Making an image from the CT scan

Whilst many projects initially seem like a very good idea, I often find that the early days are quick to throw up problems, and make you wonder how it might work out. I had a simple idea – I would make a dress entirely from drawn thread and include an image from my CT scan that would represent bronchiectasis.

First I needed to get hold of my CT scan images. I started by contacting the consultant who supported my project, and he directed me towards the radiology department, where a seemingly complicated process of gaining consent to access records eventually resulted in me getting a copy of my CT scan. Once I had the disks another problem arose – how to read the images so that I could recognise the diseased lung from the healthy tissue. The consultant radiologist at Southmead kindly agreed to meet me and explained that there was a classic shape that signified the disease: a signet ring. In healthy lung tissue the bronchi which allow air to pass through the lungs are the same size as the accompanying blood vessels. In bronchiectasis the damaged bronchi have an enlarged lumen, which provides the signet ring appearance.

Transverse image CT scan

Transverse image of CT scanWith a basic understanding of what I was looking for, I printed several different images from my CT scan. I cut, arranged and rearranged images and then made some samples in free machine embroidered  1/4 scale blocks on dissolvable fabric.

Transverse image as seen on scan
Abstracted image with scan detail
Geometric design showing signet ring appearance 

Bronchiectasis and my next creative project

Last year I was diagnosed with mild bronchiectasis. Whilst this was disappointing news it did help me to realise that the symptoms of shortness of breath, tiredness and chest pains did have cause, and weren’t due to the usual exhaustion that can be felt by anyone trying manage my various roles in life after being widowed.

Sitting in the consultants room receiving a diagnosis was very peculiar; whilst I had had several tests at the GP and the Respiratory centre at Southmead hospital, I still didn’t expect a label, a named cause and an actual reason for the symptoms, especially because I run, cycle and have never smoked.

My first reaction was to google ‘bronchiectasis’;  I know that we are always told not to do that for health related concerns, but I needed to know just what I was dealing with, how to minimise exacerbations and how common it was.  (I used the British Lung Foundation and some other reliable forums as listed below). My second reaction was the realisation that I had found the subject for my next creative project: my shift dress that I was about to start making for Seam’s project ‘Shiftworks‘.

So back to the enjoyable research – here is an image from a great day out with some  members from Seam, at Clothworkers (the behind the scenes storage facility used by the V and A in London). During our visit, the staff presented some dresses for us to examine; a close up view of some iconic 60’s shift dresses.

Clothworkers , V and A

I particularly liked Stephan Willats’ Mondrian inspired PVC dress, Andre Courrage’s dress of cotton and machine embroidered organza and Foale and Tuffin’s ‘Double D’ dress. I now needed to consider how I could use one of these designs to help inspire a dress that would be made with my usual drawn thread technique and how to show a design that related to ‘bronchiectasis’.

British Lung Foundation – easy to understand information about the condition

Life of Breath  – exploring breathing and breathlessness at the interface between arts, humanities and medical practice (online)

NICE  guidelines on best practice for patients with bronchiectasis (online) –  terminology and CT scans (online)