Raise your hand if you’re sick of being sick

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

Annabelle Armstrong’s artwork has been named in the top 3 for her age group in an international art competition. More than 1000 paintings from 26 countries were submitted for judging. She has been invited to attend the Prize Giving of the 4th International Festival of Paintings for Pediatric Patients (IFPPP) in November in Reggio Calabria, Italy. Her story inspires other CVID patients to “dream big…

“During the year 2010, I constantly and consecutively got sick and wasn’t able to recover without the help of antibiotics.

This continued to persist, until my parents decided to take me to a doctor who thereafter diagnosed me with Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID). This is a disorder that impairs the immune system making me highly susceptible to infection from foreign invaders such as bacteria, or more rarely, viruses and makes me vulnerable to often develop recurrent infection particularly in the lungs, sinuses and ears.

In order to prevent infection, I was admitted to hospital every four weeks where I would receive an intravenous infusion called Octagam. This meant that I was receiving monthly antibodies that would aid me in fighting off any unwanted illness. From that day onward, still to this day, and for years to come the procedures still continue.

Through this artwork I want to make people aware of the personal difficulties I have to endure ‘behind the scenes.’ I have drawn seven of my hands, all slightly different, in charcoal, to represent the seven years I have been receiving infusions. By doing them all in black and white, and arranging them in a horizontal line I hope to create a sense of rhythm and repetition that highlight the routine and monotony of my monthly hospital visits. I used a sheet taken straight from my hospital bed, which adds a more personal aspect, to create the backdrop and background of my composition. The repetition of the ‘netcare’ sign, again creates rhythm and highlights monotony.

On top of each hand I have placed the real needle, plaster, and drip line to give the viewer a more tangible representation of what my visits to hospital entail, and allow the artwork to come to life. The drips and sheet coincide with each other and create a more balanced composition. On the first three hands I have placed pediatric plasters, shown by the teddy bears, to symbolize how young I was when I first started. As the hands progress so do the plasters, becoming bigger and more mature, which represent me getting older and having to move from the pediatric ward to the medical ward.

Each hand represents another year gone, and doesn’t show any sign of development or improvement, again stressing my situation and the harsh reality I face of possibly having to continue this for the remainder of my life. Underneath my artwork I have an installation of Octagam bottles which I have carefully arranged. By doing so I hope to give the viewer more information on exactly what is being infused into me. Each time I go to hospital my body receives five of those bottles, taking on average eight hours to infuse fully. This also aids in creating rhythm and repetition as well as adding another personal and real element to my composition. Therefore, after examining my artwork I hope one acknowledges the hardships I face, and becomes more aware of what us CVID patients have to undergo. I hope to emphasize how long I’ve been having to receive infusions for, and show people how it’s become routine, something I’ve had to become accustomed to doing as my blood results show no improvement which lead me down the path of never being able to put an end to it.

Ultimately, I am sick of being sick.”

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