Renea Whitworth is thankful her relatives ignored the doctors in 2001, when her then 24-year-old cousin Greg Wajs suffered a stroke that left him in a coma.
The doctors told the family there was no hope for Wajs, who had had cancer when he was 16. They counseled the family to take him off life support. But Wajs' family refused, and he came out of the coma within about two weeks, Whitworth recalls.
"But it left him 99 percent paralyzed," Whitworth said.
Ten years later, Wajs has beat the odds, regained some muscle control and taken up painting. He'll exhibit his artwork Saturday at the banquet hall in Niles from 5 to 9 p.m.
It hasn't been an easy road, though. About six months after Wajs came out of the coma, his family started seeing him exhibit some movement, and he's spent most of the intervening 10 years in rehabilitation. He's wheelchair-bound and has a full-time caregiver.
"My aunt and his sister told him he needed to do something, he can't just sit around," Whitworth said. "So he started painting two years ago."
Though he had never painted before, Whitworth says he's talented, and may have inherited some of the talent from his maternal grandmother, who was a painter. Wajs never painted before he had the stroke.
"He's done family pictures, beach scenes, fruit, flowers, still lifes," Whitworth said.
Wajs has more strength on the left side of his body, so, even though he was born right-handed, he uses his left hand to paint. However, he's blind in the left eye, so he uses his right eye to see.
IF YOU GO
What: Greg Wajs art exhibit
When: Saturday, Dec. 17, 5 to 9 p.m.
Where: Lone Tree Manor, 7730 N. Milwaukee Ave., Niles
Questions?: Call (847) 401-5662