How ‘mouth painting’ gave MS patient new inspiration in life

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A woman who has lost all movement in her body apart from her head has described how ‘mouth painting’ has changed her outlook on life.

Jacky Archer, 59, from Crawley Down, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) when she was 31.

The symptoms of the incurable condition which damages the nervous system began at the age of 25, with tiredness and weakness, and over time she lost of all movement, apart from limited movement in her head.

Jacky now gets around by using a mouth controlled wheelchair and has carers come to her home every day.

She took her time to pronounce her words as she explained how it felt to live with the slowly debilitating condition.

She said: “After I was diagnosed I was told ‘we can’t do much for you. It might not get any worse, it might, might not’.

“In ‘95 I was wobbling round on a stick, driving with one hand and one foot!

“I did that for a while, until I had a driving assessment and this poor man nearly had a seizure!

“It all went really badly from then, just sort of fell apart.”

The inspiring mother-of-one continued to work in a call centre with just the use of one arm, until 2002 when the company moved away and Jacky said she knew she would not find another job.

She spent the next year watching TV and reading books and losing interest in the possibilities of her future.

In 2003, Jacky’s occupational therapist introduced her to Maidenbower Day Centre for adults with impairments and she discovered the centre’s art classes.

Jacky has kept the first mouth painting she did and it still makes her laugh.

She said: “My first painting was supposed to be a cat. It could have been anything. People always ask me, ‘why did you draw a cow?’”

Jacky patiently continued with the hobby and now - ten years on - she can create detailed pictures, several of which she has sold and one of which she has spent a year perfecting. She said: “When I paint now I’m relaxed and the world disappears. I really enjoy it.”