Local student heals with U of M Hospital art

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Three years ago when my son, Damien Crowe, was asked to make a tile for the design of the newly opened Mott Children’s Hospital, that opening day seemed far away. However, my son has always enjoyed helping lift the spirits of others with his creativity, so he happily grabbed the wet clay donated from Pewabic Pottery and put his energy into the task after a nephrology appointment. At completion Damien told me he’d sculpted a lion because it would offer kids courage and keep them brave when they were in the hospital – something he knew far too much about since the age of two when his kidney troubles first began.

Damien Crowe At University Of Michigan Mott Children's Hospital With Tile He DesignedAbout a year later, we received a framed photograph of his tile in the mail. It’s been in Damien’s room, on his desk, every day since. Sometimes I find him just looking at it and smiling. So, it was with great anticipation that we went to the new University of Michigan Medical Center facility for a rheumatology appointment this month and sought out the location of his tile. Damien had to garner up his own courage to battle his fear of heights as his finished lion tile was installed on the 11th floor. The new hospital is designed so the outer walls are clear glass windows so kind of scary when you’re acrophobic. It wasn’t long before the desire to see his tile overcame Damien’s fear of heights, and eventually he was walking near the windows and looking out at the view.

As a parent this was a huge moment for me. I was watching my son grow, and evolve and take pride in his accomplishments. He didn’t even complain when I asked him to pose for a photo with his tile. It just made him smile more. It was a great day.

You see, my son was diagnosed with childhood nephrotic syndrome at the age of two, and has been battling the disease ever since. Tools in our fight have been an excellent medical team, too many medications to count, dietary changes, hospital living and a whole lot of humor and creativity.  Of all of these tools, it is art and creativity that has kept my son’s spirits up and kept him in the fight. It’s healed him body, mind and soul more than any pill, treatment or test he’s had – and there have been many.

My son had a painting hanging on the 6th floor of the old hospital where he spent most of the first five years of his life. I don’t know what happened to that art when everything was moved over to the new location. The painting may grace some other wall or it may have been removed to make room for new art from other children. What I do know is that the tile project where UofM Mott Children’s Hospital worked with Pewabic Pottery of Detroit and chronically ill kids to create a lasting public display of healing has had a positive impact on my son.


  1. How wonderful to see how art is helping Damien cope with his disease, and how Damien’s art is helping others to do the same. Congratulations to him on having his creations displayed in such an important place.

    • Thanks, Maria. It’s a lasting tribute to the creativity and joy found in a place where so many have experienced challenges. The new hospital is marvelous – peaceful and soothing. Hopefully the tiles will make going to the hospital seem less scary for kids.

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