Brain tumor patient discovers art's impact

Nina Jubran

SEATTLE -- Artwork helped a young girl through a frightening time, when she had a brain tumor. Now an adult, she's discovering her art's lasting impact.

Nina Jubran has always found comfort in art. She's been hand making clay figurines since the third grade. That talent turned into therapy at age 10, when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She needed surgery and was scared. Caretakers at Seattle Children's Hospital had a suggestion.

"They asked me, because they wanted to get my mind off the surgery, they asked me what are your hobbies," she said. Nina told them she liked to make clay figurines, and they encouraged her parents to bring supplies to the hospital. It worked, distracting Nina from the approaching surgery.

As a thank you, Nina made three figurines for her neurosurgeon, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen. "I told him, this is for you because you take care of the kids here at Children's Hospital."

Twelve years have passed, nearly to the day, since Nina's successful surgery. She's back as a volunteer, taking an art cart to patient rooms, offering the same distraction to sick and scared kids. And she recently returned to sell her art, to donate money back to Children's.

"My mom says, wouldn't it be cool if we saw Dr. Ellenbogen. I said I doubt we're going to see him."

Not only did they see Dr. Ellenbogen, he remembered Nina. He still keeps her artwork in his office, where he sees it daily.

"When I saw Nina, my heart skipped a beat," Dr. Ellenbogen said. "It made my day to run into a former patient. I am so proud that she is out there being successful and doing what she loves. It's what drives me as a doctor."

As much as Nina loves art, her bigger passion is for the hospital - and the people - that saved her life.

"They help so many kids," Nina said. She hopes to return to Children's as an employee after graduating from the University of Washington, where she's currently a student. She would like to work as a nurse or a child life specialist.

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