Teenager’s health scare leads to new artwork for children’s ward

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Iris Williams and her son Dylan Williams.
 Artist Gary Drew creating pirate-themed giant artworks at the entrance to the Children’s Department.
Artist Gary Drew creating pirate-themed giant artworks at the entrance to the Children’s Department.

An Anglesey mum whose autistic son was on the brink of death after he refused to eat or drink has helped transform the hospital ward where he was treated.

Teenager Dylan Williams weighed just over five stone when he was admitted to Ysbyty Gwynedd’s children’s ward. He had collapsed and his organs were shutting down because he was refusing food and water, said his mum, Iris.

She was so grateful to the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board doctors and nurses who treated him that she helped organise a fund-raising concert with Cȏr Lleisiau Llannerch, with the show’s proceeds going to the children’s ward.

The £1,000 donation to the North Wales NHS charity Awyr Las has now paid for a giant pirate-themed mural on the entrance to the ward.

And to mark the choir’s support, commercial artist Gary Drew from Kinmel Bay has included singing pirates in his creation.

Iris, who is secretary of the choir which she joined 13 years ago, explained: “We’ve no idea why Dylan refused food, as he is non-verbal: he doesn’t speak or communicate, though we know he understands everything. He just decided he no longer wanted to eat or drink, and I don’t think we will ever know the reason.

“He was treated at Bangor and then transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, where they put a pipe into his stomach so they could feed him.

“He’s now back to full health and you can’t tell that he was so thin – he’s 5ft 6in and back to his previous weight of nine stone,” said Iris.

The grandmother also has a 32-year-old son and a daughter, 29, and cares for Dylan with husband Ifan at their home in Llannerchymedd

“Dylan was first diagnosed as severely autistic when he was three, and he has spent a lot of time on the ward, because of different complications. He’s now 18, so moving to an adult ward – I wanted to do something for the ward because the staff have been so good to me. Singing also plays a big part in Dylan’s life and he loves to join in – in his own way.

“We decided to have a concert, and invited another choir from South Wales to join us. It was very popular and we raised more than £1,000 for the ward. We are extremely pleased they have decided to use the money to brighten up the entrance with this mural.

“I have previously raised £1,550 for the ward with a Cawl a Chan (Soup and Song)                 concert, which paid for iPads and tablets to keep the children occupied while they are having blood tests and other treatment,” added Iris.

Ysbyty Gwynedd children’s ward sister Nerys Pritchard came up with the mural idea after seeing some of Gary’s other work at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan, where she previously worked.

She said: “We wanted to brighten up the entrance and other parts of the ward, to make it more welcoming for children – it is the first thing they see. Gary’s work is very vivid and I knew that it would work very well here.

“However, as it couldn’t be funded through our NHS budget we turned to Awyr Las for help.

“We’re extremely grateful for donations, such as that from Cȏr Lleisiau Llannerch, as they help fund a range of added extras that go above and beyond what the NHS is able to provide.”

Gary decided on a pirate theme for the entrance as it was bright and active.

“It is a cold looking area and the bright colours help to warm it up. Also, it’s something that features both boys and girls – and, as the money for it came from a choir, I have included some singing pirates, though you have to look for them!

“I draw everything freehand and then use emulsion to fill it in, with spray paint for the shadows,” explained Gary.

“I work all over the world creating large murals – I have just completed one in Southern Ireland for a laser maze centre, and I’ve worked in America, Australia and China for international companies, private clients, health clubs and schools. Many of the murals are more than 30m in length, so this one is a bit smaller. I’ve also spray painted everything from motorbikes to airplanes.

“Also, I’m a dad and my sons have been in hospital for treatment, so I understand that a children’s ward needs to look bright and welcoming – and it’s been lovely creating this.”