MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For Fabian Carrera, music is medicine.
With his guitar in hand, he helps others through song, much like the rhythm that moved him when his family thought he’d never move again.
At just nine months old, Carrera was diagnosed with polio and put in an iron lung.
“I was five years in the hospital and music saved my life,” he told CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana. “My mother brought to me a little radio. I couldn’t move my arms or legs, but music sounding the rhythms I started moving my head. And the nurses were like ‘Whoa, he can do that!'”
Carrera said his father played guitar and when he regained use of his arms, he started playing too.
“What is this beautiful thing I’m hearing. It captivated me and caught my attention,” he said. “I couldn’t believe how beautiful this instrument is.”
He diligently studied his craft, eventually earning a degree from a music conservatory in Ecuador.
But in 2002, he came to the U.S. and basically had to start over.
“I got a chance to be an illegal immigrant. I was for a season knocking at the doors of a homeless shelter with all my degrees and education,” he said. “It was one of the toughest or lowest points, but my faith in the Lord, I knew there was going to be a way out of this. Keep pursuing my education. Keep pursuing my art. Keep believing in the music.”
He graduated from Miami-Dade College in 2013 and just this past fall, he got a Bachelor’s degree in social work with a minor in psychology from Florida International University.
His parents were there to cheer him on.
As part of the program at FIU, he had to volunteer at a local organization.
He wanted to work anywhere but a homeless shelter, too many painful memories, but that’s exactly where he ended up.
“Every time I passed by this area I used to close my eyes. It was a reality I didn’t want to see,” he said. “But when I got a chance to be here, something activates me. The sense of compassion.”
He plays his guitar for residents and visitors at Camillus House in Miami.
They listen to him and then he listens to them.
“Just by hearing his music, the first time I heard him play, it gave me hope,” said Alexander Arnold, a man who says he is a recovering addict.
Arnold and Carrera spoke for a short time, Carrera unaware at the time his music had that effect on the young man.
“It’s easy to lose focus. I decided to see the positive,” Carrera said.
Carrera plans to get a Master’s degree in social work.
He hopes to become a clinical social worker and music therapist to support trauma victims and individuals with disabilities.