Annette's hope: Finding purpose through art
Annette Lade’s life as she knew it was stripped from her in the blink of an eye, when a drink driver smashed into her car, leaving her a quadriplegic. But through perseverance and determination she’s learnt to paint beautiful works of art, using only her mouth. She tells her story with the help of writer Danielle Colley.
I was driving through an intersection one day two years ago when suddenly a Holden Commodore slammed into the side of my car. A young man, with a car full of friends, had failed to give way.
He walked away unharmed, but my spine was crushed and I was destined to never walk again. That single decision he made rendered me a quadriplegic incomplete for life.
I spent almost a year in hospital and rehabilitation before luckily getting a place in the Traralgon Bupa Care Home because I now need full-time care.
I have a small amount of movement in my arms, and I have a little sensation in my feet, but that’s all now. My life was forever changed in that moment and things would never be the same again.
Initially, I had mixed emotions, anger, sadness, and I questioned why this had happened to me. I questioned why I was still here, what use was I to anyone? To myself? To my wonderful husband?
While I was in the rehabilitation centre I began art therapy, painting with the paintbrush in my mouth. I hadn’t picked up a paintbrush since Year 8 at school and I wondered if I would ever be able to make something beautiful out of the canvases.
With the encouragement of my art tutors, Amanda and Bill, I was able to see what I was capable of instead of only focusing on what I could no longer do. And so began the spark of life inside me again.
I started looking at things in a new light, I would look at something and imagine how I would compose it on canvas. The way I would paint the light, the colours I would use.
Before the accident, I was very busy with hobbies and interests. I loved to garden, and was a keen photographer and I enjoyed youth work. My art therapy days gave me something to look forward to and quickly became the highlight of my week.
I loved seeing how other people in my class would perceive something, and I was amazed at the differences there was between people’s work, the methods each person would use.
I now paint with acrylics and watercolours and I have even begun to draw. With the help of my community carers at the Bupa home, we try to have art sessions every Tuesday afternoon. As a “team” we enjoy ourselves and we are rewarded with beautiful pictures to show for our efforts.
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We were mucking around last year around Christmas time painting some angels, and suddenly we were painting images for Christmas cards and it kind of took off. We sold out of cards and raised money for the centre. This year we will plan it a little better and start earlier because the reaction of the people to those cards was so rewarding.
The Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre in Melbourne hosted an art exhibition and I was invited to give a speech. I spoke of the hope and pleasure my art had given me, and the gratitude I feel towards the people who have helped me get to where I am today. Some of my paintings are still on display at the centre today.
I hope my talents will improve with time and I’m so thankful to have been given the opportunity to do something that I would once have thought would be an impossible task.
Painting helps me to believe in myself, which was very difficult for me to do immediately after the accident. It fulfils a wish in allowing me to know that I still have something valuable to offer, and have a passion that I get great satisfaction and enjoyment out of.