Art program uses a different kind of 'stroke' to help stroke survivors

After a stroke, doctors say the brain does most of its healing during the first four months, but many survivors continue the recovery process well into the first or second year.

Creativity can play a huge part.

One morning, 78-year-old Joyce Davidson of Pasadena was having breakfast with her son.

"My phone was in my hand and it fell out of my hand," she said, "And he watched me just droop and he called 911."

Davidson was having a major stroke.

Her son's quick thinking got her to the hospital fast.

"They went in and removed the clot. The clot was in the carotid artery," she said.

Now 20 months later, Joyce is using a stroke of a very different kind to help exercise her brain.

She's part of a unique art therapy class offered by the American Heart Association called "Strokes for Strokes".

The medical director of Huntington Hospital's Stroke Program, Dr. Arbi Ohanian said, "Any time you can activate those areas, you can exercise those areas, you're improving the ability to use those areas to pick up the lost function from the area that had the stroke. "

Ohanian said creating art helps the brain reorganize synaptic connections.

Studies show art therapy can help improve verbal communication, cognition and motor skills.

Ohanian said another major side effect of stroke is depression. Being with a group is therapeutic.

"From a social aspect it brings them alongside other stroke survivors. It allows them to see that they can be creative," said Ohanian.

"I painted something just abstract like birds trying to find a nest," Davidson said.

She is also spreading her own wings since she rarely paints.

Therapists say creating with color touches all the senses and at the end it's an accomplishment.

Davidson said, "It's nice. It's just lovely. It's just a nice connection."

A connection that's healing.
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