Art Helps Brain Injury Patients Heal

CLEVELAND (AP) - Art is helping some brain injury patients express themselves while aiding their recovery.

Thirty-eight artists, all of whom have had a brain injury, will exhibit their work at the "Expressions of Healing" show at the Cleveland Play House on Monday and Tuesday.

Phyllis Young, 47, cradled her clay luminaria, or lantern, with heart-shaped holes to emit a candle's glow.

"I find that (the art) directs my path so that I can better see the way in which I'm walking," she said. "And I'm walking forward now, not backward."

In 1996, Young had an aneurysm, a swollen blood vessel that can be fatal if it bursts. She was referred to the Looking Ahead program, part of Menorah Park's Mandel Adult Day Center in Beachwood.

The program is one of many in the region using art to help brain injury victims. The goal is to rehabilitate the patients so they can return to homes and jobs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that nearly 2 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury every year.

The Brain Injury Association of Ohio predicts about 85,000 Ohioans, nearly half of them in the greater Cleveland area, have survived a brain injury and may live with a lifelong impairment.

Kathy Hinebaugh, 54, injured in a 1997 auto accident that also killed her parents, also has an exhibit in the show. Her piece, titled "My Safe Haven," shows green grass, birds and flowers, which to her symbolize "a very peaceful place."

Most of the artwork on display is for sale, with proceeds going to the artists and to offset the cost of the show.

Some exhibitors were artists before being hurt. Shel Fox, of Cleveland, says she needs help with her work now.

"I can do the creative part, but it's keeping things in an organized state that's hard," she said.

Fox, 49, had been painting before a series of infections in her brain left her in a coma in 1975. Since then, someone help her find the paint she wants. She also often writes down the image she wants before starting to ensure she won't forget.

"Painting and pottery, that's my light shining, and it took me a long time to nurture that light enough for it to shine outside of myself," Fox said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)