The Masks

Arizona

In partnership with

 

Name: Grace                        

City: Surprise, AZ

Brain Injury: Concussion, memory loss.  Playing a soccer game, got pushed, fell and hit my head on turf.  Suffered memory loss from the start and lost most normal abilities: speaking, walking etc.

Explanation of mask: My mask shows how a brain injury like mine is invisible.  When I get a scratch, you know I have a scratch.  When I bump my head and forget everything, you wouldn’t know.   I care a lot about the way I look, so if I look fine people assume I feel fine; this is not true.  I have a lot of headaches when it feels like my head is on fire, I am always tired and my memory is foggy.  Even though all this is going on, I look like any other teenager.  Looking normal and happy is not the same as feeling normal and happy.  I hope the message shows through my mask.

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Name: Gabriel A.                        

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: Strokes, Periventicular Leukomalacia (PVL) I caught an infection in the hospital after I was born. I was on life support For three months, suffered two strokes, lack of oxygen, brain bleeds, and many more complications from RSV- Respiratory Syncytial Virus.

Explanation of mask: Most of my injury is on the right side of my brain. I was never expected to walk, talk, or fee myself. With help from my family, friends, specialists, and countless hours of therapy, I can do all of the above. Today I am nine years old and live with Cerebral Palsy and epilepsy. I have cognitive delays, but, none of that stops me. I love to sing and perform for people. I focus on the POSITIVES, not the things I can’t do.

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Name: Kayla R.                        

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: A.B.I MEDJULLO BRAIN TUMOR/STAGE 4 CANCER Out o the blue at age 12 I was depressed, frail, throwing up, not eating, pale, losing my balance and rapidly losing weight.

Explanation of mask: I want people to know that it is not easy going thru a brain injury. It might not be visible as opposed to being physically apparent. Just because it is INVISIBLE does not mean we do not suffer.  It pretty much STINKS unless someone is willing to take the time TO LISTEN AND NOT JUDGE.  I used pink for my grandmother, orange for my grandfather, and  yellow for my boyfriend who has Spina-Bifida.

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Name: Marcus S.                       

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) I was skateboarding on the street when I was hit by a truck.

Explanation of mask: Grey symbolizes the life I have always had. The three gold dots symbolize my appreciation for the stars, clouds, and sun and they are placed where my SCARS on my face from the accident are.

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Name: Brad K.                      

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) I woke up in the hospital with an IV in my arm.  I had been in a motorcycle accident, but I have absolutely NO MEMORY of it. I had a concussion and damage to my hand.

Explanation of mask: The line on my forehead is the scar from my accident.

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 DISABILITIES ARE JUST ABILITIES IN DISGUISE!

DISABILITIES ARE JUST ABILITIES IN DISGUISE!

Name: William M.                     

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: When I was born my skull was broken by my mom’s pelvic bone and I as born with HYDROCEPHALUS (excess fluid around the brain).

Explanation of mask: I want people to know that brain injuries are just a wall that CAN be climbed & overcome.

 

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Name: Rick A.                     

City: Sun City West, AZ

Brain Injury: HEMORRHAGIC STROKE I went to get ready for work and collapsed on the floor. After I did not show for work for two days, someone came to check on me and found me on the floor.

Explanation of mask: GREEN is CONFUSION YELLOW is FRUSTRATION RED is DETERMINATION BLUE is ACCEPTANCE

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Name: Jordan C.                    

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: Asperger’s Syndrome

Explanation of mask: In my childhood I felt like I was alone in the world.  I only had one friend my age. My mother and I fought all the time.  I was going through an extremely rough patch in my life.  It wasn’t until I was 16 that I realized I wasn’t alone.  By the time I was 17, I had worked through a few of my issues and was ready to assimilate myself somewhat back into society.  However, it wasn’t to be as easy as going home. I was put into a group home and had problems almost immediately.  However, after working through those as well I was ready for new placement. I’ve been doing fairly well ever since. My mother & I have been mending our relationship. I have however, lost touch with my friend. Even though I’ve lost touch with one friend, I’ve gained more friends in the process.

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Name: Amy B.                   

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: NEUROCYTOMA and MENINGIOMA

Explanation of mask: I get severe headaches, have memory loss, and a result of my illness I lost my job where I had worked for 9 years. I have had 5 surgeries and this has all been devastating and my life has taken a detour.  But, I feel blessed because God has brought me through it.

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Name: Erik M.                    

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI), POINT 3 INJURY My friend and I were driving home from a party, I was in the passenger seat and a semi-truck driver struck our vehicle, hitting the passenger side where I was.  The driver of the semi was drunk.

Explanation of mask: The green symbolizes my CRASH. The blue symbolizes my PAIN at the moment. The white symbolizes the COMA I was in for 12 months. The gray symbolizes my RECOVERY. The light blue symbolizes the LIGHT OF MY LIFE. The stickers symbolize GETTING BETTER!

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Name: Leah M.                   

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) I was on the back of my boyfriends motorcycle, wishing I could drive. When I looked up there was an 18 wheeler coming towards us. It hit us from the side. The semi killed my boyfriend.

Explanation of mask: The purple represents my favorite color. The color on my lips & eyebrows represents going out on the town on the weekends.

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 Never Give Up

Never Give Up

Name: Jessie R.                  

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) Bicycle accident when I was 10 years old and at 19 while working in construction.

Explanation of mask: I WAS A HARD WORKER IN LIFE WHEN I WORKED IN CONSTRUCTION AND HAD TBI. I WAS STRONG AND I NEVER GAVE UP. NEVER, EVER GIVE UP!

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Name: Jordan B.                 

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: I was riding an ATV and hit a tree going about 50 mph. I wasn’t wearing a helmet resulting in damage to the front right side of my brain. It was bad enough that it was necessary for the doctors to remove it as well as put metal on that entire side of my head.

Explanation of mask: The silver represents the metal in my face. The part that is cut out represents the missing part of my brain.

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Name: Alexander T.                

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)

Explanation of mask: My mask is about losing someone whom I loved very much. The colors represent my feelings:  ANGER, SADNESS, DISAPPOINTMENT, ANXIETY, FRUSTRATION, HURT, PAIN, AFRAID, LOVE and BRAVERY. My mask represents a WARRIOR. I am a brave person who survived a very tragic loss.

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 HOPE

HOPE

Name: Susan N.               

City: Flagstaff, AZ

Brain Injury: WIFE/CAREGIVER OF BILL NEWLIN TBI SURVIVOR My husband fell while ice skating and had 5 hospital stays in 2 months.They drilled holes in his head to relieve blood and he later needed a craniotomy.  One year later he was hospitalized with trigeminal neurology. Bill has constant daily headaches and anxiety.

Explanation of mask: Life dealing with TBI is a stormy sea sometimes, but with the light from the sun breaking thru there is HOPE. I am grateful that it is not worse. Bill lives with daily pain and what he describes as a “crazy spinning feeling.” It is sadly overwhelming sometimes.

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 1or2

1or2

Name: Bill N.              

City: Flagstaff, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) I was ice skating and fell on my chin.  I have no of the day until a week later. I was in the I.C.U. 5 times for burr holes and finally a craniotomy.  I also have a tear on I also have trigeminal neuralgia which feels like lightning bolts shooting throughout my head.

Explanation of mask: My mask shows the drill holes from the craniotomy.  When I closed my eyes I would see orange dots. The “1 or 2” represents figuring out problems which were easy before. The whirl-wind is the crazy spinning feeling that NEVER goes away. The lightning bolts represent the PAIN in my head and face. The carotid artery shows the tear that has not healed.

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Name: CJ             

City: Florence, AZ

Brain Injury: SHAKEN BABY SYNDROME AT 3 MONTHS OLD CAUSED A TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY(TBI)

Explanation of mask: At three-months of age CJ was shaken violently by his caregiver, causing a traumatic injury to his brain.  His abuser was held responsible for his actions and served jail time.  Since then, CJ and his family began the lifelong journey of navigating a pediatric brain injury. CJ is QUICK TO ANGER and sometimes can not control his emotions.

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Name: Destiny             

City: Florence, AZ

Brain Injury: CAREGIVER TO HER 4 SIBLINGS. POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD) from abuse as a child by her stepfather

Explanation of mask: I witnessed my brother CJ being abused when he was 3 months old when Shaken Baby Syndrome led to a pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I work had everyday to help my mother with my 4 siblings. My mask represents how my brother feels as a TBI survivor. The black represents my DEPRESSION from witnessing the horrific abuse done to CJ and also from the abuse and assault I have gone through personally.

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Name: Rexanne H.            

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: CAREGIVER/MOTHER to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Survivor

Explanation of mask: Each spot represents a feeling of what I experience as a CAREGIVER to my son who experienced his TBI at the age of 30 years old. The feeling of HOPELESSNESS, UP’S and DOWNS, ANGER and GUILT, but then HAPPINESS, LOVE, AND EMPOWERMENT of wanting to help my son succeed! While the color green represents the forever TBI that taught me how to LIVE AND GROW with my son Jeramy.

Name: Jeramy H.            

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) TBI resulting from an institution riot

Explanation of mask: The green side represents my TBI and how everything is questionable. I am learning about myself all over again.The orange side represents the place the injury took place and showing I will always be a prisoner of my own mind. The number represents my AZ prison number. The red and black represents the love and pain of life and how the struggle will never end. The bat symbol and the 100% tells all that I am sure of, everything that happened and that I will strive for 100% excellence.

 CRACKED

CRACKED

Name: Elana D.           

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: CAREGIVER My wife had a work-related TBI when a 170-pound keg of beer fell on her head as she was working as a brewer.

Explanation of mask: This is the mask I wear as a CAREGIVER. I’m constantly trying to hold it all together, but I too have been INJURED and CRACKED in their journey. My wife’s journey has brought some of the darkest thoughts and feelings, but also moments of profound triumphs, growth,and light.

 SMILE

SMILE

Name: Haylee R.           

City: Florence, AZ

Brain Injury: My brother CJ, sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) at 3 months old, as a result of SHAKEN BABY SYNDROME.

Explanation of mask: My brother can be mean as a result of his TBI. He gets very angry and has emotional outbursts. But I did not want the mask to be sad, as it is a very sad thing that happened to my brother. Instead, did the opposite with my mask and made it HAPPY. CJ’s favorite colors are pink, red, and blue. These colors make him happy so I used those to make him SMILE.

 Gemini Sign

Gemini Sign

Name: Jim L.           

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: January 27th, 2006 while walking out of a sports bar to get some air, I was struck below the left temple with a 9mm bullet. The bullet is still inside my head where it is causing tremendous pain.  The shockwave from the bullet damaged my optic nerve and caused me to go blind in my left eye. The nerve damage caused, left me paralyzed on the left side of my face.

Explanation of mask:  My mask is figurative and literal expression of my injury. The inverse profile is of the Gemini Twins. I am a Gemini and this represents the two sides since the TBI.  The two colors and their intensity relate to my feelings and how they have changed (intensified) since my TBI. I show the bullet hole in the location of where it actually struck my face. I have used glow-in-the-dark paint to represent where the bullet fragments are located in my face/head. This is also where all of the pain that I endure is located.  At the top of the forehead of the mask in glow-in-the-dark paint is the Gemini Sign.

Name: Ron L.          

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) and CONCUSSION I have had many injuries to my head over the years, the first one when I was 4 years old. My 6th injury was when I was riding a ATV 9 years ago, without wearing a helmet, and fell off an embankment about 20 feet and slammed my head into a giant boulder.

Explanation of mask:  The mask is simple but represents what my brain feels like sometimes now. Sometimes when I wake and get out of bed it seems like I’m heading into a dust storm on a road and can’t turn around, so I just keep going. The rest of the day I am stumbling around because even though I can see, it all seems fuzzy and blurry in my head, like walking around in a dust storm. MY BRAIN GETS CONFUSED and this gets me very FRUSTRATED and SOMETIMES ANGRY with things and people. I often seem to end up alone where things seem quieter and less complicated. But with daily progress I am thankful that my “FUZZY DAYS” don’t happen very often so I can enjoy life, be productive and have fun.

 

 US

US

Name: Tona & Mateo          

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TONA AND MATEO are Hunkpapa Lakota Tribal members of the Standing Rock Lakota Nation from Ft. Yates, North Dakota.  They have lived in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale, Arizona for 17 years.  Mateo sustained a TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) at 5 months old, caused by SHAKEN BABY SYNDROME.  They decided to participate in the Unmasking Brain Injury Project to explain how cultural teachings and practices have created the support needed to manage a life with TBI.

Explanation of mask: 

TONA’S EXPLAINATION OF HER MASK AS A CAREGIVER.  Turquoise is her favorite color and stone.  Her mask has the other half of the heart shape to represent her love for Mateo.  The HEART SHAPE is surrounded by buffalo tracks to represent the protection provided to buffalo calves by their mothers.  Tona has mastered the skill of utilizing her INNER WARRIOR STRENGTH (which every parent of a child with a disability has, but may not realize) to effectively advocate for Mateo as she is teaching him this skill to use for himself now that he is an adult.  There have been several unfortunate incidents experienced by Tona and Mateo when “professionals” (school and medical) demonstrated disrespectful and sometimes unethical behavior.  There were separate IEP meetings where a Principal and an elementary teacher both lost their temper and yelled at Tona and Mateo.  Tona and Mateo never yelled back because they understand that their actions represent their ancestors.  From these experiences, Tona taught Mateo that adults behaving badly was a lesson for him to learn how not to act.

Tona’s mask has a BRAID OF SWEETGRASS on the side because she has witnessed the POWER OF PRAYER AND CEREMONY in the remarkable progress that Mateo has made with living each day has a TBI survivor.  Tona also frequently smudged Mateo for his own protection and well-being before he went to school each day (especially during 7th grade) and when he came home from school as well.

The half of the LAKOTA STAR DESIGN on Tona’s mask represents the same acknowledgement as the one on Mateo’s mask.  There is a SCAR AND A TEAR to represent the healed physical/emotional wounds and GRIEF/LOSS both Tona and Mateo have experienced as a result of TBI, respectively.  Even though they occurred in the past, they are still part of the journey, and it was during those dark times that the most significant GROWTH AND STRENGTH WAS DISCOVERED.

In Lakota, the word “WAWOKIYA” means “TO GIVE FREELY” and help others with out expecting anything in return.  This is the example Tona sets for Mateo with the hope that he too will continue to live his life demonstrating this fundamental teaching.  The 5 TIPS on Tona’s mask represent the work that she currently does, providing Special Education Advocacy services to Native families and students. The BEADS around the edge of the combined masks represent the COLLECTIVE POWER AND IMPORTANCE of each moment in life and are a reminder that they are a gift from Creator, NOT TO BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED.

 

MATEO’S EXPLAINATION OF HIS MASK AS A TBI SURVIVOR.  Mateo graduated from Westwood Hogh School in Mesa, Arizona in May 2015 with 10 years of perfect Attendance and on the Principal’s Honor Roll.  The colors of his high school were blue and orange, which he used as the main colors of his mask.  Mateo chose to use a HEART shape to connect the two masks to represent the BOND between caregivers and survivors, because both lives are greatly affected bu his TBI.  Within the heart are the colors of the 4 directions of the MEDICINE WHEEL and each one has a meaning and specific teachings about HOW TO LIVE LIFE in emotional, spiritual, social, and physical balance.  These cultural teachings have provided guidance to Mateo throughout his life and are a strength when new challenges emerge.

Mateo was in Special Education classes during elementary school.  About one month into 7th grade he told his mother that he did not like his classes and that the teacher left them alone and he said it felt like “someone put him in a crib ad forgot about me.” This was not the educational experience his mother wanted for him so they fought the system and he was able to attend regular classes with his non-disabled peers. Mateo’s mother told him that it would not be easy and he would have to put in extra time and effort to bridge the gap between the Special Ed classes and the regular curriculum. His hard work paid off and he was always on the Honor Roll.

Mateo chose to include a BUFFALO on his mask because animals provide valuable teachings.  The buffalo faces snow storms on the plains and walks into and through them, which gets it through the storm faster than if it stayed in place.  Mateo has used this teaching in his own life many times when learning new skills, facing racism, discrimination & bullying, and it has helped him remain focused on his goals.

The CAT PAW PRINTS represent his two fur children, they provide entertainment and are emotional support cats.

The WAVES represent the powerful element of water-water is life and nothing stops it because it always finds a way around, under, over or through any obstacle to reach its destination.  Mateo went though many years of occupational and speech therapy and NEVER GAVE UP!

Mateo is now 22 years old and a full time college student majoring in Graphic Design & Theater at Scottsdale Community College.  Mateo has become an ADVOCATE for Native youth, using his voice to help others, and is a member of the Arizona Youth Leadership Forum and has participated as a delegate, staff member and executive board member.  He is the only Native youth to be invited to Partners in Leadership disability advocacy training program.

He has the LAKOTA STAR to represent his connection to his ancestors.  He was taught that he comes from generations of STRENGTH and to live his life in a way that makes his ancestors proud and honors the sacrifices they made during their lifetime, with his generation in mind.

 

 New Me

New Me

Name: Tommy L.          

City: Queen Creek, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) I was in a car accident on the freeway going 70-75 miles per hour and  was T-boned on the drivers side.

Explanation of mask: My brain is “BLUE” of CONFUSION that has created many different feeling and emotions that I am not familiar with such as being SCARED IN PUBLIC, ANXIETY, or times when I CAN’T GET OUT OF THE CAR.  The confusion brings your brain to create LIES and ANGER that you need to overcome. With appreciation for those that have tried to understand with kind words and actions as this brought HOPE and POSITIVITY that I remember once having and bringing so  many smiles to others from the hugs they are giving me.  Through this “growth” from the darkness has emerged a “NEW ME” that I am now trying to know and share with you so that you can BE AWARE AND ALIVE! Much love to you all, Tommy.

Name: Chris S.         

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: Stroke

Explanation of mask: THE OLD…I COACHED, I TAUGHT, I LOVED. NOW…I AM CONFUSED. I HURT. I TOOK SOMEONE FOR GRANTED.

Name: Vera G.         

City: Prescott, AZ

Brain Injury: CONCUSSION/WHIPLASH I fell off the chair in the computer lab and hit my head on the metal chair and desk

Explanation of mask: I hope that I can get back to NORMAL. I am CONFUSED.  I AM WORRIED. I AM CONFLICTED ABOUT WHAT TO DO, or WHERE I want to live. I am concerned about my two children and five grandchildren.

 OLD LAURA

OLD LAURA

Name: Laura L.        

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: ANOXIC TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) SEVERE TBI from an automobile accident.

Explanation of mask: 17+ YEARS UNINJURY   VS.  17+ YEARS WITH INJURY My mask illustrates the difference in my personality from before and after my accident.  BEFORE, I WAS AMBITIOUS AND SERIOUS. NOW I AM GOOFY, AND GENERALLY CONTENT. KEEPING HER SMILE ALWAYS, NEW LAURA RETAINS SOME OF THE OLD LAURA.

Name: Ryan B.       

City: Casa Grande, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) from falling off a roof.

Explanation of mask: IT HURT! But, it will feel better once “I GET THIS THING PUT BACK IN (Bone Flap)!”

 We Can Be Seen

We Can Be Seen

Name: Erin D.      

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: MILD TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). While I was working as a beer brewer, a full keg weighing in at 170 pounds was dropped on the back of my head.

Explanation of mask: This work is a before and after depiction of my TBI and journey. I was a joyful optimist without any worries or cares. Once that keg was dropped on my head, I became angry and incredibly resentful of the people who caused me this pain.  I was confused about my brain injury and why I’m not fixed yet. The chronic pain and dizziness might not go away, but with therapy and care the resentment can almost go away and resilience takes over. Please understand that the invisibility of brain injury has made me vulnerable, but with EDUCATION and SUPPORT  WE CAN BE SEEN!!!

Name: Joshua L.     

City: Flagstaff, AZ

Brain Injury: MULTIPLE CONCUSSIONS FROM SKATEBOARDING 30+ YEARS

Explanation of mask: The mask represents my multiple concussions. The red pipe cleaners are in the exact locations where I have shed blood from falls and hits to the head. The back hand covering my face symbolizes “BLACKING OUT” and what one does when they hit their head; rub their head. The mask also symbolizes the FRUSTRATION that this has happened multiple times. I have been skating since I was five years-old and I have had too many concussions to count. I have lost years of my life to MEMORY LOSS, but I accept the risks of skateboarding because I love it.

 Phoenix Rising From the Ashes

Phoenix Rising From the Ashes

Name: James B.    

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: Severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): I sustained my TBI on October 2012, the same month that I returned home from serving four years in the United States Navy. I was thrown from my motorcycle 35’ into a dirt field, landing on my head sustaining a severe TBI. I was on life-support for a week, followed by a month long coma.

Explanation of mask:  My TBI is the ashes in which the Phoenix that is on fire for the Lord and intends to make a significant impact within the Brain Injury Community was born. It is only because of God’s Love and grace, he allowed me to survive and excel in my recovery. He used my TBI to restore my relationship with Him and become the person he intended me to be.  Through many years of rehab addressing my many deficits, I developed the skills needed to return to school where I thrived. I was accepted to GCU (Grand Canyon University) and will be graduating in December 2018. Although having to learn life’s new “norm” has been a long road of challenges, I would still choose this norm over my pre-accident norm.  My TBI doesn’t define me, but instead I define the presence and role my TBI has within my life.

Name: Daryl J.   

City: Ahwatukee, AZ

Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Two guys followed me out of a bar and hit me several times with a baseball bat in the back of the head until I passed out. I woke up in the E.R. and was in the hospital for 6 months.

Explanation of mask: The mask shows where I was hit by the hands pointing to the back of the head. The tears represent the total SADNESS about how my life changed.

 Only Think About the Positives In Life!

Only Think About the Positives In Life!

Name: Chad A.    

City: Gilbert, AZ

Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Explanation of mask: “Only Think About the Positives In Life!” Don’t let the disabilities hold you down. Although I am pretty much slow with everything, including speech and actions, I am still good with numbers and accounting! The numbers on my mask represent the POSITIVES and good.

 Disconnected Brain

Disconnected Brain

Name: Buck C.   

City: Surprise, AZ

Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)- Multiple exposure to counter explosives while in the US ARMY 00-11.

Explanation of mask: My mask represents the disconnected brain. The loss of high functions (they are “turned off”). Distorted sense (sight and hearing).

 Internal & External

Internal & External

Name: Paul J.     

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: Car Accident- A night out with my girlfriend and a few friends turned into a two-day coma, seizure, and blood clot in my left cerebral cortex. My girlfriend was the driver and poorly timed a left turn at a intersection when we were struck my an oncoming car which caused my head to strike the interior with the right side of my head, causing my brain to slam against the inside of my skull.

Explanation of mask: The white arrows represent the consequences of the injury to my brain, both internal and external. The arrows depict the conflicting emotions and actions which have resulted, separated by the red line to depict the division. The red line represents the distinction between the internal effects of the injury to my brain, and its external effects. The black arrows represent the external effects and the various ways in which my internal brain injuries manifest themselves in my external daily life. The hopes and dreams of my youth have become the challenges of my adult life.

 Faith

Faith

Name: Pamela P.   

City: Prescott, AZ

Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)- I had two concussions as a teenager from car accident. I also had a concussion from hitting a tree in my 40’s. My TBI was from a horrible car accident when I was 49.

Explanation of mask: The black area is where the damage occurred (frontal lobe and left parietal lobe). It also represents the many dark time I’ve faced through my recovery. The cross represents my faith which I leaned on during the past 3 ½ years. The daisy represents the happy times I’ve managed to have.

 Bolt

Bolt

Name: Kirk T.   

City: Sun Lakes, AZ

Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)- fell 15′ onto my head while snow skiing.

Explanation of mask: Life completely changed after TBI- lighting bolt represents a split in my life. But I wouldn’t have married my wife if I had not had TBI. Green heart represents how I am back in life again, married 1 year, living in Sun Lake- retirement community.

 Ups & Downs

Ups & Downs

Name: John B.    

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)- night out with some friends. Had a few drinks and decided to drive my bike home. While driving I got flagged down by the police. Instead of pulling over I gassed it and lost complete control. I ended up crashing into a tree and boom blacked out!

Explanation of mask: My mask represents me. The left side is black with a cop car to represent my accident while the right side of the mask is yellow to show my recovery and my long hair flow before the injury. The tree represents growth over the years while also representing the cause of my injury. There are ups and downs, but I’ve learned to stay anchored through it all!

 Strong

Strong

Name: Cazoshay W.  

City: Peoria, AZ

Brain Injury: Concussion & Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)- I was struck by a car traveling 48mph while in a pedestrian crosswalk. I was thrown 15’ up and 100’ forward. I sustained multiple injuries, some of which I am still recovering from, including a sever concussion and TBI.

Explanation of mask: My mask depicts my life before and after the accident. Before the accident I lived an active, vibrant life as a yoga and wellness professional. The butterflies represent that I felt free and full of possibilities. Since the accident, which caused nerve damage, concussion and TBI among other injuries. I feel like I live in darkness, robbed of my former life. The words on the right side of the mask express my experience after the accident. The three overlapping parts (the cross, the word ‘strong’ and my smile) represents what has stayed consistent both before and after the injuries. My faith, strength and positive outlook have helped me cope with living with a traumatic brain injury.

 Not Letting PTSD Defeat Me

Not Letting PTSD Defeat Me

Name: Amy L.

City: Flagstaff, AZ

Brain Injury: I have post-traumatic stress disorder from childhood abuse and sexual trauma that occurred while I was in the military. I have symptoms including hyper-vigilance, flashbacks, anxiety, and depression. 

Explanation of mask: The words represent all the negativity associated with living with PTSD. The rainbow colors represent hope and not letting PTSD defeat me.

 Miracle After Miracle

Miracle After Miracle

Name: Leah B. 

City: Flagstaff, AZ

Brain Injury: On January 19, 2008 I was in a near-fatal motor vehicle accident. We rolled eight times and I was life flighted to St. Joes. I had multiple skull fractures and ended up with 45 staples in my head. I also had traumatic brachial plexus injuries (BPIs), which is an injury to the nerves in the neck and shoulder. 

Explanation of mask: Before my accident things were in order and controlled. Then, after darkness. Thru the darkness the light came back slowly. Even though my life is different and difficult, I feel that is when my life began. My healing story is full of miracle after miracle. My faith in God has brought me through and all the doctors and therapists he put in my path. The continued love of and support of my family and friends makes me grateful every day. Even through things are fuzzy, painful, and confusing, I continue to choose joy because I am alive and loved. Thank you. 

 Bright Future

Bright Future

Name: Tim P. 

City: Flagstaff, AZ

Brain Injury: Caregiver

Explanation of mask: We use to travel to Mexico before my wife had her TBI. On the right our future is unknown, but it will be beautiful once we figure it out.

 The Mask I Wear

The Mask I Wear

Name: Margarita 

City: Flagstaff, AZ

Brain Injury:  I rolled my car off a hill four times. I hit my head in the process and received a TBI. Additionally, genetic testing revealed I have a progressive neurological disorder, Ataxia.

Explanation of mask: I am no longer the person I was. I am broken. I am stuck between the person I was, who I am now, and who I will be when my disease progresses. I fear for my future and for those around me who love and care for me. What will happen when I am no longer able to be a professional, wife, or mother? But, every day I put on a mask and keep going. I will keep doing this for as long as I can. 

 Self Portrait

Self Portrait

Name: Sean K. 

City: Flagstaff, AZ

Brain Injury:  I have had several concussions from multiple activities, including car accidents, cycling, basketball, racquetball, football, and softball. I have never had a brain scan to understand the damage.

Explanation of mask: I could only think of the realities of all that has happened so I did a self-portrait. I have items to represent each injury. The red and white flag represents the glove box I dented with my head when I was at the age of two. The band-aid is something I always wanted so that people would have a visible cue to know about my disability. The injuries have made me the person I am today. I am thankful for all of the lessons throughout my life, but I would prefer to have had them without the brain damage.

 Energy

Energy

Name: Susan I.

City: Flagstaff, AZ

Brain Injury:  I most likely had an anoxic brain injury at birth.

Explanation of mask: The forehead represents connection to the source of energy and my 3rd Eye. The right cheek represents waves of energy and the left cheek is the moon, stars, and universality. We are star dust. The chin is the Tree of Life. 

Name: Diane D., 65 years old

City: Glendale, AZ

Brain Injury: CARETAKER OF DAUGHTER WITH ARTERIOVENOUS MALFORMATION (AVM) AND HEMATOMA. My daughter, who is now 31 years old, has had THREE AVM’s and brain surgery since she was 8 years old. She continues to have seizures.

Explanation of mask:  Living with a survivor of a brain injury means days can be full of happiness. But, there are also joyful days mixed with frustration and anxiety which is very emotional.

Name: Tyler R.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: Fourth Concussion from playing basketball over the years

Explanation of mask:  The left side of the mask represents life before my concussion occurred and the right side is how my life was affected after the concussion. I have been an athlete my whole life. I have had a few concussions in the past but none as serious as the fourth one. The stress of not knowing if I could play my senior night, finishing out the rest of my senior basketball season, and not knowing if I would ever be able to play the game (which I cannot) I love so much completely melted me. This is represented on the right side with the basketball melting away, the gloomy days and bad thoughts, while the left side is represented by happiness, enjoyment and carefree days.

Name: Keegan L., 16 years old. Sibling of Raymond L. and Nicole L.

City: San Tan Valley, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). Childhood trauma and abuse.

Explanation of mask:  Having a TBI is VERY CHALLENGING. Some of the most difficult feelings I experience are: SADNESS, PAIN, ANGER, and FEAR. I am now part of my adoptive family who loves me very much. I am proud of whom I’ve become and all that I have accomplished. Even when life is hard you must BE BRAVE AND STAY STRONG!

Name: Edward “David” A.

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: While in serving active duty in the United States Air Force, I endured multiple concussions from unwanted physical contact and violence, that was inflicted upon me by my roommates. This happen as I was moving out from our apartment due to their unruly behavior. Then shortly days later, I survived another major traumatic and concussion from a rollover car accident which collapsed the roof of my vehicle while I was trapped inside that totaled both my vehicle and myself. This horrific car accident may have been a resulted from the concussions due to the assault.

Explanation of mask:  The military pins of the three major branches U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy represents all the branches of service I tried to served but struggled with a lot of difficulties after the head injuries I received while serving in the U.S. Air Force.The glitter of various colors around the right eye represents the aura from migraines and seizures as I continue to address the continuing problems of tinnitus, chronic pain and all the difficulties they offer. The red paint represents the blood that poured out of my right eye, from the assault, along with white streaks that represent the of tears of despair. These white streaks should also represent all the misfortunes that occur shortly after the assault. On the left eye there are tears in blue that represents how the emotional pain that continues to this day. Because to this day I am discovering that problems from my injuries are never going to go away and that my original goals and ambitions I once had, are now difficult and mostly unachievable. The butterflies in my head on my mask represent how my thoughts come and go, as they easily flutter and fly away,making it foggy and difficult to focus. At times this happens more than usual. The butterflies also represent resurrection and how now I survived as new person. As a new person I continue to struggle with my difficulties while living in a life that is filled with the painful memories along with challenges, wonders and the joy that today’s world continues to offer.

Name: Bailey B., 19 years old. Sibling of Taylor “Tater Tot” B.

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) due to SHAKEN BABY SYNDROME by a State licensed Child Care Provider.

Explanation of mask:  The Mask represents what I can always REMEMBER about myself….. I Chose Yellow because it’s my favorite color, it represents a bright and happy life I like to keep even with all the doctors appointments and therapies. The different colored Pom-Pom’s represent DANCE and MUSIC which are my motivators and mood enhancers, and…… Sparkles make the world a better place.

Name: Taylor “Tater Tot” B., 5 years old. Sibling to Bailey B.

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: Taylor comes from a line of Mental Health Issues along with having experienced both domestic and emotional abuse from a very young age due to individuals use of drugs and alcohol.

Explanation of mask:  Taylor was adopted from foster care and the mask represents being able to feel safe, safe to let his guard down, safe to learn, safe to find himself and learn to trust and experience people who truly care about his well being.

Name: Samantha H., 45 years old

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURIES (TBI), CONCUSSIONS, STROKES, & BRAIN STEM TUMOR. I’ve had multiple brain injuries in my life. The first was in ’79 when I got kicked in the face by a horse and fell backward onto my head. In ’84 I hit my head on a tree while riding and they discovered an existing brain stem tumor. Throughout my life I’ve had silent strokes. I’ve also had multiple car accidents with concussions and I’ve been violently attacked.

Explanation of mask:  The Ying and Yang, good and bad.

The GRAY AREA on the top of the mask shows only half the brain as people only use half of their brain and the brain has been damaged. People forget that things are not just black and white, there is also a gray area unexplained.

The X’S ABOVE THE EYE represent my concussions that occurred.

The CRACKS in the skull represent head trauma and brain surgery.

The YELLOW LINE represents my shunt and the contrast going through the shunt when the medical assistant made a mistake putting contrast in my shunt.

The TEAR DROPS that fall from the eyes represent all the pain and suffering.

The PURPLE around the eye represents all the abuse that has occurred throughout my life both physical and psychological. The STITCHES on the mouth represent been stigmatized to stay silent. My family has taken advantage of me and they haven’t tried to understand my injuries. The X represents “keep your mouth shut,” as society and some of my family members have tried to keep my mouth shut about the truth. I must be silenced.

The FLAMES coming out of the mouth represent the fiery anger that burns within the dark side. There are impulse control problems with a haywire of emotions and non-filtered words. Brain injury and complex PTSD have meant being REJECTED, ASHAMED, MISUNDERSTOOD, TEASED, BULLIED AND PICKED ON, DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, STIGMATIZED, TARGETED, AND BOXED AND LABELED. The mask has NO EYES BECAUSE BRAIN INJURY IS INVISIBLE, and because of my brain injury I sometimes feel invisible, too.

The RED SPOTS on the chin represent blood from when I was five and was kicked by a horse. The hat represents when half my head was shaved after brain surgery in 1984. I used to wear a beanie to cover up but was bullied and picked on and someone even pulled off my beanie to make fun of me.

Some elements of the mask just represent who I am. Turquoise and black are my colors. The COWBOY HAT shows I am a down-to-earth, rough-tough cowgirl.

Name: Austin A.

City: Gilbert, AZ

Brain Injury: Severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I fell asleep at the wheel while driving.

Explanation of mask:  “Only Think About the Positives In Life!” Don’t let the disabilities hold you down. Although I am pretty much slow with everything, including speech and actions, I am still good with numbers and accounting! The numbers on my mask represent the POSITIVES and good.

Name: Carol L., Caregiver/Wife of Ron L.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). My husband was involved in an ATV accident and thrown into a creek bed. He sustained a TBI and broke multiple ribs.

Explanation of mask:  My mask represents the conflicted EMOTIONS AND STRESS I feel as a spouse. My husband experiences physical and emotional fallout as a result of this injury. He has “brain fatigue, hearing delay and memory and processing challenges. This has been difficult for me as we cannot travel and engage in community activities together. Our faith and love and commitment to each other has been the foundation that we return to as we WALK THE JOURNEY OF LIFE EFFECTED BY HEAD INJURIES TOGETHER!

Name: Tony S.

City: Glendale, AZ

Brain Injury: BRAIN DAMAGE FROM TRAUMA AT BIRTH

Explanation of mask:  I have struggled with many illnesses as a result of my brain damage at birth, ranging from mental health problems to the physical as I am now an amputee who lost my right arm and leg and I am unable to walk. I was diagnosed with Lyme disease at 18 and during an operation I died for 5 minutes. During this time I visited HELL and then HEAVEN where God gave me another chance to survive. My mask represents this and I used the YIN YANG symbol to represent both sides of the POSITIVE (HEAVEN) and the NEGATIVE (HELL) that I have gone thru because of my brain injury. I designed my mask to represent this to illustrate the principle of Yin and Yang where all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites using blue for HEAVEN (YIN) and orange and reds with flames for HELL (YANG).

Name: Gabrielle J.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: I used to party a lot and was not taking care of myself or my health. As a result I had high blood sugar and blood pressure which caused a stroke at the age of 23. The stroke ruined the Pons in my brain, which serve as a message station between several areas of the brain. For me the stroke affected my speech, mobility, and eyesight. I am now blind in one eye and have little use of the other. I was in a wheelchair for 1 ½ years and worked hard with physical therapy so can now walk on my own.

Explanation of mask:  My mask shows two sides to my injury. Before my stroke, I was a very eccentric and an outgoing person. The flowers with the pearls represent this beauty. The black and white represents the darkness that fell over me after my stroke and depicts how I no longer felt like myself. I felt like I looked dead all the time. In all of my life’s mess, I know now this was a wakeup call and it is important to take care of myself. This is my message.

Name: Jennifer T.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI), DIFFUSE AXONAL INJURY. I was in a car collision. A distracted driver in full-size work truck ran a red light and broad sided me in an intersection. I don’t remember it.

Explanation of mask:  Two months before the accident I had just landed my dream job in Phoenix. I was excited, happy, and shiny. The bottom of the mask represents how I was before my brain injury. The jagged black line is how I felt picking up the pieces after the split second that CHANGED EVERYTHING. It was like everything that was me was ripped away. Once the dark time faded and I began to understand my injury and get the cognitive therapy I needed, I gradually started to get better. The faded colors represent the seven-year journey of healing and the top of the mask is how I am today. I try not to focus on the things my brain still has GLITCHES with like noise, reading maps, and finding the right words when I am tired. I work around the glitches. Today I am a different shade of me!

Name: Michelle P.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: BRAIN TUMOR

Explanation of mask:  After surgery, I had difficulty with memory, walking and basic home care. Emotionally, it was difficult to accept the possible changes. My mask is dedicated to some rather special loved ones in my life. Without them or their support, recovery would not been possible. Each of them has contributed to my recovery:

  • DIAMONDS- represent my husband, Bill
  • FLOWERS- my mother
  • CAT STICKERS- each for my furry little faces
  • PURPLE- my favorite color
  • GREEN- my birthstone
  • MOUNTAINS-to remind me of my home in Colorado
  • WHITE- the surgical scar, which like the clouds, may one day fade away

Name: Kuna S., 39 years old

City: Tempe, AZ

Brain Injury: Motorcycle accident. I was wearing a helmet but the accident shook my brain Causing a Traumatic brain Injury (TBI) to my left frontal lobe and loss of my peripheral vision.

Explanation of mask:  Before my accident blowing money was a priority. My TBI caused a deficit that prevented me from being so careless financially. I LOST part of my vision, BUT GAINED A MORE PEACEFUL & BEAUTIFUL LOOK ON LIFE that doesn’t require 20/20 vision. Having or gaining a challenge can lead to a new compensation or help modify/improve something you already have.

Name: Steve C.

City: Tempe, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI)

Explanation of mask:  The left side represents my brain before my injury while the right side represents my jumbled world after losing my family and my career, everything that I knew.

Name: Manny G., The mask was made by Manny’s nephews

City: Gilbert, AZ

Brain Injury: SEVERE TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). Manny was in a rollover car accident on I-10 on his way to Tucson 15 years ago. He was in a coma for three months.

Explanation of mask:  The mask represents all the things Manny loved prior to the accident. FLAG-Manny’s Love for America. Manny had been in training to be a Chandler police officer. BASEBALL-Manny played college baseball.

Name: Marc, N.

City: Scottsdale, AZ

Brain Injury: SEVERE TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I sustained a TBI by falling down a flight of stairs at the Arlington T stop (subway) in Boston on July 11, 2008.

Explanation of mask:  This mask simply encapsulates a lot of my life, post-injury, as I continue on the arduous road with unlimited faith in He who saved my life. As I went through extensive rehabilitation in MA and AZ, my faith in God grew even stronger. While I have memory difficulties, vision problems, and tingling on the left side of my body, I overcame these obstacles by looking at the positive side of life.

On my mask, the broken glass represents my TBI. An artistic feather shows my love of art. The green B shows my love of Boston, my experiences at Fenway Park, while illustrating that it is always on my mind. After my injury, I rediscovered my love for building Legos, painting beautiful works of art, and both working at and going to the theater. Most importantly, the cross represents my faith deeply rooted in love for Jesus Christ and God Almighty!!!

Name: Margaret B.

City: Glendale, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I was born in 1964 and had a happy childhood in Indiana. Around the age of four I was playing in the front yard one day I followed an older child across the street. I was struck by a car because I was not tall enough for the driver to see me.

Explanation of mask:  The yellow side represents before my injury. There was nothing wrong. I had all my amazing cognitive abilities, even a photographic memory. The other side with the broken pieces represents parts of me that are healing and still coming back together. The blue and green pieces are brain fragments that are floating around up there. They aren’t coming together, they are doing their own thing.

Name: Trish H., 56 years old

City: Chandler, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI), passenger in a car.

Explanation of mask:  Life is FRAGILE at the blink of an eye it can change!

Before my accident I was very disciplined and on top of the world. I worked out hours a day…yoga, Zumba, Barr, Pilates and was socializing, traveling, taking workshops and loving life! Now, it is all different and I can barely make it through a yoga class…I AM MENTALLY & PHYSICALLY EXHAUSTED.


A WHOLE NEW CONFUSING WORLD has formed and there is a deep wanting and desire to fit the puzzle pieces back together to get back to my active, fit, pain-free life. But, knowing the pieces have shrunk and some expanded in ways that the puzzle will never fit together the same way again…


WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE? HOW do I embrace this new world with the physical pain, confusion, loss of words, memory loss, phobias, anxiety and my body & brain not communicating the way they did? I am hoping that the deformed pieces will somehow create a beautiful picture of compassion & love in this life and that the forced slowing down will allow me to focus on the beautiful experiences to come. Right now I am needing to TRUST the universe as my life seems to be shattering away the way I once knew it to be. I do not know what the future holds. It IS TIME TO TRUST THE PROCESS and allow myself to let go of the life I once knew… BUT HOW?

Name: Michael W., 52 years old

City: Apache Junction, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I was in a truck accident in 2008 when we were hit head on. I died on the way to the hospital. NOW it is day-to-day survival.

Explanation of mask:  My mask shows my facial scars, that are still noticeable, and how I felt waking up in from a coma. It also expresses how I have LOST SO MANY FRIENDS. It is 10+ years and I still feel the same about my conditions.

Name: Steven L.

City: Glendale, AZ

Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I work for the Arizona Department of Corrections and was assaulted by an inmate when he hit me in the head with his fist.

Explanation of mask:  EYES. I couldn’t believe it happened to me after 24 years working in the prison system.
RIGHT SIDE OF HEAD. The IMPACT! POW!
ORANGE. The inmate and….HIS ISSUE?
BROWN. Prison, and all connected, who helped me.
PURPLE. After returning to work. AFTERMATH.
BLACK. MY FEELINGS about the assault.

Name: Erika N., 9 years old

City: Scottsdale, AZ

Brain Injury: ANOXIC BRAIN INJURY at birth. My heart rate dropped as I entered the world. All I have ever known is a Life with memory difficulties due to the lack of oxygen to my brain during the birth process.

Explanation of mask:  My mask describes how I have changed from before attending cognitive rehabilitation to after. Rehabilitation helped me change my outlook on life and helped me see that having a brain injury is NOT THE WORST THING. It has helped me discover NEW STRENGTHS and HOBBIES.

Name: Francis B., 71 years old

City: Apache Junction, AZ

Brain Injury: POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD). I have experienced substantial trauma when my 11 year old daughter passed away unexpectedly.

Explanation of mask:  My mask represents the most challenging thing I have had to deal with in my life-the loss of my child-my only daughter. I depict this vast devastation and the following painful emotions: sadness, wounded, angst and loss. The loss of a child makes or breaks an individual. I have chosen to be a kind, loving and empathetic person towards others. I am a warm and giving individual who continues to make valuable contributions to this earth. I will always hold my daughter close to my heart and cherish the memories I was given.

Name: Jeremiah S., 24 years old

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: I know many family members/friends who have brain injuries.

Explanation of mask:  FIRE on the bottom to represent ANGER. TEARS to represent GRIEF/SADNESS. LOVE represents LOVE. Music, basketball and video games are my interests and how I can help by BEING MYSELF.

Name: Chris C.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) and APHASIA. I was going 75mph on my motorcycle when a car cut in front of me causing me to drop to the ground. The person in the car took off. The people behind me saved my life!

Explanation of mask:  The black side represents my injury. When I woke up, I thought I was in New York, but I wasn’t. I moved down here to go to Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI) to work on motorcycles, but that is not an option now. The other side represents me in the Air Force. I was in Alaska and overseas twice to Afghanistan and Qatar. I was a staff sergeant when I got out. Now I am rebuilding my life until the end! I thank everyone around me, they are great to me for helping me out.

Name: Anonymous, 18 years old

City: Flagstaff, AZ

Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)- Shot in the head with a nail gun while working construction and building a house.

Explanation of mask:  This mask represents me when was a man but now I am just a regular guy recovering from my injury and trying to get back to my OLD SELF.

Name: Elizabeth M., Mother/Caregiver of Tracey M.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: OLIGODENDROGLIOMA. Brain Tumor found in 1999. Regrowth found in 2010, surgery and radiation. Regrowth 2017, chemotherapy.

Explanation of mask:  My mask represent a happy life for my daughter Tracey before, during, and hopefully after tumors. It shows the amazing strength on Tracey’s part to move forward and survive!

Name: Kristine M., 45 years old

City: Gilbert, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). On July 29, 2018, I was on a boat and the toe rope broke and lodged in the right side of my head. A golf ball size part of my brain had to be removed which impairs my left side and me cognitively.

Explanation of mask:  Life after my brain injury has been very difficult. I have LOST my INDEPENDENCE which is very FRUSTRATING. I also get frustrated that my recovery isn’t happening faster. I am really lucky to have survived and have my memory. I am also appreciative to have one of my best friends as my caregiver and another who helps me with my finances and medical decisions. I really miss my kids. I WANT MY LIFE AND MY FAMILY BACK!

Name: Lisa R., 56 years old

City: Tempe, AZ

Brain Injury: ACOUSTIC NEUROMA, BENIGN BRAIN TUMOR. When I was diagnosed in 2011, I was told “Go directly to St. Joe’s. Do not go home!” I had 3 surgeries to remove the tumor and 8 surgeries due to complications.

Explanation of mask:  The left side of the mask is crying TEARS OF LOSS. They represent the losses I have experienced (such as my balance). The right side represents the gifts I have experienced and they are TEARS OF BLESSINGS. One of the gifts has been the love and support from family and friends. One loss I have regained is being able to drive. The yogi girl on the forehead represents my striving to create balance in my life. The heart at the chin is being grounded in LOVE. By being grounded I can find balance in my life!

Name: Mark C., 31 years old

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: ANOXIC BRAIN INJURY AT BIRTH/TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). The umbilical cord was wrapped around my throat causing a lack of oxygen to my brain. The TBI caused nerve damage that resulted in auditory issues.

Explanation of mask:  My TBI caused learning deficits and I was in Special Education my whole 12 years of school. I also have had problems with impulsivity. I impulsively went with a friend when I was 20 and ended up getting a felony and having to go to jail. I never understood about TBI until my father had his and thru my own research and working with doctors I realized I had one too. I have become a big supporter of the TBI community and always help fellow survivors. I always try to find the POSITIVE in every situation. Yes, I am disabled but I do not let my disability define who I am. I DEFINE WHO I AM AND WANT TO BE. MY DISABILITY IS JUST A PART OF MY LIFE.

Name: Manuel O., 67 years old

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I fell off a ladder while working at my construction job. I was wearing a protective helmet but it broke due to my fall.

Explanation of mask:  My mask is like a remembrance. It reminds me of baseball (a sport I love) and that maybe I will get to return to playing the sport one day.

Name: Maria H.B.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: HEMORRHAGIC STROKE ON THE OCCIPITAL RIGHT LOBE

Explanation of mask:  The mask is a representation of the transition and the feelings I have had until now. The left side is a representation of a very free woman hiking like I used to do. I cut the mask and stapled it to represent the 3 craniotomies I had. The knotted wiring shows how I feel about the damage to my brain connections especially to my eyes which are greatly affected. My face looks like I have been beat up as I believe this injury has done a great job to try and make me want to give up! The red shatter glass on the right is the bleed on the right side. The shiny silver pieces on the right are the gifts that I was able to still contain in my brain and in my spirit. Those shiny specs around my eyes are my ability to see things I could not see before.

The stroke took my ability to see what everyone else can see in the world, but it also gave me the ability to see the blessings and gifts that many people are never able to see. For me the stroke has been an event that has allowed me the time and mental clarity to draw closer to God and begin to see the things I would have missed. The blessings in my life. The remarkable kindness and caring of the world and the invaluable lessons my children are learning about strength through adversity. I feel more blessed now than I ever did and I believe I will be back where I started but wiser, stronger, and more compassionate. I believe that God wanted me to have the time to stop, watch, and listen to the wonderful life I have had.

Name: Kathy K., 68 years old

City: Ahwatukee, AZ

Brain Injury: ANEURYSM. WHEN I WAS ABOUT 17 YEARS OLD, I WAS EXERCISING AND FELL AND HIT MY HEAD WHILE HAVING AN ANEURYSM.

Explanation of mask:  MY WHOLE LIFE WAS CHANGED. MY MASK SHOWS MY HEAD AND THE CONFUSION I HAVE NOW.

Name: Melissa G.

City: Flagstaff, AZ

Brain Injury: MULTIPLE TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURIES (TBI). I experienced my first TBI when I was young (2002) and there was not awareness or care for TBI. I healed and functioned at a full capacity. After having a 2nd TBI at 16 from another rollover car crash, I had more options of therapy and rehabilitation. Thru care and healing I realized the severity of both injuries and the importance to adjust my ENTIRE LIFE to accommodate my “NEW SELF.”

Explanation of mask:  My mask displays myself navigating thru the fears of living everyday life after TWO TBI’s. The splattered dots represent the absence of joy I once knew. The question mark displays the CONSTANT UNKNOWN I still face. The lines across the mouth represent my voice that was shaken and forever changed. The lightning represents physical effects of neck pain, tinnitus, light and noise sensitivity that have improved but are still present. The words around the mask represent the CHALLENGES that I still cope with. The cross shows my faith that has constant support.

Name: Danielle G.

City: Quartzite, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I made the mistake of working where the equipment was inferior. A metal door came open above my head and then fell. I smashed into it and fell. My life has been a living hell ever since then.

Explanation of mask:  The red represents the awful pain I feel every moment. The words express some, but not all my struggles this has caused me. I made flowers on the skull like a Day of the Dead mask because the “OLD ME” is dead and gone for now. I used to do so many things. I loved life and cherished every moment. Now it’s hard to even go for a walk. I WISH I COULD WAKE UP FROM THE NIGHTMARE OF BRAIN INJURY.

Name: Rebecca D., 58 years old

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: GUN SHOT WOUND TO THE HEAD. In 1978, I walked in on a robbery and was shot twice in my face and hit in the head with gun. I was found the next day.

Explanation of mask:  The bullet was removed in my left brain because of a blood clot. The bullet skimmed my right eye where I have partial blindness while my left eye was hit and I have total blindness in that eye. The other bullet went through my mouth and throat and my jaw was broken. My mask shows where the bullets went. My left brain is SCRAMBLED. The black marks on the eyes is where I was BLINDED. I had to relearn how to walk and talk. In 2005, I went back to my horses and lived beyond my dream winning the World Championship. I now help veterans and individuals with disabilities with the horses. In 2015, I finally able to read and comprehend books again!

Name: Shannon M., Mother of Mackenzie G.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). At 16 years of age, the car my son was a passenger in was in an accident. He was a 3 on the Glasgow Coma Scale when he arrived at the hospital. While waiting for the Organ Donor Network to arrive, his vitals improved and new testing confirmed a positive shift in his CT. He had surgery and his skull cap was removed. We were told he would be nothing more than a vegetable. He is not, but he can not be out in the world without supervision. He has social and sexual inappropriateness, which makes him unpredictable and unstable.

Explanation of mask:  January 21, 2007, my LIFE and that of my FAMILY’s CHANGED forever. The truth about TBI is there is no PASSPORT, roadmap, or tour guide to show you the way. The THINGS THAT YOU DON’T KNOW after something like this happens to your child is that it affects every aspect of your life and your family’s emotionally, financially, and physically. Things GET REAL fast.

Name: Carol S., 44 years old. Caregiver for daughter Alicia S.

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: PERIVENTRICULAR LEUKOMALACIA (PVL) BRAIN BLEED. Alicia was born as a micro-preemie. She was born at 26 weeks gestation weighing 1lb 1oz. After her third ultra sound, they discovered a head bleed.

Explanation of mask:  In my mask I tried to show my SPLIT FEELINGS. On one hand I feel grateful that she survived. Alicia is my true miracle, she not only survived, she surpasses expectation that doctors thought she would not be able to accomplish. My life has been so blessed with Alicia in my life. Knowing this gets us through the hard days. The other half of my feelings are CONFUSED, ANGRY, AND SAD all at the same way. There are days that it feels like a dark cloud hanging over us. It’s hard to watch her miss out on what adult 21 year olds enjoy. She will always be at a 10 year-old level.

Name: Devlin C.

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I was in a car accident 5 years ago at 11 years of age. I was in the back seat and sustained a TBI.

Explanation of mask:  BLACK-after the accident I was very sad. When I woke up, my mom was so happy I did not lose my sense of humor, so I added googly eyes. GREEN- I am more drawn to green now and it is the green from Harry Potter. Green also represents new beginnings and growth.

Name: David G., 25 years old

City: Queen Creek, AZ

Brain Injury: The sutures on my head were completely closed- when I was born, all the sutures on my skulls closed completely. I had 3 surgeries to open them and facial surgery because one side was lower than the other side.

Explanation of mask:  The top is before and after my brain injury. The right side represents before my brain injury and left is after. The bottom represents my interest in videogames. The different words represent and describe me as I am today!

Name: Corbin D., 22 years old

City: Ahwatukee, AZ

Brain Injury: ANOXIC BRAIN INJURY

Explanation of mask:  I had an abrasion on my left thumb that became infected. I had surgery and during the surgery I coded resulting in my Anoxic Brain Injury.

Name: Raymond L., 7 years old. Sibling of Keegan L. and Nicole L.

City: San Tan Valley, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI), 3 SKULL FRACTURES AND BRAIN BLEEDS. When I was only 3-months old I was taken to the hospital for a broken arm. Body scans showed evidence of 3 skull fractures, multiple rib fractures, and a brain bleed.

Explanation of mask:  I have a TBI because my biological mother’s boyfriend abused me when I was very young. This makes me feel SAD. That’s why I have tears, pain, anger, hurt, disappointment, and nervous. The heart shows the kindness and love I receive from my family. I AM BRAVE! I AM A HERO!

Name: Alicia S., 21 years old. Mother/Caregiver is Carol S.

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: PERIVENTRICULAR LEUKOMALACIA (PVL) BRAIN BLEED. I was born as a micro-preemie, at 26 weeks gestation weighing 1lb 1oz. after her third ultra sound, they discovered a head bleed.

Explanation of mask:  This is mask about my brain injury. Some of the more challenging feelings I struggle with include nervous, sad, frustrated, helpless, grouchy, embarrassed, difficult, scared, confused, and angry. Everyone is different. I am different because I have a disability. But I am valuable because I am here on earth. I am a miracle because I survived. I continue to follow my dreams. I try to be happy every day and I am working on being more positive. I am thankful for my friends, family, pets and most of all my life!

Name: Steve S., 59 years old

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I was assaulted during a robbery. My assailants beat me over the head with a 2×4 numerous times. The beating caused seizures, headaches and 20 years after the fact I lost my right lung.

Explanation of mask:  The mask depicts 27 years of my living with a TBI. The top part shows that I was in the military but it was foggy and still is. The middle part shows all of the jobs I had and functioned just like anyone else. The bottom part are the things that were bad at times such as seizures and memory loss. The mask is human showing that even though I have a bad brain injury I still have NORMAL ABILITIES and emotions as someone that does not have a brain injury.

Name: Michael H.

City: Gilbert, AZ

Brain Injury: STROKE after two open heart surgeries. Now Michael suffers from APHASIA and APRAXIA.

Explanation of mask:  I feel that my brain works. My internal monologue does not seem different (The star). I have lost my ability to speak (The sutures). High level math, which was always a point of pride for me, is lost (The equation). I cannot sing (The musical notes).

Name: Alec H.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: STRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I hit a curb and blew a tire because I was speeding. My car flipped and ended up in a ditch on the side of the road.

Explanation of mask:  My mask has bars on it because I feel trapped. The bars are supposed to represent that I feel like I am in a prison wanting to be FREE. It just feels like everyone is telling me what I can and can’t do. My mask also has a four leaf clover on it to show how lucky I am. It could have been a lot worse and I might not even be alive. So I have a lot to be grateful for.

Name: Philip P.

City: Scottsdale, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) from a car accident

Explanation of mask:  One half is a representation of how therapy and people understanding has helped ease my mind and not worry about things that are coming. The other half is how I feel currently or felt shortly after coming out of my coma. I was confused why things had to happen the way they were and embarrassed that I couldn’t understand or walk or talk like I used to.

Name: Christian W.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: BRAIN TUMOR. Monitored a brain tumor for 6 years and had 3 brain surgeries, HYDROCEPHALOUS, as STROKE and subsequent deficits that forced me to relearn how to access my world.

Explanation of mask:  The mask represents the perceptions and feelings surrounding brain injury. The feelings, labels and views of everyone impacted-GOOD and BAD alike. There’s conflicting perceptions about brain injury, shown by different words. The X’s over the eyes represent the loss of self and life as one knew before. The white shows the blank face you show the world, or the mask to hide what the world is not ready to accept. The music notes represent what motivates me- the Cello.

Name: Nola C.

City: Ahwatukee, AZ

Brain Injury: MULTIPLE, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. I was attacked by my boyfriend. He hit me in the head with an ax, no part of my brain was unaffected. I was in the hospital for a year. Every part of my life changed. Before the attack I was in nursing school.

Explanation of mask:  My mask shows the anger I still have and the hurt. I have added the butterflies to show me flying away from him to safety, taking me back to my family and the people who love me.

Name: Jonny W., 61 years old

City: Gilbert, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). Car accident

Explanation of mask:  THE LEFT SIDE OF THE MASK REPRESENTS MYSELF. THE TWO HALVES: BEFORE AND AFTER. I AM NOT THE SAME PERSON I AS, BUT I DO KNOW HOW TO COMMUNICATE THE DIFFERENCES.

Name: Marie H., 50 years old

City: Surprise, AZ

Brain Injury: STROKE-Right Hemisphere

Explanation of mask:  The right side is dark and represents the confusion I felt when I woke up in the hospital with no memory of the previous three weeks. I was SCARED and FELT ALONE until my family arrived. The brighter side is me cheering up, knowing my guardian was watching over me. The red lightening bolt represents the brain injury. The Silver around the edge is the reminder that THERE IS A SILVER LINING even though it may not feel like it right now.

Name: Nicholas J., 21 years old

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI), while working to provide for my small new family, I slipped and fell 20 feet onto concrete.

Explanation of mask:  The black represents the fractures, brain injury and the fight between myself. The spud wrench represents the tool of my trade. Structural iron working. The logo means I got injured on the job, falling onto concrete at 20 feet. My other half of the mask stays clean. I feel like a “NEW” ME. It’s hard to find a way for myself. But I just fall back on my home in Utah, which is represented with the Monument Valley to makes me feel more motivated on my bad days. My family, future and I WILL make new memories and try not to forget the hard times. I SURVIVED, I’m THANKFUL, I’m YOUNG, and I’m HOPEFUL!

Name: Anonymous, 58 years old

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) and CONCUSSION. While at work as a park ranger at Lake Havasu State Park, we were removing 700-pound water cans for protection from campers with a tractor. While lifting the water cans from the area, the cans fell over. I jumped out of the way, I fell and hit my head causing a severe concussion.

Explanation of mask:  The pain was in the forehead where the severe bleeding was happening which represents the ouch and band-aid. The fear was almost losing my life. What saved me was coming to rehabilitation and being around caring and loving people!

Name: Anonymous, 46 years old

City: El Mirage, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI), from a work injury

Explanation of mask:  To remember my shunt, why I have the shunt. I picked red to show my injury (bleeding) and disappointment. I picked orange to show what I survived and how I feel HOPEFUL now.

Name: Arielle T.,19 years old

City: Gilbert, AZ

Brain Injury: PITUITARY MASS and STROKE. I was a healthy 18 year old athlete until I began to struggle with headaches, pain and not being able to sleep. My mother took me in to the doctor where they ran multiple tests, later calling me urgently to tell me the news of my diagnosis. From that day forward my coaching and athletic life stopped.

Explanation of mask:  The left side of the mask represents how my life was and how I felt before my brain injury. The music canvas explains my love for songwriting and dancing. The crystals and stars represent my love for the ocean. The words I used are what best describe me now.

Name: Mimi H.

City: New York City, New York

Brain Injury: Cavernous Angioma – Cerebral Hemorrhage. In 2014 at the young age of 22, I had a hemorrhage in my cerebellum. I lost the ability to walk, was seeing double, and had lost 20 pounds of muscle mass. I had brain surgery to remove the bleed and went to rehab to relearn how to walk and see again.

Explanation of mask:  “Humor & Mistakes”

I started out with a color I love (PURPLE!). I thought the mask needed more color so I added red, which came out like a smudge and looked like I messed up. I leaned into that mistake and ended up liking it (a happy accident!). I love comedy and am a comedian, so it was natural for me to incorporate my comedy routine about my injury that plays with audience reactions to the fact that I had a brain hemorrhage DURING A BLIND DATE!!! Pretty comical if you ask me.


My brain hemorrhage impaired the left side of my brain, so I added colored jewels to represent this, to remind me to always see the beauty in my injury. I added the moustache because it was funny to me. HUMOR is everything and helped me in my recovery, because you have to find the humor in trauma like a brain injury. You also have to allow yourself to make mistakes and to make those mistake as beautiful as you are.

Name: Rita T., 57 years old

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). On February 26, 2015 my life was turned upside down. I was injured at work when a 15 lb. metal beam fell down and hit me on top of my head. The emoji shows where I was injured.

Explanation of mask:  My mask describes all the symptoms I suffer PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY. I have headaches everyday. I also have migraines which keep me ISOLATED in my home. This leads to DEPRESSION. I am sensitive to light so I have to wear sunglasses most of the time. I have VERTIGO, DIZZINESS, NAUSEA AND ANXIETY. The TAPE over my lips represents how people across society and all education levels do not want to hear about my injury. They don’t believe it, because it is INVISIBLE! The TEARS represent the EMOTIONAL PAIN I have to endure. Wasn’t the physical pain enough?

Name: Veronica V.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI), Car Accident

Explanation of mask:  Yellow because it is my favorite color. It’s a happy color. A sun over my eyes because I was born here in AZ. The heart because I love my family. Love at first bite because it stands for waffle love. This company is amazing and has the best waffles you will ever have! B Positive because I was very optimistic. Nike sign because their motto is “Just Do It.” I love that because I will never stop being a Wonderful mother and a great role model for my 2 kids.

Name: Shelly M., 52 years old

City: Surprise, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). A bottle of homemade ginger ale fermented and became a bomb that exploded in my face, knocking me out. I had to relearn how to walk and talk.

Explanation of mask:  “Inside vs. Outside of My Head”

I have a lot of thoughts, but forget words before I can say them. I have forgotten memories of my past. I was once great at math and am now unable to multiply in my head. Few friends come around anymore, so I am frustrated and alone. The brick symbolizes the BARRIERS I feel between what is inside my brain and what I can actually do. I try to push through the barriers, but the wall is strong and won’t budge. I feel DISCONNECTED from my emotions and dumb because I can’t do the things I once could. The world around me makes me feel stupid at times and is like a dark cloud hanging over my head. The cross symbolizes how I have continued to stand strong in my faith. At times I feel EMPTY AND SAD on the inside because PEOPLE DON’T UNDERSTAND. They say, “YOU LOOK FINE, YOU’RE 100% BETTER.” I want to scream “I am not!” I put on a smile and look O.K but I am not I am broken! It’s not that I am strong. I made a choice to be POSITIVE and move on.

Name: Lois B., Wife/Caregiver to Chuck B.

City: Chandler, AZ

Brain Injury: Chuck had a HEMORRHAGIC STROKE from an ANEURYSM due to sepsis from bacteria. He has APHASIA and APRAXIA.

Explanation of mask:  My mask appears to be a beautiful, peaceful place. A place that you want to be. The sky on the left is darker as if a storm may be coming, which represents the troubles that come in life such as Chuck’s stroke. The sun represents good things or happier times. Chuck is alive and with me and our children. We can have fun and still enjoy many things. The mountains are beautiful and strong. I must overcome the harsh things that happen in my life. The bottom of the mask is to be the reflection of the mountains in the water. How beautiful this reflection can be until there is a ripple in the water that distorts the picture. You enjoy the view and the journey and then something happens to distort things for a while. You must work hard and even struggle to get back to the calm waters and maybe the picture has even changed a little by the time things calm. To me that is how life is.

Name: Lana S., 42 years old

City: Ahwatukee, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I was hit by a drunk driver and thrown 86’ from the accident.

Explanation of mask:  GREEN represents the areas of the brain that were damaged. PURPLE on the left eye because that too was affected. RED on the right cheek and lips to represent the blood that I vividly remember during the time I was conscious. Notably seen is a PURPLE STAR in the center of the forehead which was hit at that time. YELLOW was used to depict the parts that remained undamaged.

Name: Mike D., 42 years old

City: Scottsdale, AZ

Brain Injury: STROKE

Explanation of mask:  Waffles and bacon, T.V. shows, Twitter, A HEADACE, VOMITED, AURA. I CAN’T BREATHE!!! Awake, morning DEAD ARM, COLD, PAIN, SCREAMED, DISTORTED, SHOWERED. GREEN & BLUE~NERVOUS

Name: Daniel G.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI)/SPINAL CORD INJURY. I was an arborist and a large branch fell 40 feet onto my head from a climber’s error.

Explanation of mask:  The story begins from the viewers perspective at the top left corner. The color is purple and has multiple meanings. First of all, it gives you a rough idea of the line at which my skull was fractured. It’s also the color of bruising as my head went through incredible trauma.

You can see mountains, as this was the beginning of a very dark time in my life. Next you see a bright orange with a spread of outlines of trees. This is a wildfire; a wildfire named spinal cord injury and TBI. These two injuries together wiped away nearly all my physical abilities, mental abilities were also damaged and altered. Each of those trees represents something that was taken away from me. Next, you see a thick green area. This was meant to represent a forest. A thick forest that can make it difficult to see through and what I have traveled through after my injury. Finally, you can see a desert landscape where a cactus musters up what it must and somewhat gets water it needs to survive. In the background you can see mountains, these represent what I have yet to traverse and conquer. There is a lot left for me to do, but I have been supported and taught from many people on how to continue forward.

Name: Lisa H., Mother of a Survivor

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: Severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). My son Alec was in a roll-over car accident and was found unconscious with a aright skull fracture. Severe shearing of the brain and he had a trach and feeding tube. He was hospitalized for 97 days.

Explanation of mask:  Road~ symbolizes my journey with it winding into the storm and then into a beautiful sunny day. Very traumatic but also grateful. Cloud~is in the shape of a brain and it is showing a storm. The rain turns into my tears to symbolize the sadness that I feel for Alec. Sun Rays~the joy that I’m feeling that Alec is still here with us and from the rain the sun will shine down on us and new growth begins. HEART~although my heart feels broken it is larger than ever with gratitude for all that have saved my son.

Name: Kandi T., Mother/Caregiver to son Louis T.

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: BRAIN BLEEDS AND CHIARI MALFORMATION. My son had brain bleeds on the left and right side of the temporal Lobes. Chiari malformation occurred on the skull resting on the vertebrae.

Explanation of mask:  I picked bright colors for my mask because my son is bright, intense, good, funny and loveable with a cloud over his head that he had no control over what happened to him. As a parent, we are always thinking “WHY HIM?” We often feel OVERWHELMED, HOPELESS, EXHAUSTED, WORRIED, HELPLESS, and AFRAID. But, just as he keeps trying thru therapy, coaches, we are again energized to be HOPEFUL these struggling years will get better. I put stars, hearts and tears on my mask-these are a reminder to be optimistic, always loving, along with tears of joy and sadness.

Name: Chuck B.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: HEMORRHAGIC STROKE. The hemorrhagic stroke was caused from an aneurysm that was due to sepsis from bacteria. I have weakness on my right side. I have APHASIA and APRAXIA.

Explanation of mask:  Sometimes I feel like I’m in charge, other times I feel like I’m dust. It is hard not knowing what to do or what to say. When I’m in charge, I’m happy. When I’m not, I feel worthless. Sometimes I feel frightened. Sometimes I feel embarrassed and cheated. I don’t know what to say or do when I have these feelings. This makes me feel annoyed. Sometimes, I feel awesome, noble, worthy, and humorous. When I feel these, I feel good and confident. It hurts when I can’t talk but it feels good when I can. I know what I want to say, but it’s like a door shutting and not letting the words out.

Name: Virginia S., 82 years old. Caregiver for grandson Elijah N.

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). CAREGIVER for my grandson who was severely abused at only 3 months old and sustained a TBI after being beaten in the head.

Explanation of mask:  My mask reflects my feelings about being the grandmother of a person with a brain injury. The face is yellow, my favorite color, and represents my happiness in being part of his life. However, the black circle of the injury is always there, and from time to time creeps through in unexpected ways. My heart is broken for Elijah because he knows he may never have the experiences of a typical young man.

Name: Jonathon A., 21 years old

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: ENCEPHACOELE Right Frontal Lobe. A rare type of neural tube defect (NTD) present at birth that affects the brain. Executive functioning. Left ear hematoma and right maxillary fluid collection. Spent one week in the hospital.

Explanation of mask:  Due to my brain injury at times I have difficulty remembering things and this causes me FRUSTRATION and SADNESS. I am also very happy to be alive since this happened to me. My injury occurred on a ride at the state fair. I felt very ANGRY because I had to be raced to the hospital and missed out on the fun. I was in a lot of PAIN and felt AFRAID that I might die. But, I was POWERFUL, STRONG, BRAVE and faced this challenge. Lastly, I feel grateful that I am capable of facing this situation. My mask represents all of my feelings.

Name: Gabriella M.,19 years old

City: Gilbert, AZ

Brain Injury: POST TRAUMATIC STRESS SYNDROME (PTSD). I experienced trauma and abuse as a younger child. I also lost my mother at the age of 9.

Explanation of mask:  My mask represents my deepest feelings related to my past trauma. Some of these feelings are GRIEF, ANGER, DISAPPOINTMENT, ASHAMED, HOPELESS, CONFLICTED AND SCARED. My mask also shows that I am loved, happy, hopeful, determined and powerful. I can do anything I put my mind to. My past trauma and feelings have pointed the canvas of who I am today.

Name: Robert H., 38 years old

City: Glendale, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) 23 years ago. Summer after Sophomore year of high school, I was on my way home from an art show and the car I was in was T-Boned. After a 10 day coma, I had major bleeds in my right basal ganglia and hypothalamus.

Explanation of mask:  I was 15 at the time of my injury. My mask depicts the left side of my mask was before my injury in correlation to the right side of my face, the side before my injury. Before my accident, I used to color my hair blonde, had no facial hair, and wore contacts. Since my injury, I cannot apply my contacts, therefore I wear Glasses and have a mustache. I am now 38, hence the touch of white hair.

Name: Elijah N., 20 years old

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). At 3 months old I was beaten and abused after being beaten in the head.

Explanation of mask:  The BLUE squiggly lines at the top of my mask represent CONFUSION and SADNESS from being abused and injured. The YELLOW line in the middle of the mask represent being blinded by the FEAR that has been sitting inside me for so long. The PINK represents the LOVE that has followed me throughout my life. The GREEN represents the CONFIDENCE I have been given by my family.

Name: Billy B., 49 years old

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TWO TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI), SCHWONOMA TUMOR and STROKE caused by an infection in my brain as a result of surgery to remove the tumor. The also caused 100% hearing loss in right ear, blindness in right eye, Bells Palsy and right side paralysis.

Explanation of mask:  I have had a rough go of it but I do not give up. I have learned that I am GLAD that I have a disability. I also learned that I do not have to let my disability run my life, I run my life and the disability is just part of it. This is a NEW JOURNEY that I will have to walk through for the rest of my life, but with the help and support of other survivors and family, I can do anything! My memory is shot and I have other difficulties but I can say is that I am alive. I am alive for a reason and I found my calling. I believe that I want to dedicate my life to being an ADVOCATE for other disabled people. I want to BE A VOICE to the many others that are disabled and who cannot use their voice.

Name: Betty T., 70 years old. Mother of Billy B.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I had a car accident and sustained a TBI and stitches on my forehead.

Explanation of mask:  The mask represents my TBI, my son Billy, for Mark, and Yvette. I started to recover with FAITH.

Name: Justin D.

City: Chandler, AZ

Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)- On my way into work at a Phoenix Fire Department, a car ran a red light and t-boned me at an intersection. Smashing my head against the window, broke multiple ribs and my hip. I lost half of my brain and skull I was dead for over 10 minutes at the scene. I AM A MIRACLE!

Explanation of mask:  The left side represents Captain Fireman and the fire department. The ride side is me on the scene and on my way to the hospital. I was a dead man, but God wasn’t ready for me yet!

Name: Anthony W. Jr.

City: Chino Valley, AZ

Brain Injury: Brain Tumor- I was diagnosed with a brain tumor when I was 16 years old. I was given less than 24hrs to live. Underwent surgery hours later and radiation/chemotherapy for the next 1 ½ year and I am still here!

Explanation of mask:  This mask represents the different stages of emotions I underwent and continue to go through.

Name: Bradley P., 58 years old

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I was struck by lightning on 8-15-2003. At the time I owned a successful chemical company in Colorado. My recovery took over 5 years and I continue to suffer from seizures, cognitive deficits, etc.

Explanation of mask:  My mask is in 2 halves. The light blue represents my “NORMAL” before the injury. The right side starts off black, when I was at my worst. As you move left to right the colors represents my JOURNEY BACK. The color on the far right is a darker blue that means I have gotten better but will NEVER be back to “MY NORMAL.”

Name: Brittany B., Granddaughter of Robert (Bob) B.

City: Goodyear, AZ

Brain Injury: In 2012 my Grandpa Bob was in a hang-gliding accident. He spent a month in a coma. After the coma he spent months in the hospital and in-patient rehab fighting to get his life back.

Explanation of mask:  The top half of the mask shows Grandpa Bob hang gliding every chance he got. I would stand at the top of the mountain and cheer him on, yelling “UP GRANDPA UP!” It was our most favorite thing to do. I loved telling all the tourists who would gather to watch about him and what he was doing. The bottom of the mask shows my Grandpa on the couch, his new favorite place to be. The words surrounding him are the words I am always saying to him now. After doing this project, I realize I need to be more positive and uplifting towards him.

Name: Patrick C., 49 years old

City: Tempe, AZ

Brain Injury: STROKE due to 30 years Type 1 diabetes and blocked carotid arteries. In the hospital I was given the wrong medication which paralyzed my right side, ended my ability to speak and swallow food, crashed my kidneys, damaged my short-term memory, eliminated my ability to recall the alphabet and numbers, and left me unable to walk. It also left me ANGRY and DEPRESSED.

Explanation of mask:  The GREEN section represents my life before the strokes. I graduated from ASU and started my own book business on the internet, and got engaged to a wonderful gal. I did graphic design and was active in off-road biking, fishing, camping, rollerblading (hockey) and skate boarding.

RED represents the HELLISH events that disrupted my life. Beginning with the two strokes. My wedding plans came to an end as did my hopes for achieving my career goals. In addition, I went on dialysis, an insulin pump, extensive physical therapy and living with mental damage that left me functioning at the level of a 4-9 year old. The doctors told me I would likely not walk or talk again.

The BLUE section represents THE ROAD BACK (which I am still, after 19 years, embarked on). I had to get 4 stents to the arteries in my heart, a bi-cranial by-pass to get more blood to my brain, and a dual kidney-pancreas transplant. I walk ½ mile a day with my cane, ride a 3-wheel bike, and enjoy Karaoke. My memory takes a toll, but, I AM CONTINUING TO WORK ON IT!

Name: Robert (Bob) B., “Grandpa Bob” to Brittany B. and husband of Betty B.

City: Tempe, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I was at Rainbow Valley flying on a hang glider. I had never flown there before. The glider malfunctioned when I was being towed. The tow rope pressed down on the control bar and caused the glider to dive down into the ground, causing a TBI.

Explanation of mask:  The indentation is representing the area of impact. It knocked me out and I was evacuated by helicopter to the hospital. The red lines show my hair and where it was cut. The green link indicates the injured and uninjured side. I feel FRUSTRATED because I can’t go hang-gliding. It continues to frustrate me that I do not have control over my money and that I am bossed around and DO NOT HAVE INDEPENDENCE. It frustrates me that doctors and others put labels on my capabilities, like not being able to drive.

Name: Betty B. Wife/Caregiver of Robert (Bob) B.

City: Goodyear, AZ

Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). My husband, Bob, a hang glider pilot for 38 years, had an accident at the age of 67. His hang glider was not properly connected so it didn’t release as it should. He was then pulled straight into the ground.

Explanation of mask:  The top of the mask represents Bob’s hang glider and me with him. This was our typical hang glider weekend, it was our social life. We had a marriage partnership, now we have a caregiver/survivor relationship. I love my husband very much and miss that husband-wife relationship. I thank God that Bob survived and we are now moving down that pathway at the bottom, it has its up and downs, to recovery.

Name: Philip C., 44 years old

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). While at work as a landscaper, I was hit in the back of my head with a tree branch. As a result, my biggest impairments are vision loss and severe memory impairment.

Explanation of mask:  I picked blue simply because it’s my favorite color. The leaves represent the loss of vision from the tree branch. Despite my injury, I still feel RESILIENT, EXHILARATED and HAPPY!

Name: Amber T., 24 years old

City: Tempe, AZ

Brain Injury: CONCUSSION and PTSD. Due to childhood PTSD I froze, when what seemed to be a nightmare was a reality. As a child I was backed into bathroom corners before being hit, then one day a woman who did not know me, assaulted me by hitting me on the back of the head leading to a concussion that took a good year of my life if not more. My concussion was more than a headache but also vertigo, short term memory loss, over the top of emotions/feelings, beyond depression and anxiety

Explanation of mask:  My mask wears a mask because even though I could not help but show anger, annoyance, PTSD, being overwhelmed or forgetfulness, I used those feelings to mask my true feelings. These deeper feelings made me more vulnerable than I already felt, where anger masked irritation with the police that were supposed to help me but didn’t believe me.

The mask represents how worried and scared I was from the symptoms, such as puking from vertigo. Every different color on the mask is disproportioned and all over just like my emotions were. The feather is the marking of strength and bravery it took to get through the trauma and battles in court. The mask covering the mask, when removed shows two different views, with the right presenting multiple tears I would shed on the inside but still try to be “strong”. So much goes into the mask the beyond what room I have to tell.

Name: Gabriel M.

City: 

Brain Injury: TBI/Hemorrhage. Injury date 12/12/15.

Explanation of mask:  We must continuously remain strong when adverse situations arise. The mask represents the beautiful struggle that is life, the fragility of the human spirit, perspective, happiness and pain.

Name: Cheryl S.

City: Scottsdale, AZ

Brain Injury: Brain Bleed

Explanation of mask:  Art and creativity have always been an important part of my life. In 2003 I suffered a brain bled. During those days when my health was deteriorating, I miraculously heard and envisioned angels that spoke to me. I knew that if I recovered, God had a reason for keeping me alive. I soon realized that one of my missions in life was to design beautiful and imaginative pieces of jewelry. As I regained my health I was motivated and inspired to design and produce amazing pieces of jewelry.

Name: John W., 41 years old

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: HYDROCEPHALUS. At 16, I was diagnosed with HYDROCEPHALUS. The CFS around my brain was not draining properly, causing increased pressure. I had a 3rd ventriculostomy to create a hole for fluid to drain. This hole closed again 15 years later and I had to have the same procedure. Over the years it has caused memory issues, learning problems, visual and social impairments.

Explanation of mask:  My mask represents how sensitive I can be and how I respond to the busy world around me. I have grown to love and now study the natural world, especially wildlife. I feel I can relate to them better than humans sometimes! I have excellent vision, but am sensitive to light like an Owl. My sense of smell can sometimes be overbearing like a bear. I have good hearing, so much, that loud noises can bother me-like a coyote! I also enjoy bland food as my sense of taste seems to be “overactive” at times. The Rattlesnake slithering across my mask represents this, with its special olfactory organs that “taste” the air. I am not sure where I would be in this world if I didn’t have nature to go to!!

Name: Bridget C.

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: HEMMORRHAGIC STROKE/RUPTURED AVM. While 27 weeks pregnant with my second child, I had a hemorrhagic stroke due to a ruptured ARTERIOVENOUS MALFORMATION (AVM).

Explanation of mask:  The left side of the mask is actually painted by my children! They were my biggest motivation during recovery. The SAGUARO symbolizes my love for the outdoors. So many times going outdoors has been my sanity saver! The BLACK over the mouth symbolizes the DREADED APHASIA. So many words and thoughts are UNABLE TO BE COMMUNICATED!

Name: Robin M., Wife/Caregiver

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: STENOSIS. My husband Aaron, fell a number of times and the neurologist performed surgery to open the spinal cord channel. He woke up from surgery unable to move his body at all. We have no idea when he will be able to walk on his own.

Explanation of mask:  The colorful strips of tissue paper represent a rainbow of HOPE and to BE POSITIVE. X & O-for love and kisses an the heart represents being appreciated by my husband. The red carnation is a reminder to STOP AND SMELL THE FLOWERS and brings joy. The stars remind me to continue shooting for the moon The words- FRUSTRATED for as much as Aaron tries, the process is very slow and OVERWHELMED because of so many obstacles. The UNKNOWN is scary an how to keep positive most of the time as a spouse/caregiver is CHALLENGING. Life is not always fair.

Name: David H.

City: Buckeye, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). The brain moved inside the skull when I was rear-ended on the freeway on my way to work. I was at a complete stop when I was hit very hard causing my brain to shift damaging two nerves. Instantly I was confused with neck and back pain, followed by a constant ringing in my head and ears. A few minutes passes and next thing my vision changes to double vision, blurry and sensitive to light.

Explanation of mask:  The right side of the mask represents the symptoms, feeling and actual results from the injury. The headache pain all the time, then several times a day I get brain freezes. My moods would fluctuate from lows to highs and anger would seek into sadness. I felt so hopeless with constant confusion and pain.

The left side of the mask represents the treatments that have helped me cope with this new life. Dry needing and nerve block shots helps with pain. My therapist helped me gain my balance back, while the hearing aids with Zen and pink noise helped mask the constant ringing. Activities such as work, exercise, yoga, and daily naps help me get through the day! I am very thankful to everyone that has helped with the injuries. I am very thankful for all the things they do for others with this injury. I am very grateful for my wife, for everything she has done for me.

Name: Laura B., 42 years old

City: Gilbert, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I was in my car and hit by a moving train. I was in the hospital for two years and have undergone multiple therapies.

Explanation of mask:  THIS MASK REPRESENTS ALL THE SIGNS WHILE DRIVING AND THE IMPORTANCE OF FOLLOWING THEM!

BE SAFE!

Name: Abraham C.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: MULTIPLE CONCUSSIONS. Most of my concussions were from sports, mainly soccer.

Explanation of mask:  The mask represents the feeling of going into a spiral with each concussion. The two colors represent the good that comes from the bad and vice versa. It also represents the continual struggle between long-term effects and maintaining a normal, balanced life. It shows that despite injuries BALANCE remains very important. The selection of the color of the eyes aids in understanding the views from outsiders as well as my personal views. There, “THE WINDOWS” of the soul one can “see” how a brain injury HAS CHANGED YOUR LIFE!

Name: Catherine M., 50 years old

City: Tempe, AZ

Brain Injury: COUP CONTRECOUP CONCUSSION AND EYE CONCUSSION WITH WHIPLASH. I tripped and fell one night walking down the street, hitting my head on the sidewalk where I laid unconscious for several minutes alone until I came to and walked home.

Explanation of mask:  The mask depicts the scenes on the street where I fell. It’s a street I walk down nearly every day. It also shows my interest in and practice of meditation. I love to pet the cat’s and dog’s on that street and added pictures of the dogs to my mask.

Name: Mark

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: BRAIN CANCER. I was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1995 requiring the whole right lung to be removed due to the location of the tumor. A year later, it was discovered that the cancer had moved to my brain (upper right parietal).

Explanation of mask:  The tumor needed to be surgically removed in addition to 35 treatments of radiation which left me a complete vegetable, meaning I was unable to care for myself. Today I live with seizures and do not know how they got started but I get worse when I have them. I am grateful I can successfully integrate with others in society.

Name: Ernie L.

City: Peoria, AZ

Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). In 2010, 10 of my friends and I were riding our motorcycles headed to Bartlett Lake and were stopped at a red-light when we were hit by a driver of a dump truck who was on drugs. All I remember is my friend yelling “watch out” and I woke up 6 weeks later and learned that FOUR of my friends who were with me that day were dead.

Explanation of mask:  Since my TBI I have met many new friends that I am so grateful for. I have become so much closer to my family and my second family, the Phoenix Fire Department where I worked for 31 years. I would not be here without any of them. All the people in my life are fantastic and make me SMILE which I have made the main focus of my mask. LIFE IS GOOD!

Name: Yvette S.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: ACQUIRED BRAIN INJURY (ABI) and TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I have had a brain injury since shortly after birth when I contracted Meningitis and ended up with Hydrocephalus. In 2005 my shunts splintered in my brain. In 2008 my TBI resulted from domestic violence, when I was hit in the head by my ex.

Explanation of mask:  WITH A TBI YOU FACE PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL CHALLENGES. But, with a strong SUPPORT system, FAITH in a higher power and a POSITIVE ATTITUDE you can accomplish things you previously thought were IMPOSSIBLE!

Name: Dan W.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: LEUKOENCEPHALOPATHY (WHITE MATTER BRAIN DISEASE)

Explanation of mask:  The mask represents the feelings and experiences I have had with my WHITE MATTER DISEASE, from the beginning to the present. In the brain area of the mask are feelings or events from the beginning of my journey. The feelings on my face describe how I feel now. My LIFE CHANGING JOURNEY began in 2014 with a lot of uncertainty. My brain illness changed my life and the lives of my family. It has been a VERY LONG ROAD to find the best treatments and solutions for my disorder. Today, I am faring well with the help of my family. LIFE IS SO PRECIOUS. EVERY DAY IS A GIFT.

Name: Antea D.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). On April 15, 2015, when I was 21, I had a car accident that almost ended my life. From that car accident I have a TBI and was in a coma for about 4 months and couldn’t speak for about 2 months. I had absolutely zero memory when I woke up so, I had to RE-LEARN EVERYTHING. I have trouble speaking along with CEREBRAL ATAXIA . I’ve had 4 vocal inflections. I unfortunately had my mom in the car with me but thankfully she has zero injuries.

Explanation of mask:  Lord Christ Jesus is the only reason I made it! I did the cross to represent his death. God made me come across Pastor Steven Furtick sermons after I tried killing myself and because his sermons pretty much tell about my recovery process, that’s why I used to share his sermons everyday because they pretty much tell me life story. I’m letting GOD BE GOD!

Name: Arden C., 65 years old. Grandmother of survivor.

City: Flaggstaff, AZ

Brain Injury: CLOSED TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). My grandson, who is 17, sustained two TBI’s, one from a sports accident and one from a car accident.

Explanation of mask:  My mask represents the different symptoms my grandson has endured since his TWO TBI’s. He suffers from: HEADACHES, DIZZINESS, FORGETFULNESS, ANXIETY, CONFUSION AND STRESS. The colors of the mask are my grandson’s favorite colors. The tears represent the tremendous sadness I feel for him.

Name: Bret C.

City: Mesa, AZ

Brain Injury: SEVERE TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). I was in a motocross accident. I awoke from an 8 week Glasgow 3 coma and was told I “sustained a very severe TBI.” I had left side paralysis, had bitten my tongue off and was partially blind.

Explanation of mask:  “ANTI-SCHITZOPHRENIC MASKS“ ME, AND ME AND ME all agree “it’s not schizophrenic.” IT IS BRAIN INJURY. Before my accident, I was a successful million dollar a year Scottsdale contractor, commercial pilot flight instructor, and amateur mottocross racer. A scant years Post TBI, my rehabilitation which no doctor prescribed, consisted of re-education. Within 8 years I acquired a Bachelor’s of Science cum laude honors, Masters in Astronautical Science. Double areas of specialization, Magna cum laude honors and Master of Business Administration in Aviation with distinction. All from the world’s Premier Aeronautical University Embry-Riddle. I LOST MUCH. Though I make recovery look idiot savant easy, it was not…. It is now 16 years later. Look closely at the scars in detail on my mask. YES, I AM MADE OF BRUTAL SCARS. THAT’S WHAT I’M MADE OF.

Name: Diane D., 74 years old

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: ANEURYSM, STROKE, ENCEPHALOMALACIA. My aneurysm was found wrapped around an artery and I had to have a craniotomy to clip it. I had a stroke on the table. 10 months later a CT scan showed that I had lost the anterior portion of my Right Frontal, Temporal, and Insular Cortex to Encephalomalacia, which is the softening or loss of brain tissue after cerebral infection.

Explanation of mask:  My mask shows the loss of brain with damage. The black area shows no brain. The yellow light is a healing light coming into my brain to heal and give hope. HOPE FOR A NEW ME TO LIVE A NEW LIFE EVEN WITH A DISABILITY. I meet new friends and other survivors and help people with new brain damage. Fear is the biggest problem with brain damage!

Name: Sandra B., 72 years old. Mother/Caregiver to Kerry B., TBI survivor

City: Peoria, AZ

Brain Injury: SEVERE TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). My daughter Kerry was in a motor vehicle accident and thrown from the car July 12, 1990. She was in a coma for 3 ½ months and has gone through YEARS of rehabilitation.

Explanation of mask:  FAITH/CROSSES-Carried and continues to carry me through the UPS & DOWNS. The WORDS describe all the many feelings and emotions-1990 is the reference point. I am so thankful for Kerry’s progress and success and LIFE-Hers, mine, Daughter #1, Granddaughter and my deceased husband and Kerry’s father. TEARS OF JOY AND SADNESS.

Name: Cheryl J., 89 years old

City: Scottsdale, AZ

Brain Injury: BRAIN ANEURYSM. I experienced a brain injury several years ago when I had a brain aneurysm.

Explanation of mask:  I made a flapper as I love the 1920’s. Turquoise is my favorite color. I wanted to make my mask reflect represent happiness and what I love rather than the sadness of my injury.

Name: Christy K.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: STROKE. I had an Ischemic stroke in 2017. It affected my thalamus. I have difficulties with my memory, speech, problem solving and planning.

Explanation of mask:  The left side represents my life pre-stroke. I used all my favorite colors to express being happy. The swirls help me remember how easily I navigated thru life. The flower reminds me of the bright future I had waiting. The right side represents the sadness and frustration I am experiencing. The tears running down my cheek represent my lost identity. IT’S JUST ME! The different colored flowers represent my husband and 3 children who have been so strong, loving, supportive and patient. The vines that entangle the key keep me from being able to freely express my true thoughts and feelings. Although, there are many vines it shows the growth I endured through intensive therapy. I am looking forward to the continuation of being a mom, teacher and wife.

Name: Philip P.

City: Scottsdale, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) from a car accident

Explanation of mask:  One half is a representation of how therapy and people understanding has helped ease my mind and not worry about things that are coming. The other half is how I feel currently or felt shortly after coming out of my coma. I was confused why things had to happen the way they were and embarrassed that I couldn’t understand or walk or talk like I used to.

Name: Janine K.

City: Flagstaff, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI)

Explanation of mask:  
FACE IN THE MIRROR
Before and After

You tell your family
the invisible scar
dividing past
and present, heart
and brain
into hemispheres
tattoos the memory
of a journey
down the Amazon
where you met
a tribe of healers
whose ceremonies
and rites of passage
tested your courage,
teaching you a new language.

You face the dark
night of the soul,
blink at the white day
with its blind stars,
searching
for the hidden face of God
near the fabled healing rivers of love
whose Beatitudes
wash away anger, fear,
and despair, wash away
that once-upon-a-time
familiar face in the mirror.

You leave this rainforest
of suffering
naked, new-born
an explorer discovering
how to love this new way of being
how to map its scars into beauty
how to say:
Love me. Love me
today as I am.

Name: Chad’s Family. Caregivers to Chad A.

City: Gilbert, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI). Chad suffered a TBI 27 years ago, in a car accident, one in which many of us were involved.

Explanation of mask:  “BEAUTIFUL CHAOS”

No other title seems to fit what our family experienced that fateful day and the DAILY CHAOS that has followed. Our mask represents how our lives were FOREVER CHANGED; the thoughts, emotions and feelings we experience every day. FRUSTRATIONS with fighting for insurance coverage, WORRY AND STRESS to remember every doctor appointment. OVERWHELMED assisting Chad with his daily needs and activities. FEAR and ANXIETY for what the future holds for him. HELPLESS when he is upset, hurting, confused, from outside interactions. Not all emotions we experience are negative. With Chad being himself and smiling, he inspires us not to fret about the small things. His challenges have influenced who we are today and helping us to be more caring and empathetic. We are PROUD to be his family because he reminds us that with family, love and support of others, ANYTHING can be accomplished. TOGETHER, WE ARE SUPERMAN STRONG and DETERMINED to provide THE BEST LIFE for Chad!

Name: Rhamesis M.

City: Phoenix, AZ

Brain Injury: ISCHEMIC STROKE and related SEIZURES

Explanation of mask:  The mask represents two themes. The stop light signifies how the recovery process can be lengthy and tedious at times much like everyday traffic. The background is a blue-sky Representing freedom. Red, blue, yellow, and green also represent the colors of the PEM chart, which patients at CTN use to track their progress. Like traffic, patients and family can find themselves in different phases represented by the colors.

Name: William P. Husband of Michelle P., brain tumor survivor.

City: Surprise, AZ

Brain Injury: BRAIN TUMOR

Explanation of mask:  The mask is a transition of emotions that I have felt from my wife’s brain tumor diagnosis to recovery. I depicted the left side of the mask as the diagnosis (black and dark), The middle as grey where there is a lot of unknown and you are scared and tired but still hopeful, while the recovery on the right is white (light, happy and relieved).

Name: Anonymous 

State: Arizona

Brain Injury: SUBDURAL HEMATOMA

Explanation of Brain Injury:  Fell off of ladder and hit head on rock. This resulted in a slow bleed which displaced brain. Operation required to correct problem. 32 Day recovery required and 6 more weeks cognitive training.

Explanation of mask:  Depiction of self during ordeal. Green is for good part of brain. Black is for damage to brain. Tears and hearts are for love and support by wife who spent 32 days in hospital (day and night) helping me recover. Smile (red lips) are for happiness I felt on how well I recovered. Mustache and beard denote growth while in hospital. Wife liked it so well I still have it 3 years later. I credit Health South (old name) with the outstanding care and cognitive therapy they provided with my full recovery. I cannot speak highly enough of this outstanding company.

Name: Chad G. (Mask 1)

Age: 42

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: FRONTAL LOBE DAMAGE

Explanation of Brain Injury:  While working on a roof I fell 16’ to a concrete floor. I broke my left leg and now have other physical problems resulting. The hardest being my skull fractures and blood on my brain.

Explanation of mask:  I still see myself as that broken man in my hospital bed. I see the cracks around my black eyes, cracks in my face and the abrasion on my forehead with the blood drop representing the blood on my brain. The tear represents my inability to control my emotions. I cry when I want to laugh. The question mark is the most important. I’m confused. I don’t know myself anymore, every day is different.

Name: Chad G. (Mask 2)

Age: 42

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: FRONTAL LOBE DAMAGE

Explanation of Brain Injury:  16 ft. fall through a trucking terminal roof. Cracked my skull in various places and blood on brain.

Explanation of mask:  My mask is a general look at me. The bright yellow side represents before. Life was more clear. I knew more of myself and how I felt my life was heading. The other side is similar, but more confusing, sometimes sad or angry, or whatever emotion is triggered. I’m fighting to be my old self, but I need to accept who I am now. Happy. Sad. Confused. Forgetful. Confused again. Every day is a struggle, but I will and am persevering. It’s okay to be conflicted.

Name: Marcel A.

State: Arizona

Brain Injury: STROKE

Explanation of Brain Injury:  Woke up 10/10/2019 with difficulty speaking and right side weakness. Was brought to hospital where CT + MRI scans confirmed a left sided infarct in the brain stem.

Explanation of mask:  If the head doesn’t work, nothing works.

Name: Michael D.

Brain Injury: STROKE

Explanation of Brain Injury:  4 strokes in 15 years

Explanation of mask:  15 years of why me!!

Name: Therese M.

State: Arizona

Brain Injury: Caregiver to Son with TBI

Explanation of Brain Injury:  At 13 years old, my son suffered a severe TBI. His recovery has been miraculous.

Explanation of mask:  Upon getting the news, my own brain was a combination of focus and fog. At the E.R., I was compelled to get on my knees and pray. I felt an immediate sense of peace. That peace kept me going through my son’s month-long coma, 8-month hospital stay, and “recovery” to our new way of looking at life. That peace continued to give me hope every single day for my son’s future.

Name: Shawnique Cotton, Ms. Wheelchair Arizona 2019

City: Tucson

Explanation of Brain Injury:  I sustained a spinal cord injury 28 years ago due to being shot in my back. I was told for 20 years that I was a level T-2 paraplegic. Meanwhile, I never functioned like one as I had no other health issues. I knew this was incorrect and I suffered from something, an invisible illness in my head. I’m just realizing this as I’m writing. For 20 years I’ve asked multiple doctors what’s wrong with me: I get dizzy, extreme fatigue, noise, light, stress everything seems to make me unable to function. I was bed ridden for years and homebound for the majority of my injury. My only outings and relationships were mainly with my doctors. All the doctors would brush it off no one ever really listened to this day no one listens. So I’ve accepted I’m in this alone. I discovered that I was actually a C7 quadriplegic with functional hands in arms in 2009 which made me wonder about my brain. I also was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Myalgic Encephalitis (CFS/ME) not long after this discovery. I never connected what I go through and I am so grateful for the opportunity to make my mask and become a part of the Unmasking Brain Injury Arizona project, a great initiative. I’m tearing up as I write this. I’ve been confused & partly in denial but glad I now have connected the dots. I’M ON A MISSION!!

Name: Mirna B.

Age: 55

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: RIGHT MIDDLE CEREBRAL ANEURYSM

Explanation of Brain Injury:  I was unaware of my aneurysm until March 10, 2005 when it ruptured. I had been living a very active life since I began working at age 14. I was 38 when I bled and 39 when I realized the bleed defeated me! I endured three craniotomies in a 13 month timeframe. 14+ years later I still struggle with pain in my surgery are and neuro-fatigue.

Explanation of mask:  My mask is simple and to the point as I am. Prior to my brain bleed I had served in the US Air Force as an administrator. I got saved (I am a sinner saved by grace, Ephesians 2:8-9) in December of 1995. I was a super mom from 10-24-1990 when I met and married Jim, a widower and adoptive mom to his 3 children. I have lived a wonderful, blessed life and the aneurysm threw us threw a loop to say the least. It changed my husband’s life drastically. There is a silver lining thou and God can make beauty from ashes. Life is good!

Name: Luanne S.

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: ENCEPHALITIS AND APHASIA

Explanation of mask:  There have been many stepping stones in my life. The challenge of a child growing up, school, teenager and serving my country who I love. They all give me fond memories that I can look back on, and some more challenging than others. Since my brain injury: YES, I AM DEPRESSED. YES, I AM CONFUSED. YES, I AM UNHAPPY. YES, I AM FRUSTRATED. YES, I FEEL VERY ALONE. YES, I FEEL MY LIFE IS UPSIDE DOWN and YES, WHY ME??? Every day I strive to meet the challenges of everyday life like learning to talk, read, write and beat all the obstacles that have been thrown at me. With the help of caring friends, who I have met along the way, I know I can manage my life. With the ray of sunshine brings the smiles. What would we do without our friends both old and new.

Name: Kerry B.

Age: 46

City: Tempe, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI)

Explanation of Brain Injury:  In 1990, I had a TBI. I had a severe head injury.

Explanation of mask:  My eye resembles how it was shut for 3 months. The head only represents how I can only move one arm really and how I have a brace on my right foot. I AM A VERY POSITIVE THINKER ABOUT LIFE NOW!

Name: Jennifer D.

Age: 50

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI)

Explanation of Brain Injury:  While in Portland, O.R. in 1999, I was in a crosswalk and struck by a drunk driver. I was in a coma for 2 ½ months and then spent the next 6 months in 3 different hospitals recovering. But, I needed no walking aids upon my return home to Sandpoint, Idaho.

Explanation of mask:  I depicted myself and the two halves. Since my brain injury, I feel TORN. I have lost most of my past life. I have had to work to re-create myself in a way. It has been VERY HARD!

Name: Benito L.

Age: 62

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: STROKE

Explanation of mask:  MY STROKE WAS THE RESULT OF A BLOOD CLOT IN MY BRAIN. I FEEL LIKE THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT AND I AM HOPING FOR A FULL RECOVERY.

Name: Therese W., Professional Caregiver

City: Tucson, AZ

Explanation: I am a professional CAREGIVER who has assisted a lot of people with brain injuries, especially children.

Explanation of mask:  I was born and raised in Sri Lankan and came to the U.S. Both flags are represented on my mask. I am a world traveler, Catholic and grateful, the two hearts represent Jesus and Mary. Apple-teacher. Sea Shells for the island of Sri Lanka. The butterfly, roses, and wreath show my love for arts & crafts. The candle because I am a “Wick” and was called to be LIGHT TO THE WORLD especially the POOR. The 3 blue stripes represent former Missionary of Charity Sister in order founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The Bible is my base.

Name: Jessie B., Professional

Age: 31

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: SHAKEN BABY SYNDROME

Explanation of Brain Injury:  THIS MASK IS FOR A YOUNG GIRL, ALEXIS, WHO WAS SHAKEN WHEN SHE WAS ONLY 14 MONTHS OLD.

Explanation of mask:  ALEXIS IS THE BIGGEST FIGHTER I KNOW! SHE IS COOL AND WEIRD AND SUCH A CHAMPION. SHE BRINGS COLOR AND JOY TO EVERYONE’S LIFE AND I AM SO HONORED TO KNOW HER. I CANNOT THINK OF A BETTER WORD TO DESCRIBE HER OTHER THAN “BADASS!”

Name: Aaron W., Family Member

Age: 30

City: Tucson, AZ

Brain Injury: HYPOXIA

Explanation of Brain Injury:  My cousin was the sole survivor of a car accident in 1999. The car went into a lake and he was the only one wearing a seatbelt. He had water in his lungs and was deprived of oxygen for a along time. He was lucky to survive but is living his life in happiness with his parents.

Explanation of mask:  Mark was and still is a lover of Reggae music and Bob Marley. The green, black and yellow represent the Jamaican flag. The blue represents the water that he inhaled that caused his brain injury. The white represents the memories that were lost, but the small objects inside are the new memories he has formed.