In 2004, Laura Fuller’s daughter was clinging to life. Battling a rare genetic disorder, the 9 1/2-year-old Delaney spent her last 48 hours in a sanitized hospital room at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
Then the fairy tree arrived.
Fuller, a stained-glass artist from Portland, brought in a tall birch tree decorated with whimsical and playful touches to keep her daughter’s spirits up. At night the tree lit up, giving her room a soft, warm glow.
“It was magical,” said Lorraine McElwain, the hospital’s director of inpatient pediatrics.
Now all sick children who enter the hospital can experience the relief of imaginative distraction in the sixth floor atrium. This fall Fuller installed a permanent fairy tree, called The Children’s Tree, and on Wednesday hospital staff touted the artist, who now lives in Falmouth, with a reception. “It’s a gem for the unit,” said McElwain. “There is always something to discover.”
An anonymous donor commissioned the 18-foot-high tree, which Fuller designed with steel, polycarbonate and soldered with mica and birch bark. Like a life-sized Advent calendar, doors reveal wondrous scenes — snowy castles, secret gardens — and colorful hummingbirds and flowers made of glass dangle from branches above.
“There are 18 doors to open, rooms that are meant to spur their imagination,” said Fuller. “When you spend a lot of time in the hospital you’re in pain, you’re sick, your imagination is not zooming. I wanted to give kids and parents and nurses, every one, something to distract them.”
Doctors and hospital staff say the artist’s intent is working.
“No one wants to spend time in the hospital, but if you are here you want life to be as normal as possible,” said John Bancroft, chief of pediatrics. “This is one more way to create normalcy during a time of healing.”