Dr. Umbreen Hasan’s life changed in October 2016 after she was involved in a terrible car accident on her way to a conference. “I was unconscious and had head injuries that I didn’t know about at the time,” Hasan says. “I had suffered a severe concussion.”
After the accident, Hasan was stuck at home on short-term disability while neurocognitive tests were conducted to see if her injury was severe enough to keep her from practicing medicine again. With her children and husband gone all day, she began feeling isolated. “So, for me to all of a sudden be removed from everything and just sit at home for an undefined period of time was very difficult,” Hasan says.
However, a trip to a craft store changed Hasan’s life for the better. “Just by chance I took the wrong turn and I was in front of canvases and paint,” she explains. “I asked the salesperson. She got a few things for me and I came home and I used to be so stressed and depressed with the things happening around me, so I decided I’m going to paint.” This was strange to Hasan, because she had never been artistic before the accident. “The first painting that I did was flow art,” Hasan says. “I mixed all the paints and poured them on the canvas and manipulated it.”
Curious as to why this was happening, Hasan did some research and found interesting information. “I started looking into this, being a physician, because I couldn’t understand where it was coming from. I’d never been trained,” Hasan says. “There are people who, after a brain injury, their nondominant part [of the brain] becomes more active and they can develop more artistic abilities.”
Neurologist Dr. Yu Zhao, from Minneapolis Clinic of Neurology, says that this Acquired Savant Syndrome is rare for concussion patients. “Savant Syndrome is very rare and most come from individual cases. About 75 percent of cases are autistic patients, 25 percent are other central nervous system diseases,” Dr. Zhao says. “For the acquired savant, most cases are related to frontotemporal dementia. But there are cases due to meningitis, bullet wound, hemispherectomy for seizure, subarachnoid hemorrhage, injury by baseball and ischemic stroke.”
Artistic expression helped Hasan through the tough times—like a form of therapy. “People told me to think about some psychotherapy,” Hasan says. “And I didn’t want to do all of that. So, when I paint, that studio is my sanctuary.”
Painting turned from a newfound passion, to something Hasan could use for good. “At one point I had like 30 paintings and I believe in social work, so I was involved in Victims Against the Acid,” Hasan says. “I wanted to do a fundraiser for them. So, I just invited people and I had my paintings and I did a fundraiser and out of those 30 or 35 paintings, 19 of them were sold. So, that was very encouraging for me because it became a social work for me also, not just therapy for myself.”
Hasan was also given the opportunity to exhibit her work at the Maple Grove Arts Center and the Topline Credit Union. Along with canvas painting, she does hand painted silk scarves, clutches, ties, jewelry, coffee mugs and more.
She’s hoping to open her own art gallery one day to help local artists and people who may be suffering with depression or anxiety. “I want to encourage people to do art as a therapy,” Hasan says. "It would be merging medical therapy with art and bringing it together.”
To find out more about Hasan’s upcoming events and exhibits, visit the website here.