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Custard's art makes patients smile


Kailey Custard is an artist. The 33-year-old housekeeper from St. Louis expresses her love for art on Barnes-Jewish Hospital oncology unit 12800 daily by contributing to art projects that make patients smile.

"Art is something that makes people happy because they can relate to it," Custard says. "People are battling cancer on this floor and it can be sad. Instead of being sad, I want to help our patients feel better."

Custard has worked full time in environmental services at BJH since February. Her first day, she noticed one of the windows on 12800 had a colorful painting of two giraffes facing each other that could be easily seen by patients and staff across the street at St. Louis Children's Hospital. The painting inspired her creative side to join in the fun.

With the help of the nursing staff, patients and visitors now see pinwheels, paper flowers and new window paintings on the unit. Custard completes her projects during her breaks. The nursing staff on the floor were already known for decorating their space, so the staff welcomed Custard's paintings and other art projects.

"She coordinates art projects for staff, patients and visitors, sings to our patients, has made waffles for our nurses and does all of this while still keeping our floor spotlessly clean," says Mary Drago, RN, BSN, clinical nurse manager on 12800. "We are truly lucky to have her on our team. Kailey's art, like her elephant painting, is just one example of her kind, caring spirit."

Custard's purple elephant window painting even caught the attention of BJC president and CEO Rich Liekweg. Liekweg noticed the painting during his visit to the floor when he participated in the American Cancer Society's Fit2BeCancerFree CEOs Challenge.

"It was a surprise to see him and it felt great to know he liked my elephant," Custard says. "I hope all the patients like it, too -- and the cards I give them."

BJH housekeepers are supplied with "while you were out" cards to let patients know what services were provided while the patient wasn't in the room. Custard has even found a way to make patients smile through these cards. On the back of the card, she draws a picture or writes an encouraging message to her patients. Custard believes her contributions to the floor bring her closer to the staff, patients and visitors.

"Everyone on our floor is connected in some way," Custard says. "We all know someone who has had cancer or has cancer, so we're all doing what we can to help patients feel better."

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