Artist who had to learn how to use arms again after rare disease to sell paintings (From Harrow Times)
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Artist who had to learn how to use arms again after rare disease to sell paintings for Harrow hospital
An artist who spent eight months in hospital after being struck down by a rare syndrome will sell watercolours he painted from his bed to raise money for the centre that rehabilitated him.
Ricky Figg, 53, was left paralysed and on a life support machine in February when a bout of food poisoning caused his immune system to attack itself in a rare condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
The clay pigeon shooting businessman, from St Alban’s, had picked up the food poisoning while on a skiing trip to Austria, and the bacteria triggered the syndrome, gradually shutting down his nervous system.
He said: “I tend to spend my winters painting and skiing. In January I was enjoying myself in the snow until I suffered a bout of food poisoning as I was due to return home.
“I was unwell for a few days after I arrived home and on day six or seven of the illness I started to feel better. I went to the gym and thought I was over the worst of the stomach bug.
“I even planned to go to my local indoor slope to show off some new tricks, following my holiday.
“The following day I started to feel strange, my eye felt fuzzy and my arm started to tingle. I booked an appointment to see my doctor and while I was waiting to see him I lost the feeling in my left arm. I can only describe it as a dead weight I could not move.”
When he visited accident and emergency, doctors found it difficult to tell what was wrong, and he quickly lost control of his legs before he was diagnosed with the 1-in-100,000 disease and ended up in intensive care three days later.
After being treated at Watford General Hospital, Ricky was moved to Northwick Park Hospital in Watford Road, where specialists at the Regional Rehabilitation Unit slowly nursed him back to health and gradually restored his wasted muscles, which had left him unable to sit up.
He said: “It has been a long journey to where I am today. I have had to learn to sit, stand, walk and eat – all the things you take for granted.
“As an artist I have found that painting has really helped with my rehabilitation, improving and rebuilding my hand and arm coordination. I have spent many hours painting while on the ward. It has definitely helped pass the time. It is great to have a hobby that you can do on a hospital table.
“I still have a way to go with my rehabilitation – I won’t be clay pigeon shooting for a while, my arms and legs are not quite strong enough for that yet.”
Ricky plans to sell the paintings of natural English and African scenes and sunsets at an exhibition on Thursday in the shopping square at the hospital to raise money for the unit and raise awareness of the syndrome.
He added: “People will say I am mad but I will be returning to ski in Austria, maybe not this winter, but I will be back to face the demons and put the past eight months to bed.
“I don’t think I will be eating in the same chalet again though – just in case.”
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