At the age of 43, Rosanna Radding’s life was turned upside down. After suffering a stroke, she learned she had permanently lost the use of her left hand and arm.
“I thought I was never going to be able to live a quality life again,” she said. “I didn’t like having to rely on other people for everyday tasks.”
Her first day home alone — post-stroke — was a harsh awakening, she said
“I couldn’t make myself something to eat,” said Radding. “I couldn’t open a can, cut with a knife or spread peanut butter.”
Cooking had been a lifelong passion, and Radding said she wasn’t about to stop. She began looking for gadgets in catalogues that could help her adapt, and soon, she was inventing her own tools as the needs arose.
“I realized that if I was going to be independent again, it was critical that I teach myself how to cook one-handed,” she said. “I’ve always been independent and I wasn’t going to let a stroke stop that.”
As she adapted to her new kitchen techniques, Radding said each dish she made became a symbol of her regained independence.
“It became a wonderful way to rehabilitate both physically and psychologically,” she said. “I realized, if I can cook, I can do other things.”
A full 18 years have passed since Radding had her stroke, and she has since developed many instruments, gadgets and techniques for the kitchen and other areas of life. Early on, she received her certificate in “rehabilitative engineering technology” from San Francisco State University, and with a master’s degree in fine arts, today Radding enjoys making jewelry and even sculpting stone.
“What kind of idiot would sculpt stone with one arm?” Radding asked with a laugh. “I do one-handed stone carving with a special stand that holds a chisel.”
Despite now living a full life, Radding says she has found the biggest reward in helping others help themselves.
Armed with her favorite devices, techniques and strategies, Radding is now giving cooking demonstrations to support groups for stroke survivors. Her website, OneHandCan.com, features videos, a blog, “one-handed kitchen essential tools” and more.
“It’s been well-received — people should not have to reinvent the wheel — I’m happy to share ideas,” she said. “People were blown away by the number of things you can do with one hand, which is a very common condition among people who have had strokes. I’ve also been giving motivational talks to seniors. I think I’m more of a ‘motivational cook.’”
Bobbie Davison, an occupational therapist at Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, said Radding’s cooking demonstrations have inspired the members of her stroke support group.
“Stroke survivors relate to Rosanna because she’s been there — and she’s made it to a point where she’s very self sufficient,” Davison said. “She’s gone on to fulfill her passions and that has helped put people in touch with theirs. She’s brought rehabilitation to the next level — she had techniques and products even I hadn’t seen.”
Because Radding — who is retired and lives on a fixed income — has been donating her time and ingredients for her demonstrations, supporters are hoping to raise funds so she can continue inspiring more stroke survivors.
“Rosanna asks nothing of people but to share what she knows, educate and motivate people — it’s rare to meet people like that,” said Beverley Faller, who is helping Radding get the word out. “Through her cooking, jewelry and art, she’s innovative and a forward thinker — she did not let this stroke stop her.”
Radding now sees the day she was left to fend for herself after her stroke as one of the greatest gifts.
“It was a hard gift, but it turned out to be the best one,” she said. “I found out I could survive and have a good life. It gives me great pleasure to see people light up and realize they can do things they didn’t think they could.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4203.