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A painter who couldn’t paint, and how his occupational therapist was determined to help

Date: June 24, 2022 Category: Community, Orthopedic news
Michael Russo, occupational therapy patient, works on his exercises

AMHERST, N.Y. – Michael Russo has always had a knack for drawing and painting.

“It’s a release,” Russo said.

His talent afforded him a lifetime of creating rewarding artistic projects until a work accident crushed bones in his right hand and wrist.

For the right-handed Russo, the injury was devastating.

“I had no mobility at all after the accident,” he said.

That’s how Russo ended up at Excelsior Orthopaedics following surgery to remove the crushed bones. He remembers the uncertainty he felt when he began occupational therapy, wondering how much could he really get back?

“It was painful as hell,” Russo said.

Four months later, Russo is learning how to write again and how to paint again.

A breakthrough in therapy happened when his occupational therapist, Natalie Schrack, learned of his artistic endeavors and brought in a watercolor pad.

“We ask the top three things they’re having issues with,” and painting was one of them, Schrack said. “So I knew that was really important to him.”

Natalie Schrack, OT, and Michael Russo, patient, pose for a photo at Excelsior Orthopaedics

It encouraged Russo to work through the struggle and work toward painting again. Schrack’s idea worked.

“Bringing in those paints and that paper humanized the whole experience for me,” Russo said.

Russo continues his occupational therapy with Schrack, and some of his recent work, which can be critical of, is arguably still better than most people’s best artwork.

Some of Russo’s recent artwork

“As a therapist, you’re in the cheerleader role, and it’s so important to motivate them,” Schrack said.

She is proud of Russo’s progress.

To celebrate how far Russo has come and the testimonial it is for Excelsior Orthopaedics’ therapy department, Russo has been invited to design the company’s 2022 holiday card, which is mailed to business and community partners every December. We look forward to sharing his finished product later this year!

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