This Nurse’s Mural Took 28 Years To Create, But It Was More Than Unusual Materials That Made It Beautiful

"These little things we do are huge for the patient."

Using items that would normally be tossed out in the trash, Tilda Shalof, a nurse of 28 years, has created a stunning work of art.

Shalof has spent those years of work collecting things such as medicine caps, tube connectors, vial lids, and syringe coverings — all different colors and different shapes — that remind her of all the patients she's treated. Shalof has now taken these random things from the ICU and made a mosaic of more than 10,000 pieces that hangs in Toronto General Hospital.

These assorted medical leftovers — which Shalof, who has written six books about nursing, promises are clean and oftentimes sterile — aren't just junk. In fact, Shalof says, "each one tells a story for me."

Shalof hopes the mural is "a cheerful, joyful thing to look at" for patients and their families, but, deep down, hopes that it holds more meaning for other medical professionals.

"I hope young nurses and young doctors see this and hopefully it helps them remember that all these little things we do are huge for the patient. We do it hundreds of times a day and night and for all these years," Shalof told the Toronto Star. "But each thing that we did with each little piece of plastic meant so much to the patient."

Shalof adds: "That's really what this mural represents: one thing by itself is meaningless but all of it together is what makes it possible to do the work that we do and it's so easy to forget that."

The 58-year-old — who started the mural over the summer of 2015 — now works at Toronto Western Hospital (part of the same network) in the interventional radiology department. 

In some ways, Shalof said goodbye to her old workplace with this piece. But that doesn't mean she's done just yet. She hopes to create a new mural inspired by her new hospital and wants to use their expertise in neuroscience as its foundation.

See her talk more about the mural in the video below: