Teen awaiting heart transplant enjoys virtual day out of hospital

Earlier this spring, Lia Phagan, 14, enjoyed a welcome reprieve from her room in the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, where she was awaiting a heart transplant as a patient of the UF Health Congenital Heart Center.

Thanks to the Harn Museum of Art at UF and the UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine program, Phagan mentally escaped the confines of her hospital room and toured the museum — and in particular, its impressionist exhibition, which included works by Monet — virtually on a laptop.

Phagan had answered a questionnaire from Streetlight, an adolescent and young-adult UF Health support program for people ages 13-25 living with chronic and life-limiting illnesses. She shared that the person she would most like to meet is Oscar-Claude Monet, who was a prolific French Impressionist painter.

That’s when Amy Bucciarelli, clinical art therapist, and the AIM team got to work. Sue Gaintner, a Harn docent, led the virtual tour. She joined Phagan in the hospital and brought examples of paintings she could experience up close.


Lia Phagan enjoys a virtual tour of the Harn Museum’s Monet collection as AIM’s Amy Bucciarelli looks on.

Phagan and Bucciarelli enjoyed their virtual tour and learned more about the teenager’s favorite artist. Phagan had previously traveled to Paris for her 13th birthday and visited the Giverny garden, where Monet painted.

“For that brief, but treasured, time we were transported,” Bucciarelli said of Phagan’s experience. “We were not in a hospital. We were in the Giverny garden and experiencing the beauty of exploring the Harn museum. For those moments, she was not a patient. She was an art scholar, and Monet’s biggest fan.”

“It was amazing,” Phagan said after the virtual tour concluded.

Gaintner enjoyed the experience as well.

“It was an amazing experience for us at the Harn,” Gaintner said. “Lia was so poised and charming. Her responses and reactions were intelligent, creative, thoughtful and so heartfelt. It was a special experience I will remember forever.”

Phagan’s mother, Tiffany Phagan, was grateful for her daughter’s “day out.”

“The beauty of this experience was the interactivity it provided,” Tiffany Phagan said. “It felt like we were able to get out of the room and be there — not like watching a documentary without participation. For patients who are ‘shut-ins’, nothing compares!”

We’re happy to report that Lia Phagan has since received her life-saving heart transplant and is doing very well, according to her transplant surgeon, Mark Bleiweis, M.D., UF College of Medicine transplant surgeon and director and principal cardiothoracic surgeon for the UF Health Congenital Heart Center.