The Stroke Foundation is aware that patients suffer a great deal of physical, mental and emotional trauma and quickly lose confidence, after suffering from a stroke. They were also aware that some patients tend to recover more quickly than others and wondered why this was so.
It seemed that many of those recovering quickly did so because of the confidence they experienced when taking on creative skills, such as painting, music and writing. To encourage more patients to take on these challenges and to reward those who had done so, they decided to create the Stroke Foundation Creative Award.
The inaugural award was held in 2014 and the MiNDFOOD Associate Editor Mariam Digges presented Barbara Gabogrecan (from Victoria) with the award. She received cash, a certificate and a trophy at the Gala presentation held in Sydney. This event was also used to raise funds for the Stroke Foundation through the purchase of many wonderful paintings that were exhibited.
Barbara is an author and an artist and on the second day after her stroke, and discovering that she could not read, but could write (a rare condition known as Alexia without Agraphia) she set herself the huge challenge of writing a book to be titled ‘Thank God I Had a Stroke’. The strange title came from the fact that when she had the stroke the CT scan she consequently undertook, also showed that she had a brain tumour. The brain tumour was pressing on the brain stem and therefore was life threatening, even though it was a non-malignant tumour. The book has sold out its first print run and is now into the second run.
Barbara discovered that she could still do the silk painting she was renowned for and it did not take her long before she was back completing orders she received from her website. Some of these orders were received while she was still in hospital, but each client said they would wait until she was well enough to do the orders they had given.
Her confidence grew and she was able to more readily accept her disabilities (not being able to read, having no sense of numbers or dates, poor balance, not being able to recall the names of her best friends etc.) The real crowning achievement came when she was commissioned to paint a large wall hanging for a Heritage Listed Building in East Melbourne. The client did not know that she had had a stroke and they were delighted with the finished painting.
Now, brimming with ideas and confidence, Barbara created an online silk painting workshop and has students from America, Canada, England and Australia taking part. “I sometimes wonder if I would have tried to do this before I had the stroke” Barbara commented, “but as I could not get around so readily anymore and was slower than usual, I looked for a way to reach people who really wanted to learn the skills of silk painting.”
Barbara not only shares her story of motivation via her book, but also speaks to a number of organisations to build their awareness of strokes (Hospitals, Rotary, Libraries etc.) and she and her husband, Peter, have been made Ambassadors for the Stroke Foundation.
“I did not know anything about the Stroke Foundation when I first suffered from my stroke, so did not know that I could receive support and assistance from them” Barbara said, “but now I am delighted to be able to tell others about the Foundation and what it is doing to help those suffering from a stroke.”
Barbara has now moved to George Town in Tasmania and during 2015, is preparing to ‘spread her story’ there.