The paramedics at the fire department near Christine Williams' Lombard condo knew her son Christian by name, thanks to his nearly weekly grand mal seizures. Christian, who was born with cerebral palsy, had suddenly begun seizing, leaving doctors scrambling to put together a cocktail mix of medicine to calm his frantic brain waves.
Christine, in the meantime, was trying to calm her own frantic feelings as she began spending her nights watching the monitor that would let her know if another seizure had begun. The pair became homebound last fall as the seizures progressed and left Christian exhausted.
"I learned how to handle it, but I literally got myself almost to the point of being sick,"Christine says. "You have no control. You get to the point where you can't do anything but watch this monitor."
Since she had always enjoyed drawing and painting, she decided that picking up a paintbrush again might be a good way to help her deal with Christian's health issues. "As I did the painting myself to relieve stress, I said to Christian, `Why don't you paint with Mom?'" Christine says. "He loved it right away."
Because Christian has limited use of his hands, Christine bought sponge brushes with thick handles that Christian could grasp.
For each painting, Christine uses acrylic paints to cover the canvas with a solid base color. Then it's Christian's turn.
"He has a good time picking the colors," Christine says. "I put on a solid color, then he'll pick colors to create an abstract background for the painting."
Christian lets his mom know when he wants her to turn the canvas, and what he thinks she should paint over his abstract lines to complete the final painting. A recent painting included Chicago's skyline, something Christian chose because he loves the city.
In June, Christine and Christian had their first official art show at Gallery's Choice in Downers Grove. Many prints and several original paintings sold, with the money going to charity. Best of all, Christian received plenty of recognition.
"Christian loved it. He loved meeting people and talking to people. He did his famous fingerprint signature on all the prints that we signed," Christine says.
But the finished works of art mean so much more to Christine than money raised or people fussing over her son.
"There's a lot of true emotion that goes into creating art," she says. "When I have him by my side and we're creating something together, there's no better feeling."
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.