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Stroke patients paint themselves a brighter future

28/01/2020
David Tanner and Paul Moore with the new mural

A colourful new mural in the Oxford Centre for Enablement (OCE) is not only brightening the days for patients and families, but has directly contributed to the artists' care and rehabilitation.

The artwork, created by David Tanner, Paul Moore and Cecelia Mabey, as well as inpatients and Day Hospital attendees at OCE, was the brainchild of Art Technical Instructor Jo Brown, who has been working within Occupational Therapy at OCE since 2016.

Jo's role is to help and encourage people to use art as a means of expression, accomplishment, relaxation and exploration while incorporating their therapy goals - all at a time when major change has occurred in their lives.

She works with a range of service users, liaising with Physiotherapy, Psychology and Speech and Language Therapy, to combine individual therapy goals in a creative environment.

"I had heard families at a conference on brain injuries talking about how it felt to walk down a long clinical corridor, with only a few posters on the walls," says Jo.

"This corridor is a kind of 'hub' for our services - our inpatients come up here all the time for different therapies. With this project we have been able not only to brighten up the space, but also to bring some focus on to our Leisure Service, which can be such a major part of rehabilitation.

"This mural has involved families working together to create something longstanding. It has allowed them to refocus and connect."

Cecelia, David and Paul had all experienced a brain injury; initially David and Paul were both wheelchair users. They were slightly reluctant to get painting at first, but Jo can apparently be 'persuasive', and they soon took to the creative process.

Paul spent four months in hospital following his brain injury in early 2019, first at the John Radcliffe Hospital and then at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre (NOC), where Oxford Centre for Enablement is based, and where he now visits for outpatient appointments.

"I've really enjoyed taking part in a project that will hopefully benefit other patients," he says. "My right side was very weakened by my brain injury and, although I am actually left handed, my Physio encouraged me to use my right hand for things like woodwork and painting, to increase my strength.

"Everything about this place is fantastic - the Physios, Occupational Therapists, everyone comes together to get people back on their feet.

"The nurses, catering staff and cleaners are wonderful too - I have really enjoyed my experience here."

David, 72, from Banbury, had a stroke in October 2018 and comes to OCE for his outpatient rehabilitation.

"It has been good to get my painting going again," says David. "I painted a lot as a teenager to make a living - country scenes, still life pictures and flowers for American families living on the military base that used to be at Upper Heyford - but life intervened, and I started working 24/7 on a newspaper, and didn't have time to paint.

"This project has helped me rediscover my creativity - and I can now use my right hand, which I couldn't, after my stroke. I have also been taking part in research here into the causes of stroke."

Amanda, David's daughter, adds: "You really build a relationship with all the staff here, visiting over a period of time. They become like family."

Cecelia felt 'reconnected with her creativity' through her therapy sessions and the mural: "It is nice to have a relaxing time to switch off from everyday life", she says, "and the struggles from my brain injury."

"Art can be scary at first," concludes Jo: "people may never have tried it before, and they are already dealing with a new set of circumstances following their injury. But doing something like this not only encourages people to get moving again, it can help their minds to focus on something positive too, and creates an opportunity for them not to be defined by their brain injury."

Pictured: David Tanner, left, and Paul Moore with the new mural.

There are more pictures of the mural on our Facebook page.

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