Chris McClard - painting again 12 years after the stroke
by Tilly Dillehay Editor
Chris McClard thought she would never paint again. An avid painter and crocheter, she had a stroke at the age of 49 and lost all use of her right arm and leg.
Ironically, she’d already had an accident that left her with only 50-75% use of her left hand, so she found herself immediately retired. She lost most of her favorite leisure time activities as well.
This was twelve years ago.
Now 62, she found herself brave enough to pick up a paintbrush again in June of this year, and is suddenly more prolific than ever.
“I guess the people from the Senior Center convinced me,” said McClard. “One of the girls, she’s from Hartsville. And she just talked me into it, and talked me into it. So I went that first time.”
The Senior Center in Macon County now offers Bob Ross painting classes regularly, and this was the outlet through which McClard first found her way back into art. She proudly shows off her first painting, a Ross-like oil landscape. Half a dozen others are drying on the kitchen table, and a several more have been hung on the walls of her home.
It’s a long way from where she started twelve years ago. “I find myself recovering a little each month even now,” said McClard. “The first couple years were… hard. This arm and leg I couldn’t even use (indicating right side). And I’m still not full—I can’t get down and get back up. But I can use my arm now. And I can lift that arm all the way up.”
She still eats with her left hand, and paints with her left hand. She’s had to learn coordination with that hand to complete even simple tasks. She remembers signing her name for the first time with it—very messy. “I still don’t do a lot of writing,” she said. “I write what I have to, and that’s it.”
But the painting has provided a new outlet for honing her coordination even further. It’s also been a fun way to reconnect with the old hobbies she had before the stroke, she said.
Her husband just retired this year, and they have two children and twelve grandchildren. She says that they don’t keep animals, so that when they want to take off on a trip, they can do so easily. They have plans to run up to Crossville soon, for instance.
McClard can serve as a gentle prod for the rest of us: if this is what it looks like to recover from a stroke, are we accomplishing half as much with full use of our fingers?
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