Dennis Okada was a Maui boy with a double black belt in martial arts as well as a master diver with over 30 years of experience. He won the national championship in spear fishing and was at the top of his game. One day, he was tank-diving 150 feet below sea level off Rabbit Island. He miscalculated his time by mere seconds and came up too quickly. Dennis got the bends, a decompression sickness. After two weeks in the hyperbaric chamber, he came to REHAB and could barely move. Dennis suffered a Spinal Cord Injury and would never walk again.
Over the next nine months, Dennis started his physical recovery that included rigorous strength training and learning how to adjust to life in a wheelchair. Unlike his physical recovery, his emotional recovery took several years. One day, a patient artist urged Dennis to join REHAB's Creative Arts Program - and after a few phone calls, Dennis reluctantly joined a session. He didn't immediately fall in love with art, but the perfectionist within him made him determined to refine his skills. Over time, he learned there were others who were also rediscovering their artistic abilities.
Today, Dennis is an artist and optimist, focusing on helping new participants in the Creative Arts Program and in the community. He believes that his experiences and his time with REHAB are the best things that could have happened to him.
"Diving was something that I enjoyed," Dennis says. "After I had my accident, I was depressed and life became very dark. With the support of my family, friends and REHAB, they helped me to see the light at the end of this winding tunnel. Art has brought color into my life. For the hours that I am painting, I forget about everything else."