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North Texas doctor treating patients in COVID-19 ICU brings joy through PPE art

Dr. Jocelyn Zee, an intensivist at JPS Hospital in Fort Worth, started doodling to clear her mind-- then patients and colleagues started making requests

FORT WORTH, Texas — Inside the walls of JPS Hospital in Fort Worth is a COVID-19 ICU, where doctors, nurses and patients are having some of their toughest days.

“Day by day, you'll see a lot of those folks get worse,” said Dr. Jocelyn Zee, who’s been practicing at JPS since 2011.

Dr. Zee spends most of her time in the ICU and knows how hard it can get, for everyone.

“To live through, serve, during a pandemic, I don't think anybody would've really thought about that in their lifetime,” she said.

Over the past few months, she found herself doodling cartoons on her disposable PPE during breaks as a way to clear her mind.

“It started out just black and white,” she said. “I just had a black Sharpee and I would just doodle. I'm not an artist, I'm not,” she said.

But colleagues took notice of the joyful things she was jotting, from Peanuts characters to boba tea, and started asking Dr. Zee to draw on their PPE, too.

“Can you draw Pokemon? Or can you draw a Disney princess? Or can you draw something from Frozen?” she said they asked her.

Pretty soon, even patients were making requests for cartoons drawn on the paper on their bedside tables.

“Just stuff like that — their faces light up. They just get so excited,” Dr. Zee said. She’s been drawing holiday images lately.

“I pull out my phone, I pull up a picture of Charlie Brown and I just…” she trailed off as she made a gesture of drawing.

Now her drawings are a common sight in the ICU. It’s a simple thing. But in a year like this, a time like this, every smile is a win.