Thursday, February 13, 2014

After being paralyzed by a stray bullet artist learns to draw with her mouth

In 1997, then 20-year-old Mariam Pare was driving with a friend near Richmond, Virginia. While stopped at a stop sign, Pare looked over to see a group of people gathered on a corner in the rain.  As she started to drive away, someone fired a gun.

"I heard the popping of the gun, and I saw the glass flying and it all happened really fast," said Pare.  "It was just noise and then I couldn't move.  I didn't know I'd been shot.  I just felt a kind of bolt of electricity behind me and a flash of heat."

The bullet had struck her spinal cord, leaving her a quadriplegic.

At the time of the shooting, Pare was a promising young artist.  She spent three months in the hospital before transferring to a rehabilitation institute in Chicago.  There, an occupational therapist suggested she try to write her name while holding the pen in her mouth.  Pare was surprised that she could write this way.

"I was like, oh, wow I could apply this to painting," Pare said.  "Maybe I could draw, or maybe it might be fun to paint while I'm in here and have all this time.  That's when I kind of got excited and decided to explore what I could do again."

Since then, Pare has worked on her art and now pursues a career as an artist.  This month, she will be a featured artist in two shows. And, any day now, she expects to take a job that will pay her a comfortable salary to paint.

Police never made an arrest in the shooting.

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