic illness, loss, and bereavement, began Haverut, an organization which brings the world of art into the hospital setting. Together with Prof. Zvi Stern, Director of Hadassah Hospital-Mount Scopus, she approached the nearby Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, which enthusiastically embraced her concept. Now, every week Bezalel students dedicate several hours to bringing art into the lives of Hadassah’s patients. Throughout the hospital, they encourage patients to express themselves through art in departments as diverse as High-Risk Pregnancy and Pediatric Cardiology.
Speaking to patients, students, families, and Hadassah and Bezalel staff who gathered in the Hadassah Hospital-Mt. Scopus lobby to celebrate Haverut’s fifth successful year, Mrs. Ettun pointed out the similarities between the lives of hospitalized patients and the lives of artists. When patients enter the hospital, she said, their medical problems become the focal point of their lives; they measure time by the next test or the next doctor’s visit. In many ways, she noted, a hospital is a world unto itself–an enclave removed from the world around it. While artists enjoy considerably more freedom, when they become immersed in their work, she continued, they, too, enter a world of their own. “Haverut provides the opportunity to bring the two worlds together and make a change,” Mrs. Ettun brought out. “The activity transforms the lives of everyone involved.”
Much of the artwork that adorned the walls for the celebration was a visual expression of the students’ feelings about working with the patients. Their artwork was interspersed with a photo collage capturing the patients and their creations during their art sessions.
Esther Klein’s paintings reflect the feminism she experienced among the women in the High-Risk Pregnancy Unit.
Throughout the evening, as Mrs. Ettun chatted with Bezalel and Hadassah staff members, patients, and their families, she often spoke about her daughter and how Ruth inspired her to create Haverut.
“Our patients most assuredly benefit from Haverut,” relates Director General Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef. “It is most fitting that this project is taking place at Hadassah-Mt. Scopus, not just because Ruth was a patient there, but because it is the home of our Center for Children with Chronic Diseases.”
Prof. Eitan Kerem, head of the Division of Pediatrics who established the Center, is an expert on CF. In the 14 years since Ruth passed away, he and his research team have made important discoveries, among them a new medication that helps correct the genetic defect that causes the disease. The medication has already been tested in early-stage clinical trials. If it proves successful, it could significantly improve the quality of life for thousands afflicted with CF.