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Art career forged after fall

Kay Paget, with some of her artworks, in front and on the left, at the Wairarapa Big Art Sale this year. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV


Emily Ireland

Kay Paget of Greytown used to have a high-flying career in business.

That was until she suffered a spinal injury and had surgery, forcing her to leave her career in the past.

She lost her job and her house, but instead of giving up, she gave herself two days to “be angry”, and then put it all behind her “and got on and made a life”.

She is now an award-winning artist and promotes the importance of powering on through hardship.

“I believe if you want to make a change in your life, there’s only one person who can do it.”

Paget’s former career was as a management training consultant running her own business.

For 20 years, she travelled all over New Zealand, Australia and America speaking at conferences and working with businesses.

While doing some training at a firm in Petone in the late 1990s, Paget slipped and fell in a car park, landing on her tailbone – “the bottom part of my spine moved a centimetre sideways”.

“No one was around, so I crawled, picked up my briefcase, my bag, and everything that spilled – I must have sat in my car for about half an hour.”

“It was always my leg that hurt really – I never thought about the spine.”

It took a couple of years before her injury was properly identified by a doctor, but when it was finally identified, within 10 days, Paget was in hospital having spinal surgery.

“It was an orthopaedic surgeon, and he did a great job, but I was in an incredible amount of pain following the surgery.

“It turned out he put one titanium screw through my sciatic nerve, which is why I limp today.

“I can still walk – I really do focus on the things I can do, but my career was stuffed.

“This was 1998, two years after the injury.”

Paget said she realised her life would be changed forever when, as she was laying in the hospital bed recovering, the orthopaedic surgeon said, “oh, by the way, you won’t be going back to that high-flying career of yours – that’s over”.

“I said, well, thanks a bunch – I’ve still got to earn a living . . . what am I supposed to do then?

“He said, oh, you have plenty of time to think about that while you’re here, and walked out.

“I like to blame all the medication I was on because the language I hurled down the corridor wasn’t very ladylike.”

Art had always been a part of Paget’s life, and as she lay there on the hospital bed she thought to herself – “I don’t fancy being Michael Angelo painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling laying flat on my back”.

“But that image wouldn’t go away.”

In the years following, Paget enrolled in and graduated from arts school, nailing fine art techniques and working on her own style.

“Feeling sorry for myself wouldn’t have got me anywhere,” she said.

“When I first came out of hospital, I had meals on wheels for eight months.

“I couldn’t do anything. I could stand just long enough to make myself a cup of tea or coffee.

“I really had to stop and think, what am I going to do with my life?

“Life throws curly issues at us all the time, and mostly we know what action to take to remedy situations.

“But sometimes it is not so easy.”

Paget suggested that people should “take a helicopter ride” and look at their life from afar to identify the issues that are challenging them – then find the solution.

“Imagine looking down at yourself from above and look at the issue challenging you.

“Look at the issue and particularly where that little ‘square’ sits in a much bigger landscape.

“Look outside the square too and evaluate everything you see.

“The solution is there.

“Now, just do it – do whatever you have to do to fix the issue.

“Life hands us challenges and also solutions.”



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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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