Original Nomination for Creative Arts Award 2014

Pieter’s stroke

  • Pieter had his stroke early in June 2013. There was no warning – his right arm and right leg simply stopped moving. We had just got into bed and Pieter had played his guitar and sung me a song – the culmination of a lovely ‘date’. The scary thing was, that neither of us said it, but we both knew that this could be the end of his music, painting and writing – the talents that Pieter cherished the most. Pieter’s stroke was one of the rarer ones – a bleed in the left hand side of his brain. We were told that the first 48 hours were crucial. The bleed stopped. He was out of danger, but a week later, Pieter had to be revived as a quick thinking male nurse could feel no pulse. We consider ourselves so blessed in so many ways but particularly grateful for the fact that communication was still possible, as Pieter’s speech has been relatively unaffected. Eight months later, he still attends weekly neuro-physiotherapy sessions, suffers from chronic fatigue and is still waiting, I imagine, like thousands of other stroke survivors, to be assessed for PIPs – which used to be known as the Disability Allowance.

Pieter’s life, before and after his stroke.

  • Simply by listening and acknowledging delight in Pieter’s post-stroke achievements, The Stroke Association has given Pieter ‘Life After Stroke.’ Exactly 5 months after his stroke, Pieter was invited to talk and play at Haydock Park to stroke workers in the North West. Chris Larkin, Operational Head gave him the opportunity to tell his stories, play and sing. The response of the audience was overwhelming, as you can see from the video clip that I have attached. This has led to Pieter being asked to speak to several other Stroke Association groups around the region – much to his surprise, he has been acknowledged as inspirational. He is determined to give 50% of his proceeds of his current book to the Stroke Association.

Pieter’s creativity and rehabilitation

  • On the second day of his stroke, Pieter resolved to make something positive come out of the physical mess in which he found himself. He is unashamed in stating that he was going to use his illness as a positive step to kick-starting his musical career. He believes, as I do, that his song writing is exceptional, but there are thousands of singer-songwriters out there trying to make a living from their art. How many of them try to do this following an acute stroke? In June 2013, he needed some means of expressing himself artistically. His only facility was to use his left hand to tap out short stories, documenting his stroke and initial recovery. I never believed he would complete the challenge, but he did and the process was cathartic and therapeutic. We are grateful to the person who suggested the idea; however the resultant book was so radically edited that it was no longer Pieter’s voice. All stroke-survivors complain of a loss of control and he felt that his voice had been taken away. To regain that independence, Pieter wrote a second book, ‘Snapshots of a Stroke Recovery, an excerpt of which is below.

“My stroke was an end and a beginning. It was a line drawn under my life up to that point and a chance for reinvention.

This really is my second life. Every day I do things to demonstrate the brand new me.

I am calmer, less stressed...I’ve lost weight. I have a new focus and I’m grateful for the little things.

Storytellers always want to blabber on about starting at the beginning. This is my chance to start again and as I’m a contrary so and so, I’m starting at the end. It’s not what I would have chosen.

But when reality bites you on the backside AND flips you 180 degrees, what are you going to do? You’ve got to fight. You never know; you might just surprise yourself………… and all the other buggers.”

  • His art and how it has aided his rehabilitation.

When I saw that there was a Creative Arts award, I had to nominate Pieter. Since his stroke, Pieter, against all odds, being right-handed, is re-mastering the guitar, starting to sketch simple but poignant line drawings and continues to improve his written account of his stroke. His stroke is reflected in his song-writing and he was asked by the NW Stroke Association to appear in a film, documenting his determination to share his artistic talents with others.

What would winning this award bring for Pieter?

I know it would bring well-deserved acclaim and the credentials to move onto bigger things. Raising Stroke awareness is key to the work of the Stroke Association and what better way than by this larger than life man – even after stroke!