*Are you happy at the moment?
Currently, even with all my imperfections, my life is perfect. I have a loving family, which includes a wife, a 3-year old and a 2-month old. I also have a business, Imuneek.com, which helps people with medical conditions and disabilities, both physical and mental. I am blessed.
*If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be?
I would tell myself that everything that happens to you will define who you will become. Even though you will not be able to see anymore, do not change one thing that has happened.
*What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?
I have learned that medical condition or disability does not define who you are. Everyone is either directly or indirectly affected by a particular uniqueness, so you have to make the best of it.
*What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?
Imuneek.com has grown to help over 16,000 people in multiple countries. I hope to at least double that in the next year. Given that our growth went from 1,000 users to 16,000 users in a year, another 16,000 should be no problem.
*What’s your secret to happiness?
I believe in two particular sayings. The first is to want what you have, not have what you want. In life, people will always want things. If you have what you want, you will never stop wanting because new things are always coming out. However, if you want what you have, then you will always be happy because everything you want, you already have.
The second is to not stress about things you cannot control. When I lost my eye sight, I knew that given current medical procedures, there was nothing I could do to change that. So, instead of getting depressed and drowning in self-pity, I decided to help everyone I could that was going through a medical condition or disability that affected their lives. I created Imuneek to instantly and automatically connect people with other people, support groups, doctors, organizations, news, and events specific to their uniqueness.
*What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?
For as long as I could remember, children always loved playing with me. I am a dad, an uncle, and everywhere I go, children gravitate towards me. My wife says I am “the toy” like the old Richard Pryor movie. Hearing children laughing and knowing that they want want to try to beat me at Street Fighter is something I hope to always keep in my life.
*What’s your biggest regret?
Most people think that the biggest regret I have is traveling overseas where I contracted the eye infection that left me blind. This is not true. The biggest regret I have is that it took me losing my vision to create a website for people with uniquenesses. When I became blind, it took two years to find all the resources for the blind. Now that I created Imuneek, that information can be found in 30 seconds.
*What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?
I wish I could take credit for teaching my daughter and nephews a great life lesson.
Instead, they made me realize that they don’t care that I cannot see that well. They love me for who I am and not how I look or what I can or cannot do. Having a big heart is a life lesson that they learned because they are around me, but they learned that by themselves.
*What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?
I have been biting my nails since I was 8 years old. I remember one year wanting a steering wheel for a racing game on the Coleco Vision. My dad said that if you grab the wheel and you bite your nails, you will get electrocuted. I stopped until he bought me the wheel, but then bit them again and grabbed the wheel to see if it was true. Luckily I did not get shocked.
*Aside from motherhood/fatherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?
There are three times that I can remember. The first was when received a letter from a boy that had autism. He thanked me for helping him and his family enjoy his trip to Disney. Side note – Disney has referred guests with disabilities to Imuneek to let them speak to others that went to Disney and have a medical condition or disability. At that moment, I knew Imuneek was making a difference in the world.
Second was when my business partner came over to the house. He was talking to me about a show on the history channel call The Universe. My daughter was two at the time and we would go outside, I would tell her about the constellations and the planets. She came running up to me and saw Mercury on TV and said “Daddy, I know the planets.” My business partner said “Oh Yeah? What are they?” Then she rattled off all nine planets in order from Mercury to Pluto, even though at the time Pluto lost its planet status. It was awesome.
The third was when I found out my wife was pregnant, I looked all over the country for a blind parenting group. The only resource was a school in Chicago that would mail me a book. I created a support group for blind parents on Imuneek and networked with other parents to raise a newborn.
Later that year, Imuneek was acknowledged for being the only resource online where blind parents could attend an online support group. Imuneek was also acknowledged by the American Diabetes Association as the only resource to network with other juvenile type 2 diabetics in your area. Lastly, the Special Olympics acknowledged that Imuneek was the best and only resource where parents that have children with autism can network with other parents locally or nationally from the comfort of their home.
*When were you happiest?
Just yesterday, I was putting my one-year old to sleep. She asked me to sing her a bedtime song I created called Sally Sally Sunshine. Once I finished she said that was her favorite song. There are some things I will never forget.
*What ten words best describe you?
I won’t be defined by my medical condition or disability.
At the age of 30, three days before his 1 year wedding anniversary, Michael Arbitman woke up and could not see anymore. Earlier in the year, after his honeymoon, he had to travel overseas for work and contracted a rare form of pink eye that attacked his retinas and eventually left him blind. It took two years for him to find all the resources he needed to not only get his life back in order, but to continue to live and enjoy what he wanted to do.
Having a PhD in computer science and not being satisfied with the length of time it took, Michael and his business partner created Imuneek.com. Imuneek is a social networking resource website that instantly connects people to other people, organizations, support groups, doctors, news, and events specific to their medical condition or disability, physical or mental.
Now, Michael Arbitman is an advocate for people with all medical conditions and disabilities, sharing his stories to inspire others not to give up and to not be defined by one event in their life.