Name: Annette A.
Brain Injury: 2012 Passenger in a rollover car accident
Explanation of Mask: I wear tinted lenses so I literally have rose-colored glasses. I decorated the inside of my mask to show the difference between what people see on the outside and how I feel inside. The flowers are for the growth I have had while being nurtured by people that love and support me, and every day I am thankful for them. The horns are for my strength, but also for the way providers sometimes demonize me when I advocate for myself. It’s exhausting and draining to use my energy this way, and the thorns represent the pain that keeps me from moving forward. If people stop judging only the flowers because “I look fine,” and just believe me when I say I also feel the thorns, then maybe the butterfly of change and rebirth could fly free. One day the flowers will get bigger and the thorns will get smaller. That’s the hope talking – there is always hope!
Name: Lil Sis
Brain Injury: TBI from black out and fell
Explanation of Mask: The process of dealing with a brain injury has “opened my eyes” to the extreme complexities of the brain and all the things that can go awry with even the smallest bump or jar – or slight stroke – and the unfortunate paucity of professionals who understand the issues and have good resources for dealing with them. Thank goodness for the folks at Alaska Brain Injury Network, Access Alaska, and now the Unmasking Brain Injury project, who are forging a new path to the light for all the people who struggle with brain damage and the folks who care for them. Eye/ nose/ head dysfunctions all come from head injuries.
Name: Denise C-S
City: Eagle River
Brain Injury: AVM hemorrhage 1984, 2nd surgery to remove another malformation in 1986
Explanation of Mask: The white color of the base mask represents how I initially struggled with my identity. My laugh changed, and my voice was altered due to a paralyzed vocal cord so I also felt silenced. Therefore I have a zipper over my mouth. But the zipper is open and a butterfly released as I have changed and grown. Likewise, the color has changed to green (my favorite color) as a symbol of new life. Coincidentally, the color is New Shamrock – I am a new creation but rather than lucky, I am fortunate. I have an amazing family (represented in the faith tree as a genealogy chart) and an Awesome God who I never questioned Why Me? In fact, I always said Why Not Me? Having a loving God and family supporting me, I felt better equipped to deal with my circumstances. It took time to fully come to this understanding, but I never questioned God’s purpose for me. Another thing that kept me strong was the poem “Don’t Quit.” As you see on my mask, I have scribbled out the n’t and qu leaving Do it! That is my motto.
Name: Janice B.
Brain Injury: Post Concussion Syndrome for 7 month from Closed Head Injury in winter when I slipped on ice and knocked out.
Explanation of Mask: My mask should be plain – looks like nothing different from the outside – that’s why people cannot tell anything is wrong. But I have made it show what is underneath a padlock for the things I cannot remember. Then blue sky and sun for happy that I am getting better and for time I now get to spend with my family. But then red and lightening bolt for anger and frustration that strikes unexpectedly because my brain is “overloaded”. Dark circles under eyes from tired feeling that comes from too much brain activity. My mask has half smile because I am getting better but half frown because it makes me sad when I am treated like a child. And a single tear for the career I lost. But also for the family and friends that had TBI before me but how sad I am now that I did not understand what they were going thru.
Name: Jessica B.
Brain Injury: Brain Tumor – Hemangioblastoma in brain stem
Explanation of Mask: Left side represents life before –> had everything I always wanted – wife and mom.
Middle section –> grey for brain tumors where everything changed –> could have lost it all : (
Right side –> all the parts of my identity (good and bad) now – feel like I am a jumble of pieces that don’t fit all together. Faith is the key!
Brain Injury: Stroke
Explanation of Mask: Mask is in 5 parts – 1st normal, 2nd stroke, 3rd aftermath, 4th finding out about stroke, 5th new beginning
The colors represent what happened and then all the things after!
1st – pink – gold (alive), silver (confident), light green (creative), purple (energized), blue (focus)
2nd Black – stroke (red), fear (green)
3rd Gray – brown (afraid), dark green (dread), orange (fearful), tangerine (scared), yellow (confused), red (anger) and (cheated)
4th pink knowledge, understanding, learning, beginning recovery
5th blue – gold (alive), purple (able), healing and grateful.
My mask is in 5 sections because that was how I felt for years until I found out about the stroke. Now the healing begins and the future is brighter.
Brain Injury: Spinal Meningitis x4
Explanation of Mask: The orange side is how I feel, nerves in my brain are jumbled with loose ends. The bubble beads represent the things I have forgotten (brain farts) like how to count money or how to print. Information is confusing and in absurd order. The pain adds to the confusion. The blue side of the mask is how everyone sees me. I look normal. It seems like my mind is in a nice neat bow. I am expected to be as productive as before my TBI, but all is not as it seems.
Name: Karl E.
Brain Injury: Anaplastic Oliodendroglioma brain tumor
Explanation of Mask: This mask represents the social expectations; thus the expressions like a failing clown. Language is a battle; how to say and hear, read and write. “No ifs, and, or buts” is the mental mush. Surgery cut my eye cords. The anesthetized nightmare buried me under binary blankets; suffocating me. The blue eyes reflects the soft blue sky; dreaming of fresh possibilities.
Brain Injury: of friends (loved one of the brain injured persons)
Explanation of Mask: look in towards one suffering;
look out to world that will affect us all.
shininess as a trail.
red jaw is resolute,
green leaves as tears show
compassion of trees.
Name: Virginia O.
Brain Injury: I feel better every day – my brain is slowly but surely
Explanation of Mask: My mask is showing the sides and the name’s where I’ve been injured. I’ve hit my head, hard on the right side and top of head and forehead too twice, both from car accidents. But I am very strong so I will go on one day at a time. I’m scarred, and wounded, one the top of my right eye. But by the “GRACE” of “GOD” I am still living. It’s hard not to be able to do math or think fast like I used to.
Name: Krystal B.
Brain Injury: Tourettes Syndrome (ATBI)
Explanation of Mask: My mask represents what I go through on the daily. Headaches, “fits”, pain, etc. Sometimes I feel all alone like I’m on an island.
Music helps me center myself during a bad day. If my anxiety and stress have made my body twitch more, etc.
Name: Marie F.
Brain Injury: 3-28-14 I was hit by a drunk driver from behind. I was going 40 and he was going 90. By the grace of God I am still alive and very blessed.
Explanation of Mask: I felt so wounded and lost, because I forgot how to do the things I use to, even showering. I fell a lot and stuttered very bad. My people and friend don’t understand. Some of them say that there’s nothing wrong with me. They don’t understand. I don’t let them get me down. That’s why I made my mask 2 sided. The left side is negative and the right side is POSITIVE, because I am not going let it bring ME down. I am doing much better now and keeping up with whatever comes my way with pleasure. I’m taking the best of everything with a positive attitude. Blessed by God in the name of Jesus Christ!
Name: Miss M
Brain Injury: Mother drank during pregnancy. Diagnosed with static encephalopathy (brain damage from Etoh) Aquired TBI – not her fault, damaged before birth. Small in size, short, low weight all her life. FASD…? TBI
Explanation of Mask: The mask is covered in hearts peace signs, symbols of love, because this is what my daughter is to me. The feathers show she can fly, do whatever she wants to do. The red eyes are for her anger, my anger, her red hot drive to be successful in life. She is successful a single mother of 2, one is a diabetic since birth. As her mother I am guilty of drinking when I was pregnant with her. I was an OB nurse –> in the 1970’s we did not yet know about FASD…. Now we do and NO One should consume Alcohol when pregnant. I am sad about what my daughter had to suffer. I regret what I took from her, making her life harder… She is now 37 years old, beautiful, educated, and working to help other families who have children with disabilities. We have survived, but now I know – If I had to do over again I would never drink when pregnant.
Name: James and Michelle L.
City: Eagle River
Brain Injury: James has FAS
Explanation of Mask: James and mom choose colors for different emotions. Red – angry, mad, frustrated, black – chaos + sadness, orange = happy and pink = calmness/ calming down.
James painted the mask with what he was feeling today about himself + being special. It has been a big hard day for him. The challenges he faces daily and today look like this mask.
Name: Nathan + family
City: Eagle River
Brain Injury: Our son and brother has FAS
Explanation of Mask: “Orange is happy and red is mad.” Sometimes we are so happy but having a family member who has a lot of needs leaves us feeling isolated, frustrated, alone, scared. It can be a confusing dynamic having so much love but also contradicting emotions.
Name: Cheri M.
Brain Injury: TBI – Repeated car accidents visual/ perceptual damage, chronic vertigo, aphasia; memory loss
Explanation of Mask: How to describe what it’s like to live in a world where almost every visual stimulus is an attack – running the gamut from mildly disturbing to dropping me to the floor in a state of overwhelmed vertigo and confusion. The aphasia? Well sometimes it’s just plain funny. Remember – an eggplant is NOT an elephant. The memory loss = scary. My ace in the hole –> MY FAMILY. Which mostly understands; always supports; never fails to make the joke about how absurd life can be. Above all – it’s exhausting.
Name: Katie M.
City: Anchorage, AK
Brain Injury: My mom was in multiple car crashes resulting in permanent neck and shoulder damage and a brain stem injury.
Explanation of Mask: I tried to represent the world my mom lives in. The black band across the eyes is her changed perception, both physically and in the fog of frustration I know she always feels. The swirls are vertigo, the small red marks pain. The blue and green lines are the outside world invading and overstimulating. The jumbled letters represent all her difficulties communicating, and specifically aphasia and word salad. I chose the darkened base tone because this trauma is like a shadow over my mom – as much as it is part of her now, it’s not who she feels she really is.
Name: Kristen and Leon N./K.
Brain Injury: Brain Cancer
Explanation of Mask: Let son Leon pick out the colors and where they go, my aunt had brain cancer and I was in denial of it for so long hoping she’d get through it and not believing how bad it was getting and things she done cause of it. She was like a mom and named my son with her same middle name. She taught me all sorts of crafts and beadings. Son and I put together earrings for the mask. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t even know how to make earrings or have an interest in crafts. Always remember her whenever I make something, she sparked my imagination and creativity.
Name: Juleesa and Tyvin
Brain Injury: My dad had a stroke and was effected by the heart stroke.
Explanation of Mask: My dad had to be med-vac from Nome Alaska to Anchorage, and was effected by the stroke it caused him to lose some form of his vision. Knowing that he had to be flown out and not knowing what to expect was scary. I am happy to have him even though it took a toll on his well being.
City: Eagle River
Brain Injury: Car Accident was what brought on my TBI, PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression.
Explanation of Mask: Having a TBI, PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression it is a daily struggle. The one expression that has helped me get through all of these every day is “The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow.” This mask shows no matter what you are going thru that you can get past it and stay strong. Remember to always talk to someone and stay strong.
Name: Leticia and Alexander D.
Brain Injury: Shaun D. (son’s father)
Explanation of Mask: Shaun D had a brain injury on 2011 and at that time I was pregnant with Alexander. When Shaun woke up from the coma, I had to wait to tell him about my pregnancy. Alexander and I decide to make this mask together and show our creativity.
Name: Carter Family
Brain Injury: coma 1980 car rollover with friends.
Explanation of Mask: This describes a mask that is made for my father who sustained traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 1980 that left him in a coma for several weeks. Luckily he was able to take his mask off returning back to us all.
Name: Viana R. S.
Brain Injury: I know a teen who suffered from a brain tumor and had surgery. His recovery is rough, but thank God he is alive.
Explanation of Mask: My mask represents who you are. My mask represents my Puerto Rican culture. Remember your ancestors who they are and what they did for you. Mine represents my Taino Indian culture and my African culture.
Name: Margret H-L
Brain Injury: While roller blading on the concrete floor of my art studio I fell and hit my head. I was hospitalized. I hadn’t worn a helmet. Later, I was asked to be in a “Wear a Helmet” commercial. I was filmed and interviewed and made an infomercial urging everyone who skates, bicycles, etc. to “wear a helmet.”
Explanation of Mask: The title is “Guardian Angel.” The expression is sad, rather introspective, reflecting responsibility for protection and failure to protect. The color blue, the hue of the halo around the face, is symbolic of protection.
Name: Pat C.
City: Ketchikan, AK
Brain Injury: Fell 6 ½ feet landing face first on gravel; rocks. Uncons. for about 5 ½ months – 1947 facial fxs, spinal fx. Out of school for almost 2 years. Retaught at home.
Explanation of Mask: Who the yellow queries. The key to my gears and ball bearings. Black shows the loss of hearing, sight and sense of smell.
Who would I have been if this did not happen. Lived, have a life, loved have contentment and happiness even with the holes. Still wonder who and what would I have been and done.
Name: Jessi C.
Brain Injury: Rollover car crash Jan 21, 2006 anoxial brain injury, complete paraplegic
Explanation of Mask: Red for Anger, Black for despair. The braid for Irish + Native Heritage. Fish + bubbles for Air. (word) Anger in my nose because I am able to breathe fire. White feathers for Alaska Native. Tears for not being a Taxpayer, but only 4 tears. Metal feather for my Eagle Moiety.
North Star for twilight.
Name: Jos G.
City: Ketchikan . AK
Brain Injury: A car accident in Anchorage where the car was demolished. I woke up 3 days later in the hospital It took me about 5 years to get usable help.
Explanation of Mask: The black is the loss of memory that comes and goes.
The white is what was/is left over. The gray is what has been relearned and recovered.
Name: Janalee G.
Brain Injury: 20 Ton Boulder came through a Beauty Shop. Throwing me out of the chair crushing my left leg. I hit my head on the sink.
Explanation of Mask: Words and fragments of self doubt would constantly plague me through my years of recovery. I saw and felt the isolation that occurred from those around me. My independence stolen from me and my inability to concentrate didn’t help.
Today I am doing much better, but I still have moments where I am my worst enemy. Today I work hard advocating for others and myself I sit on the city council and several nonprofits I work on my photography and every chance I get I educate those who need to be regarding the challenges and worth of all of us who walk through life with a disability. Even through the doubt I know it is just those who prefer to quiet me, and I will not go quietly.
Name: Charles H.
Brain Injury: Motorcycle accident 3-10-2010
Explanation of Mask: Making new memories is hard and frustrating. It is also harder to comprehend and retain details. Distractions and brain energy can cause me to forget a person’s name or what I was currently thinking. The top of mask is my brain energy used to question my environment. Confusion that comes with it. “Stop” my constant dizziness and seizures. Zzzz is how tired my brain becomes over stimulated each day. Right side of face is the empathy and compassion I have gained for people with disabilities. I am happy with recovery I have achieved and continue to gain. Left side is the frustration over what I was and who I am now.
Name: Natalie M.
Brain Injury: Domestic, fell downstairs, when little, also fell off top bunk bed ruff on body
Explanation of Mask: Confusion Mexico, USA, partner father of daughter, son, mixed messages try to come to a better strength in my mind and get my daughter back from DHS I have lots of hope to finish what court wants which is treatment improve my self worth and be a better parent or parents
Name: Merle N. H.
Brain Injury: Parkinson (brain injury undisclosed)
Explanation of Mask: Parkinson rocked my world 2017 – diagnosed. Went from being a confident, helpful, courageous, decisive, enthusiastic, optimistic, determined, valuable, glorious, glowing, engaged woman on committees, in leadership positions as member of my community to being overwhelmed, fearful, indecisive, horrified, pessimistic, cheated, helpless, ashamed, guilty, isolated, sad, suicidal, anxious, panic attacks, hopeless, surviving, grieving, exhausted, drug addicted (again) after 20 yr clean. Part of my brain died but I am overcoming through physical therapy, exercise, counseling and faith. My mantra “I have amazing Resiliency”. Howaa Salaanaa Haida language Thank You Father GOD