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2nd February 2024 Community Stories

Jane’s artistic legacy for palliative care

Gabby, Jane and Sarah resized

As a long-term patient in palliative care, Jane Mumford has faced many physical and mental challenges across her health journey. 

She has been living with Multiple System Atrophy Cerebellar (MSAC) – a rare neurodegenerative disorder with no cure – since her diagnosis in 2017, six years after first experiencing symptoms.  

But one unlikely thing has kept her going – the support and comfort she’s received from art therapy. 

After meeting The Hospital Research Foundation Group – Creative Health art therapist Gabby Wright, Jane was introduced to the power of art as a therapeutic tool.  

The pair met in The Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s palliative care ward in September 2022, exploring the creation of legacy lanterns as a form of therapy.  

Jane admits she’s more of an outdoorsy type than a natural creative, but gave it a crack nonetheless. 

Those sessions gave her a renewed sense of purpose and made such an impact that Jane became determined to pay it forward. 

“Working with Gabby and doing my art therapy, and knowing how much that gave me comfort, I felt like the fun I had and the warmth Gabby gives me, I wanted to share that around,” she said.  

Brightening palliative care 

Jane has been living on borrowed time for the past decade.  

MSAC affects the body’s autonomic function, causing Jane to live in constant pain as the muscles in the left side of her body spasm uncontrollably.  

The average lifespan of patients with MSAC is six to 10 years, but for Jane, the will to live has never waned.  

During her early therapy sessions, Jane spoke to Gabby about how distressed coming to hospital made her feel, in part due to how uninviting spaces like the palliative care ward’s family room were.

Jane at the unveiling of the Family Room mural last year.

The space lacked warmth, both for patients and visiting family members, and needed a refresh.  

Gabby has long had a vision for how the family room could be transformed, with a mural as its centrepiece. 

She shared that dream with Jane in the hope that she would find comfort in knowing that one day it might look different. 

Instead, Jane decided to do something about it.  

“It needs love and attention and warmth, these people are going through a terrible time,” she said.  

“I thought that I had to do something, and it became a bit of a mission.”  

For more than a year, Jane has been raising money for The Hospital Research Foundation Group charities Creative Health and Palliative Care with the aim of giving back and improving the space for everyone who will come after her.  

Some projects have been minor in scale, like installing fairy lights and birdboxes in the garden.  

But the biggest component of the refurbishment is Jane’s final gift to the palliative care ward.  

Her fundraising allowed Creative Health and Palliative Care to commission local artist Sarah Casson (known professionally as Sair Bean) to transform a blank wall in the family room into a whimsical and vibrant mural, shining light into a once drab space.  

At its unveiling in December, Jane said she was “blown away” by the final piece.  

“Before, the family room was like something out of the 1920s, you didn’t want to come in and sit in here, you just wanted to get in and get out,” Jane said.  

“It was everyone else I felt for, it was like where do they go? These people have family members that are in their last hours, they need somewhere they can go to breathe and now they can.”  

The mural created by Adelaide artist ‘Sair Bean’.

The work depicts the intricacies of life’s journey, through sprouting trees and a boat embarking on a voyage.  

Sarah said the piece was one of the most meaningful that she has put together.  

“It was quite challenging, but I am super proud of how it turned out. I am so grateful to be involved in such a meaningful project,” Sarah said.  

The power of art therapy  

Art therapy can take many different forms but is focused on using creative expression to foster healing, mental wellbeing and communication.  

One of Jane’s key therapeutic goals was to ensure that her time spent on this earth mattered.  

Her name now sits on a plaque accompanying the mural, so that her selflessness will never be forgotten.  

“She has this desire to ensure that her life has a positive impact on the community and makes a difference,” Gabby said about Jane’s character.  

“Jane didn’t want her name on that wall, but I think it’s really important to recognise that when people walk into that room, they know that it is a special place because the funds that enabled us to create that space were raised by a patient that was in palliative care.”