The Masks


In partnership with

Name: Andy B. 

City: Spanish Lake

Brain Injury: Military accident. Helicopter rotor blade fell on my head while serving in Iraq.

Explanation of Mask: “The Calm before the shake”
The mask shows things I liked to do before the accident on the left side and what my life is like now after war on the right. My time in the Army is shown by the colors and stickers near top. The right side of my mask is what life is like now for me and mom, my caregiver, our “new normal”. Sometimes I get very overwhelmed and can’t express my feelings to my mom or I get angry and yell and have an outburst. It makes her cry and she leaves me alone to calm down. I can’t work a real job but I’ve learned different hobbies and spend time with my dogs and my mom. I stay home a lot more too and don’t want anyone knowing about my brain injury. This is my reality now.

Name: Rose S.

City: St. Louis

Brain Injury: Fell from a roof.  

Explanation of Mask:  I felt dark and depressed, had no friends, wasn’t able to keep a job. I’m not able to teach a full day. My injury impacted my son, he got in a lot of trouble after.I was in denial about being able to teach. I didn’t believe I had an accident for many years. I had my injury about 20 years ago. I feel over time I’ve improved too and I am grateful.

Name: Daryl L.

City: St. Louis

Brain Injury: Struck by a car.

Explanation of Mask:  I am blue about my memory. It is slow, but I am hopeful that it will get better. I wish people would yield to people walking or look twice and turn back.

Name: Karen O.

City: Chesterfield

Brain Injury: Car accident when I wasn’t wearing a seat belt. 

Explanation of Mask:  My brain injury happened in an automobile crash. My fiancé died in that crash and I was very sad for a long time.
For my mask I used stickers to show the ambulance and medical care needed after my accident. The One-Way and Do Not Enter signs show that there are better ways for me to learn, but sometimes the new information doesn’t enter my brain due to short-term memory loss. All of the hearts show the dreams I have for my new life with my new fiancé Geoff. I do have a new future, a great life!

Name: Shawn

City: Dorsey, IL 

Brain Injury: 30′ fall from a bridge into a creek

Explanation of Mask:  I fell into a creek. Rocks “broke” my fall and prevented me from drowning, but they perpetrated the most serve damage. Currently, I’m high functioning but I went through many cognitive stages early in my recovery. A brain injury does not affect intelligence but often increases impulsivity and can impair judgement. I’m working on a nursing degree post injury and have a GPA of 3.7, but the emotional roller coaster I’m on is impeding my progress after 3 years of success in over 70 credit hours.I’m a determined person but anesthesia from subsequent surgeries has negatively affected me, emotionally. New medication keeps suicidal ideology at bay but most of society does not understand TBI so I severely lack friends. If I could change society to have patience and be understanding, I would. Lots of people group people who sustained a TBI with developmentally disabled. Our injuries (and often symptoms) are unique as a fingerprint.Another thing many do not (or will not) understand is my deficits are not always the same. Some days I can’t remember simple directions to a gas station but other days I can remember everything on a to-do list and shopping list with no problem.

Name: Joe D. 

City: O’ Fallon

Brain Injury: Stroke 

Explanation of Mask: Joe’s mask is about being lucky to be alive. Joe cannot write this so I, his wife is writing it for him. It has not even been one year since his stroke/AVM and Joe has the attitude to do what you have to do. Never being stressed or sad for himself, he just keeps moving along to improve his life.

Name: Mark S.

City: Clayton

Brain Injury: I was born with a brain injury.

Explanation of Mask: I’m a big Cardinals fan. I enjoy going to Cardinals’ games, it is a lot of fun! I designed my mask to look like a Cardinal, it even has a beak. The stop sign tells the other team to not score. The reason I choose to make a cardinal for my mask is because it represents something that makes me joyful.

Name: Tom B.

City: Festus

Brain Injury: I was hit by a drunk driver while driving

Explanation of Mask: Even though I have had some confusion and sadness with my brain injury, I have still been able to find love and always think about my true love.

Name: Laura B.

City: Festus

Brain Injury: I was hit by a garbage truck, while riding my ten speed bike, I was 14 years old in 1984.

Explanation of Mask: I was riding my bike down a little hill, didn’t stop at the sign. Collided with a garbage truck. I was in a coma for 3 ½ months, I injured my brain stem.In 1993, married the love of my life and had a baby in 2001!

Name: Kristin H. 

City: St. Louis

Brain Injury: Brain hemorrhage at 9 years old.

Explanation of Mask: It’s cute and pretty. Delicious and fabulous! I feel excited because I’m alive. I have a best friend and we’re going out to dinner, two best friends. Camp, too, I love Camp!

Name: Tim

City: Raymore

Brain Injury: Work Injury- fall on concrete steps.

Explanation of Mask: I go between good days and bad days. Each day is emotional whatever it brings. I am blessed with a support system that lets me be me, even in my “burden” world. One side of my mask shows the bad while the other the good. The good is my wife, the strongest person I know, my six kids, grandson, friends and the Lord Jesus. The bad side shows that I’m broken and struggle with how to fix it. Some days I need direction just to do the simple things of life. I grieve at the loss of what I used to be and try to make sense of all of this. I am thankful that it wasn’t any worse than it was. We search every day for what works and what doesn’t work. I’m also thankful for Kelly and Jen, my therapists. They make me work hard. No excuses. I love my dogs too. They help me more than they know.  

Name: Tammi W.

City:  Overland Park

Brain Injury: Rear-ended making a right turn on red in rural Iowa on my way to vacation with family in Lincoln, NE

Explanation of Mask: When you get rear-ended you don’t see it coming but your life stops just the same. I felt broken, lost, labeled forever by the word “TBI”. I wondered if I was invisible as I listen to my “friends” talking about my “life changing event” to each other but not to me. It’s been a slow, frustrating journey but I am coming out of this forever changed and now stronger than before. I am courageous and strong in my own faith, confident because I have a new label, that of “survivor”.  

Name: Suzy W.                                                        

City: Independence

Brain Injury:  I hit a stalled vehicle on the bridge over the river on my way to work. One night I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt.

Explanation of Mask: The lips are black with a shade of white because I wear different colors and constantly feel like there is a darkness that follows me wherever I go.

The purple represents confusion and pain while being misunderstood or not understanding and remembering a concept/idea/memory. My friendships/overall support have drastically changed.

The lightning bolt separating the head into two is because I often feel broke. The rainbow stripes represent my resilience and hope with grief as a blessing instead of a curse.

There is a heart between my eyes which represents a reminder that my heart and soul are what matter – and this new me is at least okay.

The blue on one side of my head is attempting solace and serenity in the midst of all my negative emotions (PTSD). The other side is all black and white to represent me owning my injury and thinking in between. My wish is to spread the message to not give up! I’m also saying: Be Your Own Advocate! Use the resources available and bless others in between.

Name:        Rebecca T.                                      

City:  Kansas City

Brain Injury: Hit in the head doing inventory at Victoria’s Secret. Hit with a plastic bin by eye, knocked back and back of head hit other shelf behind me. 

Explanation of Mask:

I feel dizzy = Brown

Miraculous = Yellow

Resilient = Purple

Confused = Blue ?

Grief = Orange

Open to talking = Green

Afraid = Red  


Name: Peter K.                       

City:  Springfield

Brain Injury: Car accident. I was a passenger.  

Explanation of Mask: My mask shows my confusion after the TBI. You bleed – you find God for solace. Asking, “Why me?” How my TBI left me angry – even at God. It shows my wounds externally. The internal ones can’t be seen.  

Name: Michelle S.                                               

City: Raymore

Brain Injury: Husband fell on flight of concrete stairs  

Explanation of Mask: He faces physical and emotional challenges. There are difficulties in tasks that used to be routine. But he is still him – and I love him.

Name: Kimberly M.                                    

City: Kansas City

Brain Injury: Domestic violence while driving my car. I was beaten in the head – driving 40 mph on Easter Sunday

Explanation of Mask: On Sunday, while driving 40 mph, my ex-boyfriend and I were arguing. He punched me in my right temple several times, causing us to roll twice at 70mph. He ran away, leaving me alone upside down.  I went on disability and am now a retired nurse. It’s hard to live alone and I live at poverty level. My family still has a hard time accepting the new me. At the time of my injury, I felt alone, scared, confused, angry. Like someone stole me! Now, I am still scared, alone, sometimes strong, and more accepting. I’m just one of many who have an invisible disability that affects all aspects of my life. I would like to change society’s acceptance.

Name:  Katie T.            

City: Joplin

Brain Injury: Auto accident that was not my fault. I was 25 years old and stopped at a stoplight a block from my workplace on my lunchbreak. I was involved in three vehicle crash and caused a walking decapitation.

Explanation of Mask: Yellow around the sides means how miraculous it was that I lived through the accident. X’s over the mouth represent how I have trouble expressing what I am thinking. Jewels around eyes represent I’m still bright and intelligent even though others can’t see it. Sunflower…that I know I’m going to be disabled all my life but I’m always trying to bloom into being as good as I can be. Hello…there are times I feel I hide within myself due to fear that people only see my difficulties and not the person I still am inside – “The old me”.

Name: Kathy Q.                                

City: Joplin

Brain Injury: Motorcycle accident- 2005

Explanation of Mask: Grant is an angel. His personality has not changed. He is sweet and kind and truly cares for others. He always sets a good example for others.

Name: Jonnie M.                                         

City:  Springfield

Brain Injury: Client was 8 years old, suffered a stroke and fell hitting her head.

Explanation of Mask: This mask is an explanation of how I first perceived a client of mine who suffered a stroke at 8 years old and fell hitting her head hard. When I met this child, she was 16. She states she was in the hospital for about three months sleeping she thought. Mom states she had been in a coma. Client reported she thought she was dead. Client has a very noticeable limp when she walks because one leg is not as developed as the other. One of her arms stays somewhat bent and her hand does not always open. Client suffered post traumatic stress because her parents did not believe she really had a stroke at first. Then when she came home her parents accused her of pretending to not be able to get what they meant and not being able to move her arm or open her hand. She is happier now but the PTSD could have been avoided if her parent had known about the effects of brain injury.

Name:        John B.                                   

City: Independence

Brain Injury: Fiancé hit head at a concert

Explanation of Mask: My fiancé hit her head at a concert in October 2014, resulting in a concussion she still has not recovered from. We once travelled the country enjoying concerts and time on the road together. Now she cannot ride in a car even for a short time without adverse effects, let alone listen to loud music or the crowd chatter at such an event without suffering severe headaches. In addition to loss of memories and sometimes her ability to speak properly, she has lost so much of what made her “her”.

Name: James                                     

City: Joplin

Brain Injury: Car wreck

Explanation of Mask: I may not have a brain injury but I do work with an individual who has been through it. He had a car wreck. He spent six months in the hospital. His family provided support for him. Now since I started working with him he always has a story to tell and a laugh to share.

Name: Heather G.

City: Independence

Brain Injury:  I hit my head on the corner/edge of a concrete wall.

Explanation of Mask: The top of the mask is dark, representing the initial injury “evidence”. The darker gray represents some of the feelings and confusion the first few weeks. The lighter gray shows a good year or more of my struggling with the FRUSTRATION of everything. The stress and insecurities that it all caused. Struggling to find hope and getting over embarrassment while figuring how to take care of myself. The white area represents coming to terms with a lot of issues the brain injury created. I had to find a new way to do a lot of things so I could fly. I had to find myself again, as some things I simply cannot do anymore. I had to learn to own the awkwardness that comes with a TBI, as I miss social cues. The yellow area represents me gaining confidence in who I am again. Kindness is over the mouth to remind myself and others that words are powerful. The color orange represents joy to me. And I am finding joy in my life after two and a half years.

Name: Hannah G.  

City: Independence

Brain Injury: My mom hit her head on a concrete ledge in 2014

Explanation of Mask: The brain injury my mom has is real. That’s our new reality even if it’s a bit foggy. There are lighter days and darker days – some that are easier and others that are harder, but every day is given to us graciously by God. I was feeling angry and frustrated at first, not appreciating the day. Now I’m not so angry and frustrated anymore and instead I thank him for the day, especially with my mom. I think I took her for granted a lot (probably still do a little now) and that’s some good that has come out of this: I found a new appreciation for the day and for my mom (along with other things). I may have felt like I lost her for a little while there, but I know she is still right here next to me. And I’m ok.

Name: Gregory S.      

City: Joplin

Brain Injury: 2 motorcycle accidents, in 2 comas within 30 days 

Explanation of Mask: Judge for yourself

Name: Elgia C.

City: Sarcoxie

Brain Injury: abuse in home as a child – 8 in all – accidents as adult, First was in first grade, last one 2013

  1. How did your brain injury occur? abuses and accident in mild hit of the head and hit the head in the bathroom severe
  2. How did it impact the lives of you and your family? Mine didn’t care.
  3. How did you feel at the time of your injury? Hopeless
  4. How do you feel now? There’s help but more is needed.
  5. What message do you wish to share with others about your brain injury? Don’t give up – hope – future bright
  6. What would you like to change about brain injury? Needs to be aware of our emotion

Explanation of Mask: Pain – loss – hopeless – helpless. Hope in my faith. 

Name: David J.  

City: St. Louis

Brain Injury: Damage to brainstem at birth

Explanation of Mask: [I have always had bad] migraines.

Name: Christy O.  

City:  Seymour

Brain Injury: Accident with daughter on highway. Single car accident in which air bag came out after correcting on road in which I rolled down my window. Then the car flipped and I went out the window.   

Explanation of Mask: Fourteen years ago my life, and the lives of family and friends changed. Through positive and negative events I’m learning and striving to be a person with courage through/with Christ who strengthens me. Everyone has a maze in life. What’s yours?  

Name: Cheryl B.    

City: Webb City

Brain Injury: Caregiver of Katie who was in a car accident when she was 25 (7 years ago)

Explanation of Mask: How it feels to learn more about the causes and the effects of brain injury on everyone. What I have found out about myself as I get closer to her. How I feel about my own life. A new found appreciation for how blessed I am to not have any struggles that can compare to how someone with a brain injury has all day everyday.  

Name: Bruce D.                                          

City:  Kansas City

Brain Injury: Thrown from a Volkswagen after getting T-boned in intersection by car going 60 mph

Explanation of Mask: Since I’m a construction inspector, I used construction equipment and of course detour and road construction warning signs. The ambulance is an hour trip from the Corp of Engineering “Harry S. Truman Dam” project to the Clinton hospital in 1978. I was knocked out by vehicle traveling into the intersection.

Name: Anthony C.    

City: Stella

Brain Injury: Hypothalamus, Hypoglides

Explanation of Mask:

Name: Andrea B.                                                         

City: Seneca

Brain Injury: Motor vehicle accident – passing car hit me head on in the ditch in an attempt to avoid me when I attempted to avoid them.

Explanation of Mask: The star indicates the point of my impact. The crooked line indicates a tear on my face. The Z’s and the closed eyes are because I was in a coma for seven weeks.

Name: Judy D.                                               

City: O’ Fallon

Brain Injury: Family (spouse) member of stroke survivor.

Explanation of Mask: My mask is about sadness. The impact on this brain aneurysm and stroke has brought a lot of sadness and stress to our family. For a 49-year-old man to have a stroke and aneurysm, it has taken everything he could do before, to me doing it all from him learning to walk, talk, write, print, read, dress and bath himself. And seeing him try so hard and struggling to do these things, it breaks my heart. This situation is a long process for a family member to understand and deal with but life is not over, just a long road ahead of us to live a new life. I’m learning to let go and to move on from the anger. It’s been one year to even feel this way. My hope is that my husband will make a full recovery to be able to take care of our daughter with down syndrome.

Name: Abby                                      

City: Kansas City, MO

Brain Injury: car accident

Explanation of Mask: This is because my mom got into a car accident. The cheeks are purple, my favorite color, and expresses my feelings. The word is love because I love my mom. I did it black because we all need some darkness. The lips are pink for live. The ears are green because it matches what I feel. But the story is I love my mom.  I will never give up hope. She will get better. The nose is yellow and there is one black because there is lots of dark but I love my mom and I hope she gets better.

Name: David V.                                             

City: St. Louis

Brain Injury:  Hit by a man driving a car outside my work not looking where he was going.

Explanation of Mask: I liked the colors, the faces were happy and I put my name on the mask.

Name: Grant Q.                                                    

City:  Joplin

Brain Injury: Motorcycle wreck

Explanation of Mask: Stuff happens, but you gotta keep going! Even if you’re really good looking.

Name: Tiffany G.                                               

City: Topeka

Brain Injury: My partner was enjoying a ride on his new moped when he collided with a car. (October 2014)

Explanation of Mask: Marvin and I are two and a half years out. The mask represents how I felt when the accident happened (THEN) and how I feel (NOW). Then, it was a very dark and scary time. It is not so dark and scary now. I was silenced by confusion, but now I feel inspired and ready to stand up, speak out, and lead. It was dark and blue then. Things were a tangled mess. Now, we are out of the dark and living in more bright days. We are more sympathetic and knowledgeable. Things are tough, the journey long, but I always remained hopeful. -Inspired by my brain injury HERO!

Name: Richard O.                              

City: Seymour

Brain Injury: (Friend of survivor with brain injury)

Explanation of Mask: This is a picture of how she is coping with her brain injury. How she never gives up. She keeps a smile no matter how she feels.

Name: Brant B.

City: Cameron

Brain Injury: Major car accident in 2008

Explanation of Mask: Car to truck accident that put me in a coma for about one month. I was lucky just to wake up. The impact on my life was colossal. I remember waking up in a care home confused and panicked. The accident ultimately caused distance between me and my family as I lost a lot of memories and recollection of the past. There have been many stages in my recovery. Some have shown my frustrations and rage about my situation. I would like to change my physical abilities to do all that I used to like walk, get in shape, and to be able to go to a concert in the moshpit.

Name: Debbie W.

City: Mt. Sterling

Brain Injury: Falling off a horse at 16

Explanation of Mask: I’m very afraid and confused about my future. I can be calm at times, plus very shy and quiet. I’m loved by family and friends. I cry a lot. Red-angry Purple, yellow-afraid and confused 

Name: Lonnie L.

City: Maryville

Brain Injury: Hit by a train coming home from a birthday party. I took a short cut across the tracks, thinking train had already passed. Age 14.

Explanation of Mask: “God loves everybody, so everybody is an angel and everyone will answer for their sins”. This mask explains how I feel about God. My faith got stronger. Before the accident I had my doubts, but because of the accident I found out God is real. The mask is many colors because God is everything.

Name: Matthew K.

City: Sedalia

Brain Injury: Can’t remember at all (Car accident)

Explanation of Mask: On the left side there is a person waving and saying hi. That person is me before the accident. On the right side there is a smaller person climbing up a tree. I’m climbing in the tree after what happened because most things have become more difficult after the accident.

Name: Paige S.

City: Fulton

Brain Injury: Anoxia- blood clots

Explanation of Mask: It’s taken two years to get to a point of making friends with my emotions and coming to a point of acceptance and finding advantages of my situation. The anxiety is fading as I’m finding and remembering my true self.

Name: Roberta E.

City: Mountain Grove

Brain Injury: I wrecked a motorcycle

Explanation of Mask: Sometimes I’m blue, feeling very sad. Sometimes I’m angry and orange with pouting. I’m purple to feel hopeful for the new day. I’m green to feel determined to walk again. 

Name: Ryan E.

City: St. Louis

Brain Injury: Overdosed on heroin when I was 21. I was with my friends who also had some heroin. I had an overdose by accident. It happened on my 21st birthday and my friend laughed at me when I overdosed. It was my first time taking heroin.

Explanation of Mask: I wanted to split the mask in half to show before/during my brain injury, how I felt compared to now. Some feelings cross over including memory loss and anger towards the friend that was there at the time. I used to feel a lot of hatred and confusion, but now I’m happy. I love life and feel loved by my family and friends. I chose colors to match my feelings. I feel awesome! 



Name: Sam W,

City: Joplin

Brain Injury: Car wreck

Explanation of Mask: The eyes are green because I’m jealous of people who get to live their life normally. The tears are there because I get sad and cry a lot about my brain injury. The flames represent the anger. I feel at the world



Name: Mary M.

City: Blue Springs

Brain Injury: I was window shopping on the plaza in Kansas City, MO, after work. Suddenly, I saw an intense, blinding light. I woke up two weeks later in the ICU. I could not speak, walk, take care of myself, read, or write. Witnesses told police I went stiff and fell on the sidewalk. I had a closed brain injury. I was a writer and editor at the church office. I had written children stories for Christian education for my church. I lost my job after the stroke and TBI. I lost my independence. I had to relearn how to do everything. I failed spelling tests all the time! I couldn’t write sentences and I felt hopeless and frustrated. Sara, my speech therapist at the Rehabilitation of KC suggests I take a finger spelling class so I could see the words on my hand. I did and it worked. After that I started passing spelling test and reading sentences. Then I was learning how to walk all the time. I had to find a new job and entered the voc rehab training program at Johnson County. The counselor said I would fail, but I entered the program at the sign language community college and passed. I taught for many years and still sing songs at church. I want to teach other sign language classes. Brain injury was not as hopeless as I thought. Funny things happen, for instance, I asked an attendant for a “mitten”, when what I meant was a “napkin”, loved ones giggled with me.

Explanation of Mask: The message I want to share is that I am still an intelligent and capable woman. My brain injury completely changed my career and my self esteem for a long, long time. I feel overwhelmed by noise and too much stress, yet I AM A SURVIVOR! I feel grateful.