The Masks


In partnership with

Name: Tana O.

City: Missoula

Brain Injury: 

Explanation of Mask:


Name: Allen S.

City: Missoula

Brain Injury: TBI, 6 day coma

Explanation of Mask:  I was easy going. I still try to be, but things are harder to put together.  So confused, loosing thoughts, more forgetful, can’t keep train of thought, always confused – the mixed brain.  My mom says this and said I was in a coma for 9 days.  I forgot to mention my eyebrow (right) was partially taken off by the road.


Name: Amanda


Brain Injury: 

Explanation of Mask:  


Name: Austin D.


Brain Injury: 

Explanation of Mask:  I’m warm, I’m loving, I’m going to be a star and flying, the apple brain means I’m smart. The heart means I’m loving, the star means I’m going to be a star, the butterfly means I’m soaring. I feel sad, the [reason] why the inside of the mask is black. 


Name: Braden D.

City: Whitehall

Brain Injury: Car Accident

Explanation of Mask:  The yellow is “scary.”  Red because “I smoked too much marijuana.”  Purple means “my vision isn’t very good.”  The green is “my favorite color” that means “happy, family, life. enjoyment.”


Name: Candice S.

City: Great Falls

Brain Injury: Cerebral Palsy

Explanation of Mask:  All the colors mixed is what makes me.  Mixed feelings… happy, lucky, wise, joyful and amazing.


Name: Carla A.

City: Kalispell

Brain Injury: Closed head injury, then strokes

Explanation of Mask:  I was just 21 years old when I smacked my head – wow did it ever hurt!  I did not go to the emergency room because I didn’t have insurance and I was still paying for my back injury the previous year.  So I took aspirin for the pain.  Lots of aspirin.  A couple of weeks later, my left arm was paralyzed, so I went to the doctor – I would not let anyone take me to the hospital because I didn’t have the money.  I would go to work, but my speech became garbled, or my hand wouldn’t work, so they sent me home until I used all of my vacation and sick leave time.  It was all so random and unpredictable.  I believe that the people around me were as frightened as I was because nobody knew what to do.  My choice of survival tools was to work harder and to pretend to be the way I was before.  Friends would tell me that I was never the same again, but I would only try harder.


Name: Cindy H.

City: Missoula

Brain Injury: Bicycle accident

Explanation of Mask:  On June 7, 2017 I went for a bike ride.  As I came to the end of town, there is a bridge and the bike path goes down under the bridge.  The last thing I remember is reaching for my brakes.  The next thing I remember was trying to reach my back pack where I had placed my phone.  I was in and out for several hours during which I had called my brother 5 times and a friend in Alaska.  My brother came and called EMS to take me to the hospital.  As a result of my fall, I broke my nose and wrist, tore up my knee, scraped up my face down several layers of skin and gave myself a large bump on my head (severe concussion) which is still there 4 months later.  My mask shows how my thoughts and words just seem to go around in circles in my mind and I have a hard time getting them out at times.  Also, my memories are in pieces and scattered.  I still feel broken.  I may look fine on the outside but inside my brain is still healing and I still have problems.


Name: Dani M.

City: Missoula

Brain Injury: Multiple Concussions

Explanation of Mask:  Pre-injury is often thought of as happy, hopeful, full of light.  Post-injury is thought of as unexpected change, new challenges, and a ride on an emotional rollercoaster. 

This mask represents the complete opposites between pre-injury and post-injury and yet also represents that after accepting their new normal, a new version of the survivor is revealed and a new journey begins.


Name: Debbie H.

City: Whitehall

Brain Injury: Stroke

Explanation of Mask:  It’s all different colors to signify the turmoil I still have running through me, covered with words telling the aspects of my feelings that I have. 


Name: Dona L.

City: Great Falls

Brain Injury: Loss of oxygen to brain from birth 

Explanation of Mask:  The two different colors represent the different personality traits that make me who I am.


Name: Donovan W.

City: Libby

Brain Injury: Fall on March 29, 2005

Explanation of Mask:  Everyday is different with assorted colors.  Each color has a different effect on me.  How I feel shapes my day!  Orange you glad I did this?


Name: Doug C.

City: Missoula

Brain Injury: Stroke in 2006

Explanation of Mask:  On May 5, 2006, while working at an Elementary School as a janitor, I suffered a major stroke.  When I awoke and learned what had happened to me, I was very confused and unable to understand exactly how this traumatic experience would affect the rest of my life.  I had thousands of questions floating around in my confusion clouded head.  How would I support my family?  How would I be able to survive?  How would I be able to get around?  Would I ever be able to walk and talk again?  Just to name a few.  I wanted to learn all I could about stroke and what it did to my brain and body.  The hospital I was in had no support group at the time.   I urged them to start one, and faithfully attended for the past 8 years.  I know I will never be the same person I was before May 5, 2006, but I can still function because of what I have learned during the past 11 years.  I feel gifted, as I am still here.  Now all I have to do is figure out how to give others the help and hope that I have found.  My mask shows my confusion and understanding of the many questions that have bothered my thinking.


Name: Gene S.

City: Belgrade

Brain Injury: Head concussions & nerve damage (neck area)

Explanation of Mask:  Severe pain and the mask is a sign that I am living through pain and trying to be happy


Name: Glen B.

City: Kila

Brain Injury: Fall on March 16, 2007

Explanation of Mask:  My mask represents the tears of not being able to do things, and the forehead represents the inability of multitasking.


Name: Holly D.

City: Belgrade

Brain Injury: 1997

Explanation of Mask:  The part that is black is after my wreck, I became more silent, I cried more.  My favorite color is green.  A cat became a necessity to me.  I took life more serious.  The white, I was careless.  But through it all, I still shine on.  The whiskers are for my cat. 






Name: Kristen M.


Brain Injury: 

Explanation of Mask:  This mask represents the internal messages used to achieve an outer appearance of normalcy for others; family, friends, co-workers, and strangers. The process is exhausting and often overwhelming.


Name: Jake K.

City: Bozeman

Brain Injury: December 1982 – fell off ladder and hit head on cement 

Explanation of Mask: It’s sad looking, like I felt.  Things change.  Construction accident.  I was foreman for volunteers installing a new roof on the fire house at Willow Creek, MT.  My ladder tipped over, therefore I fell and hit my head on cement.  Three months later a blood clot formed and had to be removed surgically.  


Name: Tana O.


Brain Injury: 

Explanation of Mask: 


Name: Janelle S.

City: Glendive/Lindsay

Brain Injury: April 6, 2009 – car accident

Explanation of Mask: On my drive home, late at night, to my house in the country, I got into a rollover car accident.  God helped me make it through my coma and multiple injuries.  I am not at Liberty Place to recover; I started out in Whitehall and transitioned to Belgrade.  I now have a job at Starbucks.  This is so exciting for me and also will assist me with my complete recovery.  Keeping me company in life is my cat, Moose.  Having him as a companion is so great for me.  My family, though far away and on the other side of the state, has always watched out for me and I love them for that.  Without them I don’t think I would be where I am today. 


Name: Jeff K.

City: Whitehall

Brain Injury: 

Explanation of Mask: The dinosaur means that I’m “old school.”  The snail means I’m “mentally slow compared to before my injury.”  The heart means “the love of my family for me.”


Name: Jim M.

City: Missoula

Brain Injury: Closed Brain Injury from Train vs Firetruck 7/10/91

Explanation of Mask: My mask represents the significant change that occurs after each brain injury.  All the pieces of my Life Puzzle were scattered all along the railroad tracks.  It was my challenge to seek to find the missing pieces and then to figure out how to put those pieces back in place.  Sometimes I have found the pieces but find nowhere to put them in the new Jim Mickelson that survived.  I thank God that #1: I have had the desire to put my life puzzle back to some degree of order and #2: that God has given me the tenacity to keep trying even after 26 years.

Thank God that my wife and family have hung in there so long as that is the most significant piece of the puzzle.  24/7 with time off for other activities for 26 years is a long time.  Helping others through support groups like the Missoula Brain Injury support group and the Missoula Puzzle Club and BIAMT has been a big piece to my puzzle.


Name: Joe K.

City: Helena

Brain Injury: Cracked skull with diagnosed brain injury 

Explanation of Mask:  Just represents how I feel I do look after having had been put back together by qualified physicians to perform as I do today and in a holistic and qualified manner.






Name: John M.

City: Malta

Brain Injury: Parent of a daugther with TBI

Explanation of Mask:  So much more on the inside.


Name: Joseph T.

City: Victor

Brain Injury: Non-aneurysmal Perimesencephalic Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Explanation of Mask:  Helping a neighbor, I was struck on the head by a falling tree.  My life changed instantly, I was hospitalized for 7 days, late I suffered a brain hemorrhage.  I’ve been learning to walk, think and do what we all take for granted.  I lost my wife, my career, my home, everything but dear friends.  My mask represents my pain, my struggle, it is how I feel inside, and the emotions I feel each day.  People say you look fine, my mask represents what my inner self looks like.  Yet I have faith, hope and will persevere.


Name: Joshua M.


Brain Injury: Motorcycle Accident

Explanation of Mask:  The title of my piece is “Tears of Joy” because I had to go through hell just to share my story with you.  Thirteen years ago, I moved to Hawaii with a friend, I was running from my addiction.  So anyway, I was in a terrible motorcycle accident, I fractured C2-C5 vertebrae in my neck, broke a rib, punctured a lung, and caused severe brain damage.  I was life flown from the big island of Hawaii to Honolulu where I was at Queen Ann’s hospital for three months, where I eventually was stabilized, so I could handle the 9.5 hr flight back to the main land.  I was flown to San Diego where I was admitted into Edgemore Hospital and stayed for ten months.  The blood represents the pain that I had to go through to write this piece and the joy is the way I feel about life today! 


Name: Josie W.

City: Whitefish

Brain Injury: Hemispherectomy

Explanation of Mask:  I like butterflies.  My favorite colors are pink, purple, blue, green, yellow.  I am 14 now.  When I was 5, I had seizures in my right brain.  I had my right brain removed to stop the seizures.  I still have a lightening storm on my right brain, but I have no more seizures.


Name: Justin

City: Whitefish

Brain Injury: Brain surgery

Explanation of Mask:  My mask represents all of the beautiful colors in the world.


Name: Lisa P.

City: Bozeman

Brain Injury: Occured 10/20/1991; 6 week natural coma (not induced)

Explanation of Mask:  I hope my choosing to base my mask with such a cheerful, encouraging and optimistic color as bright yellow doesn’t convey the wrong message.  My having played Rip Van Wrinkle naturally for 6 weeks continues to affect and effect my life these past 26 years.  Wow!  Twenty-six years have passed?!  Sometimes seems like it just happened; other times I feel I’ve gained advanced maturity in compassion and empathy as I continue to survive and thrive despite it.  The bright yellow also represents the encouragement many people (including nurses) gave/give throughout my recovery.  The green dots represent confusion and exasperation flooding my mind as it is difficult to express my thinking.  I feel exasperated that others don’t see the obvious!  This causes the dark purple frustration under my eyes.


Name: Mike M.

City: Missoula

Brain Injury: Kicked in head

Explanation of Mask:  Suffer from short term memory loss.  Kicked by person in the eye and head.


Name: Marie G.

City: Missoula

Brain Injury: Cerebral Hematoma (Hemorrhage)

Explanation of Mask:  I was riding a horse, fell off when it started to run, unaware of what it was doing.  This all happened across the Six Pac in Florence, 1983; when I was 15 years old.  Soon an emergency helicopter came to rescue me, but in the meantime, a fellow came and asked if he could help.  He gave me a trac.  Monday, he got an A+.  The search and rescue man called mom, and she called our family doctor, our doctor knew a neurologist who was a friend to get a hold of.  Dr. Richard Dewey just fixed me up, left side first, then next side second week.  It may have taken him a lot of weeks to make me look normal, but I thank my Heavenly Father, I look normal.


Name: Mary

City: Kalispell

Brain Injury: and PTSD

Explanation of Mask:  Try to use my brain in left brain way to help other people.  I’m pretty good with boys/men, have a harder time with girls/women.  The tears represent “Doctor, my eyes have seen the world and the slow parade of tears.  Was I unwise to leave them open for so long?”  I try to radiate encouragement and happiness, but many times do not smile to show this.  I have whiskers and buttons to show my wrinkles as I age trying to keep a happy sincere face. 


Name: Mary D.

City: Gallatin Gateway

Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury & Concussion Sept. 2000; my husband was out of town, but came home for a few days.

Explanation of Mask:  I am grateful to be alive after a drunk driver on Huffine Ln, Bozeman rear-ended my VW Beetle.  He was driving >80MPH with his headlights off, 10pm and knocked my car into a ditch.  A highway patrolman found me 2 hours later and saved my life.  On a funny note, Costco gave me a new back of Kirkland dog food which was behind the front seat of my VW and exploded all over the car and in a ditch – it was like a giant airbag and saved my life.  A piece of glass severed a nerve in forehead so I lost my sense of smell, but I joke that I don’t have to smell “dog farts” (we had yellow labs) anymore!  When I got home from hospital, my two daughters took care of me (cracked ribs, left knee and lower back) and our yellow lab “Chipper” never left my side.  A famous neuroscientist has evidence that mammals like dogs share the same part of the brain we have where they show “empathy and compassion.”


Name: Melanie G.

City: Whitehall

Brain Injury: Walking on highway, hit by a car

Explanation of Mask:  The butterfly means that it’s a nice day (and the butterfly is free).


Name: Anne A.

City: Roundup

Brain Injury: Caregiver

Explanation of mask: Many confusing explanations since his injury at age 2 ½ years of age – plus other problems – for he is a hemophiliac – suffered bad blood that was a problem of 1980 – His bad blood was Hep C. Cured 2 years ago with Harvoni but suffered the effects of Hep C for 25 years or more.

Name: Hannah
City: Cardwell
Brain Injury: Diffuse Axonal Injury (husband)
Explanation of mask: My husband received a moderate DAI while soldiering in Iraq. My mask design features a neuron which blows into the dark side of the mask which is meant to represent what we don’t yet know about the human brain. The brain is so complex, yet so resilient.

Name: Katie H.
City: Bozeman
Brain Injury: Family Member
Explanation of mask: My mask is just a reflection of my aunt in my life. Our favorite game is checkers and she loves spending hours talking about flower and nature. She is the light of my life and is always a beautiful soul to be around no matter the situation.

Name: Anonymous
City: Great Falls
Brain Injury: Caregiver
Explanation of mask: Being a caregiver is a very emotional ride at times, you cry with them, your happy with them. Every emotion they feel you feel.