LakeView Neuro Rehab
Excerpt from Forgetting To Fly (chapter 19: Bobby)
At LakeView, just outside Milwaukee, I worked with patients who were not only brain injured but also paralyzed. I hear you asking… “How do I have an art class with someone who is paralyzed?
Let me give you an example:
Bobby, a young man who was struck by lightning while walking down the beach. He was in his senior year of high school, first string quarterback on his football team, and chosen ‘King of the Court’ for homecoming. Bobby had everything going for him: friends, wonderful family, good looks, smarts… but that all came crashing down when the lightning struck. He was turned into a quadriplegic with no body control at all. He had to wear a brace to keep his head up and he jerked constantly,
…but he was still Bobby.
He somehow still had his mind in tact. Can you imagine knowing what happened to you and still trying to live each and every day to the fullest? Well, Bobby was the most resilient person I knew.
Bobby was my hero.
He smiled and I could see an understanding in his eyes. We understood each other.
Several times a week I would go into his room with my art supplies on a cart. I would say “We are going to paint today. You tell me how to start.” Bobby could no longer speak but would grunt sounds that could be distinguished only as forms of emotion. He was always excited to see me, I could tell. This day I held up two brushes, a big one and a small one. “Which one shall we use.”
Bobby looked at the big one.
“OK, the big one it is. Now which color shall we start with?” I brought all the different jars of paint on a tray, up close to his face, and he would look at the color he wanted to choose.
“You want Blue?” He would smile a big “yes”.
“Do you want curvy lines (I motioned with my right hand) or straight lines (a left hand motion)?”
He picked right. I started to paint as he instructed me. I would change colors and strokes as he indicated, and eventually a painting was taking form.
“Do you think we are finished (right) or should we continue (left)?
The random blue, green and purple picture was wonderful and Bobby was proud. I hung it in his room for all his visitors to see. When his parents came in, their son would look in that direction and grunt with delight at what he/we had made.
I don’t know of anyone quite like Bobby. He has more courage than any person I know. Every time I left his presence my heart would ache and yet I loved his never-ending optimism.
He taught me more than I can ever put in words.
Thank you, Bobby.
You were my best teacher.
PS. Go to page 135 in Forgetting to Fly to read more about my incredible art students and what I have learned from them.