Written by on November 2nd, 2014 // Filed under Erika Viktor, Uncategorized


A few weeks ago I came across something that touched my heart and I thought I would share it with you!

But first a story.


I was eight and my mom wanted me in the hospital room to see something I didn’t particularly care to see: a live birth.

Specifically, the birth of my little sister.

I prepared well for this event. I brought a doll to keep me occupied. The doll was supposed to be little-sister practice. I wrapped it and pretended to feed it and rock it. Unfortunately, this only occupied about a minute of time. After that I grew bored and fell asleep. Sometime around two in the morning a nurse woke me up and ushered me into my mother’s delivery room.

I blocked out most of the event. Its just totally gone. Really.

But the one thing I do remember was that my little sister was rushed away. Something was wrong. Her oxygen levels were low.

I only got to see her for a second. She was much tinier than my little-sister practice doll.

Little Dani couldn’t come home with us. She had to stay in a big see-through box. I asked if it was an aquarium. That got a laugh. They told me it was an incubator and that she could come home for a bit but she needed to come back. Dani had a problem. To be precise, she had a hole in her heart. This condition is what’s known as a congenital heart defect.



I was in a grocery store parking lot, asking question after question when my mom finally pulled out a ratty envelope from her purse and drew me a picture.

“This is your sister’s heart. She has four valves. This valve here has a hole in it. Blood is leaking out all the time. They need to go fix it buy cutting open her chest and stopping her heart. If they can’t get her heart started again, she’ll die.”

I was terrified.

We took Dani to an expensive photography studio just before the surgery. By then she was smiling and cooing. She was a real little person. Everyone knew she may not make it through the surgery and we wanted to capture what she looked like just in case.

As I had conveniently blocked out my sister’s birth, there are few surviving memories of the day Dani had open heart surgery. But two details stand out in my mind. One, everyone was a basket case. And two, a nurse made me feel better.

As we sat in the waiting room of Primary Children’s Hospital, I was miserable and scared. Then a nurse approached me with a handful of dot matrix printer paper and a pencil. She asked me if I’d like to draw.

For hours I happily filled up the paper with pictures of cats, dogs, dragons and my favorite cartoon character: Garfield. My anxiety quieted and I was able to lose myself in the drawing.



Earlier this week I blogged about Steve Barr, a successful cartoonist, and his cause to supply children with drawing supplies. You can read about this here.

Of course I was drawn to this cause because of my own experience but as I study the subject more, I find that art has an incredible healing power.

“By engaging in dance, poetry or music, people are likely to initiate processes that help them manage stress, reduce negative mood states and perhaps change behavior that we know impacts cardiovascular risk and recovery.”

This quote, by Joshua Smyth, a psychologist at Syracuse University, is only one of hundreds that I found supporting the positive impact of arts and creativity on healing.

Steve writes:

“I would love to spend the next few years dedicating a large amount of my time to doing something unique and special, something that truly helps other people. I cannot afford to do it on my own, but together we can all make this happen. Here’s the idea: I want to share the joy of creating cartoons with pediatric patients and their families by visiting hospitals and other facilities in as many places as possible. Sometimes these visits will be arranged through existing art therapy programs, and at other times they would be provided independently in areas that don’t offer such services.”

Look at the smiles!

What I like about Steve’s project is its simplicity. He plans to supply sick children (and their siblings) with drawing materials and even drawing lessons! Why is this important?

Steve writes:

“I could let each child use (and keep!) a few new pencils, a 50 sheet drawing pad, one non-toxic black marker for inking purposes, a small handheld sharpener with a plastic attachment to catch the shavings (no messes in hospital rooms!) and a box of twelve colored pencils for just under $10 per child.  They get to have their own personal portable art supply package, so they can keep drawing and creating their own cartoons long after I’ve left.  However, that cost could really add up when I’m visiting multiple locations with large numbers of patients (and their siblings). And, many of my visits will be repeated at the same locations due to the fact that new cases are diagnosed every day, and the children rotate in and out of the facilities depending on how their care is progressing.

One of the reasons I need funding to continue to come in is because many pediatric patients are also dealing with compromised immune systems, so all art supplies taken to the hospitals need to be new and unopened.”

An example of some of the art supplies the children will receive

Little Dani wasn’t old enough to benefit from a cause like this. She would have loved it! But someone sure helped me during a scary and vulnerable moment. Little things add up that way. And, of course, there are other benefits! I believe that when you expose children to the arts at critical moments in their lives, you make passionate artists. That’s what I hope my donation to Steve’s cause will do. You can donate too. Click here!

If you can’t donate, consider blogging about this effort or sharing it on your social media! The more eyes we get on this, the more cartoons the kids get to draw!



Dani made it through her first surgery, though there were many more to follow. She had a foot long scar spanning her back and she will have a heart murmur for the remainder of her life. She and I were very close growing up. I would say we were inseparable! Dani was the inspiration of my first book Gabriel Gussie and the Muxy, which explores the topic of protecting siblings as a core theme.

But the happier ending will be in the form of all the smiles Steve will bring to lots of kids. Go, Steve!

Dani Today


Helping patients heal through the arts

Does Art Heal?

How Art Based Therapy can help heal

Art Can Help Patients Heal

The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health

If you have experienced healing in the arts please tell your story!


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  2. Its nice that you guys are supporting these kids.

    Posted by BrianReply
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    Posted by Clarece McDermotReply
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