Thursday 02 Oct 2014

Information and opinions presented here do not always represent the views of the American Heart Association.

Inspiration for stroke survivors stitch by stitch

Published: 2:27 pm CDT, February 21, 2014

Artist and stroke survivor Eugene Brown gave a special gift to the American Stroke Association on Friday — an intricate tapestry representing his journey through stroke recovery and the inspiration he received from the association along the way.

The American Stroke Association commissioned the piece last year, which Brown presented at the Brooks Clubhouse, a community and vocational reintegration facility for patients who have had a brain injury. The tapestry will hang at the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s National Center headquarters in Dallas.

Creating intricate and inspiring works of art is a rare gift, one that Brown learned to appreciate even more after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke 12 years ago.

It took him months of therapy to regain his strength and some use of his right side. Over time, he was able to walk, resume driving and go back to living on his own. However, the limitations with his right hand prevented him from continuing his work as a security guard.

He didn’t think continuing his artwork was possible, either, but he slowly learned to use his left hand to do the creative stitching.

“Before my stroke,” said Brown of Jacksonville, Fla., “I was driven by acceptance in the art community and sales. But none of that matters to me now. I realize it was a gift from God to be able to continue to create art.”

Working with his left hand forces Eugene to put more time into creating his pieces. It also made him more focused.

“I think my art is better now,” he said. “It’s more intense and it’s more creative because it’s spiritual.”

For years Brown shared his gift with others at Brooks Clubhouse, teaching other stroke and brain injury survivors about the power of art therapy in their recovery and encouraging their progress.

“Many stroke patients are discouraged when they can’t do the things they used to. I say if you can’t do what you used to do, do what you can. I tell them it’s your creation, what do you see? Your rose doesn’t need to look like everyone else’s rose” said Brown.

He also appeared in a recent public service announcement about stroke awareness for the AHA/ASA.

Recent health issues have forced Brown – now 79 – to the hospital and more rehabilitative therapy.

Eugene’s main focus is his own rehabilitation, but he continues to urge other stroke survivors to overcome any changes to their abilities by finding new things to do.

“I tell people, `Never give up. Keep working at something,’” he said. “If you can’t do what you used to do, finding something else to do and work hard at that.”

Top photo by Miriam Hansen, lower  photo by Katie Seay.