Stroke survivors learn to look and feel good again

By – Thiruselvam


Stroke survivors learn to look and feel good again
Ms Sarasvathi Ramasamy did not wear make-up for more than 10 months after the stroke. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

For Ms Sarasvathi Ramasamy, how she looked was the least of her concerns after having a stroke in February 2023.

She recounted the shock of the stroke and how the psychological struggle began when her condition had stabilised in hospital.

“I began to fight it mentally. It’s just that one part of my life came to a standstill. I thought, ‘I need to survive this.’”



On top of stopping work, she “drastically” changed her diet – having oats for breakfast – gave her all in rehabilitation and saw a psychologist to help with her anxieties about recovery.

But beauty took on a new meaning for the 57-year-old after she attended a make-up workshop, held specially for stroke survivors, on Jan 31.

“Today’s session revived my spirit because I didn’t wear make-up for more than 10 months,” she said, tearing up.
 

“That was very important for me. Being a woman, being well-dressed and having proper care for the face brings a good impression for others.”

Ms Sarasvathi, who worked as a childcare teacher before her stroke, is still undergoing weekly active rehabilitation.

The first women-only make-up workshop by non-profit Stroke Support Station (S3) was held to help stroke survivors regain confidence through self-care.

The workshop at S3’s centre in Jurong Point, conducted by Ms Violet Chan, co-founder of coaching agency Style Atelier, saw nine participants aged 41 to 79.

Strokes lead to weakness, paralysis or coordination difficulties in the arms, making precise movements challenging.

Ms Chan taught participants techniques such as using their affected hand as a make-up palette, or to hold down the eyeshadow palette while dipping into it with the other hand.

“Emphasising the use of the affected hand during this workshop reinforces a positive and empowering message, indicating that this hand has value,” said Ms Ng Rei Na, executive director of S3.

Other options for stroke survivors include using pump dispenser products instead of those with screw caps and using smaller products for easier handling.

Ms Chan worked with S3 to design the workshop and others on dining etiquette, social media content creation, and wardrobe colour analysis to explore what colours suit participants.

These classes, which will be held in February and March, are open to all stroke survivors, male or female, with up to 15 participants per class. The next series of classes will be held in the third quarter of 2024.

Ms Chan said having such fun workshops motivates stroke survivors to take care of themselves.

“Instead of punishment, they think of coming here to have fun and be good to themselves,” she added.

Glowing in their make-up, the nine women were seen beaming and snapping pictures after the 2½-hour workshop.

The idea for the session came from Ms Suzilawati Mohamad Rais, a stroke survivor who previously worked as a paralegal in various firms.

But in 2022, she attended a workshop on communication and met the instructor, Ms Chan, who inspired her to learn a more valuable lesson: to love herself.

After that, she was determined to walk again. Within months of rehabilitation, she did, with the help of a walking stick. She also began hitting an inclusive gym, which has machines with adaptable features such as removable seats for wheelchair users.

She told S3 about the encounter, and the organisation approached Ms Chan to discuss a potential initiative.

Ms Suzilawati brings friends she meets at S3 to the gym. One of them is housewife Zhang Miaoyi, who was only 36 with children aged three and five when she got a stroke in 2019.

“I told her that we’re all mothers here, we need to fight for our kids and be better,” said Ms Suzilawati.  

Ms Zhang, who attended the make-up workshop on Jan 31 with Ms Suzilawati, said: “This workshop makes me feel like make-up is not difficult and increased my confidence. In the future, I can complete simple make-up at home.”

Encouraging participants to practise a five-minute self-care ritual every day in the morning or at night, Ms Ng told them: “If you care for yourself, you heal in other ways.”

 

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