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Portraits for Patients: Aspiring doctor lifts spirits of Riley patients with art

Posted at 9:09 AM, Jun 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-07 09:47:44-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Children are resilient, but sometimes it takes others to lend a helping hand during a tough time.

When you look at Payton's room you see colors and joy. Step inside and you can hear the 9-year-old's curiosity. "What are those like markers or crayons or whatever they're doing out there?" She asks.

Payton's mother, Matilda Himo, is sitting by her side.

Himo would rather have Payton's room be at their home. But Payton's at Riley Hospital for Children because she was born with half of a heart.

"Eight heart surgeries, a brain surgery, she's went through; she's had a stroke. She has tons of medical underlying conditions and one of our recent ones we found out that the treatment to help with her protein-losing enteropathy, the steroids have now made her bones ... brittle," Himo described.

Most recently, Payton's broken her bones. It's enough to bring any mother to tears.

"That's why we had to come back," Himo said, crying.

But at Riley Hospital, this room has become a home in its own way, with her friends the unicorn, and most importantly, Dora.

Especially Dora, actually, which leads us to the surprise Payton received recently.

"I have this portrait for you," Anesha Anand told Payton.

A portrait of Payton with Dora, accompanied by a unicorn and rainbow.

"I love it thank you!" Payton exclaimed. "I love it."

It's the first drawing Anand, a Riley volunteer, has hand-delivered, due to the pandemic.

Portraits for Patients
Aneesha Anand and Payton Himo

"It kind of gave me the idea that maybe during the pandemic, when everyone's feeling so isolated, making portraits for patients might be a way to sort of lift the mood of patients," Anand said.

Lifting spirits this way started with one request for a portrait of a patient with superman. Now, Anand's drawn five portraits for patients. It's a talent she uses in-between her studies at Indiana University in Bloomington.

"It's more of like a break for me, from like the, you know, intense studying of like organic chemistry," she said.

She's taking science classes to study for medical school. It's a personal mission.

"My cousin in India. He has Wilson's disease. And for him, the issue was access ... to health care. You know, I want to be able to serve for people like that, who didn't have access to a doctor. I want to be their doctor," Anand said.

So far, she's nailed learning to connect with patients, at least through her art.

"I really see art as valuable in terms of the emotional effect that can have on people," she said.

"If her doctor skills are going to be anything like this, she's going to do a beautiful job at being a good doctor," Himo said of Anand.

It's art and heart — through portraits that are helping patients never give up on their healing process.

"Yeah, she's my world, and we keep moving forward, we have a lot of faith in God," Himo said. "He's brought us this far and he's granted us many miracles and we know one day we'll get our true miracle."

It turns a hospital into a home away from home as they lean on faith, and hope for health and a new heart.

During the pandemic, Anand also painted requested portraits for hospice patients. As an aspiring doctor, she wants to incorporate art into her practice eventually.

Payton is still taking medicine that will help her body accept a new heart, at the time of this article. Her family is hopeful she'll get on the organ donation list soon.