“Let Me Breathe” is an art-making process offered to patients who are living with Cystic Fibrosis. Every person has a different relationship to CF. For some, it is embraced as part of their identity. Others choose to give it minimal attention while going about daily routine. Patients at U Health are invited to paint on the blue gowns, known as Personal Protective Equipment or PPE, as a way of pushing back on all the constraints that come with growing up with CF. Care and protection offered by those who love us, while always well-intentioned, can sometimes feel “smothering.” Patients are asked, “How do you want to live?” or “What do you want to say?” A blue gown is taped on the door of their hospital room, and they are given paints and brush. They take it from there and move their responses from body, heart and soul onto the plastic. Take a look, and breathe in these colorful expressions of personal power!

PPE example: As Chaplain Saundra listened to patients living with CF, she learned how restrictive medical treatment can feel. Along with all the therapies, every visit requires “gowning up” to keep patients safe. Understanding that this barrier is protective and purposeful, she still wanted to break down any sense of separation. This image became Saundra’s test gown (acrylics DO work!) and started the whole exploration.

PPE 1: This painting is an abstract landscape of the patient’s home state. The hospital depicted at the top has been a sort of second home. “Misery Loves Company” is not a despairing statement, however. In contrast, it is an affirmation of how important the CF community has been in this patient’s life! Even though it’s been tough living with the disease, the company of CF-ers has been wonderful.

PPE 2: The subject of this painting is a wave on an ocean. At the time, CF was only one of many challenges in this patient’s life, and this image expressed their feeling of overwhelm. Sometimes life’s difficulties keep coming and crash around us! The opportunity to give voice to this reality helped the storm to quiet down a bit.

PPE 3: Not one to be held back, this warrior-patient chooses to lean into the challenges of CF by competing in athletic events. For them, it is not about crossing the finish line first, but about owning their potential and participating in life wholeheartedly and making a contribution of service to others.

PPE 4: The subtle nature of breath is the subject of this piece. The patient who created this wanted to make a statement of gratitude for each breath. For most, breathing is assumed and unnoticed. The meditative repetition of daisies is a metaphor of appreciation for the beauty of life, experienced one inhale and exhale at a time.

PPE painting example

PPE painting 1(CF patient)

PPE painting 2 (CF patient)

PPE painting 3 closeup (CF patient)

PPE painting 4 (CF patient)