The Stroke Foundation Leads the Way in Encouraging and Rewarding Recovering Patients

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.

Stroke Creative Award

MiNDFOOD Associate Editor Mariam Digges with Barbara Gabogrecan beside one of her paintings that was sold on the night of the Awards

29 thoughts on “The Stroke Foundation Leads the Way in Encouraging and Rewarding Recovering Patients

  1. Maria Gutierrez

    Hey, I’m glad you were able to get back to doing what you love. Those silk paintings look really fantastic by the way, I hope you’re able to find customers for them.

    1. Barbara Gabogrecan Post author

      Maria – I have an online shop and constantly receive orders for scarves (usually for gifts to go overseas) but my painting also sell (though more slowly) – I am hoping to have an exhibition in Tasmania (Australia) now that I have moved here.

  2. Austin King

    My grandmother suffered from a stroke in 1997. This is something that is dear and close to my heart. On a hot summer day she had lost her hearing aid and as she and I were looking for it, she became overheated and from that day on she wasn’t the same. I’m so glad this foundation is raising awareness. Contribute when you can and always remember there is always hope.

  3. Tony Paylor

    Hats off for Barbara for her courage and determination. Stroke Foundation is doing a yeoman service by helping the patients.

  4. sam ross

    How brave to say ‘i thank god i had a stroke’this shows Barbara used this as a way of understanding and helping people.

  5. Gina Sterling

    Confidence seems to bolster recovery, for sure. Barbara’s story, especially, is inspiring. Thank you for sharing her story.

  6. Sarah Keating

    It is so inspiring to hear how Barbara overcame her Alexia condition. She has truly made the best out of a bad situation. I love to hear about her successes and wish her only more in the future.


    This is so inspiring for stroke sufferers. More success stories of recovering patients are needed to help motivate those who are in need of this!!

  8. Jane

    Great article. An elderly relative of mine had a stroke a couple of years ago. It was quite distressing at first. We often encourage her to allocate some time for creative writing. My relative used to do a lot of writing which keeps her mind active. Personally I think it is best for the person to keep themseleves occupied with a craft or a creative pursuit. Otherwise they may get depressed and feel hopeless.

    1. Barbara Gabogrecan Post author

      I hope that your relative takes your advice. On only day 2 in hospital following my stroke and learning that I also had a brain tumour, I set myself the challenge to write a book. It was a slow process (as I was left unable to read) but I managed with the assistance of my husband reading every page to me (hundreds of times) – but ‘Thank God I Had a Stroke’ was published and has already sold out of its first print run. Like your relative, I had written another book previously so did not have to worry about being able to do this – my problem was more ‘how to do it’. can see the launch here

  9. james

    Positive thinking is the key to recovering from a debilitating illness. Having those types of people around you help immensely and the word of the stroke foundation should be heard.

  10. Tiffany Monique

    The article was very moving and inspiring! I love to see people (women especially) making the most out of situations that had the potential to break them. Resilience at it’s best.

  11. Dustin

    Barbara what you have done is so amazing. You have spread hope to all those who suffer from disabilities. Your silk painting are so beautiful and are the inspiration to my own art career. I hope you continue to spread the gospel as using art to heal to as many people as possible.

  12. Steven Decker

    This was truly inspiring and an eye opener for everyone to check themselves medically. It will save your life.

  13. Gau

    No matter what, I always believe everything happens for a reason. You justr try to take the positive out of each situation and focus on that.

  14. Bill

    This is great what you’re doing here. My nephew is currently recovering from a stroke and I’m going to be point him to your blog. It’s all well and good to be told what to expect from doctors, but it means so much more to hear about someone else’s experiences who has gone through the same ordeal.

  15. Timothy H

    The Stroke Foundation does wonders again and teaming up with Gabby, whose story is in itself amazing is just fabulous. People helping people, that’s what it’s all about! The silk painting tie-in is just icing on the cake!

  16. Judy Workman

    I think Barbara is using her success story to motivate others who had strokes. In a way it is a good thing she had the stroke because the CT scan showed that she had a brain tumor as well. If it wasn’t for that she might have died. As Barbara shares her story of motivation with her book, and also speaks to organizations to build their awareness of strokes this will give them confidence that they too can recover and take back their life. This is great news!

  17. aminegriffys

    I’m glad that they are some people in this world who still care about other people, I’m also genuinely grateful for the amazing work that Barbara does to help others and their life better.


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