A Camberwell artist who suffered a life-changing stroke has urged people to listen to their doctor when they are warned about their health.
Lil Sullivan, 65, who lives on Lilford Road, said she wishes she had taken more notice of her doctor when she tried to put her on medication for her high blood pressure. “I was told I was a borderline case. I’m a farmer’s daughter – to me, borderline still means you’ve got room to work with,” she said.
Sadly, she did not listen and in 2005 suffered a stroke that put her in King’s College Hospital for seven months and left her with walking, speech and mental health problems that endure to this day.
When Lil came home from the hospital, her younger daughter t’lda had to become her main carer – aged just five. “It was difficult for her,” Lil said.
Although it was tough for t’lda, the experience has left her with useful experience – she is now a psychology student at Oxford Brookes university, and is doing her thesis about carers for stroke survivors. Other family members also rallied round to help out, including Lil’s sister – who joked that she would have preferred to have had the stroke herself, because of all the work she had to do supporting Lil.
Lil also had to move out of her home in Brixton and come to Camberwell, which was difficult at the time. She chose Camberwell in part because of its artistic reputation.
Her art is mainly installations of found objects and she said that her art “keeps me alive”.
“Yes, I have two children, and I’m very glad to have a family but my art is my life.” Lil’s sister, who runs a music centre called Brixton Wings, has given her space in the centre to put on an exhibition called Stations.
Lil said she was grateful “but my work should be in a real art gallery because I’m an award-winning artist”.
Lil, who grew up in Ireland, said some of her work was in Áras an Uachtaráin, the Irish president’s house, and former president Mary Robinson opened one of her shows.
She is also a singer-songwriter and founded a choir for people who have suffered strokes, or any other brain injury, as well as their carers.
“The stroke choir is called Out of the Blue because stroke comes out of the blue. Life goes on. Yes, you’ve had a stroke but you’re just changing direction.
Lil’s current exhibition is at Unit 4, Fairfax House, Overton Rd. SW9 7JR London, 1-4pm on weekdays and Sundays from 2-3pm.
Anyone interested in joining – or donating to – the London Stroke Choir can contact Lil on 07488 329161.
Lil’s comments came after stroke prevention day on January 14.
The Stroke Association s urging everyone to make one small change to reduce their own risk of stroke. Stroke is one of the leading causes of adult disability and the fourth biggest cause of death in the UK. While some strokes are unavoidable, up to nine out of ten are linked to lifestyle and could be preventable if people are aware of the risks and able to make changes.
The leading change survivors would urge their younger self to make, would be to reduce stress levels with 52% saying they would have done this. Other changes stroke survivors would have made include:
· Exercise more – 44 per cent
· Monitor blood pressure – 44 per cent
· Eat more healthily – 39 per cent
· Stop smoking – 31 per cent
· Lose a set amount of weight (for example one stone or ten kilograms) – 29 per cent
· Drink less alcohol – 28 per cent
· Monitor high cholesterol – 27 per cent
· Reduce salt intake – 22 per cent
As a first step, the Stroke Association wants people to make one small change to reduce their risk of stroke, starting on Stroke Prevention Day.
· Having your blood pressure, cholesterol and pulse checked regularly
· Stopping smoking
· Having a number of alcohol-free days each week
· Changing your diet to include less salt or switching to a reduced sodium alternative
· Eating more fruit and vegetables
· Getting up and moving regularly during the day, especially if you’re working from home
· Joining an online exercise or activity group, or better still, taking on the charity’s Stride for Stroke challenge – one step for each of the 1.3 million stroke survivors in the UK.
Find out more about the ways you can improve your health to reduce your chances of having a stroke here.