Touch Drawing at Hospital Stroke Retreat

Saint John’s Hospital Stroke Retreat & Refresh Weekend

Facilitated by Janet Nix October 10-12, 2008
Written by Debbie Woodford, RN, BS,
Director of Outcomes Management, Saint John’s Hospital

Touch Drawing is a way for stroke survivors, their care-givers and anyone with or without limited mobility to create, express and feel.

A group of passionate health care professionals at Saint John’s Hospital began planning the first Stroke Retreat in early 2008. ( We partnered with Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp Group pic 3to provide a fun filled weekend of retreat with stroke survivors, caregivers and family members. It included education, socialization, relaxation and support for all in the beautiful setting of the Chiara Center, one of the healing ministries of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. It offers hospitality to those seeking peace; provides an environment, experience and resources for contemplative living and promotes the Franciscan values of peace, reconciliation and justice.

As soon as the planning of our retreat began, we knew the Holy Spirit was involved. At the proposal meeting with camp staff, administration and interested staff at Saint John’s Hospital, Janet Nix excitedly approached us with the idea of Touch Drawing as one of the activities of the weekend.

Through this direct drawing process even someone with limited mobility, such as a stroke survivor, becomes a unique creative artist. The hands become extensions of the soul, moving freely in response to the sensations of the moment. Touch drawing unleashes creative, psychological and spiritual healing. 

Janet led the group of stroke survivors, caregivers and volunteer staff from Saint John’s Hospital. As she explained the process of Touch Drawing, there was confusion and possibly boredom on the faces in the group. However once the process began, each person regardless of their mobility was drawn into the creative activity doing one drawing after another. Some were laughing and chatting. Others were quiet and introspective as they created from within. Many stayed for the second session. Everyone wanted to be sure they retrieved their creations when they dried. Their drawings were a reminder of this special weekend where they were ‘normal’, loved and cared for by those at the retreat and by the Holy Spirit. Marylee Nunley, Director of Stroke Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp is so impressed with the activity and its effect on stroke survivors that she plans to have Touch Drawing at their 2009 camps.