Nurse Tilda Shalof has turned her hand to creating the most beautiful artwork and memorial from medical refuse.
To Tilda, medicine caps, tube connectors, vial lids and syringe coverings left over from treating some of the sickest hospital patients are not garbage but a poignant reminder of lives lost and saved – and she has created an amazing artwork to honour those memories.
“I can use 100 of these in a day,” says Tilda, “Each one tells a story for me.”
The 58-year-old collected the plastic bits during her 28 years as a nurse in the intensive care unit at Toronto General Hospital where she cared for critically ill patients, including those suffering from heart failure or recovering from organ transplant surgery. She has since turned the collection into a mural, creating a colourful mosaic of more than 10,000 pieces embedded in clear resin, which measures 1.2 metres (4 feet) high and 2.7 metres (9 feet) long, and now hangs at the hospital.
Tilda had no plan when she pocketed her first piece of medical plastic in 1987 during her initial year as a nurse in Toronto General’s ICU. At first, she took the plastic pieces home for her two young boys; the bright colours and unusual shapes made them ideal for sorting and matching games. As her children got older, her family used the castoff plastic to make elaborate strands of rainbow jewellery. But soon, the crafts and games were not depleting her supply. Regardless, Tilda continued to collect them. And after 28 year she had big bags of the medical waste stashed in her home.
“I couldn’t let them go,” she recalls. “Each was like a talisman of all those people I had cared for.”
A friend and artist, Vanessa Herman-Landau, suggested using the plastic pieces to create a large mural. And so, over the summer of 2015, working together on weekends, Shalof and Herman-Landau, the mural was assembled, beginning with a large sunset orange circle constructed of lids from a drug used to help patients with liver failure.
She says: “It’s a tribute to nursing. It represents all the patients that I took care of over the years.
“When you are creating, you feel empowered ….It takes you out of the sadness of your work. Instead, it reminds you of the incredible work that we do.”