I don’t remember the exact day I met Marsha. I felt as though we have always known each other. Perhaps we met at Child’s Play the toy store or on the Murch elementary playground picking up our children. I know I have followed her on facebook since 2010. She is kind and loving. She walks with an easy stride with her children at her side and a babe within her arms. I know she is very busy juggling a career of singing and playing an instrument with the duties of a mother.
No, I do not know the moment I met Marsha, but I remember very well the day she joined our movement. I was in the grocery store fruit isle and I told her about this idea I was hatching to create a Walking Gallery. I asked her to join us and consider writing a song. She could focus on hand washing, as it was so necessary to fight infections in the hospital setting.
Now, often when I tell folks about the world of healthcare and patient advocacy on playgrounds and in stores, they shake their heads sadly agreeing something must be done. But the weeks pass and I do not hear from them again. I am sure they mean well, but the price is too high, time is too dear and they do not make the leap from a world play-dates and sippy-cups to the world of health activism.
This is Marsha Goodman-Wood’s jacket: “Did You Wash Your Hands?”
I painted this jacket in my hotel room days before The Walking Gallery first gathered on June 7th 2011. I had agreed to deliver a speech at Cerner that week and had no idea how busy I would be painting, so stuffing a few jackets into my luggage seemed a smart move. I painted this jacket thinking of how beautifully Marsha sings to children. She sings clearly and her voice sparkles. She never condescends, but instead sings to children at their level and her large smile is reflected on the faces of all who hear her.
In this painting a small child looks in awe at the water before her. Her hands are frozen in the air, bar of soap in hand as she stares at a little person in the flowing water stream. The small figure stares at the child as if to say, “Did you wash your hands?” Small children do this task with such joy. They rush out of washrooms arms held high saying, “Smell my fingers! Look how clean I am!” Then they smile and run away, to other joyous tasks.
As adults we lose that joy. Water is just there beneath us, a quick splash, a squirt of soap, a quick rinse and on we go to put out another fire or endure another hour on the job. I wonder what happened. Did we get too tall to appreciate the wonder of the lifesaving flow of pure clean water? Would we appreciate it more if it poured before our very eyes like in this image of a child? Would we too experience awe if our arms we raised in supplication of the cleansing flow?
Unlike the other 163 jackets in The Walking Gallery this one has an accompanying song. Marsha wrote “Nobody Likes Viruses and Germs.” She placed it on her most recent album “Gravity Vacation.” She sings a song designed to limit patient harm at children’s birthday parties and school fairs.
So many people in healthcare sigh in frustration and wonder what can be dome to reduce readmissions and lower hospital acquired infections. I want sing out in response: “Look at Marsha she is doing it!” She is playing her guitar and singing what we should do. She is telling children and their parents. She is making safety messaging joyful and fun. She has taken her talents and abilities and applied them to healthcare.
Look at beautiful Marsha signing and changing the world! And imagine how fast healthcare would change if every one of us would use our talents and abilities and apply them to preventing healthcare harm. Imagine that world.