The Masks


Name: Paul

City: Kona

Brain Injury: Motorcycle accident

Explanation of Mask: Confusion, headaches, pain, frustration- personality disorder.  Overcoming obstacles and difficulties.

Name: Robin

City: Kaua’i

Brain Injury: The 1st brain injury was from a head-on vehicle collision, the 2nd brain injury was from a rear-end collision, and the 3rd brain injury was a from a syncope episode when I fell while riding my horse.

Explanation of Mask:The color Pink represents the reciprocity of love in you and me; the sweetness and joy, the innocence and playfulness of my inner child, the divine feminine as captured in a rose, the sacredness and authenticity of all life, the desire to live by example, new beginnings like a newborn baby. The color Purple represents my spiritual essence, the foundation of who I am, my connection to Divine Source as my Divine Self, my spiritual awakening to a greater love, strength and gentleness, benevolent leadership, empowerment, everything we need lies within. 

The Pink & White Feathers- I love birds as they speak to my heart with their songs of love and joy with a purity of heart, nature, animals (especially horses) and children were my safe refuge when the outside world was too fast and chaotic and was afraid of my brain injuries. By experiencing my vulnerabilities, I feel safe to be able to walk through public speaking with my TBI experiences to the other side where confidence and empowerment reside.

The Words –

“grateful” represents the gifts found in my recovery, my new life and purpose for living;

“aware” gave me the moment to say “I know now what I didn’t know for all those years” by opening doors I did not know existed;

“free to be me” is the return of my voice that was silenced by all the internalized struggles of my disability for so long. To rewire you must re-experience the challenges in order to practice the new skills/behaviors you desire in order to transform your world, destruction precedes new growth/renewal. TBIs were my experiences that brought me back to my heart, they no longer define me “connection” a sense of well-being through a heart connection is vital for healing to occur. In my experiences there were many well-meaning support systems that wanted to help by offering information about symptoms, medication, statistics, etc. without compassion which was meaningless to my state of isolation, despair and loneliness. I did not feel safe, loved or accepted. This also ties into the words, “you matter to me” which is what I wanted to hear and feel deep within. I can now give those words back to another in their time of need…what we all crave as humans. Nothing is separate; all is connected.

“Empowered voice” represents the voice of truth from within that comes with love, power and wisdom. And the Yellow Heart represents love and joy, the gifts of our Earth Mother that has everything we need to heal.

Name: Sarah (family-caregiver)

City: Kailua-Kona

Brain Injury: Need to project a happy face

Explanation of Mask:

HIDE                                          SHOW

Sad face- tears                         Happy Face

Concerned                                Smile

Scared                                      Love

Dark                                         Concern





Name: Shawna

City: Hawai’i

Brain Injury: In 2009 I had a brain hemorrhage haven’t been the same learn to walk and talk had only a 1% chance to survive.

Explanation of Mask: My mask one side is hopeful, happy, carefree clouds no care in the world, the rainbow colorful new outlook on life the sun look forward to a brand new day. The other side is a blank lonely feeling sometimes sad and often feel like my head is about to blow up, hard to understand feel like am in the dark a lot because am scared of the outside world anxiety gets the best of me but am always happy or at least act like I am.


Name: Stephanie

City: Kailua-Kona

Brain Injury: I was a veterinary ophthalmologist, and got hit in the head by a big dog. The brain injury/concussion was compounded by the fact that it went undiagnosed for 3 years, I had 4 general anesthesias within 22 months, and several other health complications that altered blood flow to my brain and increased the symptoms from the TBI. 

Explanation of Mask: The mask is mostly white to illustrate the blandness that has become my life.  I feel like I have Broken Intellect, Broken Memory, Broken Cognition & Broken Concentration.  The colored tears show that this led to problems with Family, Function, Self-Esteem, My Role in Society, Friends and Finances. It has resulted in Ridicule, Loss of Fun and Loss of Hope.  My mouth is outlined in Red, showing me trying to put on a brave, happy face, but the smile is not filled in, and the lines at the sides show that smile is a attempt at bravado, but that I don’t really feel joy and happiness inside me. 

I feel like a shadow of “Me”, like I no longer really fit into this world… 

There is the door, showing me the way Out, as I’m no longer a part of the world that I knew…. 

Name: Terebuta

City: Hawai’i

Brain Injury: Motorcycle

Explanation of Mask: O.K. This mask describes my feeling when I first saw my son accident. When I first saw him he laid down in the hospital bed in the hospital – not knowing what had happened to him. I was in a mess. I repeated to myself why why. This happened to my son.

It wasn’t worth it to see my son that way.

God help.

Name: Theresa

City: Waikaloa

Brain Injury: November 2010, car accident

Explanation of Mask: Cat like because of the 9 lives.  The odds of me surviving the accident was very slim.  The colors and feather highlights the releasing of my child self.

Name: Valerie

City: Pearl City

Brain Injury: Concussion, Hemorrhagic stroke

Explanation of Mask: The Center focus is Brain Burst which led to the stroke.  The Christmas theme is when I was able to come home after the hospital for 6 weeks. The dolphin is the first memory of therapy for balance.  The letter “K” is for my very special friend, who gave me support, friendship, and encouragement throughout my stay in rehab.  Some of the training and exercises remind me of when I was learning and dancing hula.  The last part and one of the most important part of recovery was my friends’ love and support even though speaking was difficult.  And last I remember the flowers which brighten my room even when my sight was not clear at first.  The last part describes the therapy that still continues till today as a 12 year survivor.  


Name: Veselisa

City: Honolulu

Brain Injury: My first brain injury happened in 1969 when my ex-husband was driving drunk and rammed our car into the rear end of a parked 18 wheeler truck traveling  approximately 50 miles an hour. I flew threw the windshield of our sturdy ’57 Ford.

I was not allowed visitors for 3 days.  When friends came to see me they would come in, look at me and leave.  On day 4, I was helped to the bathroom and was horrified.  My head and face was covered in bandages.  Spots not covered were unrecognizable. 

Explanation of Mask: My mask shows my face hiding behind mini-blinds.  For 17 years my ex-husband never gave me a compliment except for “You look nice”.  The wounds on my face have healed and my hair covers my scars.  I was ashamed, confused, frightened, and overwhelmed.  Memory failed me and my body.

Name: Yvonne

City: Kona

Brain Injury: Son had a Traumatic Brain Injury

Explanation of Mask: Chain link for cheekbones plates holding jaw together but he’d always smile and laugh.  Even in pain he had a smiling face.  Smiling through pain making everyone happy and never thinking of himself. 

Name: Bill

City: Hawai’i

Brain Injury: Motorcycle

Explanation of Mask: Something I got to live with now.

Name: Cathleen

City: Wahiawa

Brain Injury: Basilar skull fracture, right frontal contusion

Explanation of Mask: It has been 21 ½ yrs since I suffered my Brain Injury, my life changed dramatically but 20 yrs ago not much was understood how the brain affected the behavior, personality and & thought process. I lost my sense of self, dignity and future hopes for further rehabilitation. The lightning bolt represents the drive within me to make a difference, tears shed for others and a small red heart for Hope.

Name: Faith

City: Honolulu

Brain Injury: Concussion

Explanation of Mask: We were given white masks. In Hawai’i, we’re multicultural, “Hapa”, as they say in Hawai’i. Brain injury affects everyone, in different ways – not always seen, or understood, or accepted. I think of how beauty in our hearts is important to one’s survival – we need our loved one’s encouragement, we need family, supportive friends, and to be engaged in life.

        The flowers and leaves represent Hawai’i’s flora and beauty. The dove – how peace and love in our hearts is required for survival, and to treat each other with respect. The eyes – to look at each other with hope and spark of understanding.  The complexion – our heritage, community, ancestors, family, friends – our village, our camp – our home.

Name: Gloria

City: Kona

Brain Injury: Bicycle accident on March 15, 2015.  Subdural Hematoma.

Explanation of Mask: A cross between Rationalizing and Wonder of “What if’s …” “Do not let the past determine your future.”  Take charge and be proactive to get better and get focused to get stronger, make small improvements every day and Thank God for all the challenges and success of TBI. 

        Sometimes I wonder and sometimes I rationalize, but it gets better every day when engagement and intentionality to improve is focused.

Name: Ipo

City: Hawai’i

Brain Injury: Caregiver

Explanation of Mask: This mask represents the colors in the world like every human being and the diversity that we as a human race can live and breathe side by side. As a care giver, I must talk a lot of the world’s comments and opinions about people with brain injury! It is not for the faint of heart but you as an individual, have faith and compassion in your heart to find each individual capabilities and you will find the beauty is in you and your client!

Name: Karen

City: Kailua-Kona

Brain Injury: Multiple brain abscesses in December of 2016

Explanation of Mask: I chose drama and comedy symbols for my mask project.  Experiencing an acquired brain injury   lesions, followed by 40  days  of hospitalization and a year  of  IV then oral antibiotics  was a dramatic tragedy.  Since then I have  been   undergoing  cognitive, physical and emotional  rehabilitation.  I chose comedy symbols to depict achievements in all areas of rehabilitation that continue to today.  

Name: Lenora

City: Honolulu

Brain Injury:Concussions from falls, auto accident and inattention

Explanation of Mask: The mask is an emotional reaction the medical care given to the brain injuries and related ailments- some positive, some negative, and some frustration with poor care.  The blue on the left side of the mask indicates the negative effects of the brain injuries.  The glitter expresses my positive attitude toward learning from the experience. 


Name: Leslie

City: Ewa Beach

Brain Injury: In 2013 I was hit in a crosswalk by a SUV.  I was in ICU and in a coma for a long time. My family thought I wasn’t going to make it.

Explanation of Mask: As a victim of a pedestrian accident I want people to know to please be careful about other people, esp. pedestrians. The price I paid is very high.  I lost my mobility and became disabled. I lost my job of 30 years as a preschool teacher and my cognitive skills. I now have short term memory, have nightmares, and constant pain in my body. The challenging part of this experience was when I was in a wheelchair and I had to do therapy to learn to walk again. Brain injury effected my speech. I had to go to speech therapy to learn how to talk and to keep up with my language skills.  I used to be able to do things for myself but after the injury I had to depend on my brother and sister for a long time to do things for me.  With therapy I can do things for myself again.   I had to pick up the pieces and be strong to get my mobility and skills back.  I’m happy to be alive.

Making the mask shows how I can have mobility again and that I prove that someone with a brain injury can still function.  Through arts and crafts I am able to express my feelings. God gave me back my life and wanted me functioning again to join the Brain Injury Support Group to see what others experiences are and know there are others like me with TBI. Blue feathers represents sadness. Some people don’t understand and not educated about TBI, brain injury.


Name: Linda

City: Kailua-Kona

Brain Injury: At 10 months I fell from a high chair.  I was hemipalegic for my childhood.  I can pass for normal.  I fall a lot.  I can walk  & work & create.  I grieve the me that might have been and I am grateful for all I have become.

Explanation of Mask: Constantly trying to hold it together while my firecracker brain spills out in unseen rage and unwiped tears- keep it all zipped.  My TBI has come between me and every human relationship of my life.  I am 68 and I get better all the time… If I make it to 150, who knows.


Name: Lyn

City: Honolulu

Brain Injury: Caused by an accident when a parking arm dropped down unexpectedly

Explanation of Mask: TBI is a multifaceted problem that is complicated and not easy to recognize, and deal with.  I used flowers with many different colors, layers, sizes, and shapes to describe my emotions.  The flowers look pretty and colorful, but they’re useless.

The red heart was me and white branch of leaves was my potentials and what I used to love doing in life.  However, the big flower is my constant headache that puts a stop to my growth and success.  The feathers represent my doctors, medications, therapies, etc that help me cope with the TBI.  While the brown feather is the negative side effects, the red feather shows positive outcomes.  However, there are limitations and new problems are born, which are represented by the white and red balls.  They cause new obstacles and even embarrassment.  The many flowers on the right side of the mask represent new medical problems after the TBI.  They don’t look ugly or serious at a glance, but it is very difficult to recognize or understand how to get rid of.   Finally, a large portion of the mask is blank because most of the time, I feel empty, lonely, and indecisive. 


Name: Lyna (family, caregiver)

City: Honolulu

Brain Injury: My son had a pedestrian accident when he was 16 years old.  He was in a coma for 2½ months.  In spite of his TBI injury he was still very smart. 

Explanation of Mask: In spite of his TBI injury he was still very smart, but when he decides to do something he shakes.  According to the doctor this is due to the TBI injury at the back of his brain.  Hopefully, he will get over this after a while.

Usually I feel so helpless.  In spite of all the hard work it seems like his recovery is very slow.  When I see that he does make progress it’s very gratifying. Never lose hope.


Name: Mary

City: Honolulu

Brain Injury: TBI started after I had a meningioma tumor removed by laser surgery in 1982. Thank Jesus that I lived through the trauma.  Since TBI I’ve had a new life where I had to relearn everything.  I was alienated by my family and it continues till today. 

Explanation of Mask:

I emphasize no. 3: complete

Red: compassion

Black: alienated, pain, rejection

Blue: confidence, accepted

Pink: rejuvenation

Yellow: enlightenment, truth, God

Green: growth, understanding

Tear drops: emotions from the heart


Name: Milton

City: Honolulu

Brain Injury: 1/29/97 Motor scooter accident

Explanation of Mask: The mask shows, the images of what brain injury resembles to me. Your brain has many parts of your life, shows reaction and features. Life has many features good creative.


Name: Niels

City: Kula

Brain Injury: Sub-Arachnoid Hemorrhage, Interventricular Bleeding

Explanation of Mask: I decided to make my mask a representation of the duality of a Traumatic Brain Injury that I experienced The Right Side has a hurricane on the forehead to show the confusion and whirlwind of thoughts following the injury, the dark eye to show what the future looks like, the lightning bolt from the eye to represent the Anger and Sadness associated with the realization of what happened, the red cracks on the cheek to show the pressure of having to deal with the new circumstances and challenges and finally the lips ties together to show the difficulty of communicating the above challenges. The left side of the face represents the optimism that you must create and hold on to in order to heal and move on. The heart shows the love from Friends and Family, the open window in the eye is the new opportunity in life, the Brain lifting weights is the hard work you do to recover from injury, and the smile with 4-leaf clover is the realization that things could have been much worse!


Name: Mathew

Brain Injury: I remember falling; one moment I was standing in the bright Hawaiian sun and the next I landed at the bottom of an old abandoned dry well.  I landed directly on top of my head from about sixteen feet fracturing seven vertebrae, multiple ribs and both great toes.  I was alone, except for my two dogs.  No one knew where I was.  No one would be waiting at home.  No one would miss my absence for a few days, and with no water.  I would not last long.  After somehow climbing out of the well, I would spend the next three days crawling to the highway on my hands and knees; my dogs never left my side. 

I woke up two weeks later in the hospital after someone found me laying on the highway.  i still hadonefoot in the spirit world; I felt like my head was floating in a bowl of Novocain.  I knew something was wrong; I could not find words, I had a hard time following conversations and my memories seemed like dreams.

Explanation of Mask: I try to see my TBI as a spiritual journey; it is the only way I can make sense out of it. 

The foil thumbtacks and paper clips symbolize feeling fragile, pieced together, and protective of my right brain; painting and writing are the only times I feel whole.  I remember in old movies people would put on tin foil hats as a way of protecting themselves from alien messages.  I get overwhelmed by too much information, and my brain will shut down, I will sleep for days.  I have to protect myself from sensory overload. 

The areas of the night sky dotted with stars and planets are the spirit world.  I have lost most of the skills associated with left brain functions, math, organizing, and problem-solving. 

The left eye wit the clock/compass face depicts my loss of time, numbers and direction. 

The right eye with the red markings represents the cut in my field of vision sustained from my head injury. 

Although my hearing and speech have improved, the feather in the mouth is the insecurity I have in any conversation. 

The green line running horizontally above the eyes is the divide I feel between my body and mind. 

The silver medal is for the dogs because they deserve one for saving my life by staying with me until the very end.  Boo and Lei Lei May, you are good dogs!