An Aspen local for 50 years, Deb Demeulenaere, 63, has worked at AVH for 40 of them. Since the mid-’80s, she’s curated the room, finding space for artwork that breast cancer survivors—men and women—have contributed, transforming what can be a scary and sterile experience into one that’s supportive and caring. With the opening of the hospital’s women’s wing in December, the mammogram room moved into larger digs that can house all the artwork and offers space for even more. Demeulenaere, who herself stands out with funky glasses and a shock of electric pink in her hair and has a warm, no-nonsense demeanor, worked for months to ensure the spirit of the room continues in its new home.
“The energy from our community is in this room,” Demeulenaere says. “People are so moved by how it makes them feel that they want to contribute. Everyone has taken ownership of the space. It’s their shrine.”
But don’t be fooled. A lot more goes on here than just eccentric artistry. The imaging machine—the only one of its kind in the Roaring Fork Valley—depicts millimeter slices of breast tissue, which makes for a more precise read. Plus, breast radiologists travel to Aspen to examine the scans every week.
Demeulenaere acknowledges there’s a “lot of hugging”—and giggling and sometimes tears—that take place here. “The room just makes people comfy.”
“Humor goes hand in hand with healing,” Demeulenaere adds. “Every day, we’re just thinking. ‘How we can make a patient’s experience better?’”
Ask any woman in the valley who has had a mammogram here and she’ll likely admit that the kitschy décor induces a smile and offers a bit of comfort to calm the nerves and, ahem, press on with the screening. aspenvalleyhospital.org