Hi, and thanks for stopping by! I'm Netta, and I have an interesting life story, so they say. :-)
Until the age of 15 I ran quite a normal life; I was a friendly geek high school student who split her spare time between art and sports: during the day I was a medal-winning athlete and tennis player, and when it all went dark I would enjoy making handcrafts.
Sounds like the beginning of an ordinary story, right? just wait to hear the rest...
On November 25th, 1994, my life has completely changed...
It was a Friday afternoon; I just came back from high school, which I started only a few weeks earlier, ate my lunch and laid down to read a boring book for my upcoming book report. Suddenly, I felt sharp pain in my shoulder blades, accompanied with tingling sensation that was spreading down my body. Along with that I was starting to feel like I’m losing both sensation and the ability to move my legs. In a total of less than one hour I became completely paralyzed from the neck down. Luckily, my mother and sister were at home and called an ambulance, which took me to the nearest hospital. I was immediately taken to the ICU and started to undergo tests and examinations. It took around 10 days for the doctors to understand what I was suffering from, but finally was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis at C4-C5, which left me paralyzed from the shoulders down (excluding my left arm) and completely dependent on a ventilator through tracheotomy.
After leaving the ICU, I was hospitalized in the “Alyn” Rehabilitation Hospital in Jerusalem (the city I lived in back then) and stayed there for almost 3 years.
The major improvements in my recovery occurred within the following year, when I gained back the use of my biceps in my left arm and, no less important, weaned off the ventilator. Getting rid of the vent was made possible after working closely with a respiratory rehabilitation specialist and training my breathing muscles with a set of respiratory exercises a few times a day. I improved incredibly and about a year and a half into the training I completely weaned off the vent.
Today I drive a powered wheelchair with my left arm and still believe that my condition can get better. In the meantime I'm trying to do the maximum I can to make my life as normal as possible.
In 1998 I started studying Computer Science at the College Of Management. In the beginning it wasn't very clear how I would go about doing it all, but eventually, after lots of hard work and dedication, I received my Bachelor's Degree together with the rest of my fellow-students in 2001.
In early 2002 I started working in a hi-tech company and in 2005 attended business school to complete an MBA in Information Systems in 2010.
Since research has always intrigued me, I decided to try it and started on a research thesis in Human-Computer Interface at the Tel Aviv University. You can read my and my supervisor's thesis-based paper which was published in one of the AIS' journals in 2016.
While in rehabilitation center, I met a disabled girl who painted with her foot as well as with her mouth. She inspired me to try mouth painting by myself, and soon enough I learned the technique and fell in love with it. I was able to be creative again and actually create art!
In 2003, after I completed my bachelor's degree and had enough artwork to showcase, I was accepted to the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA) as a scholarship holder. As one, I started to participate in group exhibitions, and my artwork was printed on various products the association is selling.
In 2015, I was promoted to an Associate Member position, and as such, I get to participate in international group exhibitions and conferences.
I don't think I would have ever gotten to professional painting if it wasn't for my disability and the MFPA!
Living with such a disability is a daily struggle. In the beginning it was hard to let go of the memories of myself as an able-bodied, active girl, but the most difficult part has always been depending on others for the obvious things I was once able to do by myself. However, I have long made a resolution not to let it limit myself in any way.
On February 14th, 2014 I became the proud mother of my firstborn baby boy.
I've never lost hope and still believe that a cure can and will be found - it's only a matter of time, funds & research. Lately there has been such major advance in spinal cord repair, that it makes me feel very optimistic about the future. Meanwhile, I hope that more and more surgeries and treatments will be developed to help us improve the quality of our lives and our independence.