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The Human Experience: The Human Experience

Perspectives on Pain: A Visual Interpretation of Chronic Headaches

Rasmussen, Hannah K. MD

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doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000005622
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Figure 1A.
Figure 1A.:
Occipital headache: “light, shot, concussive.”
Figure 1B.
Figure 1B.:
Migraine headache with venous angioma: “fire, screaming, white noise.”

I am a medical student and future anesthesiology resident at Stanford whose personal experience with migraines and time spent at the Stanford Chronic Pain Center inspired my pursuit of an artistic project using photography and painting as a lens into the patient experience of chronic headaches. The two drawings shown here are part of a larger body of triptychs, one for each project participant, composed of: a photograph of the participant, my painted interpretation of the participant’s headache experience, and a monochrome panel in the color each participant assigned to their headache experience. Visualizing something “invisible” like pain was an intriguing challenge, but during this project I often found that the exercise of artistically recreating someone’s headaches laid the groundwork for new conversations and deeper connections with my participants. I believe strongly in the ability of the visual arts to increase empathy for patient experiences, and as a future anesthesiologist I hope to harness the tools I have gained from the medical humanities as I forge relationships with patients both in the perioperative space and in pain clinic.

Copyright © 2021 Hannah K. Rasmussen