A resident of Kahuku Medical Center’s (KMC) Long Term Care unit for 22 years, David has a special relationship with KMC. Though paralyzed from the neck down, he is full of life, inspired and grateful for each day.
Injured from a collapsed ladder while installing a rain gutter on a two story house, David suffers from a fractured spinal cord and feels lucky to simply be alive. He’s more than adjusted to life here, and KMC has become his home away from home.
Every morning from 10am – noon, and using the mobility he has in his right hand, he tours himself around the KMC campus on his electric powered wheel chair. He visits the edible garden outside, chats with residents from the neighborhood, and inspects the day’s menu from the kitchen, and often angling for a special dish for that day’s meal. His request is happily met.
David is KMC’s resident artist. About 15 years ago, physical therapist Gerry Nihipali saw that David was a Fine Arts major in college. Thanks to this caring therapist, KMC introduced David to the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, an organization whose members paint with brushes held in their mouths or feet as a result of a disability that prohibits them from using their hands.
Therapist Gerry Nihipali started David off first with a set of watercolors, since his training in college was in sculpture. He quickly progressed to acrylics, which is his chosen medium today. He gets tremendous satisfaction from painting and is filled with a sense of accomplishment.
“I can do something even able-bodied people cannot do!” he says incredulously. It truly is an amazing sight to see: both the process of him painting with the brush in his mouth, and his final completed paintings that come to life. Five wonderfully detailed paintings, all created by David, grace the wall directly outside of his hospital room. His memories of his family and his growing up years in Honolua, Maui inform the subject matter. He was raised by his maternal grandparents.
David paints every Monday and Wednesday from 10am – 12pm. It takes him about a month and a half to complete one painting. He remembers fondly when the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists invited him to attend their memorable Art Convention in Vancouver. Even more touching, David remembers that KMC eagerly stepped in to foot the bill for an an aide who would accompany David, the only way such a trip would be possible for him. “KMC takes good care of me,” he says.