Meet Carina Imbrogno, a Rare Artist Living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Part 2


Continued from Part 1

The surgery was over 12 hours long. I have two rods and 26 screws holding my spine and had nine ribs cut and reduced in size to minimize the rib hump. I grew five inches from the surgery. This was a miracle for me. The success of my operation was called a miracle by Dr. Shelekov and his entire team who preformed the operation. I am forever grateful for what he did for me. Unfortunately he passed away two years later from a sudden heart attack. This news that devastated me.

After the spinal surgery I was doing so well that I was able to take a trip to Argentina to see my parents.  I especially wanted to see my mother who hadn’t believed I was well. Unfortunately a couple of years after my surgery I started to suffer from severe depression and anxiety. I had never felt this way before. The doctors eventually discovered I had ovarian failure and was going into early menopause. There were no medications I could tolerate due to the many side effects and sensitivities I have. At this point I was 33 years old. I was living in my brother’s basement at this time and my unmedicated depression and anxiety got so bad that I spent four years feeling hopeless and bed ridden. The one person who gave me hope was Father Frank, who visited me. In 2013 I went to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where they discovered I had pelvic floor muscle dysfunction which added to my IBS, making it hard to go to the bathroom.  

Amidst of all this suffering, one day in 2013 I got a letter in the mail saying I was next on the list to rent a small apartment for people with disabilities in Stamford, Connecticut. The news made me so happy because I had waited for eight years for this opportunity, but at the same time I was scared due to my many health issues. By October of 2014 I was so ill that I wasn’t able to drink or eat and weighed only 92 pounds. I remember calling my college professor Susan Rietman who advised me to come to Mount Sinai where they were able to find a treatment that I could tolerate (another miracle). I spent my 40th birthday in Mount Sinai hospital. At this time I was praying to God and I promised Him if He saved my life once again I would start drawing and painting since art was always something I wanted to do. After a few weeks I began feeling better but just a few days after being discharged from the hospital I came down with a pulmonary embolism and once again landed in the hospital.  Doctors warned me if the blood thinners didn’t work I could die. I was petrified but I kept thinking about my dream with God and somehow I knew I was going to be okay.  

A year before when I watched a movie called Heaven is For Real I was introduced to the artist Akiane Kramarik’s life and work.  This child prodigy inspired me to do art, especially to paint. Her story about meeting God helped me to see and believe that my dreams where for real.  It’s a dream of mine to meet her in person one day and thank her.

As soon as I was better a close friend of mine David Anderson helped financially to buy art supplies to start my art.  He always believed in me, even when I doubted. I began to teach myself how to draw and paint. I am mostly self taught in fine arts. I should mention that for me learning is a true challenge because I have attention deficit disorder and retention deficit disorder, two very challenging learning disabilities. I’ve discovered that I am able to learn best hands on. For the past four years I’ve been drawing and painting in different mediums such as gouache, dyes, watercolors, color pencil, graphite, acrylics, oils and pastels. Because of my disabilities and limitations, I work a lot from photographs. 

 I started doing portraits after I began volunteering in a daycare doing arts and crafts with children once a week. They inspire me to draw and paint them.  I also draw and paint animals. I also love to paint animals, including people’s pets. I work with a lot of details so my work looks highly realistic. I have a true passion for what I do. I have entered over 12 juried exhibits where my work was accepted in all the shows. In January of 2017 I won third place at the Stamford Art Association.  I entered the very first portrait I ever did which was of my mother, who sadly I’m losing to Alzheimer’s disease. Winning with the portrait of my mother meant so much to me. I went on to win first place with the portrait of Jaden in graphite at the Rowayton Art center. And I won third place with a graphite portrait of Melissa. My accomplishments have made me work ever harder.  

 I’m very grateful for the connections I’ve made through Instagram.  I got very inspired by a friend on Instagram by the name of Richard Macwee who is based in Scotland and is an amazing wildlife artist. Richard is committed to animal welfare. His work inspired me to continue drawing animals. I am also very grateful to my therapist Judith Croen which I’ve been seeing for almost a year now. She helps me deal with my challenges so much. I also feel very grateful and blessed to have emigrated with my family to the USA where my life has been saved so many times.  My goal is to eventually teach what I know and to keep getting better and better at what I do. I am open to trying different techniques. I have my studio is my small living room but I hope to one day have a studio away from my apartment. I also plan to return to FIT to take some classes. My goal is to reach as many people as I can to inspire them with my story and give them hope.

By telling my story, I hope to bring awareness to rare diseases. It would be amazing if we could find better treatments and even cures for these rare illnesses.


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