Rebecca Morrow, 19, received the Stroke Association’s ‘Life After Stroke Creative Arts Award’ at a ceremony in London on Wednesday evening.
Rebecca said: “I could not believe it when I received the phone call. I knew I had been nominated but that’s as far as I ever thought it would go. I’m really lucky to be able to pursue my interest in art and what inspires me the most is the one thing that could’ve stopped me – stroke.”
The former Carrickfergus Grammar School pupil became a stroke survivor in the summer of 2017. She was 18 and was enjoying a normal day at work in Belfast City Centre when she had the first of two strokes.
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Rebecca remembers: “I’d just gone on my lunch break when my left side went all funny and I couldn’t use my left hand to reach up and grab the bathroom light pull-cord. My vision started to go very strange and I just couldn’t speak.”
Rebecca’s manager also spotted that her face had fallen on one side and recognising the FAST signs, an ambulance was immediately called. Rebecca went on to have another stroke later in the ambulance and was also told that she’d had a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke, six months prior.
It was later discovered the strokes had been caused by a hole in her heart resulting in blood clots that had then travelled to her brain.
Rebecca added: “In the stroke unit it suddenly became real. I was the youngest person in there by a long way. I know I made a good recovery and I have no visible effects from my stroke but I do live with extreme fatigue. I can lead a pretty normal life but when I come home, the overwhelming tiredness hits and I have to go to bed and rest.”
In September, Rebecca started her foundation art and design course at Ulster University Belfast and wants to be able to pass on her love of art through a career in teaching.
“I’ve always enjoyed painting and it was my childhood dream to go to art college. Art lets you be who you want to be. At my former school, my art teacher said that my stroke was something unique that I could explore so I used a copy of my brain scan in my A-Level art piece. I really want people to see beyond the limitation of stroke and I think through art, I can explore how I am more than my stroke.”
Rebecca has thrown herself in to raising awareness of stroke particularly in younger people and has shared her story with students at her former school as well as fundraising for the Stroke Association.
Sharon Millar from the Speech and Language Therapy team at Stroke Association, who nominated Rebecca for the honour, said: “I’m just thrilled that Rebecca has won this award. I first met her at Stroke Association’s Step Out for Stroke fundraising walking event held in Antrim back in May and I was immediately struck by Rebecca’s determination to beat the effects of her strokes and lead the life she wants to lead.
“I feel that Rebecca deserves recognition for her obvious artistic talent but also the courage, determination and energy she has to campaign for Stroke Association. The way in which Rebecca has incorporated her feelings about her stroke in to her art work is incredibly creative and I wish her all the very best with her university career and beyond.”
Rebecca is also supporting the Stroke Association’s Christmas Appeal, ‘I am more than my stroke’. Visit stroke.org.uk/iammore to make a donation.