Continuing Care

Art Gives Voice to Traumatic Brain Injury Patients

Spectrum Health Neuro Rehab Services Hosts Art Exhibit

Brenda, 34, has a lot to say but she has been struggling to speak since her truck hit a patch of black ice as she was driving to work one winter day.

She survived the accident but suffered severe traumatic brain injury. For the past two years, the single mother of two young children has spent her days working with therapists and medical staff at the Spectrum Health Neuro Rehabilitation Services-Residential program. Her limited speech ability was a particular frustration for Brenda until a new art program for residents provided an unexpected avenue of communication.

“You might not know what you want to say but when you paint it comes out,” said Brenda. “It’s inside of me.”

Brenda’s paintings, as well as work by 10 other residents, will be on display from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 18 at the program’s administrative offices, 4130 Kalamazoo Avenue SE, Grand Rapids. Along with the original paintings, t-shirts, prints and calendars featuring the art will be available for sale.


The “Art Studio” program was initiated last year at the suggestion of RaNae Couture, LPN, BFA, a nurse in the program who is also an artist. Couture now helps 11 residents with severe traumatic brain injury paint in small groups each week.

“Each resident works toward achieving personal goals of social re-integration and personal expression after brain injury on his or her own terms,” said Carol Greenburg, program director. “This artwork has gone beyond what we could have anticipated and has provided amazing insight into their perceptions of the world. The residents are learning to rely on themselves and this self-direction promotes community transferable skills and builds self confidence.”
Spectrum Health Neuro Rehabilitation Services-Residential is a long term and transitional residential program for persons living with severe traumatic brain injury. The program provides a home-like setting for 34 individuals who are capable of living in the community when provided with a high level of supervision, care, assistance and support services.

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system in West Michigan that offers a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, a collection of seven hospitals and more than 140 service sites; the Spectrum Health Medical Group and mmpc, multispecialty physician groups with more than 400 providers; and Priority Health, a health plan with nearly 500,000 members. Spectrum Health’s 16,000 employees, 1,500 medical staff members and 2,000 volunteers are committed to delivering the highest quality care. The organization provided $111.1 million in community benefit during its 2008 fiscal year. As a system, Spectrum Health has earned more than 100 awards during the past 10 years.