Dalveen artist Lyra Parker (left) with daughter Bella, 7, at the launch of Scenes of the Southern Downs art book, with one of Lyra's sketches.
Dalveen artist Lyra Parker (left) with daughter Bella, 7, at the launch of Scenes of the Southern Downs art book, with one of Lyra's sketches. Elyse Wurm

'I thought I was useless...I thought I'd never draw again'

LYRA Parker was behind the wheel of her car and pulling into the driveway to her home the first time she lost consciousness.

Her husband, Rohan, desperately grabbed the wheel and took control of the car so the pair would not crash.

It sparked a terrifying three-month battle through tests and uncertainty, which the Dalveen artist spent thinking she could die.

She started planning a future for her husband and seven-year-old daughter in case the worst should happen, and refused to pick up the pencils and paintbrush that brought her so much joy.

Little did she know it would be her love of art that would help relieve the symptoms of her rare form of Tourette syndrome.

Mrs Parker symptoms developed last year and mirrored Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

Bed ridden and losing consciousness for up to half an hour at random times, Mrs Parker could not help but think the worst.

Distraught and feeling useless, she thought she had created her final masterpiece.

"I thought it was a tumour or brain disorder," she said.

"I thought I was dying, there's so much you want to do in the end."

Mrs Parker, 27, was even having conversations with her husband to plan for a future where she might not be around.

Mr Parker took months off work while his wife was unwell to care for their seven-year-old daughter, Bella, who has been diagnosed with autism.

"My biggest fear was Bella, I was terrified with her autism about what would happen," Mrs Parker said.

After three long months, Mrs Parker was diagnosed with a form of tourette syndrome, which very rarely develops in adults.

Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder, which most often begins at the age of 2 to 21.

It causes repetitive, involuntary muscle movements and vocalisations called 'tics', which can cause the person with the syndrome to repeat words or sounds, or movements such as shrugging and blinking.

But in Mrs Parker's case, it causes paralytic tics and leads to her losing consciousness.

Mrs Parker said it was like a build up of pressure in her body.

"It's a physical feeling and until I pass out it won't go away," she said.

Dalveen artist Lyra Parker (left) with father Neville Heywood at the launch of Scenes of the Southern Downs art book, with the work they created for the book.
Dalveen artist Lyra Parker (left) with father Neville Heywood at the launch of Scenes of the Southern Downs art book, with the work they created for the book. Elyse Wurm

Throughout the horrific ordeal, Mrs Parker was afraid to turn to art because she was scared the quality of her work would no longer be good enough.

But her husband convinced Mrs Parker to start sketching again by bringing some pencils and a big drawing pad into the hospital.

She had loved art since she was a child and that day she not only regained her creative outlet, she found a way to control her stress and minimise her tics.

"It was the only thing that stopped me thinking about what ifs," Mrs Parker said.

A year on, Mrs Parker is on an effective medication regime and has the tics under control.

She can drive and is back to creating the incredible artwork she was producing before she fell unwell.

But the experience she had connecting art with mental health has inspired her to spread the word about the benefits of creativity for a sound mind.

"If everyone in a waiting room got handed a pad, you wouldn't have any problem with people waiting because you zone out," she said.

"It's a release and it's the best thing to have a stress release."

She recently created two pieces to include in the recent Scenes of the Southern Downs art book created by Warwick Artist Group.

Her father, Neville, also created two pieces for the book.

She hopes the work will help galleries take her seriously and raise awareness about the importance of art and creativity in our community.

"It's who you are, it's a personal thing when you make art," she said.

"If you didn't have colour in this world then it would be bland."



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