Special Artwork Honors Transplant Patient Memory

"Loving Life," by Scott Kirkpatrick.


The hallway leading to the transplant clinic at University Hospital will have a special feel in the month of February. The walls are filled with 16 digital illustrations that share one man's journey of hope, recovery and positivity. The man behind these drawings had an extraordinary life with a bittersweet ending.


The artist is the late Scott Kirkpatrick. His world was turned upside down on July 1, 2017. He had a heart attack while driving and crashed his car on the west side of Madison. He was in critical care at UW Hospital until early August. He went to rehab after that and did not return home until the end of October. During this time doctors told Scott he needed a new heart. He got that new heart in early February of 2018. He had a new lease on life, but Scott's story has a heartbreaking ending. At the end of August 2018 he died in a tragic drowning accident.


While he was in the hospital, Scott used an iPad to draw self-portraits as a way to cope during his recovery and time waiting for procedures. His images give a unique patient-centered view of the emotional struggle and the journey from being broken to whole again.


"The 18 months have been an emotional roller-coaster from a medical crisis to recovery and to the devastating accident," said his widow Carrie. "We hope his artwork will provide great comfort and positive motivator for others who are facing similar challenges in the hospital. We are blessed to have his artwork as a memory."


Scott is survived by Carrie, to whom he was married for 28 years; a son Riley, 25, and daughter Carly, 23. The family is from Middleton.


"Life is good," by Scott KirkpatrickBefore Scott's death, UW Health art coordinator Mandy Kron had planned to exhibit his work. She and Carrie decided to go ahead with the art display to honor his memory. For the month of February, his work will hang in a hallway near the transplant clinic. His wife wrote a description for each digital illustration and calls the collection the "Loving Life Lessons."


"It takes a strong and intentional effort to enjoy life when working through a painful recovery. You have to constantly look for and celebrate the reasons that life really is good no matter what. That is exactly what Scott did," said Carrie. "His mantra to friends and family was that he was capable of enjoying whatever time he had left."


Carrie added, "Scott was very aware that it was no small miracle he survived a massive heart attack, a car crash and then he got a new heart. We are grateful."


UW Health has a robust art program and shares a wide range of artwork in its locations, and while Kron says she has exhibited patients' artwork in the past, this one is special because, for the first time, the patient is no longer with us.


"His work remains an inspiration and testament to his resilience, thoughtfulness, and often humor through difficult times," said Kron. "Scott was a well-known heart transplant recipient in the hospital. A lot of staff remember him, so I hope they enjoy seeing his work."


"The drawings are a combination of the medical and emotional journey. I hope people see the unique work and leave feeling a little inspired to enjoy each day," said Carrie.


Scott's artwork will be on display until Feb. 26.