Sherwood photographer documents precious moments
Lisa Dillon works with a palliative care program at Doernbecher
Photography has been good to Sherwood's Lisa Dillon.
She's found a new level of creative freedom and spends more time with her young daughter since she ditched her job as a technical writer to become a full-time photographer three years ago.
Now she's giving back.
Since October 2005, Dillon has been working with the Doernbecher Bridges Pediatric Palliative and Comfort Care team. The group, made up of doctors, nurses, social workers, and a spiritual support team, provides care to children and families of children with potentially life-limiting conditions.
Families in the program are often strapped for time as they shuttle between home and the hospital; and strapped for money as mounting medical bills make a trip to the photography studio seem extravagant. That's where Dillon steps in.
After a year of full-time photography, she met a photographer from Maryland who had volunteered to take pictures of a sick child. Dillon was moved by the photos, and contacted the American Child Photographers Charity Guild, who put her in contact with the Bridges program.
Her first photo shoot was for Liberty Ash, a two-year old who has undergone several heart surgeries, but still has "big beautiful eyes that are just so captivating," according to Dillon. The photo shoot led to a lasting relationship; Dillon still talks to Liberty's parents, and the little girl is still beating the odds.
"It's amazing how Lisa can capture love with a camera," said Michael Ash, Liberty's dad.
Still, not all parents have such happy messages. On a recent March weekend, Dillon was at a funeral for Joseph who passed away. The family used the photo slide show that she made for them.
"The difficult part comes after I do the session," Dillon said. "I get back to my office and I'm alone and create the slides; that's when it hits me. That's when I realize some of these children don't have a lot of time left, and I start to identify with the parents because I'm a parent myself.
"The first time I'm doing the slide show, I usually watch that and cry a little bit."
Dillon said the work has given her new appreciation for the fragility of life.
"A lot of these children were born healthy and everything was good and then one day something wasn't good," she said. "I think everyone who works with sick and dying children knows, you just have to appreciate every day for the amazing gift that it is."
While Dillon is looking at creating a studio, thus far she has traveled through the greater Portland area to take photos for clients of her business, Lisa Dillon Photography. That's the same type of mobility required by the Bridges program, in which the family sometimes has its own travel restrictions.
The Bridges team was created two years ago, and is dedicated to providing supportive care to children whose lives are expected to be shortened by combining treatment with a focus on living life as fully as possible.
Jill Metz is now the parental advisor to the team. It wasn't long ago that she suffered the same fate of many of the parents; her son died at a young age and was treated at Doernbecher. While the Bridges program didn't exist, physicians Kathy Perko and Greg Thomas were already involved with helping parents through the difficult situation. Now they and other doctors and nurses consult with Jill about dealing with patients.
"[Doctors] really haven't ever received any kind of training in this. There isn't a lot of communications 101 in medical school," Metz said. "There's a method that has been shown to be helpful in interacting with families … you try to present as many good options to the families in a situation as possible and give them power in terms of being able to make those kinds of choices."
The Bridges team traveled to West Virginia last year for training on that protocol.
This year, medical professionals will come to them. In November, members of the Bridges staff will take part in a training session being held at OHSU.
For more information on Lisa Dillon's photography, see www.lisadillonphoto.com or contact 503-730-5305.