Lasting impressions

Kyneton Artist John Damrow Picture Shawn Smits.

By Esther Lauaki

John Damrow was a “young, gung ho” gym junkie when he had a stroke that changed his life.

It has been 14 years since his stroke and the Kyneton resident still lives with physical and mental side effects – but he’s found therapy through art.

Damrow, an ambassador for the Stroke Foundation, shares his story to encourage other local survivors.

“I was 42 and invincible when it happened,” he said.

“I was in a sales office at the time of my stroke. I had started a new job and was under immense pressure, launching a new product into a foreign market.

“Nobody saw it coming … I was young and gung ho and I used to go to the gym four mornings a week.

“I was unable to return to that world after my stroke … your whole life changes in an instant.”

Damrow said he didn’t know that he had high blood pressure. “It affects me every day of my life physically and mentally,” he said.

“My right shoulder has muscle spasms and I have slow motor control and concentration fatigue, memory and vision problems.”

He said he’s found happiness again through art despite his health challenges.

He will open his own gallery in Kyneton next year where his work and the work of local artists will be displayed and available for sale.

“After my stroke, I went back to university, I volunteered, but nothing seemed to fulfill me,’’ Damrow said.

“I spent 13 years trying to find myself, but art has allowed me to pull myself out of the gutter and has given my life new meaning.”

Stroke Foundation chief Sharon McGowan said that stroke was more common among Victorians of working age than many realise.

“Recovering from a stroke can be a long and extremely difficult journey,” Ms McGowan said.

“Around 65 per cent of people who have a stroke are left with an ongoing disability, while ‘hidden’ issues like fatigue and anxiety are common.”