HOBBIES

PAINTING THROUGH LIFE

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

Ronen Argalazi

Life was vibrant, fun, full of joy and worry free

My name is Ronen. I was born on May 27th, 1967 in Tel Aviv, Israel, where I grew up. I'm the second child in a family of five. I grew up as a regular kid, playing soccer and being active in many other sports as well as boy scouts. I learned to ride a bike when I was 17 years old. Once I got my license I purchased my own bike with money I earned working in a car garage after school and with the help of my parents; although they were opposed to this idea. For a whole year I enjoyed riding my bike with friends. We drove our bikes to the beach or took tours around the country. We enjoyed the freedom of going where we wanted with our bikes as well as showing off and getting special attention from the girls... Life was vibrant, fun, full of joy and worry free. At the end of that year I decided to sell my bike so I can buy a car. I never had the chance to do so.

They asked me to get up and when I repeatedly said I couldn't

The accident happened on February 9th, 1984. A few friends and I drove our bikes to the beach. After we made it to the beach I decided to go get something to drink. A relatively small pile of sand on the way made the bike slip, and though I was driving only 16 mile per hour, I was thrown off the bike and landed on my neck. I didn't feel a thing. My friends came running over and stood around me. They asked me to get up and when I repeatedly said I couldn't, they thought I was joking with them. We were used to falling off our bike so it didn't seem like a big deal. Eventually they called an ambulance. The paramedics immediately realized my injury was very serious. I was taken to Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv. I recall asking the paramedics on the way to the hospital if I'd ever be able to walk again and function like any other human being.

Rehabilitation allowed me to get used to being a handicapped person

I woke up in the hospital 2 weeks later after being under the influence of anesthetization the whole time. During the following weeks I had 5 surgeries on my neck and my spine. I also went into cardiac arrest three times. Once I was stabilized I was transferred to the rehabilitation unit at Tel-Hasomer hospital. After about 3 months of lying in bed, surrounded by caring family members and worried friends, I noticed for the first time other people that were in a similar condition to mine. That's when I realized my life was going to change forever. During rehabilitation I was transferred daily from my bed to a wheel chair for a couple of hours that gradually grew as time went by. Rehabilitation allowed me to get used to being a handicapped person who was going to spend the rest of his life in a wheel chair. I was in Tel-Hashomer for a total of 10 months. After that I was sent home. My family and I had to move to an apartment building that was suited to my special needs. The constant flow of visitors in the house created an urgent need for me to be alone. I wanted to move to my own place. I spoke to my parents about it and we started looking for a place for me to live in. And so at the age of 19 I moved out of my parent's. I've been living on my own ever since with the help of a care taker who's been living with me 24/7.

I immediately realized that's what I wanted to do in life

I was always surrounded with people. However, the feeling of loneliness arose when all of my friends joined the army. Before the accident we were all part of a youth movement that was going to form its own unique settlement as part of the army service. We were looking forward to sharing our dreams and special moments together. Suddenly I was left alone. I felt inactive and knew I just had to do something with myself. I turned to my social worker. After consulting with her I decided to study computerized graphics in a rehabilitation center in Ra'anana. I was provided with a special mouse and other aids that would help me use the keyboard. I completed the course and became a certified graphics designer a year and a half later. While still attending that school I went to visit a friend of mine who showed me oil and acrylic paintings of his. I got very excited. I immediately realized that's what I wanted to do in life. We went on a shopping spree of painting goods like canvas, brushes and paints and took it to my place. When we laid everything in front of us we realized we were clueless. We really didn't know what to do next as I was not a regular person. Finally my friend put the canvas on a pedestal in front of me. I then looked at him and asked that he put the brush in my mouth. To me it seemed the natural thing to do. That's how it all started. As soon as I started painting I realized there was a new life waiting for me. I discovered the tremendous power and energy hidden behind the colors, shape and imagination combining the art of painting. I felt so happy. Suddenly I had a purpose in life. I felt vital like never before.

In Israel I hold private exhibitions in galleries

I came across the Foot and Mouth Painter association following an article about me in the newspaper. The article was about my life as a handicapped person that studies graphics during the day and paints at night. Someone at the organization read the article and sent their representative, Mrs. Miki Lichtinfeld, to meet with me. She told me about the Foot and Mouth Painters organization and said that only high end skilled painters are accepted to the organization. Currently there are 14 members in Israel and 500 worldwide. With the help of my painter friend, and through intensive practice that lasted a few months, I made progress improving my painting skills. A short period after that a few of my paintings were sent to the organization's headquarters which are based in Liechtenstein. My paintings were evaluated by a special committee that decided to welcome me as a member. The organization supports me in various ways: it funds the materials I need for painting, it gives me publicity and recognition as an artist, it helps me participate in worldwide exhibitions, publish a big variety of post cards all over the world, as well as Passover Hagadah, brochures and diaries. In Israel I hold private exhibitions in galleries and community centers.

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