A shield of strength created by a patient at the MGHfC Pediatric IBD Center.
One of the shields of strength created by a patient at the Pediatric IBD Center.

In late December 2021, patients and families from the MassGeneral Hospital for Children Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center virtually gathered for an Art Therapy class.

Guided by Sheila Poirier, LMHC, ATR, 20 participants were asked to identify 5-10 of their inner strengths and qualities. Poirier, an art therapist and central health counselor based in southern Massachusetts, instructed each artist to visually represent those characteristics on a “shield of strength.”

Inflammatory bowel disease can be very isolating, especially for children and teens. The IBD Center’s parent/patient advisory team (PPAT), co-led by Jill Horan, the mother of two patients, has worked closely with Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center’s physicians to create a support network for families, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another shield of strength created by a Pediatric IBD Center patient.
Another shield of strength created by a patient at the Pediatric IBD Center.

“One of the main goals of PPAT is to create a sense of support and community. Throughout the pandemic, we have been very intentional about ensuring we had ongoing virtual programming as a way to bring our patients and families together safely,” says Horan.

The team hosts educational seminars and community building events for pediatric patients and offers caregiver mentoring programs that tackle the stress, worry and challenges that inflammatory bowel disease can cause parents. Despite in-person gathering limitations brought on by COVID-19, the group continues its efforts to bolster children and teens’ inner strength, perseverance, and resiliency while managing a complex, chronic illness.