Meet Ernie, Finalist in Reeve Foundation Expressions of Paralysis Competition

We are very excited to announce that former Magee patient Ernie Hargust has been selected as a finalist in the Reeve Foundation’s Expressions of Paralysis Art Competition! This contest was created to honor the life of Rubin Rios, an ambassador of the Reeve Foundation and talented artist who passed away earlier this year. The work of art with the most online votes will be permanently showcased on the walls of the Reeve Foundation office in Short Hills, New Jersey — and we would LOVE to help Ernie accomplish this goal!

photoToday, we want to introduce you to the man behind the painting. Ernie is a musician and was on his way to perform when he was in an auto accident. He survived the crash, but sustained a C4 spinal cord injury. He was at Magee first as an inpatient and then as an outpatient at the Riverfront. It was there he began participating in art therapy with art therapist Lori Tiberi.

“I told Lori I wanted to try. I wasn’t an artist, but I really wanted to use my hands,” he said. “It turns out, art therapy was good exercise not just for my hands, but also my mind.”

The painting Ernie submitted to the competition was a piece he created during art therapy. It depicts a piano surround with musical notes.

“I wanted to create something that was based on my childhood,” he said. “When I was a kid, my mom really wanted me to play the piano. She got me started in lessons, and I loved them. But the neighborhood I lived in was dangerous, and it started to become unsafe for me to walk to lessons. So I had to quit. Luckily, my music teacher at school helped me develop my voice. So even though I never went back to the piano, I have been singing for the past 40 years. Music is very important to me. I believe it brings out the best in people.

Today, Ernie has made incredible improvement. He can now dress himself, stand and even walk a little. But even great than his physical improvements are his emotional ones.

“All of my work at Magee has improved my confidence,” he said. “I thought I would never be able to do these things again, but with confidence and prayer, I am doing it.”

Congratulations again to Ernie for making the finals! YOU can help him go all the way! Simply click this link and submit your vote. You can vote as many times as you like, but do it soon – voting ends on June 29!

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