hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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May 2, 2013

Drawing some comic relief

Man amuses fellow hospital patients, staff by sketching their likenesses

Thomas Schena barely survived a horrific car crash that claimed the life of his brother and his brother’s girlfriend.

Schena suffered two broken legs and other serious injuries, and was in a Boston hospital for more than a month. During his stay, he drew caricatures of other patients, nurses, doctors and just about anyone he met. He did the same thing during a subsequent stay at a rehabilitation center.

Schena, 33, later had another opportunity to draw images of hospital employees and patients at Merrimack Valley Hospital. He spent several weeks there recently being treated for a medical condition. During his stay, Schena filled the halls outside his room with images he drew of everyone he saw and met. Most of the time he only needed one look at a person’s face to capture their likeness on paper. From nurses holding stethoscopes to doctors carrying patients’ charts to janitors holding brooms or mops, Schena drew impressions of everyone he saw.

His eye-catching drawings brought a welcome distraction to workers and patients in the sometimes-tense setting where people deal with serious medical issues. He developed a cult-like following among those he drew.

It started in the hospital’s emergency room, where Schena was taken after passing out at his home from low blood sugar related to diabetes.

”As soon as I woke up, I asked for a pen and paper and I started drawing one of the nurses,” Schena said. “It started with one nurse and, by the time I’d left the hospital, I’d drawn almost everyone in the hospital.”

Every time he drew a person’s likeness, he taped it to a hallway wall.

”I drew the nurses, the kitchen staff, the janitors, patients and others,” Schena said. “They called them caricatures, but I just call them scribbles.”

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