High School Senior Helps Patients Recover from Brain Injuries Through Art

(top row, left to right) Celebrating the completion of the Happiness Project are Adam Stein, MD, chair of physical medicine and rehabilitation, Northwell Health; Adrian Cristian, MD, chair, department of physical medicine and rehabilitation, Glen Cove Hos

GLEN COVE, NY – The date of March 3 has been designated as National I Want You to Be Happy Day. And, when it comes to celebrating a day set aside to give others happiness, nobody does it better than the Recreational Therapy team at Glen Cove Hospital.

An original mural dubbed “The Happiness Project” was unveiled after a year-long labor of love before members of Northwell Health’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Glen Cove Hospital’s Recreational Therapy staff.

The project was the brainchild of a talented young high school senior who volunteers at the hospital. Quentin Palone, a senior at Chaminade High School, had been volunteering for two years but wanted to become more involved. So, he came up with a novel idea and brought it to the attention of Merav deGuzman, supervisor of recreational therapy. That meeting marked the beginning of a year-long project aimed at helping victims of TBIs (traumatic brain injuries) find their way back to joy.

The Happiness Project involved a brief meeting with a TBI patient, during which Quentin asked one simple questions: “What makes you happy?” After hearing the response, Quentin, who is planning a career in medicine, went home and sketched the patient’s vision of happiness in a black and white drawing.

Back in the hospital, assisted by recreational therapy staff, the patient then transferred the drawing onto a cloth, which eventually became “The Wall of Happiness.” It was this mural that was unveiled to an enthusiastic gathering at the hospital on March 3rd.

One of the patients in attendance was Carlos Valdes, who currently works at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. In Carlos’ case, happiness lies in a well-cooked grilled cheese sandwich. Carlos, who suffered a stroke in July 2015, credits his work on the Happiness Proejct with the miraculous recovery that enabled him to return to his work in the lab on September 1.

“Without this incredible young man, I don’t know how I could have completed my journey to recovery,” Mr. Valdes said of Quentin.

“When you are paralyzed, everything stops. I’m used to helping people. I found myself incapable of doing anything. This Project gave me the chance to think about what made me happy. For me, it’s a grilled cheese sandwich and dominoes.”

Quentin said the Happiness Project would enable him to combine his lifelong love of drawing with his interest in helping other people.

“I started off just wanting to make other people happy,” he said. “But, what I took away from all this is that art and music can do so much to help people along their journey of recovery.”

Adam Stein, MD, chair of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwell Health, agrees.

“Rehabilitation is so much more than dealing with a particular part of the body; it’s also about helping to create total wellness, along with the restoration of functional abilities. In other words, “ he said, “recovery is not just physical…psychology plays a very large part.”

To thank Quentin for his role in helping patients with their recovery, Dr. Stein presented Quentin with a surprise gift---his own stethoscope.

As Quentin adjusted his stethoscope for the first time, Dr. Stein said, “As you prepare for medical school, you’ll learn that this is a tool doctors use to learn about what’s going on in a patient’s heart.

            “All of us at Northwell agree that this is a skill at which Quentin already excels.”

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