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By | The Researcher’s View

Nina Mitchell is a writer based in Boston, Massachusetts. Her blog,, chronicles her stroke using Wellcome Images. Follow her on Twitter @mindpop. 

I have a story to tell. I had a stroke when I was 26. My mind disappeared for awhile, and when it came back it was not the same. I lost vision, motor skills and speech. Mindpop.

In 2010, I started a blog at I felt there wasn’t a good place on the web to talk about strokes from a young person’s perspective.

At the time I was in grad school and I had noticed how students would surf the web in class when they were supposed to be paying attention to the professor. They would be engaged in class discussions, and then their attention would wander. They would surf for a few minutes before returning to the subject at hand.

I decided my blog entries would be short and punchy, designed to catch people with an important idea for a few minutes before they wandered.


At first my entries were just text. A friend who works on the web suggested that I add images. “People like looking at images, especially at images of other people. You’ll keep your audience interested,” he said.

But stroke images are hardly the most entertaining. So I began to look around the web for intriguing images that would convey the point of my text in an unexpected way.  I stumbled on the Wellcome Library.

Here is one blog entry called Stare. I used a Wellcome work by Frederic Cayley Robinson, painted in 1916:


Sometimes I can tell someone has noticed my disability and is staring. They look at my hand for a long time, comprehending abnormality. The next thing a starer does is look up at my face. I’m ready. I look straight back at them, holding their gaze. Then the starer gets all uncomfortable and looks away.

Disabled party tricks.

You can see the multiple comments on this entry here. The use of an image seems to hold the audience, as my friend suggested.

Sometimes I can’t find an image that directly describes the situation at hand, but I find ones that show mood or emotion. Here is an entry called God Lady about insensitive therapists. I used a Wellcome work “Apocalyptic scenes painted around 1833” to convey the point:

God Lady

Right after my stroke, I had a fill-in speech therapist who said to me, “This is God’s plan.” Separately, she went up to my mother and said the same thing: “This is God’s plan.”

My mother said later that she liked all of the hospital staff except for the God Lady.

You can see the comments on this entry here.

The audience has made specific references to Wellcome images at times. In this amusing image, for example:

Battle of Bureaucracy

After 5 calls, a certified letter, an email, faxes, a talk with a supervisor and several talks with a manager, my health care company admitted that they made a mistake and will reprocess everything. In the war of health care bureaucracy, I win this battle. Don’t mess with me.

One comment said: “I love the picture.” It is a great image. In general, I use older images. They look retro and playful, even when I’m talking about heavy subjects. My guess is that the audience looks at my posts more carefully if the images are something they haven’t seen before.

Consider this entry, something to ponder, even if short. I used Wellcome’s “Merlin’s mechanical chair for the elderly or infirm,” from 1811:


Disability is the only minority group that anyone can join at any time.

Author: Nina Mitchell

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