Crafting trees helps stroke victim


SIDNEY – Leanna Brulport, of Sidney, works almost singlehandedly and with great patience to turn thin, filigree, steel wire and tiny semiprecious gems into delicate miniature trees that put their roots down in the smallest of containers: Toy tea cups, trinket boxes, china shoes, shells.

“Singlehandedly” doesn’t mean she works alone, although she does. It means she crafts her exquisite creations despite limited use of her left hand. She does the crafting almost solely with a single hand – her right one.

Brulport suffered a stroke in 2007, from which she still recovers. She lost all feeling and function in the left side of her body. It has taken years of dedicated effort to regain the ability to walk, even with a limp; to raise her left arm; to grasp with her left hand.

She was in her kitchen that day nine years ago, taking a cup from the cupboard, when she lost all feeling in her left side.

“My whole left side went numb. I couldn’t walk. I leaned on the counter,” she said. Her son came in soon after and found Brulport on the floor, wedged between her two dogs who had come to her side.

“I think I’m having a stroke,” she said. “Call your dad.” Her son instead called 911. It’s good he did, according to Dr. Fred Haussman, assistant medical director of Wilson Health. Haussman spends a lot of time in the emergency room, seeing stroke patients.

“Strokes are caused by several different processes. Most common strokes are caused by blockages in the arteries in the brain or going to the brain. Some strokes are caused by bleeding or weaknesses in the arteries and veins. The biggest enemy of stroke care is delay. Seek care immediately,” he said. Time is critical to keep damage to the brain at a minimum. The more damage to the brain, the longer it takes to recover and the less chance there is of regaining capacity.

If Brulport had a warning that a stroke was imminent, she didn’t recognize it.

“I woke up and felt fine,” she said of that fateful day. “I had a terrible headache the day before.”

Stroke warnings

Haussman said the alert may come weeks or months before the actual attack.

“Common warning signs are episodes where we cannot speak properly or numbness or weakness in the extremities or face. If any of these occur, you should consult your physician and have testing done as soon as possible. These may be warning signs to prevent a major stroke,” he said. “If you have any of the symptoms of a possible stroke that you recognize or someone with you recognizes you should seek medical care immediately. Do not delay or wait. Go to the emergency room or call 911 as soon as the symptoms are noticed or begin.”

The doctor stressed that a stroke is a brain attack, similar to a heart attack.

Brulport’s stroke affected a portion of her brain a size between a golf ball and a baseball. She spent two months in the hospital and worked her way from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane.

“I wrapped my hand onto a walker and held on with my other hand. It was so hard,” she said. Now, she limps through her house without the cane, but she continues to use one when she goes out.

“At first, I couldn’t lift my arm even 2 inches,” she said. Now, the arm moves, “but if I do anything with it, it gets really tired right away.”

An insomniac, she wanted something to keep her busy through the night.

Finding her craft

When she saw a macrame tree owned by her son’s girlfriend some three years ago, she thought she had found her craft.

“Maybe I could do that,” she thought. Brulport went to the internet to find how and it was there that she discovered the wire trees.

“I started making them,” she said. They sparkle with “leaves” of amethyst, turquoise, tiger’s eye and polished stones, plastic buttons and little charms.

“I always loved rocks,” Brulport said. “It’s fun to figure out what to put on (the trees). I go to yard sales to find bases.” She purchases the stones and charms at hobby shops, old necklaces at thrift stores.

“I work on the trees every day. It’s relaxing,” she said. Each one takes about six hours to complete. She signs her work by twisting her name into one little twig of every tree. The shape and design of the tree inform what she adds as leaves. Along with the gemstone-covered ones, there are trees sprouting peace symbols and one themed with Ohio State mementos.

Sometimes, she chooses rocks for their metaphysical properties.

“Amethyst helps with anxiety, turquoise is soothing, rose quartz helps with relationships and love,” Brulport said.

The trees have been gifts to friends. Brulport is ready to explore possibilities of selling them, too. She has created a filigree forest of more than 100 trees. Some of them were exhibited in the Amos Memorial Public Library in November.

When she’s not wrapping wire, the wife and mother of four sons enjoys photography and creative writing. Following the stroke, she had to quit her job as a bank teller. The trees have given her a sense of purpose again.

“It makes me feel like I’m getting something accomplished,” Brulport said. She also is active in a stroke survivors Facebook group.

“Anybody can have a stroke,” she noted. “I was only 47. Someone has a stroke every 45 seconds in the United States.”

“A person may realize (he) is having a stroke or has had a stroke. Perhaps after waking up (he) cannot properly feel or move (his) upper and lower extremities. (He) may notice facial drooping, difficulty swallowing, difficulty with (his) own saliva. (He) may have changes in (his) vision and difficulty speaking. Any of the symptoms can be the signs and symptoms of a stroke and you should seek medical care immediately,” Haussman said.

“The best prevention for stroke is long-term control of blood pressure, maintaining ideal body weight, regular exercise, control your fats and lipids, and take any medications your doctor may recommend to help prevent strokes and mini strokes,” he added.

Leanna Brulport, of Sidney, makes stone-covered trees by twisting wires together with pliers. The craft has helped her recover from a stroke. Brulport, of Sidney, makes stone-covered trees by twisting wires together with pliers. The craft has helped her recover from a stroke. Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

By Patricia Ann Speelman

[email protected]

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

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