A Journey of Miracles

My name is Carina Imbrogno, and I was born in 1974 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Italian immigrants. I was born with a rare genetic disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome kyphoscoliosis type. The disorder is an inherited disorder and creates problems in the body’s connective tissue, due to defects in collagen. Although I had the disorder since birth, I was not diagnosed until 2015.

This illness caused me to have severe kyphoscoliosis since the age of two. Kyphoscoliosis is a deformity of the spine that creates a bowing or rounding in the back, which can lead to a hunchback or slouching posture It can happen at any age, even though it is rare at birth.

I am the youngest of eight children. We were four girls and four boys. My oldest sister died from leukemia as a toddler. I grew up with a very difficult father. I realized years later that my father was ashamed of me because of the way I looked. Growing up, I was also bullied and teased by other kids due to my very prominent rib hump.

Having many surgeries and wearing orthopedic braces wasn’t easy!  I began wearing orthopedic braces and body casts from age 2 to the age of 11, and then again as an adult. I had my first open-back surgery at 10 years old. My spine was collapsing so fast I was having trouble breathing. The doctors explained to us that I needed emergency open-back surgery  because my ribs were collapsing on my lungs, making it difficult to breathe. I had a curve of 89 degrees and another curve of 56 degrees. Doctors explained to us that I had a deadly type of kyphoscoliosis, and without surgery, I would die. I had surgery and had a rod placed in my back to stop my spine from curving any further.

Unfortunately, I had complications. A few days after being sent home from the hospital, I developed a very high fever.  I went to see the doctor, and he discovered that I had a massive infection from the surgery. I almost died from this infection, which left me hospitalized for three months.

Fortunately, the infection finally healed, but over time, the rod that was put in when I was a child began giving me problems. By the time I was 18, the rod had somehow moved out of place, and doctors believed it was causing my migraine headaches. I finally had to go for another surgery to remove part of the rod. My migraine headaches finally went away. However, I struggled with my severe and painful rib hump and was always fearful that I would never find someone to love because of the way I looked.

In 1996, I was accepted to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City to study textile design. I graduated in 2000 with a grade point average of 3.8. My art teacher, Susan Rietman, who I am still very close to, always supported me in my work and motivated me to believe in myself.

Shortly after I graduated, I met someone and got married but, sadly, found myself in an abusive relationship. After I separated from my abusive husband, I was diagnosed with endometriosis. I had five abdominal surgeries for this illness, which resulted in more complications. It was a very painful illness to endure, especially during such a difficult time of transition.

During this time, I had a dream in which God told me that I would go through many difficulties but I wouldn’t die, and He would always be with me. This had a huge impact on me.

In late 2004, I had a surgery to correct my prominent rib hump, but it was unsuccessful and caused my spine to collapse at a fast rate. The doctors told me they couldn’t help and that I would end up in a wheelchair and eventually die. I remained bedridden and highly medicated to stay alive.

By 2006, I had a side curve of 115 degrees and a concave curve of 120 degrees. I felt hopeless and very scared. No doctor would touch me because my condition was so severe and complex, and my insurance didn’t cover a $500,000-plus surgery.

The incredible dreams continued. One night, I had a dream of a white light-filled being who put His hand through me and straightened my spine. Afterwards, in my dream, I stood up and walked away.

Two weeks later, I found the doctor who saved my life. My oldest sister, Ana, took me to Texas, where this doctor was able to correct my collapsed spine and rib hump. I have two rods and 26 screws holding my spine now; I 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.

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 years after my surgery, I started to suffer from severe depression and anxiety. I had never felt this way before. The doctors eventually discovered that 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 bedridden.

In 2013, I went to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where they discovered I had pelvic floor muscle dysfunction which added to my irritable bowel syndrome, making it hard to go to the bathroom.

Amid 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, CT. The news made me so happy because I had waited 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 I 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. At this time, I was praying to God; I promised Him if He saved my life once again, I would start drawing and painting, since art was always something I wanted to pursue.

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 that 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 OK.

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 were for real.

As soon as I was better, a close friend of mine, David Anderson, helped me 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 also mention that for me, learning is a true challenge because I have Attention Deficit Disorder and Retention Deficit Disorder, two challenging learning disabilities. I’ve discovered that I am able to learn best hands on. So 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, 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 ten juried exhibits, and my work was accepted in all the shows. In January 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 a portrait in graphite at the Rowayton Art Center. Then, I won third place with another graphite portrait. My accomplishments have made me work even harder. My story was published in a Spanish newspaper called La Voz, and most recently it was published in English and Spanish in a magazine called Latin Colors.

I’m very grateful for the connections I’ve made through Instagram. I became very inspired by a friend on Instagram by the name of Richard Macwee, who is based in Scotland and is an amazing wildlife artist. His work inspired me to continue drawing animals. I also feel very grateful and blessed to have migrated with my family to the U.S., where my life has been saved so many times.

You can check out my work at my website. 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. My goal in to reach as many people as I can to inspire them with my story and give them hope to manifest their full potential.

Carina Imbrogno

About the Author | Carina Imbrogno

Carina Imbrogno is a walking miracle and a woman who has overcome so many challenges in every aspect of her life, especially with her illnesses. Her disabilities have never stopped her from moving forward in her life. Carina is an award-winning self-taught artist who enjoys drawing and painting people and animals. She has become an inspiration to people all around the world and has given many people a sense of renewed hope.

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1 comment to "A Journey of Miracles"

  • Elyse

    I finally found it! Corina, this was such a beautifully written story full of miracles.
    You are really amazing! I am so honored to know you!!!