In addition to her day-to-day role as a nurse, Lauren Arce provides integrative medicine assessments to patients, offering education on mind-body interventions available to them through the Integrative Medicine Program (ITM) as well as other services like pet therapy and Arts in Medicine. Through her nearly 20 years of dedicated service to UF Health, she is intimately aware of the variety of resources available to patients and their loved ones, connecting their needs to the appropriate department.
As the Arts in Medicine (AIM) Nurse Coordinator, she helps us navigate the healthcare environment as we bring creative arts to patient bedsides, including music, painting, sculpting, sewing, and much more. One of these services is called the Hands Legacy Project. AIM has partnered with Palliative Care to leave families of terminal patients a legacy gift, a photographic reminder of their loved one’s personality and nature. We take pictures of the patient’s hands, sometimes clutching the fingers of a loved one, a family heirloom, or memorabilia.
Last week, UF Health had a family desperate for peace and comfort. After a tragic death of a family member that morning, another family member, who was a minor, was in an automobile accident where he was flung from his vehicle that then rolled over him. One death and another dreadful accident in one day. The family was in shock. Doctors gave them 14 days as the window by which they would have to see brain functioning for there to be any hope. Fourteen days came and went and the mom was as ready as she could ever be to let him go.
A social worker on the unit showed the mom some examples of Hands Legacy photos. The mom was taken aback and longed to have a photo of her son’s hand in hers and over the siblings, watching over them. AIM received the referral and we were told that care would be withdrawn soon. We did not have a photographer on staff that day.
Knowing that Lauren takes excellent photos but by no means identifies herself as a photographer, I asked if she could help us give this family a gift. She was not working that day, her house needed repairs, her seven-month-old baby was with her, she was in line to pick up a prescription — navigating life as a new mom. Life was busy and adding the stress of trying to take professional quality photos was just another stressor that she felt she could not handle. However, knowing that there wouldn’t be a second chance to do this for the family, she managed her anxiety and put the patient and his family first, and to beautiful results.