Surgeon testifies to healing power of his books and art after stroke

Stroke victim John C McGregor taught himself how to paint left-handed
Stroke victim John C McGregor taught himself how to paint left-handed
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A PLASTIC surgeon left unable to practise after a stroke has found a new lease of life writing and illustrating children’s books.

John C McGregor was a consultant for Edinburgh and the Lothians until 2005, and had written more than 100 articles for medical publications.

He lost the use of his dominant right hand following a stroke five-and-a-half years ago however, and admitted that while he has since regained the power of speech and the ability to walk, the effects have taken their toll.

The sudden impact of a stroke was highlighted last week, with BBC broadcaster Andrew Marr, 53, recovering after suffering a stroke on Tuesday.

Mr McGregor, a 68-year-old Ravelston resident, said: “I used to do all kinds of procedures – from helping people who had suffered from cancer, to burn victims, to cosmetic procedures. I was never bitter about what happened to me, but I definitely felt a lot of 
frustration.”

First using his experiences to write My Hidden Life – about the year he spent in recovery – he then published his first children’s book, The Adventures of Daisy, two years ago after teaching himself how to paint with his left hand.

The story centres on a magic doll, who lives in Barnton. The sequel – Daisy and her Winter and Autumn Adventures – has just been published.

The father-of-two, who says he wrote the stories for his five grandchildren, said: “I want to show other people who have had strokes that you shouldn’t give up hope, that your condition will improve and that you can still achieve a lot in life if you work hard and continue to have faith.”

He warned anyone concerned they were at risk of stroke not to ignore symptoms, saying: “Strokes can happen to anyone, at any age, and the earlier you seek help, the more there is that can be done.

“I had been experiencing blurred vision and odd sensations the day before my stroke actually hit, but I’d never been ill before. Like many doctors, I thought of myself as 
indestructible.”

Margaret Somerville, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland director of advice and support, said: “John’s story is a wonderful testament to the rich and fulfilling lives that can be led by people recovering from stroke. You can’t see the damage stroke causes, but emergency treatment can make all the difference to your chances of making the best possible recovery.”

Vital signs

A STROKE takes place when the blood supply – therefore oxygen supply – to part of the brain is interrupted.

There are two ways a stroke can happen: when a blood clot blocks one of the arteries to the brain – an ischaemic stroke – or as a result of bleeding within or around the brain from a burst blood vessel. This is referred to as a haemorrhagic stroke.

To spot the signs of a stroke, use FAST to know what to look for and what action to take.

F stands for face. Can the person smile normally? Does the mouth droop?

A is for arm. Can they lift both arms normally?

S is for speech. Can they speak clearly?

T is for time – to call 999 if any of the above signs are present.