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Brain injury survivor’s art inspires Hospital

Ben Sloetjes was like many teens – a creative, athletic, fun-loving, aspiring musician with strong spirit.

Toronto, June 25, 2009

Art Donation Artist Ben Sloetjes (sitting) in front of his paintings and surrounded by (l to r) Bernie Gluckstein, mother Anita Sloetjes, Dr. Andrew Baker and Mary Copeland

Ben Sloetjes was like many teens – a creative, athletic, fun-loving, aspiring musician with strong spirit.

Ben suffered a brain injury in 2002 when the car he was restoring slipped off its jack and pinned him. His brain was starved of oxygen for 20 minutes. Ben was air-lifted to McMaster Hospital where he lay in a coma deteriorating. With a poor prognosis, likely never to communicate or recover and few options, there was little hope. The Sloetjes family prayed for a miracle and Ben slowly stabilized but stayed in hospital for nine months.

Now 25, Ben’s journey towards recovery has included intensive therapy for speech pathology, cognitive and motor skills and balance and walking. Yet, one blessing has emerged with his mother Anita discovering he could paint using a tennis ball. His abstract art has given the young man a new mode of expression. It’s added new purpose to his life.

On May 21, the brain injury unit of St. Michael's Hospital debuted 11 commissioned pieces on the unit from Ben, courtesy of donor Bernie Gluckstein.

“I’m no doctor or nurse, I’m just Ben’s mom,” said Anita Sloetjes. “But, you have allowed him to pursue his dream and brighten the Hospital with a splash of happiness, so thank you.”

Medical director Dr. Andrew Baker and clinical leader/manager Mary Copeland joined staff and foundation representatives to thank Ben and support his art.

“This is a life-long gift we will treasure,” said Copeland. “We are proud to support this artist and encourage everyone to visit our unit to see the inspiring work he’s done for us.”