Friday, October 24, 2008

Artists Everywhere

Some artists are born. Some are made. Some emerge from life's delights. Others from its challenges. Some art makes you smile. Some art tears at your insides. And then there is art created by mustering large amounts of hope, determination, and hard work. Rocky Mountain Stroke Association (RMSA) recently displayed art created by stroke survivors. While the evening was an art show opening in many ways as we moved around the room, nibbling hors d'oeuvres and commenting on the color, light and form of so many diverse pieces, we knew this night held stories of individuals who have fought the battle of their lives to recover from one of life's harshest blasts, stroke.

Pam attended the art show with grandsons, Arley and Sam. They were especially taken with Sunset Soldiers, a painting by Randy Vaughn. Randy's stroke journey began as a near-death experience. His wife and daughter had moved to their new home in Littleton while he remained in Tucson to finish up with their house. He remembers getting up one Friday night, and collapsing in the bathroom. The house was empty and he was alone. His boss came by the following Wednesday, wondering why he hadn't been to work. Randy had survived for five days by getting water on a sponge from the bathroom sink, but he was unable to crawl to the phone. He was able to yell to his boss through the walls for help.

Randy spent more than a week in ICU where he was found to have 90% occlusion of both of his carotid artieries. A nursing home was the only option for rehab, a unique and often difficult option for a 49 year old person. After a while, he was transferred by air to Spalding Rehabilitation. Despite excellent therapy for the next two months, he went home in a wheelchair. He continued with home PT and it was during this time that he was able to take his first steps in relearning to walk.

While attending a stroke support group, he saw a flyer from the RMSA announcing small group therapy classes. He joined one of the first classes in the program, and has faithfully attended ever since. Randy's artistic talents emerge in wildlife and outdoor scenes. He continues to see improvements in his technique all the time. Despite losing his former life and his marriage because of the stroke, he tries to stay as active as possible. He is now able to drive. He still enjoys hunting and fishing and has done volunteer work for the Department of Fish and Game in spotting wildlife.

The Art Therapy program is taught by a professional artist who lives in Littleton and had used this technique with her mother, who had had a stroke. The class has grown so much that it now meets at 9 and 10:30 a.m. on Monday mornings. Every year, new artists and those whose talents continue to develop display their work at the RMSA event. Art uses the right side of the brain and through the process proves that neurons in the brain can learn new skills. As Randy and others have found, art also provides an avenue of expression, particularly for those who have speech impairment. To learn more about Art Therapy classes and all of the services available at RMSA, contact or call 303-730-8800. RMSA provides physical and speech therapy at Capabilities every Wednesday. See our Events calendar for details.

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