Drawing for life - Art for health’s sake

For Dudi Globerman, getting his thoughts and feelings out of his system and onto a computer screen in visual form is akin to a lifesaver.

A DETAILED work charts Dudi Globerman’s arduous journey, through medical thick and thin, to where he is today (photo credit: NACHMAN GOLDSTEIN)
A DETAILED work charts Dudi Globerman’s arduous journey, through medical thick and thin, to where he is today
(photo credit: NACHMAN GOLDSTEIN)
If you’re going to get hooked on something, it pays to opt for an interest that is intrinsically healthy. And if the “drug” of your choice happens to be a pipeline for your creative abilities, while helping you unload some heavy emotional baggage into the bargain, then you’ve got to be on a winner. All the above, and more, applies succinctly to Dudi Globerman.
In fact, it would not be going too far to say that, for the 23-year-old resident of Beitar Illit, getting his thoughts and feelings out of his system and onto a computer screen in visual form and, occasionally, thereafter onto a piece of paper and into a book is akin to a lifesaver – or at least a life quality enhancer.
While, in these trying times, the challenges of day-to-day living seem to be continually piling up, Globerman has been dealing with that since the day he was born. He has cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disorder that mostly affects the lungs, but also impacts on the pancreas, liver, kidneys and intestine. That can generate any of a host of existential problems, including respiratory difficulties and coughing up mucus as a result of frequent lung infections. It is often a life-threatening condition.
WHEN YOU meet Globerman it is a bit hard to believe that his health is so fragile. While short of stature, the young man has impressively broad shoulders and arms and comes across as vital and energized. He smiles a lot, even when discussing some of the more gruesome details of his ongoing health-related saga.
He certainly radiates a sense of well-being and positive vibes when he talks about his artistic pursuit.
“I have always drawn, since I was very young,” he notes.
GLOBERMAN’S DAILY schedule revolves around taking numerous drugs, and the occasional use of an inhaler. (Dudi Globerman)GLOBERMAN’S DAILY schedule revolves around taking numerous drugs, and the occasional use of an inhaler. (Dudi Globerman)
Presumably, I venture, that helps him to vent some of the frustration and negative emotions brought on by the serious nature of his ailment.
“Ever since I was a little boy, drawing has been something that made me stronger and it saved me from all sorts of sticky situations.”
There have been plenty of the latter over the years, with Globerman, his devoted parents and his plentiful siblings all chipping in to keep him as well as possible, tackling each crisis as it emerged and doing their best to head new problems off at the pass.
Now new hope has come into view for CF sufferers in Israel, in the form of Trikafta, a combination drug approved by the FDA in October 2019. The medicament, which is available to treat patients with the most common cystic fibrosis mutation, is approved for administering to CF patients aged 12 or over who have at least one F508del mutation in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene. This is estimated to represent 90% of the world’s CF population, and includes Globerman.
Later this month the Health Ministry is due to make a decision – a potentially life-saving one for Globerman and other Israelis with CF and without substantial financial backing – on whether to include Trikafta in the official ministry medical services basket. Currently, it would cost Globerman the mind-bogglingly prohibitive sum of NIS 1.3 million for each annual dosage of the drug.
Naturally, Globerman and his family are keenly awaiting the result of the ministry’s deliberations on the matter.
“Most CF patients don’t live past the age of 50,” he says. “Trikafta could extend my life by up to 35 years.” That is, indeed, a big deal and one can only hope, for the artist’s sake, and for others like him, that the drug duly finds its way into the basket before long.
GLOBERMAN IS a fighter. He “regales” me with some of the painful and dramatic milestones in his personal continuum to date. But he generally exudes a positive take on the road ahead, and clearly has every intention on living his life to the full. When I park my bicycle out on the Globerman family apartment balcony I espy hefty-looking barbells and other physical exercise facilities, and there is a chin-up bar by the entrance to his room.
“I try to use them every day,” he says. “It is very important to me for my physical and spiritual health.”
Living out in the Jerusalem Hills, he has quite a view to take in while he’s pumping iron.
Globerman’s room is dominated by three computer screens of varying dimensions. There are a couple on his desk, and a bunch of sleek-looking digital screen pens lying around between them. There is also an outsized plasma monitor hanging high up on the wall.
“That’s a 50-inch screen,” Globerman proffers when I look at it wide-eyed with amazement. “That helps me look at all the details of my drawings,” he adds somewhat superfluously.
One could forgive the young man for being a little self-centered, for devoting most of his energies and care to himself, to help him get through his days – no easy matter – and keep his delicate health on an even keel. However, betwixt accounts of the various treatments, lengthy hospitalizations and operations he has endured to date, he expresses a great deal of appreciation for his familial support system.
“I am the fifth child and my parents had no experience with sickly children before,” he explains.
Globerman’s condition became apparent only after he’d been ostensibly safe and sound at home for a while.
“I was taken back to hospital when I was three months old. I wasn’t gaining any weight and I was crying and not sleeping.”
That, of course, meant that his parents didn’t get too much rest either, especially with four other offspring to care for.
After a while the baby was taken to stay with his grandmother in Jerusalem, to allow his parents to function on some reasonable level and to preserve their own well-being and that of their older children. Globerman’s new carer sprang into action and eventually an accurate diagnosis was obtained.
“My grandmother took me to see lots of doctors, and one of them, in Jerusalem, licked my forehead,” Globerman chuckles. “We CF sufferers secrete salt from the body. When we don’t breathe properly we start to sweat, and when we sweat we secrete salt. The doctor said I should be taken for a CF test at Shaarei Zedek Hospital.”
THE ARTIST sees the humorous side of his trying circumstances. The caption reads: ‘It doesn’t get easier, I get better!’ (Dudi Globerman)THE ARTIST sees the humorous side of his trying circumstances. The caption reads: ‘It doesn’t get easier, I get better!’ (Dudi Globerman)
FINALLY THE Globermans and medical professionals had a better idea of what they were up against. The baby spent several months in hospital before his parents brought him home.
“It was really tough for them. They had to feed me with a feeding tube and they managed all sorts of medical things, like injections and all that. They became really proficient nurses.”
Somehow they all got through that nightmarish routine and the infant began to gain weight, and actually started to attend heder (Hebrew school) at the age of three. Dudi’s father was, and still is, a heder teacher and transferred to his young son’s school, so he could keep an eye on him.
No one at the school knew about his condition.
“We – my parents and I – decided we wouldn’t tell anyone about it,” he recalls. “The other kids could see I was weak and didn’t play soccer and all that, but you know small children can be cruel, and they might have made fun of me. So we managed to keep it under wraps.”
Any social outcast challenges that emerged were eventually assuaged when Globerman began to pick up pencils and crayons and started developing his talent for producing pleasing pictures.
“I began drawing during recess. I had a bag full of equipment; I didn’t use a computer back then,” he laughs.
Today much of Globerman’s work is of a starkly humorous nature, with numerous darkly comic references to his physical condition and the medical procedures he has to undergo in order to keep going. As a young child at school his inspiration mainly came from the curriculum of the time.
“For example, when we were learning about Noah’s ark I’d draw pictures of the various animals, and other kids would crowd around to see what I was doing.”
Globerman’s social standing began to blossom.
“The heder teacher saw my drawings and complimented me and then some went up on the noticeboard.”
That did wonders for the youngster’s self-esteem.
“That gave me a lot of confidence, even though I didn’t play soccer.”
It also had a long-term knock-on effect, the rewards of which Globerman continues to reap.
“My bond with art is deeper, because it has supported me through all my battles. It has never been just a profession. It has always revitalized me, since I was small.”
THE TEENAGER may have found a much-needed outlet for his creative gifts, a way to make friends and to offload some of his angst, in an attractive and non-violent manner, but there were still plenty of potholes to navigate in the years to come. He has undergone two liver transplants, involving long stays in hospital, and that followed a period of three months when he had to hole up in his room at home, often hooked up to oxygen tanks and infusions.
“Some people complain about having to isolate for a week or two with the coronavirus. Imagine what it’s like not being able to leave the house for months,” he notes. “It was hard work for me just to go to the bathroom. I could hardly breathe. My oxygen saturation level (in the blood) was below 80. People with severe cases of COVID-19 have a saturation level of around 90.”
ONE OF Globerman’s lungs complains about its workload and threatens to resign. (Dudi Globerman)ONE OF Globerman’s lungs complains about its workload and threatens to resign. (Dudi Globerman)
Naturally, getting down and dirty with his art at the time was out of the question but, judging by the drawings Globerman showed me, he is making up for lost time. One work stood out from the bunch, a large drawing that maps out the arduous journey he has endured thus far, with gargantuan hypodermic syringes, stop signs denoting junctures when things became really tough for him, some U-turns and slogans like “Determination and Perseverance,” “Search and touch your dreams” and perhaps most tellingly, “It doesn’t get easier, I get better” to help him keep his spirits up. He also put out a comic book, called Mesima (Mission) a few months ago, inspired by the Marvel comics superhero design style.
It is an ongoing battle for Globerman. He has daily physiotherapy sessions, which didn’t always happen during the previous lockdowns; he has to be careful about what he eats and drinks; and gets as much physical exercise as he can.
“A lot of good people donated the equipment,” he explains. “I have a lot of support.”
Over the years he took courses to help him hone his artistic craft and received tutoring, in several senses of the word, from one of the leading animators and teachers in the field in the haredi sector, Motti Heller.
“He has helped me so much,” Globerman says. “And not just with my drawing. He is a friend and my mentor. He gives me so much support.”
Heller visited Globerman in the hospital after his transplants and helped him through some tough times.
“Studying with Motti, who is so well-known in our community, was wonderful. Sometimes, if I didn’t have the strength to draw, we’d just talk.”
THANKFULLY, GLOBERMAN has generally been able to see the humorous side of things, even when things looked really bleak.
“I’d draw in the hospital and the doctors would come round and ask me what I’d created. That was fun.”
There is no letting up for Globerman.
“When I get up in the morning, I do skipping with a rope and I lift heavy weights and people think I am fine now. I look much better than I did a year, 18 months ago. But I have to keep up with all of this. I still have the disease in my lungs. I need my daily physiotherapy to clear my lungs from mucus. I take so many drugs. Half my day focuses on how I cope with my disease and avoid having to be hospitalized again.”
Hope is in sight, with the approaching Health Ministry ruling on Trikafta, while Globerman maintains a sunny outlook, cares for his physical health, with his diet and workouts, and his spiritual wellbeing with his art.
“Being creative is so important for me,” he says. “It helps to keep me alive.”