Raven Sotelo on Saturday gave a piece of herself to the hospital where she had a crucial surgery as a newborn, one that helped her breathe easily after she’d suffered from a condition that caused fluids to leak into her tiny lungs.
Sotelo, now 8, is a healthy elementary school student with a knack for painting. She shared her gift by joining about 120 children in painting tiles that will decorate a two-story expansion at MultiCare’s Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital.
Sotelo and her mother, Katie Cotton of Tacoma, chose a harbor seal for their contribution. Sotelo carefully painted the gray marine mammal, adding an orange starfish on a sandy beach.
“I think seals are cute,” she said.
Caregivers hope the tiles showing colorful scenes of Northwest wildlife will create a more welcoming environment for children coping with serious illnesses. Some of the children involved with this weekend’s paintings are current patients.
The art “helps to normalize (the hospital experience) for kids to come in and see something they’ve made,” said MultiCare child-life specialist Rachel McCrary.
McCrary said the hospital is on pace to pick up about 300 tiles from children’s groups around Pierce County. They’ll be placed in bathrooms in the hospital’s patient rooms, she said.
Children at the hospital this weekend painted bears, birds, squirrels, killer whales and seals. They mostly represented a mix of former patients and children of MultiCare employees.
Cotton, 31, brought her daughter because Raven loves to paint. At home, they have a portrait she made of the family walking along Tacoma’s waterfront.
She liked the idea of Raven giving something back to the hospital, too.
Just after she was born, Raven’s parents noticed that she couldn’t breathe well. Those cues led doctors to the surgery that sealed off the leaking fluid ducts. Raven still has tiny stainless steel clamps inside her chest.
“If we didn’t notice that she had trouble breathing, I don’t like to think of what would have happened,” Cotton said.
Jonah Ladish-Orlich and his mom brought a photo of Mount Rainier to inspire their painting of an eagle soaring over the volcano. His tile shows the mountain in icy whites and blues.
Jonah, who turns 10 Monday, said it was a clearer picture of the mountain than he usually gets on his visits to the national park on cloudy days.
“He loves volcanoes. He decided not to have it erupting. That was a compromise,” said his mother, Chris Ladish of Renton.
Her daughter, Ellie Ladish-Orlich, meticulously painted a forest scene, taking pains to keep her arms clean as she worked.
“If you need to do something in detail, put it close to you,” Ellie, 8, advised.
Chris Ladish is a manager of the hospital’s child psychiatric services. Ladish makes sure that program has plenty of toys and art to help children feel comfortable when they meet with doctors. The new tiles should be a nice addition.
“I think they’ll add cheer,” she said.
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646