WHEN Doug Hoth’s partner walked into his bedroom and chastised him for forgetting to let the cats out, all he could do was stare at her mutely.
The New York-born artist had been paralysed by a stroke as he slept, leaving the right side of his body unable to respond to the commands of his brain
Mr Hoth, 64, first realised something was wrong when he woke up in the middle of the night and found it difficult to turn over.
He had no idea he had lost his voice until he tried to talk to his partner, Wendy.
“She thought it was a joke at first. I couldn’t even explain to her that it wasn’t a joke.”
The fire brigade was called to their Wodonga home because the doors were too small for the ambulance stretcher.
At hospital, the prognosis was grim.
The artist tried to talk to the nurses but all that came out were funny noises.
A scan on his brain revealed he had suffered a number of small strokes over recent years that had gone unnoticed.
The painter would go on to almost die three times during his hospitalisation, while his right hand, the hand he had used to paint with, remained motionless.
“They were advising Wendy and I that I would be going to the nursing home, but that was against my thinking,” Mr Hoth said.
“I knew I was going to get better.”
That was in late 2010.
More than two years later, the former art teacher is still undergoing intensive rehabilitation, but he is also preparing for his first exhibition since his stroke.
Mr Hoth said after learning how to talk again and walk again, albeit with a major limp, he also began painting with his left hand.
He said he had to “readjust” his pride a little, signing up for an art group and using his skills as a teacher to re-learn the basics.
But he quickly found himself able to paint realistic images again.
Mr Hoth has portfolios full of intricate and precise work, including drawings of houses he used to do for real estate agents.
While he’s not yet up to that, he’s creating colourful still life and landscapes in his shed studio.
Recently he began to feel a tingle of life in his paralysed right hand and is keen to make the most of the time when doctors say it’s possible he can regain lost movement.
“I’m in that five-year window and I want to take advantage of it ... I realise I won’t be perfect,” he said.
“A lot of people with strokes give up. They don’t think they can’t do anything so they don’t.”
Mr Hoth’s exhibition Then & Now opens on March 1 and will run until March 17 at the Spiritus Art Gallery, Yackandandah.