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Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland



Richard proves there is life after a stroke with top award

At home with one of his winning works is Richard Topping who won at the `Life After Stroke Awards' in Claridges Hotel in London. BBC Star Tony Hart presented Richard with his award. �S24-420PM
At home with one of his winning works is Richard Topping who won at the `Life After Stroke Awards' in Claridges Hotel in London. BBC Star Tony Hart presented Richard with his award. �S24-420PM

BRAVE Maghaberry man Richard Topping has shown that there is life after a stroke by picking up an Art Award at a ceremony in London

last week. 38-year-old Richard was honoured at a glamorous ceremony in Claridges Hotel in London last Thursday (June 8) where he was presented a fine piece of crystal by Tony Hart at The Stroke Association's annual Life After Stroke Awards.

Richard, who suffered a stroke whilst on holiday in the USA in 2003 when he was just 35, was delighted to receive recognition for the hard work he has put into his recovery despite all the odds.

"It was an experience to remember," he said. "I was nominated by a girl called Kelly Anderson who runs the Moving On project through the Chest, Heart and Stroke Association after I recently took up water-colour painting and I've been painting since then.

"I've learnt to walk again which was a big thing as the doctors felt it would be very difficult for me with the amount of brain damage I suffered.

"I was left handed and my whole left side is completely paralysed so I've had to learn to Jo everything with my right side, my therapist thought it would be good for me to paint.

"I went to a tuition class in the Island Centre for a 12-week course last September. Unfortunately it finished at Easter but I learnt some tips and techniques and now if I get a free half hour or an hour I'll paint.

"The Stroke Association award those who try to improve their life after a stroke. It was wonderful to receive the award from Tony Hart who was a good painter on television when I was a teenager.

"He is 80 now and suffered a stroke himself a few years ago, he was really good to talk to and really complimented my painting which was nice.

"I was well looked after at the awards ceremony and I was allowed to bring three guests with me so it was a real family thing.

"It was really well supported by all the local celebrities, I had brought my wife Gillian and my mum and sister with me and they thought it was brilliant, my mum is really into Eastenders so she loved meeting some of the cast from it. Sarah Greene was also there and was really nice and Andy Bell from Erasure was great too.

"It was nice to be treated special for a day, I'm not sure if that was the purpose but it worked. Recovering from a stroke can get you down, it's hard work but it is worth it, I've got to beat it. I think of a stroke as a thief, all it does is steal things and now that I've learnt something through my painting I'm able to reclaim some of my independence."

Richard was a Consultant Building Services Engineer before his stroke and has since overcome countless difficulties, proving that he can move on and reach his goals.

Having spent a year in a wheelchair; determined Richard has not only learnt how to walk again, but he has reached his goal of walking to his local shop every morning, something which he is very proud of.

He said, "It's hard work, but you have to adapt, they said I may not be able to walk again but I now walk to my local shop each morning to buy a paper, that was a goal of mine and I have done it but I'm still learning.

"It's not the fact that I can paint, it's using the non-dominant hand that's important. The thing I find most difficult is removing the paint lids, you need to use both hands so I have to use my mouth, which won't please my dentist. Now my wife wants me to paint the fence."

Richard's artwork will also be going on display at the Stroke Association in London.

He explained: "I'm not selling my paintings but the Stroke Association liked them so I donated them. They will be being displayed in their new offices with a little plaque explaining what they are and who painted them, which is nice.

"Being at the awards seeing people who have been so courageous made me realise that there are always those who arc worse than me, it made me feel that if they can do it, I can do it. It was just a really good experience."

Jon Barrick, Chief Executive of The Stroke Association commented: "Stroke is the leading cause of severe disability in the UK, yet Richard has managed to courageously overcome the effects of his stroke and become an excellent artist.

"I would like to congratulate Richard on his remarkable achievement and hope that he will inspire the estimated 150,000 people that have a stroke in the UK each year, that for many there is life after stroke."

Ulster Star