Chalk drawings and messages by Peter's family

Chalk drawings and messages support Peter through cancer treatment

Grandfather Peter Koutsodontis loves being surrounded by family.

Being admitted to the ONJ Centre for leukaemia treatment during both COVID-19 lockdowns has been difficult and isolating.

Although they can't visit, Peter's family has found creative ways to show him their love and support.

The family regularly gathers outside his window to wave to him in the evenings, and his grandchildren do chalk drawings in the Yarra Street car park, opposite his window.

“It started when the visiting restrictions were first put in place a couple of months ago. My family would gather and wave to me and write chalk messages and drawings of support that I could see out of my window,” Peter says.

“It provides me with encouragement to stay strong, to get better so that I can spend more time with them. It makes me feel loved and cared for,” he says.

“During this admission there have been times when I have been doing physio/exercises in my room and my family have been doing physio/exercises outside at the same time. It keeps us connected.”

Peter’s family has come up with other ways to keep connected too: they have started a nightly family chat, with a different family member presenting on significant historical figure each night – something that Peter says has benefited his grandchildren as much as it has him.

“It’s great for the family. It also means that we are not just talking about COVID. Sometimes we can be on the phone for one to two hours,” Peter says.

Peter’s daughter, Karen, says that the family is happy to share their experience, in the hope that it might inspire others to come up with inventive ways to show their love to isolated family members.

“I think the thing that has most improved his mood and the mood of the nurses and other patients in [Ward] 7 South is the chalk drawings. Each of his grandchildren have been traced to show him how their bodies have grown, drawn their favourite images… and written words of thanks and hope to him and the staff in the ward,” Karen says.

“A massive thank you to you all the nurses and doctors for your amazing care of him and all the patients in 7 South.”