WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A horrific car crash changed a man’s life, leaving him with severe trauma and an incredible gift.
“You can’t see trauma,” said artist Scott Mele.
But you can see light. For Mele, that light has come from painting.
The strokes of a paint-covered brush on canvas can create something beautiful, but one move can alter a painting forever.
The same can be said about life.
“I’m 42 years old. I restarted at 38," Mele said.
Mele was stopped at a Raleigh intersection four years ago when a driver hit him at 70 miles per hour. He didn’t know at the time, but he suffered a traumatic brain injury. Four months later, he woke up feeling lost.
“When I say I was completely estranged to my life, I felt like I was in somebody else’s life, and trapped,” he said.
The former car salesman says he used to focus on himself, success and material things.
“That was my life. I didn’t care about anybody else. I didn’t have a lot of friends because again, I didn’t care about anybody else. So when I had this accident it was completely flipped upside down and it’s like that person died. I really don’t relate with the old me anymore so it’s like I have this chance at a second life,” he said.
Suddenly he questioned every decision he ever made and fell into a deep depression.
Today, he stands in his living room painting a stunning portrait of a woman under water, suffocating.
Just like the suffocating anxiety he has struggled with since his traumatic event.
Before the wreck, Mele had no artistic ability.
“I couldn’t draw before the accident, I was horrible,” he said.
Months later, at a craft store with his kids, he felt a compelling urge to paint.
“It was the first time in four months that I saw something that I could relate to that was mine. That felt like it was me,” Mele said.
He later learned he had atypical acquired savant syndrome, known in the medical community as an extraordinary condition where an individual displays remarkable abilities they did not have before a brain injury.
Mele is one of 33 known cases in the world.
Like a painting in progress, he is still working to create his new life, hoping to help others who feel lost find beauty along the way.
“I started over at 38 with nothing. And had to figure out who I was and what I was going to do and how I was going to get there,” Mele said.