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Portrait of an NHS hero.

I have been taking part in a great scheme created by artist Tom Croft, to boost the morale of NHS workers. He painted a portrait for the first NHS worker who contacted him. The scheme has now grown arms and legs with thousands of artists all over the United Kingdom taking part. I posted a simple message on my social media asking for the first NHS worker to get in touch if they wanted a free portrait. Needless to say, it did not take long for a response before I was matched with a wonderful woman from Edinburgh. I was secretly hoping for someone with an inspiring story as it always makes me enjoy painting the portrait even more when I can connect with the sitter, rather than just painting a likeness. I was not dissapointed.

Meet Claire Gray, a mum of 3 wonderful children, all under the age of 10, one son who is autistic and 2 daughters. She has recently separated from her husband and works 3 days a week as an Occupational Therapist. She is a team leader for the occupational therapist community mental health team at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. I know what you are thinking already! What a woman! and how does she manage to do all that while looking after 3 kids? I had the same reaction. Claire was nominated by her very good friend who felt she needed some encouragement and morale boosting and I was happy to try and provide that.

We met via what’s app and chatted freely for a while, so that I can get to know her a bit and observe how she looks and the way her face moves. I tried to do the latter part without being too obvious but I think Claire was on to me. We chatted about her work and her home life, which fascinated me. As I have said she is an Occupational Therapist and leads the community mental health team in Edinburgh. This involves visiting people’s homes and helping them live effectively and as independently as possible, with their diagnosis. Most of Claire’s patients are elderly, live on their own and have dementia. Claire and her team also help adults with other mental health diagnosis like schizophrenia and depression. As you can imagine, a patient with dementia, on lockdown, with social distancing and not being allowed out as freely as once before, can prove a very difficult task. Claire said that by putting up simple notes with instructions can help ensure they stay safe. A major part of Claire’s job is assessing how memory loss has affected the patients day to day activities, such as making a cup of tea, writing, cooking and their ability to remember appointments. Claire will often have the patient make her a cup of tea to see how well they do. I thought this would be a great idea for the painting. Claire having a simple cup of tea, it shows the social aspect of Claire’s job while also showing one of the major tasks she helps her patient perform. Sadly during lockdown she can no longer sit down and have a cup of tea and chat away to her patients. I showed this by painting Claire wearing protective gloves symbolising the barrier between her and her patients.

Claire’s job has changed a lot during lockdown. She has to ask patients to wait for her while she changes into her protective apron and gloves and this can be confusing for the them. Dementia patients often have large calendars and many post it notes to remind them of tasks. Claire can provide them with special calendars made specifically for dementia patients. I thought it would be great to add a calendar into the background as to me they symbolise every day life. It contains memories and helps us remember future events. It is a vital piece of kit for her patients. Adding the moto, “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives” also adds a reminder and signifies the times we are in. If you look closely you will see a tiny forget me not ,which is the logo for Dementia awareness charity . I thought that would add a nice wee touch.

I chatted to Claire yersteday evening and showed her the painting and I am glad to say she was thrilled with it and I quote, “ oh my word, I absolutely love it. The calendar is genius and the detail on the gloves, my hair. Honestly really really love it. I’m a bit speechless and teary actually! In a good way.”

I couldn’t ask for a better reaction. I think I can safely say that her morale has been boosted.

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