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Mother’s Ceiling Paintings Uplift Tots in Hospital Ward

December 24, 1985

BOSTON (AP) _ As her newborn son lay fighting a virus in his hospital crib, Helen Hashim noticed that all he had to stare at were blank ceilings.

So her husband, Robert, began taking ceiling tiles down for her to paint in the many spare hours the couple spent at Massachusetts General Hospital during the baby’s two-month stay.

Now most of the ill children in the ward’s 10 rooms can look up at large colorful drawings of clowns, balloons and popcorn. Hospital workers say the artwork has cheered even the most depressed cases on the floor.

″It’s even good for me,″ said Sandra Cormier of Fitchburg as she sat at the bedside of her 4-year-old son, Joshua, who is recovering from a hip operation. ″It perks me up a bit.″

As she bundled up her 4-month-old baby for the Christmas Eve trip home, Mrs. Hashim said the idea for the ceiling paintings came to her while Robert Jr. was struggling for his life in the intensive care unit. She noticed a small picture above a vacant bed that another mother had painted so long ago no one remembers her name.

When the Hashim baby got out of ICU and began his recovery from intestinal damage done by the virus, his parents faced weeks at his bedside with little to do. Robert Jr.’s father, an insurance agent in Pittsfield, had taken time off from his job and rented an apartment near the hospital.

Soon after, Mrs. Hashim began her project.

With the hospital’s encouragement and ladders and poster paints borrowed from the crafts stockroom, Hashim lifted the 3-foot tiles down from the ceiling and his wife set up her studio in the corridors.

The first paintings hung above Robert Jr.’s bed immediately caught the baby’s attention, but probably helped his mother more. ″I was just going nuts, being here so long,″ she said. Soon Mrs. Hashim, who had never drawn anything besides doodles, was doing special orders for the rest of the ward.

One father even climbed a hospital table to move a tile painting from the ceiling over a vacated bed to the spot above his daughter’s bed, she said.

When the Hashims hung paintings of clowns above Lisa Mottley’s bed, the 4- year-old ″just looked up at them and smiled,″ her mother, Elma Mottley, said. Lisa was born mute from cerebral palsy.

″For kids just lying around on their backs with nothing to look at, it’s been a great diversion from their illness,″ said Martha Leland, a child therapist. ″Just to have something bright and vibrant to look at - it’s pulled the toughest children out of their shells.″

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