A Cornwall long-term care nurse has been brightening up residents' days with her artistic talent throughout this pandemic, by drawing characters on her masks every day.
Laura Mackenzie says it all started last spring when the mandatory mask rule was introduced at St. Joseph's Continuing Care Centre (JCCC).
"It was Good Friday actually and I happened to be with a friend of mine, one of the RPNs, and we decided to draw on each others masks because we wanted to make it fun, we wanted to be different," Mackenzie said.
"So she drew a bunny on me and I think I drew teeth and a tongue. The next day when I came in, put on my plain boring mask, I said, 'Ah I should keep this going.' So I grabbed a highlighter and tried to draw lips, it did not go good, but I just decided I was going to be better tomorrow and that was that," Mackenzie said.
She’s now drawn a different theme or character for 188 consecutive shifts, with requests now piling up, noting she wasn’t much of an artist when she started.
"I could not draw a stick man to save my life," Mackenzie said with a laugh.
"It was really tough at first, then spring came, I did Mother's Day, Father's Day. Requests started coming in which made life much easier."
She uses a checklist on her phone to make sure she doesn’t double up, with her artistic talent bringing smiles and conversation for residents going through a lonely time during the ongoing pandemic.
"Especially in the first six months when (the residents) were extremely isolated from the rest of the world, this was something that lightened up their day," said Kim Gillet, chief nursing executive at St. Joseph's Continuing Care Centre.
"The first time I noticed it, Laura came to my office for something and she had a mask with a set of big red lips on it and at first I wasn’t sure what I was seeing and I went, 'what's on your mask?' And she showed me and I thought that’s really awesome," Gillet added.
"The biggest thing about putting on these masks was that the residents weren’t seeing our entire face. We are the people they see every single day, and they weren’t seeing us smile and I said, 'You know what? It just makes it so much more personal for the residents.' They now have a better perspective.”
Full-time resident Elizabeth Mullen said it has been fun seeing the different cartoon characters every day.
"I thought that was pretty smart. It brings a little cheer because people are asking questions, 'What is it? Why do you do it?' So I think that’s fun,” Mullen said.
Mackenzie says each mask takes her 5-10 minutes to draw, depending on the character, and she hasn’t run out of ideas just yet.
"I still have Simpsons on the list and there are a lot of characters in the Simpsons, so that will keep me busy as well," Mackenzie said, adding she does not have a favourite design.
"I can’t pick one. There are a few that I’m kind of fond of. Like Remembrance Day, that was a really nice and a Father's Day one, more of the specialty days, those were the nice ones," said Mackenzie.
"Anything to (make the residents) smile. There’s a lot of stuff that’s missing from their lives, right? So just anything extra to make their day a little easier."
"Anything that gives some joy to the residents in these times, they’re frightened, and if this helps them not be frightened, go for it," added Gillet.
Mackenzie adds she will not t stop anytime soon either.
"As long as I have to wear a mask they will continue."
Mackenzie updates her mask album daily on her Facebook page.