Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

How Tina Gault learned the art of fighting back after a stroke

A remarkable Northern Ireland woman has recovered from a stroke that paralysed one side of her body — by learning how to paint with her other hand.

Right-handed Tina Gault (54) refused to give up after losing the use of the right side of her body — and learned how to use the other side instead.

Survivors of stroke can be left with life-changing disabilities and face months of rehabilitation just to perform the most simple tasks.

But Tina retrained her brain to use her left hand. She paints, writes and even cooks Sunday roasts.

Mrs Gault had taken early retirement from her job as an area manager of school meals for the South Eastern Education and Library Board. The first sign that the Bangor woman was unwell was an excruciating headache after returning from holiday in Turkey. A stroke was diagnosed in hospital.

She lost her speech, her ability to swallow and the use of the right side of her body.

Her daughter Debra said: “Mum took a mini stroke on the Friday and went into hospital. Her speech went after the stroke but it was starting to come back. Then she had a second stroke. It did all the damage.”

After a nine-week stay in hospital she attended a support group run by Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke, where she learned to write and paint with her left hand and even completed a computer literacy course.

“She had to relearn everything,” said Debra. “She had the stroke team come to the house for six weeks and they provided intense speech and physical therapy.”

The strokes damaged the part of the brain controlling speech. While she knows what she wants to say she can’t say the words.

Debra said: “I think that is how the painting really helps her.

“She can’t talk so it comes out in her paintings instead. It’s therapeutic.”

Her artwork — of the standard of a veteran painter — is now proudly displayed in her home.

“She did one of the Harland and Wolff cranes from a photograph which took a couple of months and that was donated to charity,” Debra added.

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