Tailored care for every Greenwich rehab patient, including Archibald Prize winners

The rehabilitation team at Greenwich Hospital faced a formidable challenge when Australia’s oldest working artist and national treasure, Guy Warren, needed help with his stroke recovery last year.

Artist Guy Warren sits in his paint room with Associate Professor Andrew ColeGuy Warren, who turns 101 in April, was left dizzy, seeing double and experiencing depth of field problems – devastating symptoms for one of the nation’s most celebrated painters. Mr Warren said he was unaware he had suffered a stroke when he stumbled in the courtyard of his lower North Shore home one morning.

“My son told me afterwards that I had complained of feeling dizzy and lacking energy that morning but I don’t remember any of that. It must have affected me more than I thought,” he said.

The task for the Greenwich rehab therapy team, coordinated by senior staff specialist A/Prof Andrew Cole, was how to help Mr Warren recover sufficiently to return to independent living at home and resume his life’s work.

Born in Goulburn on April 16 1921, Guy Warren’s distinctive interpretation of landscape and human form is a signature of his work – some of it inspired by his time in Papua New Guinea rainforests during his World War II service. Naturalist David Attenborough is one of his lifelong contacts.

As well as winning the Archibald Prize in 1985, Mr Warren had renewed prominence last year as the subject of the winning Archibald Prize portrait by Peter Wegner in the award’s 100th year.

Until his stroke, Mr Warren had had a hectic centenary year with five separate exhibition events including showings at the King Street Gallery on William.  His knees were “stuffed from arthritis”, but he was still driving.

“Bloody busier last year than I have been all by life. And the Archibald Prize excitement was all part of that,” he said. “It was all too good a story that the prize had been going 100 years and the winner of the prize was a portrait of a 100-year-old artist. The media just went mad about it and could not resist it,” he said.

Mr Warren and A/Prof Cole reunited on March 2 this year at his studio, surrounded by half-finished canvasses and sketches, to discuss his recovery six months on.

On admission to Royal North Shore Hospital last year, a clot was found deep in the right side of his brain, confirming a stroke. Mr Warren moved to Greenwich Hospital for rehabilitation with a team led by Occupational Therapist Rebekah Choong. Recovery from stroke is one of the rehab team’s specialties – of the 450 patients they see each year, about 100 are stroke-related.

Mr Warren is depressed he has not resumed painting yet, but he is confident he’ll be working again soon. “I am not going too badly now – I’m really bloody lucky to still be here,” he said.

A/Prof Cole said everyone who comes to Greenwich Hospital after a stroke, like Mr Warren, benefits from individualised treatment. No two patients are the same. “We always tailor a program to meet the specific needs of the person. In Mr Warren’s case, he had three major issues: his need to see clearly again, fix his depth of field problems, and he had to recover properly his mobility.

“His thinking mechanism, interacting and talking was not affected by the stroke, so the therapists were able to talk through with him what was going on. When we can work together closely with the patient on the right therapy, we can really make it work,” he said.

HammondCare General Manager Health and Palliative Care Dr Andrew Montague said the Greenwich rehab team can help with neurological, musculoskeletal and cancer diagnoses and their treatments; rehabilitation after falls and fractures; reconditioning after surgery; orthopedic treatment and more.

“The key to successful rehab is to listen to patients, hear their needs and get them on the road to regaining independence,” Dr Montague said.

Greenwich Hospital Rehabilitation Services