Some truly inspirational stroke survivors have been honoured in Leeds. Katie Baldwin reports.
Music was his life, but a stroke robbed Enrico Marchesi of the confidence to play in public.
Despite being a professional trumpet player and music teacher and having played with the National Symphony Orchestra in his home country of Italy, the illness in 2010 left him unable to play.
But through sheer determination, and thanks to support from charities, Enrico not only returned to playing music but also set up a swing band which now performs around Leeds to raise funds for the Stroke Association and boost awareness of the condition.
Now Enrico, 52, has been recognised for his efforts after being highly commended in the Life After Stroke Awards.
He was nominated for the Award for the Creative Arts by Jo Koszel, regional information officer at the Stroke Association, who said: “Enrico has made a difference in so many ways, not only through his fundraising but as an inspiration for others and an incredible sense of fun.
“Each concert the band plays is extremely uplifting and is a result of a huge amount of sheer determination from Enrico.”
Music had been a major part of his life since his boyhood in Italy, and the jazz and salsa-lover graduated Bergamo and Rome Conservatoire.
His career continued to flourish when he moved to England with wife Jacqui in 1998 but in May 2010, Enrico suffered a stroke.
The effects left him fearful he would never play music again, affecting his confidence to play in public and leading him to feel he’d lost his identity.
Through the Stroke Association, he was put in touch with Musicians UK, a charity which provided support from medics who were also amateur musicians.
Then three years after his stroke, he set up the swing band A Stroke Of Genius, which now shares its uplifting and inspiring music throughout the district, raising cash and awareness.
Enrico, from Horsforth, said: “I have had to learn to like music again, but music is a joy and I want to play to give thanks.”
He was just one of the inspirational stroke survivors who was presented with their awards at a special ceremony in Leeds.
Gemma McKeating, another winner from the city, was honoured for her recovery from two strokes.
The 31-year-old mum had to relearn to walk and talk after the second stroke, and has not only managed that but also developed her own fashion label and holds down a full-time job.
Also honoured was Annette Townend, for her longstanding dedication and commitment to the East Leeds Stroke Club, despite facing many challenges herself.
She had her first stroke in 1987 at the age of 41, leaving her with aphasia, which affects the ability to speak, read and write.
The same year she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and spent months in hospital, though she was keen to return home to husband Brian and their son Neil, who has Down’s syndrome.
With the help of family and the Stroke Association, she returned home and in 1995 she started attending the stroke club – having previously been widowed and become her son’s sole carer.
Since then, the 68-year-old has been volunteering at the club, as well as at other organisations supporting older people and people with disabilities.
She was nominated for the Adult Courage Award by support worker Georgie Spedding, who said: “Annette’s determination has encouraged friends and family to also become involved in volunteering, especially in the local area. This commitment has built stronger networks and an enriched sense of belonging for many people living in her area of Leeds. Annette asks for no recognition for the role she plays in her community and her continued caring role in support of her son, who is now 43-years-old.
“Annette’s strokes and resulting aphasia have not stopped her from living – in fact surviving a stroke has made her stronger. She has proved that all things are possible and is a real role model for stroke survivors.”