Little Miss A-Type Personality. It was the name the doctor called Regina Holliday after her multiple attempts to secure medical records for her husband who was bedridden from kidney cancer.
Five hospital transfers and two months later, he was dead. At 39.
Three years later, she is finding what was once a destructive label to be quite curative. So much so that she painted a large “A” on a red blazer that she wears as she travels the country speaking about patients’ rights.
“I took this negative thing and flipped it to be a positive, and so I’m going to go out there and tell my story so other patients don’t have to suffer like I did,” said Holliday, a former art teacher.
Now she paints dozens of other stories about medical errors and patient challenges in what she calls a “Walking Gallery,” recently held at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Total Health in Northeast Washington.
This showing was made up of more than 70 artists, patient advocates and people in the health care community who wore business suits that had an image of their medical experience painted on their backs.
At one point they all lined up facing the wall and then circled the room in procession.
An image of a woman opening a red gift box symbolized the day she received a cancer diagnosis on Christmas.
A painting with a woman lying down reading a book with the words “We Need Data Access Too” reflected her frustration with a Maine law that prevents hospital patients with mental illnesses to receive medical records in less than 48 hours.
“It increases a good conversation in the medical community,” said Dr. Ted Eytan, a Kaiser physician and director that works in patient advocacy.
He and other Kaiser officials said Holliday’s Walking Gallery is exactly the type of event Kaiser’s new health center is looking to hold — ones that engage the community. Since opening last year, the $200 million facility has hosted 80 major events including a yoga fundraiser and a technology contest that challenged developers to create apps that eliminate obesity.
Holliday painted 140 of the 160 jackets and lab coats. To be a part of the Walking Gallery, Holliday requires all participants to wear the jacket to at least two medical conferences.
That unnerved Susannah Fox, a researcher at Pew Research Center who studies how people use the Internet for health.
“I’m a researcher and I’m not allowed to be an advocate or say what I think, and don’t speak publicly about my own health issues or my children’s or parent’s. I only talk about my data,” Fox said. That’s all the information Holliday needed to paint Fox’s jacket, which depicts a silhouette of Fox behind a screen giving a speech as beaming sun’s rays touch a somber faceless hospital patient.
“When people are deciding to be a part of the gallery, I always say be careful,” Fox said. “Regina will see you for who you really are.”