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Thalidomide victim born without arms wins acclaim for paintings rendered with mouth, feet

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 2nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Thalidomide was a morning sickness drug prescribed to expectant mothers that was discontinued after children were born without limbs. One of those children, Tom Yendell, has since gone on to render beautiful paintings, in spite of being born without arms. Holding his paint brush in his mouth and feet, Yendell's artwork is a favorite choice for wrapping paper.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A professional artist, Yendell has produced more than 500 works, appearing on cards and gift paper. The 50-year-old artist uses his lips, tongue, teeth, head and feet to master different brush strokes.

Determined to lead a normal life, Yendell says he hopes his "artwork proves that nothing is too big a hurdle in life." The father-of-two, from Alton, Hampshire says that "Art is something I have always had a flair for.

"Even when I was as young as four I'd be scribbling and painting away.
 
"If you don't have the use of your hands, your feet and mouth are naturally the next best things."

Yendell, who has been a professional artist for 30 years, said: "You can use a combination of body parts - teeth, tongue, lips, the whole of your head and your feet - to perform different strokes.

"I occasionally get cramp or muscle ache after a long period painting because you tense up when working on very intricate sections.

"I'm not the most prolific of artists, preferring to spend a few solid days working on a piece than rush it."

The artist is one of just 466 babies out of 2,000 to survive the effects of Thalidomide and has since released a book detailing his incredible life.

"Thalidomide was just one of those things that happen in life. You can't do anything about it so it is better to get on with life and try and be a positive person.

"I don't see myself as somebody with a disability. Being born without arms has never been a problem for me, I just learn to adapt.

"I don't let anything stop me. Someone once described me by saying I wouldn't play cricket for England, but I would probably play football for Spurs. That's always been my attitude - just because one door is closed another will be open.

"I come from a very strong family. I was the youngest of five kids and having older siblings made life very normal - they treated me just the same as anyone else and didn't go easy on me.

"Once I found art at secondary school I knew it was my calling."

The Thalidomide Trust says there are 458 people currently in Britain affected by the drug, but that for every Thalidomide baby that lived there were 10 that died.

Thalidomide was originally prescribed as a "wonder drug" for morning sickness, headaches, coughs, insomnia and colds.

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