Back in 1987, Tilda Shalof started off as a nurse in the intensive care unit of the Toronto General Hospital. Over the past three decades she has treated some of the most critically ill patients in Toronto and has seen a lot of medicine caps and lids, IV tubes, syringe covers, stoppers and connectors. While most nurses would throw away the pieces of plastic, Tilda decided to start collecting them.
To her, the pieces of plastic didn’t seem like garbage. They’re bright, colorful, come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are completely sterile. More importantly, each piece reminds her of the moments she has had with the patients. At first, when her children were young, Tilda used the pieces to help them learn to match and sort things by color and shape. Later, she used the castoff plastic for jewelry and craft projects.
Over the years, Tilda soon found herself with bags upon bags of medical waste stashed in her home. After nearly three decades of nursing, she decided to retire from the ICU. She had no idea of what to do with the plastic waste and showed them to a friend and artist, Vanessa Herman-Landau. Her friend suggested the idea of making a large scale mosaic mural and the two set to work in the summer of 2015.
Working together on weekends, the friends began by placing the plastic pieces in ornate designs and patterns before embedding them in clear resin. Over a year later, an incredibly colorful mosaic containing over 100,000 plastic pieces and measuring 9-foot long and 4-foot wide was ready.
Now on permanent display at the Toronto General Hospital, the mural is Tilda’s way of saying goodbye and thank-you to the colleagues and patients that meant so much to her. The mural is a moving, living tribute that will no doubt inspire other health professionals in the years to come.