Healing & Art at Highland Hospital


By Erick Chavarría

ov chavarria neighborhood reflection

Twenty-four hours a day the electronic doors open and close.  I sit in front of Highland Hospital and wonder about all the stories that go untold here as this particular emergency room has the most traffic in all of Alameda County. The doors, welcoming Oakland’s injured, sick and needy, labeled “Entrada Principal” and “Main Entrance” surely never get any rest.

I sit and observe for 30 minutes and see some of the stories present themselves. I see babies everywhere! I hear their adorable coos, innocent faces, and loud cries, seeking the tending of a physical and/or emotional need. They make the future of our communities shine as bright as the several “IT’S A GIRL!” balloons I see. I see a toddler running so fast that she trips on the rug that leads to the doors, and her mom telling her “See, I told you not to run.”

I see diversity and it feels so good. I see it in the patients, I see it in the medical staff and I see it on the walls—I’m sitting next to the Alameda County Community Art Project, an art mural that depicts families and communities from the Highland Hospital Neighborhood. No sounds of traffic, just a variety of languages and the wind brushing the trees accompany the incessant “dee doo dee doo” of a vehicle backing up from afar.

I sit and observe. A man complains about a burning sensation in his stomach, to the air it seems, for I hear no response. I see a woman in a wheelchair, and a male nurse behind her carrying a milliard of “get well balloons”. Her face gives painful grimaces as the wheelchair is pushed over the door’s threshold and jolts her wheelchair. She’s one of the many coming out of the hospital, some with faces tired and bodies so weak that someone must push their wheelchair.  I didn’t see sadness in people’s faces—not even in the tired ones—but hope and a happiness that was almost contagious.

As I walk back home I observe the art mural more closely and notice that it’s part of a larger project with the intention to bring together “diverse and multi-generational families to create artwork with the goal of enhancing the well-being of the family unit and the larger community.” I see scenes of happy children and their parents amidst surrealist and natural backgrounds, depicting perfectly the people that go in and out of those ever-open doors.

For more information about the mural go to: http://www.acgov.org/arts/pdfs/100_Families_Highland_Hospital_Info_Sheet.pdf

Author Profile

Erick Chavarria is a native of Mexico. He has been navigating Gringolandia ever since he moved to the U.S. at the age of five. He is very compassionate toward social issues and has been active in grassroots movements, particularly those aimed at Immigrant rights and Latino issues. He hopes to shift perspectives through his writing.

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