Heart attack survivor finds healing through art

Heart Health

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Feb 25, 2020

After spending one hot afternoon mowing the yard, Mary Owens suddenly started experiencing pain down her left arm, and then in her chest. Her husband quickly took her to the hospital, where she stayed for testing and overnight observation.

The next day, they were shocked to learn that these were the first symptoms of her heart attack. With an artery blocked, Mary would need to have bypass surgery.

“It’s eye-opening because you think that the age that you are, it can’t happen to you.”

For 38-year-old Mary, the news was devastating. Though her father had had several minor heart attacks at a young age, Mary had never experienced any previous heart issues. There was no warning or indication that her heart was anything but healthy.

“It’s eye-opening because you think that the age that you are, it can’t happen to you,” she said. “When it does happen, you’re just like, ‘Oh gosh. What is next?'”

As she began to come to terms with this life-altering surgery, Mary turned to a familiar source of comfort — art. She has enjoyed drawing all her life, after starting at a young age and teaching herself little by little. She has taken some classes and shares her love of drawing with one of her close friends. Her favorite things to draw include animals, people and landscapes.

Mary said she went through a lot of changes after having her bypass surgery. It’s easy to take for granted the things in life you do without thinking — brushing your teeth, getting dressed, preparing a meal. After a difficult procedure, it can be frustrating to have to depend on someone else to help you with these mundane tasks.

Art has a calming effect and helps me put some of my feelings on paper.

For Mary, drawing was the perfect distraction. Focusing on her art helped distract her from thinking about the things she wasn’t able to do shortly after the procedure. Drawing helped her stay positive throughout the healing and recovery process and served as a powerful creative release.

Related: Rehab patients gain strength, inspire others through art

“You have to stay positive and keep going so your frustration doesn’t get the better of you,” she said. “Art has a calming effect and helps me put some of my feelings on paper.”

Recently, Mary decided to share her art with the care team at Baylor Scott & White who saved her life. After her heart surgery, she donated a drawing of a heart to the rehab center at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – College Station Rock Prairie where she does cardiac rehab.

Proudly displayed in the cardiology clinic, Mary’s drawing is an inspiration to everyone who walks the hall and a reminder that art truly can heal.

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