The Masks


In partnership with

Name: Janie P.

City: City

Brain Injury: Stroke, Seizures

Explanation of Mask: I think the stroke allowed me to let some things go. I think I’ve let go of the negative things in my life because there’s no reason to hold on to it, it’s not going to help you get better.  I have gratitude I may not have had otherwise.  I’m finding new ways to express myself to communicate.  I have had discoveries about myself.  I think I’m a better person, but I’ve changed.  Sometimes I feel like I’m not different and then I realize again I am. Missing part of head-I look the same and my brain remains altered, wounded, but still mine. Arrow-My stroke was in my right hemisphere but affected the left side of my body. That was the path of the alteration of my brain. Mechanical gears-The workings of my mind have changed. I don’t have a reference for time.  I remember some things really, really well and other things I can’t.  It’s hard for me to stay organized and on task.  I get anxious. Earring and black eyeliner-I’m not able to get both my earrings in or wear my makeup because it’s hard to do. It’s liberating, though.  Now, I’ll go to the makeup counter at the mall if I need to get dressed up. Right Eye-I felt like my eyes were full of glass when I had previous TIA’s. I may have minimized warning signs. Left Eye-My visual processing has changed but I see HOPE. I look forward to see how much more of me there will be.

Name: Dana J.

Brain Injury: Post-concussive syndrome secondary to a fall on the ice at work.

Explanation of Mask: I have so much anger. I have disconnected from my family.  They say I have changed.  I scream and get mad too easy.  I don’t listen.  I’m angry for falling down and busting my head.  I’m like a football player who loved my job but now I can’t do it.  I loved taking care of the elderly.  I was doing something with my life.  Now it’s the last thing I want to do.  It’s way too stressful and too hard on my body.  I’ve lost my self-esteem.  I’m grateful to be back at Rehab and having my support team.  They push me, they make me laugh, they understand me; give me a reason to live, to get out of bed, out of the house, to breathe, to workout, to be who I once was. Pink-was my life before, I had everything going on. Black on the right-this is after I fell. Black on the left-this is when I was taken out of therapy at Frazier due to worker’s comp insurance. Mixture of pink and yellow over the black-represents my return to therapy when I was happy, hopeful, but scared. Unfinished part-It’s unfinished. I’m not finished.  There’s more left.  It’s unknown.  How do you go with the unknown?

Name: Anthony

Brain Injury: Hit my head on the floor.

Explanation of Mask: I chose the colors because they remind me of the moon and the sun. I chose the wording because this mask reminds me of still being happy.  This mask was fun for me to make.

Name: Mark

Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident

Explanation of Mask: Grief from loss of ones-self. Acceptance of the new me.  Easy words to say but very difficult and painful.  Finding the new me I found to be a surprising discovery re-inventing myself.  Like this mask very dark and grey world of pain and confusion to a clean blank canvas my second chance.  Art has helped me heal talents uncovered.  A life renewed.

Name: Paul B.

Brain Injury: Fall related to substance abuse.

Explanation of Mask: Black-represents being thrown into a dark place with no understanding of where I was until I got into treatment at Rehab and learned about the brain and myself. Angel-my Guardian Angel who is my mother; I believe she saved me from the clutches of death and has continued to watch over me. Devil-represents all the evil things that were happening before and after my injury: drugs, anger, stress, depression, etc. XXX’s on my nose-represents the loss of smell. Tears-represents all the crying I have done and my loss of emotional control since my injury. Frown-my sadness and not understanding.

Name: Paul

Brain Injury: Non-traumatic brain injury

Explanation of Mask: My mask is an Army mask. It demonstrates that I feel confident, great, stable, content and stable.  It also shows that I am optimistic and full of pride of who I am.

Name: Joshua P.

Brain Injury: Severe Traumatic Brain Injury (including expressive receptive aphasia) secondary to motor vehicle accident.

Explanation of Mask: I think about stuff, but it doesn’t get out of my head. Headaches.  My dreams speak out to me, people I hung out with speak to me, but I try to hang out with different people.  I want to be correct with my family and not to lie to them.  Life is different.  When I was working on it (the mask) I was thinking about (being in) the Marines.

Name: Robyn

Brain Injury: Hit with a softball in 1980.

Explanation of Mask: The black represents my depression and the yellow represents a new life. My thought process was cloudy at first and I felt like an infant at times because I had to relearn a lot of things. The “X” represents my inability to speak at first. The words and symbols on the yellow half represent my strength to be happy again. All of the symbols on the black side represent happenings and feelings related to being struck by a softball.

Name: Shannon J.

Brain Injury: Stroke while being treated for leukemia.

Explanation of Mask: I have my days that aren’t so good but most of the time it’s pretty positive. I wanted my mask to show that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I have been given lots of support and worked with many good medical professionals. “stroke”-it’s small because I didn’t want it to be the focus. Clock-represents my memory of getting shots at the same time every day and I also have difficulty with managing my time now. I lose track of it. Lipstick-represents always being me. At the time of my initial treatments I had lost most of my independence but it was still a little bit of me. Light orange color and orange ribbon-presence of leukemia. I was faced with losing my eye or losing my life.  I realized how important it is to be alive! Boxing Gloves-the fight. Ruler-tools I have been given at Rehab.

Name: Holli

Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident

Explanation of Mask: My brain shows how my brain seizes while I sleep. The yellow represents the seizing motions, the copper represents the sadness I feel when this happens.  The blue around my eyes represents how my memory is sometimes blinded from these seizures.  My pink lips represent my favorite color.

Name: Lisa O.

Brain Injury: Fall at work as a nurse.

Explanation of Mask: The black represents the beginning of my brain injury on September 7, 2012. A day that when I am 80, I’ll still be able to recall instantly.  A dark, swirling, frightening time where fear and anxiety ruled.  The most desperate day of my life.  An unwelcomed insult to my brain and body.  But, as time goes on, with lots of love and help from others and learning to cope and live life again and accepting the changes, the darkness turns into brighter colors and days until finally the sun shines again and what I thought I’d never overcome or live with, I have.

Name: Carin D.

Brain Injury: Stroke

Explanation of Mask: Green eye shadow, blush and lipstick-I wore my make-up throughout my rehab. It was always important to me because it represents how “I am sill me.” Blue-represents losses. I am currently not able to volunteer or drive.  I was very active before the stroke. Red-Frustration. I am not able to walk and get around well.  It is hard to be dependent on others.Yellow-my progress and hope.

(Carin’s mask was not fully completed due to an unexpected hospitalization. She has planned to add eyelashes to represent her mascara and words and images from cards she received while in rehab.)

Name: Phylicia

Brain Injury: Severe Traumatic Brain Injury (including expressive receptive aphasia) secondary to motor vehicle accident.

Explanation of Mask: I remember my first day at intensive outpatient rehab and thought that mentally I was fine. Then a few days passed and I met my psychologist there and she asked me something about my college and I couldn’t remember and I started crying.  I realized something was wrong.  Denial is a big part of it because you don’t want to be in this situation.  A lot of what just having to realize there was a point and purpose to be at rehab.  I felt at first like I didn’t belong but now I know we are all going through the same thing no matter what level we are on. Red/Fire-represents my anger, what I have felt the most, especially at the beginning. Fire brings together many different emotions (colors). Blue-mixed emotions, denial, strength, clarity, loyalty. Fist-strength. Kellan-my son has been my motivation. Purple, eyes with heart tear-Sadness and pain related to losing sight in my left eye, but I am beginning to accept it.

Name: Lucy

Brain Injury: Non-traumatic brain injury

Explanation of Mask: The colors I choose for my mask represent the two extremes I feel since my injury. It shows at times I am eager, passionate, glad, lucky and hopeful.  It also shows that I feel distracted and helpless too.

Name: Joshua

Brain Injury: Hit by a car while riding my bike.

Explanation of Mask: When I was sleeping in the hospital the doctors told my parents to talk to me or leave a radio on. The doctors could not handle the old hard rock station that I listened to so they put it on an oldies station.  Somehow I must have been able to hear it because I remember all the lyrics and am into older rock now.

Name: Stephen

Brain Injury: Assault

Explanation of Mask: People with acquired brain injuries are still bright as shining stars and the U.S. should have more available to accommodate their needs.


Name: Madison

Brain Injury: Non-traumatic brain injury

Explanation of Mask: My mask represents me practicing putting on makeup like Lady Gaga! It shows that I am alive, bold, amazing, proud, dynamic, fun and glowing

Name: James

Brain Injury: A Fall

Explanation of Mask: My mask shows that I am creative, optimistic and full of pleasure. It also represents that since my injury I can become overwhelmed.

Name: Karen

Brain Injury: Stroke

Explanation of Mask: The blue and the tears represent my sadness. The top part is my brain, which got scrambled by multiple strokes which affected my left side.  I feel trapped.

Name: Fabian

Brain Injury: Motorcycle Accident-No Helmet

Explanation of Mask: The mask shows my face when I was injured. The dotted lines show where my injury is.  I’m shining to be the best.

Name: Sharon

Brain Injury: Non-trauma Brain Injury

Explanation of Mask: My mask is called “Day to Shine”. I painted it on the day of my discharge from the rehabilitation hospital.  The day was so bright the mask needed sunglasses.  The colors represent my feelings of being bold, happy, glamorous, empowered, confident, amazing, and ready!

Name: Johnnie

Brain Injury: Assault

Explanation of Mask: Due to expressive language deficits, resident is unable to explain his mask.

Name: Charles

Brain Injury: Stroke

Explanation of Mask: The colors I choose for my mask represent my feelings of being eager, compassion, and inspired. It also shows that I am precious and able!

Name: Megan B.

Brain Injury: Central Pontine Mylinolysis, seizures secondary to alcoholism and malnutrition.

Explanation of Mask: The bubbles are representing drinking and the red fish are how it turned my life in circles in a downward spiral. I feel like my mind is swimming

Name: Jo P.

Brain Injury: Ruptured Aneurysm

Explanation of Mask: If I had done this mask a month ago I would have been in a much darker place. I’m happy with where I am now.  I’m so thankful.  I have happy tears.  I’m getting better.  I feel my family is concerned about me.  I miss my own space but I think I’ll get it back someday.

White-I felt so blank. The aneurysm took my memory which took my independence.

Make-Up-I couldn’t think but I was able to put my make-up on and people would know. It was like the rest of me was there.  I wanted to be as much like me as I could be.

Name: Don S.

Brain Injury: Mastoiditis, empyema, sepsis, and craniotomy to evacuate subdural fluid secondary to ruptured eardrum.

Explanation of Mask: My wife is worried enough for both of us, so I am not anxious. My family has been supportive.  I am irritable because of having to have supervision.  I get frustrated because I have lost my independence but I do understand.  I have mixed feelings including frustration and gratitude.  The red area on the head represents my injury.

(Don’s mask was not fully completed due to his return to the hospital for his bone flap to be re-attached. He is recovering and will return to rehab soon.)

Name: Louise J.

Brain Injury: Brain Tumor

Explanation of Mask: I will always have brain cancer. My tumor was the size of a baseball.  The highlighted yellow section on the “head” of my mask is where I have no brain anymore.  It’s a print of the picture taken with MRI.  In September of 2007 a great neurosurgeon, Dr. Adnan H. Siddiqui, found and took out my tumor.  I chose to have surgery because I would have lived for only 3-8 months.  Since the day I was told I had brain cancer, I have asked for and accepted all medicine as well as radiation and chemotherapy.  I have also learned to enjoy being a retired Elementary Reading teacher.  My daughter has been a great child of a single mom with brain cancer.  This September of 2016 she will attend college in Kentucky.  I am a proud parent.  My life continues.  I’m enjoying it.  There have been challenges.  I feel sad a lot of times, yet I let happiness be my goal.  It arrives as much as sadness.

I feel great for the opportunity to share my 7 year story of cancer. We, my team of doctors, and I will continue to monitor my MRI’s.  I hope any reader, friend or family member of someone who is recovering from brain cancer will go for the gold!  Keep pursuing recovery opportunities that are available to you!  I am a 40 year old beautiful woman.  Enjoy life as I continue to!

Name: Chris D.

Brain Injury: Blunt force trauma from a metal beam at work.

Explanation of Mask: Powerless-you have to depend on everybody. You are at everyone’s mercy because you can’t take care of yourself, lose your independence.  I’ve felt powerless with the insurance company, seeing lots of professionals who have lots of different opinions. Scared-to provide for my family and I have another baby on the way. I’m scared I won’t be able to teach him.  My brain is different but I need to raise him.  If I make a mistake, that comes back on me.  Brown-in the muck, but it used to be black which was worse, when the accident first happened.  Green-like a meadow, calm, quiet represents what I’m working toward.

Name: Ashley T.

Brain Injury: Post concussive syndrome secondary to motor vehicle accident while working in the back of an ambulance as a paramedic.

Explanation of Mask: The blue is the EMS color because I got hurt whole working as a paramedic and my work was a lot of my life.  Blue is also a calming color. One eye is closed and one eye is open to represent the anger and sadness I tried to keep inside but I can now see things getting better and I am letting go of anger.  The string represents how I used to not to talk to anyone about my injury, trying to keep it hidden as well as possible. Safety pins represent my opening up and beginning to share.

Name: “Butch” S.

Brain Injury: Motorcycle Accident

Explanation of Mask: Speaking and reading are hard for me. Therapy/”repair” is hard, slow but I am grateful for it, so I can get re-trained.  I have always done mechanics on all kinds of things-tanks, diesel trucks, cars but motorcycles are different.  I think something was wrong with my bike.  I don’t have memory of the accident or for a couple of weeks after.  I wonder about the accident.  I don’t know what happened.  There are different stories.

Name: Jeff S.

Brain Injury: Unhelmeted motorcycle accident

Explanation of Mask: I wrecked my motorcycle and I don’t know what happened. I woke up in Rehab and didn’t know where I was, head spinning, ears ringing, broken shoulder and hip.  Can’t remember what went on and why I was there.  I don’t remember those few weeks I was in inpatient rehab and it’s so weird.  Sometimes I can’t remember names, but I am starting to know my therapists.

Beard-I have never grown a beard but I am not able to shave right now because of the shoulder injury.

Red on right side of head with tornado-I went to the doctor and I was telling him about my dizziness. He told me about where my brain bleed was.  He put his hand on that part on my head.

Behind my right ear-broken bones.

Name: Doug D.

Brain Injury: Anoxic encephalopathy following an infection and cardiac arrest.

Explanation of Mask: This experience speaks to being aware of your body and not hesitating to get yourself looked at if something is out of sorts. If I had hesitated I might have been worse or might have died.  It was luck to make the decisions to go and get there in time.  I got really, really lucky both times I had medical problems.  As much as people complain about the healthcare system, I couldn’t have been in better hands. I couldn’t have been with more professional, nicer people.  I gave some people a really hard time because I was out of sorts.  The healthcare system worked for me.  The personal interest people take is impressive; it means the world to feel how genuine they care.  I feel very lucky, so blessed.   Heart-My heart was central to my health challenges and represents the love shown to me by family and friends.  Soccer Ball-love of the game that my son and I share.  Red Hair-two most important people in my life, my wife and daughter, nothing but trouble.  Cross-my faith pulled me through.  Names of my dogs and cats-the family zoo, couldn’t live without them.  Blue-feeling blue, now blue skies ahead.

Name: Dorothy M.

Brain Injury: Stroke

Explanation of Mask:  Red-Fire, Anger, so many people telling me what to do and not do.  Blue-Cloud, for what is to come in the future.  Purple-disappointment, let down within myself because I am not as far along as I should be.  White-emptiness.  Pink-happiness for independence.  Black-fearfulness, independence taken away.  Yellow-shamefulness that I cannot do things that I used to do like work and quick thinking.  Brown eyes-looking toward the future of happiness and wholeness.

Name: Kim

Brain Injury: Anoxic Brain Injury

Explanation of Mask: My mask is bright and beautiful. I am usually positive but sometimes struggle with expressing all of my emotions.  My injury occurred during child birth.  I have a son and while giving birth to him I faced many complications.  I have no regrets, I am now an ABI but I am happy and healthy

Name: Gabby C.

Brain Injury: Encephalopathy, Ataxia, Parapresis, and Cerebral Palsy with spasticity.

Explanation of Mask: I don’t even understand my medical issues. When I was younger I asked my mom, why me?  And my mom told me that everyone has a difficulty, some you can see and some you can’t.  I think my family understands my frustration of all my medical and doctors’ appointments because they have to take me but the community thinks it is worse than it is.  Sometimes they (people in the community) don’t think I can speak for myself.  It may take me awhile to process what they say but I can respond.  I know my mom gets frustrated because people ask me something but I can’t respond in time, then they ask her because she can give a quicker answer.  When I’m in my new environment I don’t talk a lot because I’m scared people will judge me about what I can and can’t do.  My family knows me.  I’m afraid people will make fun of me or talk about me behind my back.  I am NOT my disability.  I am a person inside.  My family knows me but other people treat me different.  Purple and Orange-represent me, my two favorite colors. Yellow is to help those stand out.  ?-Medical professionals don’t know what my medical issues are and I don’t either. We have gotten different names for it but there is no diagnosis really.  They are just going off of symptoms.  Red Scars-I have a lot of scars on my face from falling but I’m still living my life even though I know I can get hurt. I wish people would stop freaking out when I fall.  Clock-I wish others were more patient with me. Patience is a big aspect of this.  Lines on mouth-I’m quiet until I get to know you. It can take me years.  (My brother is the opposite.)  I used to just let people help me the way they thought was best but I’m learning to tell people what I need when I need it.

Name: Brenda

Brain Injury: Church Picnic. Carnival Ride Accident

Explanation of Mask: The white box represents where I was after my accident. My brain was blank, no thoughts, no memory, no nothing.  The tears represent the fact that I cried for four years.  The black eye and scrapes on my chin and nose represent the many falls I had after the accident.  My mouth being tied shut represents the fact that I could not speak.  The color on my lips represents where I was before the accident.

Name: Carl

Brain Injury: Ischemic Stroke

Explanation of Mask: My mask represents my feelings of being energetic, grateful and happy but also that I am different since my stroke.

Name: Stephanie

Brain Injury: Fall

Explanation of Mask: Left side of the brain removed. Had to stop driving.  Been 26 years and I still miss it.  After surgery, they still came back.  I learned to draw, paint and make jewelry.  Being able to express myself through art is therapy for me.  For me to open my eyes and my feet touch the floor is a good day for me.  Have been on every medication for my type of seizures.  I always try to have a positive attitude and do everything I can with the card I was dealt.

Just be positive is what I can say!!

Name: Jimmie

Brain Injury: Gun Shot Wound

Explanation of Mask: The red is my lips and mouth. The blue is my brain, which is scrambled.  The brown is the shade blocking the sun from my eyes.

Name: Seth

Brain Injury: Acquired Brain Injury

Explanation of Mask: My mask represents my day to day emotions; sometimes I am angry and embarrassed. Other days I am pleased and happy.  I am overall grateful to be alive.

Name: Greg

Brain Injury: I was in a car accident and the injury to my brain caused visual impairment. I had to have lots of surgeries on my brain.  I wasn’t able to walk for a while and so I had to be taken care of, and wear a diaper.  I have a strong heart, and so I worked hard at my recovery and by the grace of Jesus I have made a lot of progress.

Explanation of Mask: I want my mask to tell individuals who have brain injuries to hold on, don’t give up, and keep a good heart. Be your individual self, keep a good attitude and go on with your life.  I have followed the advice that I’m giving.

Name: Jennifer M.

Brain Injury: Motorcycle Accident

Explanation of Mask: My accident was on September 23, 2010. I had several surgeries for physical problems in the first three years after my accident but it took me three years to get help with the changes that happened in my brain.  In that time, I thought I was going crazy and my marriage almost fell apart.  It was hard for me and my family to understand.  It still is sometimes.  I have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress and I have had a lot of social anxiety, which is so different for me.  I worked hard at the Frazier NeuroRehab intensive outpatient program and they became a safe place for me, my comfort zone.  It was sad to leave when I “graduated” but I continue to work with my psychologist and the therapy dog there.

My daughter and I worked on the mask together and it helped me communicate my journey and connect with her. We even shared some memories we hadn’t yet talked about.

Road-journey I have been on since the motorcycle accident

XXX’s on the month-I am uncertain on what and how to speak at times so silence is the choice I take a lot.

Watch in the right eye-shows how time stopped and changed my life forever. I have the watch I was wearing at the time of the accident.  The lens is scratched and still has dirt in it.  It stopped working, like a moment etched in time.

Person above left eye-represents the image of my out of body experience, seeing myself lying on the side of the road after the accident.

Name: Steven

Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident

Explanation of Mask: The mask I made to explain what I feel. Like I’m not the only one in the world who has a brain injury.  There are a lot of people in the world who have the same brain injury.  I don’t get down and I’ll always think positive.  Nothing will ever get me down.