Regina Holliday shakes up the health care scene with her personal, passionate artistry.
ETSU held an event last week entitled, “An Evening of Health, Wellness and the Arts.” A solo lecture by Holliday was presented as part of a special night where Regina shared her life, her frustration, her relationship with health care and her art, as well as some stray tears with students, alumni and the public.
Holliday began the lecture by discussing her upbringing in Creek County, Oklahoma. “Each day, my life got sadder,” she said, regarding her academic struggle with dyslexia and her issues at home with an abusive father. “The only thing I had was this wall [outside of the school]…I would draw on that wall.”
From a young age, visual art became Holliday’s best route for self-expression. When the teacher would ask her to spell, she would draw a picture instead. She found a way to associate meaning using visual cues.
After sharing her experiences from grade school, Holliday talked of her college experience:
“I met an amazing man at college, and we took a class together called ‘Scenic Painting’…We realized we were in love and decided to get married.”
Living in a one-bedroom apartment, Holliday, her husband Fred and two children discovered the true meaning of sacrifice. “Between the two of us, we couldn’t afford health insurance for our family, despite having six jobs.”
After fulfilling their New Year’s resolution of achieving the massive leap to attaining health care in lieu of upgrading to a two-bedroom apartment, Holliday and Fred were almost set.
Only, on March 25, 2009, Fred was hospitalized for “administration of tests,” due to his chronic back pain.
On March 27, he was told that he had “tumors and growths.” When Regina had questions, the doctor would be unreachable for the next four days due to a medical conference.
It turned out that Fred had stage four kidney cancer. Holliday soon found that the medical system wasn’t working.
“After waiting for five days for a transfer to another hospital for a second opinion, we were sent with an out of date and incomplete medical record and transfer summary,” Holliday said.
The fact that Holliday had been unable to access his records in the first place caused a massive hiccup in the process of updating it. She grew more and more disturbed by the hospital’s lack of empathy, as well as their many blatant mistakes.
Eventually Fred was sent home on hospice. “Sutent in a Shadowbox” is a mixed-media piece containing the 17 pills that Fred did not live to take. It’s priced at $24,285.71, which was “the retail price of the pills alone.”
“I started to do everything I could to change the health care system in the U.S.,” said Holliday.
Through her art and advocacy, as well the sharing of hospital experiences on suit jackets, known as, “the Walking Gallery,” Regina has been working with organizations all over the world to ensure that experiences such as she and her family received are not repeated.
Through sharing her story, Holliday wishes for future medical students, hospital administrators, nurses and those also suffering with loss will take part in “having patients as partners,” throughout the health care experience.