by Marina Andalon

A role model and an inspiration for people who strive to better their lives, and surround themselves with positivity. That is what Esvin Rodriguez is doing, and continues to do at Gold Star Medical Center.

Rodriguez was born in 1979 and experienced a near death experience in his late teens. He was shot by gang members near his home in Downtown Los Angeles , the bullet tore through his back and hit his spine and let him quadriplegic. He is unable to move any body part from the neck down.

This holiday season, he expresses how thankful he is to be alive and moving forward.

After the incident happened he was depressed and angry. He stayed in rehabilitation center at All Saints Healthcare in North Hollywood. Gye DiCapua, Director of Rehabilitation Program became his mentor.

“I asked Rodriguez what does he want to do, and I remember him being very grumpy and always saying ‘Nothing, I don’t want to do anything’,” said DiCapua. “Finally one day he came up to me and I knew he was ready to get rehab and find a hobby. That’s when I decided to put a paintbrush in his mouth and it stuck.”

Rodriguez fell in love with mouth painting.

Now that Rodriguez was able to paint, he expressed his feelings through art. He was able to create images that made people open their eyes, and their jaws dropped. Painting helped his move forward to be a role model for many people who want to turn their lives around.

Rodriguez first painted a tigers face and it sold for $60, and since then he moved onto surreal images, landscapes, and artistic abstracts.

“When I started to paint, I slowly moved away from all the hate and the anger I was carrying as a young man,” said Rodriguez. “You can see how it has gone from dark images to lighter as I became lighter inside. Painting is saving my life.”

Now at 37 years old, he is part of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artist and often gets asked to talk to children about his story and show them his artistic abilities.

“I am truly thankful to have met him,” said DiCapua. “I don’t feel like his mentor anymore because we are truly life long friends.”