It was in a hospital room as a child where I began to create art. At ten months old, I survived bacterial meningitis. The physical impact of the disease is apparent as much of my skin is scarred; I had fingers, toes and half of my right foot amputated. My face had to be completely reconstructed. Within twenty-four hours, I went from a healthy baby posing for studio photos to being in a hospital fighting for my life. The meningitis struck fast. I have spent a lifetime enduring surgeries to correct the damage that meningitis did to my body in one day.
As I continued having surgeries, I also continued studying art. Although I had missing fingers, I was determined to pursue an art career by studying Fine Arts at the Columbus Collage of Art and Design.
Today, I am a successful working artist also known as “Painter Sam." I proudly use my artwork as a platform to raise awareness for bacterial meningitis, and my artwork has received international media attention. My diverse collection of art includes portrait paintings, dog art, cityscapes and other pieces that reflect my triumph over my physical challenges and tragedies. In 2011, I was awarded “Mom of the Year” for my series Butterfly Portraits, art that is dedicated to families that have lost a child. I began painting the series after losing my newborn son, and it was my butterfly art that connected me to other meningitis families.
Through speaking at public events, tv appearances and media interviews, I have become a meningitis advocate. In 2015, I was the National Meningitis Association’s outstanding service honoree for my advocacy efforts to help mandate meningitis vaccine laws in Ohio. I am hopeful that one day all available meningococcal vaccines will be CDC recommended for all infants in the United States.
My scars are my story and I am proud of them. I embrace the curious stares of strangers. Most of all, I hope they stare at my art and see that I am following my dreams.