Former nurse’s infectious 'doodles’ hang in hospitals

  • By Alex Pope
  • BBC News, Bedfordshire

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Karen Reeb, a nurse for 39 years, said she was a big „doodler.”

A retired nurse’s „doodles” which captured moments NHS staff went through during the Covid-19 pandemic have been hung in two hospitals.

Karen Reeb, from Amptilly, Bedfordshire, said it was „fantastic” to see her artwork at Luton and Dunstable (L&T) and Bedford hospitals.

Untrained, he said, he drew sketches to show what his colleagues „went through.”

„I was taking a moment. I don’t need precision, I want a feeling.”

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„Girl power” showed up for hospital staff in their full PPE during the pandemic

Mrs Reeb, 57, was a children’s ward sister at L&D for 30 years and retired from nursing in September.

He said he always drew as a hobby but never went to art school because his parents told him he would „get a proper job”.

She realized the impact of art in hospitals 10 years ago when her son Ben developed a brain tumor.

The first hospital where he was treated „had bare walls and it was very depressing because I had nothing to look at or illuminate the atmosphere”, he said.

When she was transferred to Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, she said, „The wards and the corridors were full of pictures, art, photographs, things to relieve that stress and the children’s ward was amazing, it was so colourful”.

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Ms Reep urged her colleagues to take a belated break in 2020, making sure people „don’t forget what we’ve been through”.

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Ms Reeb drew her first „doodle” during the Covid-19 meeting, saying „everybody looked sad, they were all wearing masks”.

„When Covid hit, it was a surreal time and I decided to paint what I saw in very quick sketches,” Ms Reep said.

„I was taking a moment. I didn’t need precision, I wanted a feeling.

“I’m a big doodler, and I wanted the staff to feel like I was capturing what they were doing.

„I didn’t want anyone to forget what we went through with Covid, and I wanted all the staff to have memories.”

Her work caught the attention of the „Take Heart” team at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which chose a selection from 70 pieces Ms Reeb had created.

image source, Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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Ms Reeb poses with her former colleague Afisa and „Take Heart” co-founder Dr Sheena McCluggan with some of the artwork on display

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The artwork, starring Afisa, a colleague of Ms. Reep’s, was called „Distraction.”

Seeing them on display, Ms Reep said: „It’s so brilliant, it’s unique.”

„I want future generations to see this great event, which affected people’s lives – I want some reflection.”

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„A little humor always helps when we’re scared during Covid,” Ms Reep said of the artwork

Dr Rachel Chatter, one of the founders of the project, said: “This collection of images depicts several moments in time during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic and in the months that followed.

„Karen’s wonderful linework and color captures people, each other and our imagination.”

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Ms Reeb said she wanted „something of a moment” and grabbed a painting of pharmacists at work.

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