October 24, 2009
A ROYTON man who lost the ability to speak after a stroke has now found his voice through art.
Two years ago Dennis Blackhurst, 59, suffered a debilitating stroke leaving him with severe physical and communication difficulties.
Although now on the road to recovery the Consort Avenue resident is forced to use a wheelchair and suffers from aphasia – a condition which makes finding the right words really difficult.
But through his new-found love of painting Dennis is once again able to communicate to the wider world.
And what makes his work all the more remarkable is that right-handed Dennis is forced to paint with his left hand because of his condition.
He said: "When I was little I used to do a little bit of painting.
"I watched a programme by American artist Bob Ross and he made it look so easy.
"I don’t know why I love it but they make me happy.
"It was hard with my left hand at first but I just kept at it.
"I’m not going to stop for nothing and I need to keep busy."
Over the past year Dennis has painted canvasses which range from landscape scenes to abstract faces.
He is adamant that they are not for sale but currently has two paintings on show at the Gallery Oldham’s Open Exhibition.
He also has high hopes to build a boat and sale around the world looking for more inspiration.
His proud wife Barbara is fascinated by his new-found skill.
She said: "The painting just came out of the blue. It relaxes him more than anything.
"Once he gets started on a painting he can spend hours perfecting it.
"He becomes oblivious of what’s going on around him.
"I think they’re wonderful.
"He doesn’t want me to hang them up, he likes having them to hand to be able to show people.
She added: "It’s been really difficult but he is determined to carry on.
"The stroke was completely out the blue and when I saw him I thought the worst.
"When he told me what was wrong I knew it was a stroke.
"He lost his speech within hours and the doctors thought he wouldn’t ever be able to talk or walk again but he’s improving every day."
Dennis had to give up his job as a welder and started attending the Stroke Association's communication support service to work on alternative ways of communication.
He is now working on the once simple tasks to try and rebuild his life while having more time to pursue new interests such as swimming, playing bowls and cookery classes.
Despite his difficulties Dennis even managed to use his existing DIY skills to build a little brick wall to sit on and keep Barbara company while gardening.
She said: "He was absolutely determined to do this thing, so I didn’t stand in the way.
"He worked so hard to build this little perch for himself.
"He even surprised me one day when I came home from work by making tea for me with the help of his carer."
Julie Ainscow, from the Stroke Association, said: "The courage and creativity that Dennis has shown after his stroke is commendable.
"He and Barbara clearly demonstrate that there really can be life after stroke."
For more information about stroke visit www.stroke.org.uk or call 0845 303 3100.