Making Up for Lost Time
Jim Douglas reports
FORT WORTH - You've probably never heard of Rudy Sotomayor. But then you're probably never appeared in a fashion magazine or been one of his clients - like Britney Spears, Pamela Anderson or Drew Barrymore.
You get the picture.
Sotomayor was a rising star among celebrity makeup artists. Now he's struggling to rise again from a brain injury that all but killed him.
In November 2007, a car crushed Sotomayor in a Manhattan crosswalk. Doctors removed much of his skull because of brain swelling.
It was two months later before he finally woke up.
"It was just the small motions of his eyes," said Frank Sotomayor, Rudy's brother. "He just kind of opened and went back, and we were like, 'Oh my God!'"
At first, Frank said Rudy couldn't recognize some faces; he had huge memory gaps and communicated like a toddler.
"He had a lot of pain on his chest," Frank said, displaying a crude drawing his brother had made. "He was telling us to take this away."
Rudy's family brought him home with them, and enrolled him in the brain injury transition program at Texas Health Fort Worth, formerly Harris Methodist Hospital.
When Sotomayor started the program last July, he arrived in a wheelchair. Now he doesn't even use a cane.
Therapists get him motivated to regain fine motor skills and range of motion by letting him apply makeup to staffers.
Needless to say, his therapy sessions are very popular with hospital staff members like Heather Smith. "We take turns down in occupational therapy - who gets to get their makeup done," she said.
Doctors say Rudy's brain is rewiring itself. His speech is returning, and glasses with special prisms more or less get his eyes in sync. He's doing better than anyone could have guessed just a year ago.
A couple of weeks ago, Rudy started volunteering at the Shannon Career and Tech Center in the Birdville ISD. He's helping young cosmetology students with tricks of the trade.
It's a little like having Emmit Smith volunteer to coach your high school football team.
"It gives me a lot of motivation that nothing is going to keep me from doing what I want to do," said student Miranda Colter.
Rudy Sotomayor might never recover the life he had, But he's making his mark on many other lives along the way. And he is aiming to get back to the top of his craft.
"I think so," he said. "I think so, for sure, because I want it so bad."