In partnership with
Name: Allie C.
Brain Injury: Viral Encephalitis at Age 2
Explanation of Mask: I have a two-sided mask because I used to have seizures from viral encephalitis that made me feel confused and lost in a maze. Now the seizures are gone and my mom said that the first thing I said when my vision came back was, “Look at the pretty flower”.
Name: Bob R.
Brain Injury: Brain Tumor
Explanation of Mask: Patch over my eye because my vision is impaired. Fork in the road for feeling lost, abandoned and uncertain; I am not going down the path I wanted for my life, but I am still grateful for being here. Smile to remind people to never give up!
Name: Jordan H.
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: My mask represents the great spirit of the bear. I believe the bear is my spirit animal guide. When I struggle through my rehab, I look to that bear to give me the strength to push on. The war paint represents my strength and the purple represents the wisdom it takes to overcome a terrible ordeal. I placed my handprint on the mask to show what I received from the spirit animal guide. I am happy.
Name: Preston S.
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: I painted my mask blue to represent the difficult times in my life. The fuse between my eyes depicts my short temper and how I tend to say things before thinking first. I find myself frustrated often because I don’t understand or learn things the way I used to. I am consumed by feelings of anxiety, depression, and worry about how my future will turn out. I placed the image of a man biting his nails over my mouth to represent my nervous energy. My brain injury happened when I was active duty serving in Germany, and I am a proud veteran of the US Army.
Name: Robby M.
Brain Injury: Gunshot wound resulting from a home invasion at age 19
Explanation of Mask:Teardrop, pocket watch and infinity symbol represent: mourning of time lost, time passes so slowly now, and fear of being in this condition forever. Crack in space/time under left eye is a symbol of the past breaking through, my inability to run from it, and how Dr. Who got me through the darkest times, made me smile and showed me the man I want to be. Forehead depicts the bullet hole, post-traumatic stress and anxiety I face. The storm in my head never calms, transfer of energy from the evil that tried to end me, and fuels my purpose to overcome this evil.
Brain Injury: Closed wound, Basilar skull fracture, Temporal bone fracture
Explanation of Mask:My brain injury makes me feel lost, alone and misunderstood. My head is constantly confused. Each day I am trying to understand the new me as represented by the colors on the right side of my mask. The top shows my brain now, connections that are newly forming that lead to nowhere it seems. Each day I find new reasons for hope and I remind myself how much I have survived. Please have compassion for my unseen disabilities. I’m trying.
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: I chose yellow faint lines because I am shy around new people and crowds. The brown cross represents how important my faith is in my life. I have purple lines to represent my extreme paranoid tendencies and my intelligence. The red footsteps are my enthusiasm for walking again. The orange heart represents that I’m a confident individual and secure in myself. I have good relationships with the people that are close to me. Overall, my mask is a good representation of my journey so far, and my lifelong recovery process.
City: East Flat Rock
Brain Injury: I was drunk and fell 2 or 3 stories out of a window in Fletcher, NC.
Explanation of Mask: The orange represents my confidence and a slight lack of discipline. Green is for my sometimes controlled behavior. The dots represent inward anger that builds up and turns outward. The pointed lines are for intelligence. The quote on the forehead is from the Bible. When Jesus comes up out of the water, His Father says this. The purple mouth represents controlled reactions, self restraint and discipline. Both of my hands shake which is hard for me to control. The shaking comes from my brain which, as you know, was injured. I am taking some supplements to help the shaking to cease but it is taking a long while. I have only been taking them for a year which is nothing compared to my actual age. Having a brain injury though makes me feel determined and curious about what the future will hold for me.
Brain Injury: In 1994, I was hit in the head by someone’s fist and then fell to the cement floor.
Explanation of Mask: I chose yellow because it was my grandma’s favorite color and I love that color. The blinders represent what I can and cannot see, because my occipital lobe was injured. I put a bible verse over my mouth because I want to spread the gospel everywhere I go. The jagged lines represent my heart being broken. While I was in a coma my dad was murdered and my Uncle Bob was killed in a car crash. They were the only two men in my life. I had a fiancé, who is the mother of my child, and she left me. The unbroken heart represents all of my loved ones and the new loves I have found since my brain injury. The tassel represents my accomplishments after my accident, including graduating from high school. Having a brain injury makes me feel like I am a survivor!
Brain Injury: I was in a car accident when I was 16.
Explanation of Mask: The scar over my right eye represents the part of my brain that got hurt during my accident. The blue is for my eye color. My brain injury makes me feel bad because I had a car accident when I was 16, but it makes me feel good because I am alive to be with everybody else. Being around other people makes me happy. Flowers below my nose represent losing my sense of smell and the bowling alley is for my love of bowling.
Brain Injury: Stroke in 1991
Explanation of Mask:I woke up one morning and there it was. My stroke makes me feel like I am slower than other people. My intention was to be military for the rest of my life and make it a career. That ended when I had my first stroke while I was serving in Germany as a nurse. My mask is purple because purple is my favorite color and the tears represent my mom dying.
Brain Injury: Anoxic brain injury from multiple heart attacks as an infant
Explanation of Mask: The scarred and stitched red mouth represents my often dark sense of humor that I use to make life easier to deal with. The blacked out eyes show my often cynical outlook. The burning eyeball thing represents my intelligence and determination. Also, just cuz it’s cool.
Brain Injury: I fell off a tractor
Explanation of Mask: I painted my mask purple to represent love and family. The cross represents my relationship with Jesus Christ. Farming is my favorite thing to do and my family has raised corn and cattle. My favorite person in the whole world is my daughter and one thing we love to do together is ride motorcycles. Before my brain injury, I was also a boiler tube welder in power houses. I am grateful for every morning that I wake up. Thank you, God!
Brain Injury: Stroke
Explanation of Mask: Dale is funny and likes to have a good time. He is also a caring member of his family. His wife’s name is Pam and they have three children and five grandchildren. Dale drew the picture of his family to represent what an important part of his life they are. The mask is covered with newspaper because one of Dale’s favorite past times is to look at the newspaper each day, especially the sports section. Throughout his career Dale has coached football and lacrosse. He likes to stay active by participating in community groups such as Hinds’ Feet Farm and the Asheville Aphasia Support Group, and spending time with family and friends.
Brain Injury: Benign brain tumor
Explanation of Mask: I chose to paint my mask black & royal blue. Black is for my feelings of frustration, darkness and sadness; and blue is for my feelings of love, strength, family and communication. I placed a combination lock over my mouth to represent the times that I don’t feel heard by others. Most importantly, I placed a cross on my forehead to represent the influential role that faith has played in my recovery journey.
*to read more about Jerome’s journey click on link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Seoayeqnyg
Brain Injury: Pedestrian struck by a motor vehicle at age 14
Explanation of Mask: I love nature and the sun shining down on me. Flower represents my love of spring, summer and fall when flowers are in bloom. The pack of dogs represents my desire to volunteer at a dog farm.
Brain Injury: Stroke during brain surgery at age 16
Explanation of Mask: I’m like everyone else. I have thoughts and I am smart. I have a brain injury so I get tired easier than most people. I’ve done things most people haven’t, but I can’t always remember them. I just have different ways to remind myself. I have so much going on in my head, that when I go to say it, I usually have forgotten. Sometimes it’s difficult to communicate, but I’ve found everyone responds to kindness and love universally.
Brain Injury: Aneurism
Explanation of Mask: My mask is a representation of what all has been put before me. The cross means my savior has saved me. The heart represents my love towards everything I do. The peace sign comes across as my love. The paw print symbolizes my love towards animals. The sun means there’s always going to be another day. My brain injury has made me become a stronger person.
Brain Injury: Benign Brain Tumor
Explanation of Mask: The green color on my mask represents loyalty. The hand over my mouth indicates how I can’t say what I think. My eyes are blacked out because I now have limited vision. I placed red stripes across the face to show that loyalty isn’t able to help me. The rainbow horse on my forehead represents my love of horses.
Brain Injury: Sepsis
Explanation of Mask: The pictures I selected for my mask represent all the things that are important to me. I placed a dam over my mouth showing how my thoughts are held inside because I am unable to speak following my brain injury. I can’t always stop myself from drooling, which explains the dried glue coming from my mouth.
Brain Injury:Stroke, Transient Ischemic Attacks, and blood pressure induced brain injury
Explanation of Mask: My mask shows how the stroke has changed me. These are the feelings and experiences I have gone through, and the lasting effects on my life: prison inside myself, alone, can’t communicate, can’t see, can’t read or write, weak, feeling inferior, depressed, not worthy of life, a burden.
Brain Injury: Pushed in Sunday school and bounced my head off a bookcase.
Explanation of Mask: I love college football and LSU is my favorite team. The car, grades, and people on my mask represent achievements after my brain injury. The car for my drivers license, the grades for my diploma, and the people for my job/co-workers. The pink ribbon is for my mom.
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: “The hat is cool. I wear a hat. I like sports. My dog’s name is spike. I am an uncle with 2 nieces.” 2003 is the year Jon had his accident. He currently attends MindMatters class at Appalachian State. Jon attended Illinois State and studied meteorology before his injury.
Name: Aaron H.
Brain Injury: A motor vehicle accident on a rainy night in 2001. I was 18 years old.
Explanation of Mask: I am serene after my brain injury because I have learned how to cope, and this is what my mask reflects. I am cheerful, happy, courageous, and kind. I cherish my life! I am not afraid. I am determined to succeed.
Name: Allison K.
Brain Injury: 25+ pound farm tool slamming down on top of my head at work. They call it a “mild” TBI, but it’s been 18 months of struggle.
Explanation of Mask: One of the main sources of happiness and joy in my life pre-TBI was being active and doing things outside. I had a lot of things that brought me joy taken away due to the effects of my TBI, as expressed on the mask. People with TBI strive each day to heal, make accommodations, and find new ways to be happy. Some days it feels like it is not possible, but we have to remind ourselves every day that it does get better. Bad days will pass, and we will thrive. This mask-making was helpful because it makes the internal struggles of TBI apparent to others. This injury is invisible!
Name: Alyssa L.
Brain Injury: Hypoxia at Birth
Explanation of Mask: My brain injury happened at birth. My family and friends have helped me through tough times. I painted a heart to show how my love for others. I used bright colors to show how happy I am. Everyone is different, and I just want to be understood. People should try to understand others, even though it may be hard.
Name: Andrew M.
Brain Injury: A seizure caused my brain injury.
Explanation of Mask: I am determined, different, playful, relaxed, sympathetic, curious, and wise. The red on my mask shows my strength; green and black are for my determination. Cars represent strength. I played soccer before the seizure. I love poetry and am very dynamic!
Name: Brandon S.
Brain Injury: Gunshot
Explanation of Mask: I received a gunshot wound at age 33. Before the accident I was a fisherman and a hunter, and loved to work. Through the accident I have more faith in God and appreciate family more. I’m thankful to be alive. My family was told I would not live, and if I did, I would be a vegetable. God was my healer!
Name: Brian H.
Brain Injury: Fell down a mountain over a series of waterfalls in Stone Mtn Park, NC.
Explanation of Mask: Red is for happiness I spent 3 years I Taiwan. I like the way the Chinese use color to represent life. Green is for life. The purple crown signifies royalty. I am a prince of God!
Name: Carson T.
Brain Injury: Hit by car when I was 13 and walking to school
Explanation of Mask: It feels like a piece of my brain had an earthquake hit it. I can’t always remember what I want to say. I still remember how to spell things like “antidisestablishmentarianism,” but I can’t speak clearly anymore! I like to make jokes and laugh, but sometimes I feel frustrated.
Name: Christopher L.
Brain Injury:Motor Vehicle Accident when I was 21.
Explanation of Mask: Before my accident, I was a straight A student doing well. I worked an electrical job and was making good money. I was planning to enter college and start on a 2 year degree to start an apprenticeship as an electrician. After the accident, I had to go back to learning my ABCs and who my parents were. I work at Rowan Vocational Opportunities now. I do some electrical work and run machines that weld insulators together. I put a cross on my mask because my doctors said I had a 30% chance of walking away. Mom, Dad, and others prayed for me. Then I started going to church. Now I can lead others to the God. Even though brain injuries are traumatic, they can find pleasure in the cross. The stars and flag are for thanks to the troops and veterans who fight for our country. Family, strength, and spirituality will help me lead a healthy life.
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident when I was in college
Explanation of Mask: I feel like my life is divided, before the injury and after the injury. I studied French before my injury. I am an incredible, happy person who loves cats, and I am still striving to be a giving part of the community.
Name: David H.
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: At first I was afraid to lose myself and then I was embarrassed how people now view me as that used to be David. I soon started to climb up day by day, week by week, piece by piece, and believe in the possibility of a thinking system that I can use to improve myself.
Name: Derek S.
Brain Injury: Hit my head either while jumping on a train I wasn’t supposed to be on, or in jail after the police took me there.
Explanation of Mask: The bird is a thought flying overhead, thinking about nature. I was away from nature in prison. Nature represents freedom and places I cannot go.
Name: Doug C.
Brain Injury: In 2005, I had a motor vehicle accident. I was 35 years old at the time.
Explanation of Mask: The black represents my anger, the red represents the love I have for my family, and the yellow represents being alive after my brain injury. The road is for my accident, and the silver lines in the road mean that brain injury isn’t all bad.
Name: Drew C.
Brain Injury: Fell off a 15ft wall at age 20.
Explanation of Mask: The top of my mask represents my extreme head injury from my fall; all of the neurotransmitters being broke loose. It left me as an infant, having to relearn everything. Recovering over the last 14 years has been like going through the stages of life twice. I just have to say, “Never say you can’t!” Why tell your brain, “You shouldn’t even try.” You can…. Just have to do it!
Name: Edwin R.
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident in 1985
Explanation of Mask: I feel blue. My mask explains how the consequences have left my true self (in memory) locked inside still having some brightness that helps me see and think there is something worth living for, although many times I am misunderstood. Keeping my faith in God through Jesus and wanting to help others keep me up.
Name: Frank N.
Brain Injury: Hit by a vehicle driven by a drunk driver.
Explanation of Mask: The accident changed my life. I’m a miracle because I spent 76 days in a coma, but I’m here today… walking and living life. I feel loved and am inspired to get better every day. I learned to block out the bad, and accept the good. I added the strips to show I came through it all with flying colors!
City: Rocky Mount
Brain Injury: I had 6 seizures and was diagnosed with viral encephalitis. Both the disease and surgery that followed caused my brain injury.
Explanation of Mask: My mask represents me praising God for each day of life, especially after my brain injury. We are all so blessed and we should “embrace it” as best we can. I praise God… my children, my friends… everything is a blessing!
Name: Scott H.
Brain Injury: Aneurysm at age 10
Explanation of Mask: Bowling is something I’ve enjoyed and have excelled at since I was in Boy Scouts. I’ve earned 5 bowling trophies in Scouts, and in a special population bowling league. I’m very proud of the fact that that is one of my many accomplishments.
Name: Roger D.
Brain Injury: Hit by a Car in 2002 & 2004
Explanation of Mask: My mask is red to show how I feel about my injury. I am angry because I was injured twice while riding my bike and made fun of by people who thought it was my fault. I often felt depressed after my injury, so I painted tears to show that I am sad. I also feel angry, and that’s what the lightning bolt is for.
Name: Ricky B.
Brain Injury: Hit by a car at age 13; I then slipped on the ice in and hit the back of my head.
Explanation of Mask: Jump Start means I have a second chance at life, an opportunity to undo the errors in my life, to make a better me! Hope is on my forehead to remind me that I need to keep that at the forefront of my mind. The boisterous mixture of color represents my varying emotions.
Brain Injury: Motor vehicle accident in 1997 when I was 23 years old; I overcorrected and hit a light pole.
Explanation of Mask: The brown represents the hardship of TBI. But TBI is not all bad. My brain injury has been a learning lesson. The orange represents the brighter side of TBI. My life has been different as a result; it has taught me to rely on others and on God. I feel I’m here for a purpose.
Brain Injury: Bicycle Accident when I was 11
Explanation of Mask: When I first had my accident in 1983, I was tormented and made fun of, and felt extremely sad. Over the years, I’ve started to see that there are people who are in worse positions than me. I’ve been able to recognize that just because you have a brain injury doesn’t mean that you’re dead. One half of the mask symbolized how I first felt when I had my accident, sad and depressed. The other half of the mask symbolizes a happy life and being at Camp Carefree with all of the smiling faces.
Name: Monica M.
Brain Injury: Forceps Injury at Birth
Explanation of Mask: The mark on my forehead indicates where the doctors tapped my skull to drain fluid soon after birth. Yellow is patience. It’s a happy face. I never knew what my body was like before my TBI took it over. It’s just the way it is.
Brain Injury: I was hit in the head with a bat.
Explanation of Mask: The mask explains my emotions. Purple is for my violent past, the blue is for controlling my reactions, and red is for my anger I’m trying to control and keep together. The pointed lines are for me to always be on point with whatever I do. These are all my everyday life expressions I deal with.
Name: Kara B.
Brain Injury: Fell down a flight of stairs when I was 32 years old.
Explanation of Mask: Yellow represents the sun because I am happy, and have met so many new friends since my brain injury. Red represents the love growing around my ring of friends. The words represent the things I went through with my brain injury.
Name: Mark R.
Brain Injury: Fell off a garbage truck and hit the back of my head.
Explanation of Mask: The mask represents me after I came out of the hospital and was okay even though I still had a brain injury. My brother helped me get a divorce and brought me home to NC. I love my brother, his wife, and children very much. My whole family is fantastic!
Name: Matthew P.
Brain Injury: Anoxia, Drug Overdose
Explanation of Mask: Blue is my favorite color. The quote on my forehead represents the confusion and memory loss. Quote on cheek represents family support and love. Summer is my favorite season. Interested in guitar. “Love every minute” in the present.
Name: Jose C.N.
Brain Injury: Brain tumor then a car accident.
Explanation of Mask: I play with duality (contrast between two concepts). I included the American and Colombian flags as I have the honor… or the curse of being from two countries. I also added images to represent both countries. Life includes many positives and negatives, like Yin and Yang. What else do you feel and see?
Name: John J.
Brain Injury: Benign childhood cancer resulted in an ABI.
Explanation of Mask: My mask is red and black to represent that I am a fan of NC State… Wolfpack! I enjoy being outdoors and working with my hands. I never give up, and feel that I have power over my destiny. I like to set goals for myself, and it feels awesome when I reach those goals.
Name: Joe B.
Brain Injury: Bicycle Accident
Explanation of Mask: Life is like a sport, you find out what you’re good at while growing up, then consistently hone those skills to increase efficiency with each passing year. The task(s) become more automatic and the quality is satisfactory. There’s reliability, a certainty that comes with each new day in one’s profession, all is comfortable and progressing well. The unexpected traumatic brain injury, at age 39, became an all-stop action on my profession, and some cognitive abilities. This injury put me in the position to start over again. Though not from ground zero, it required me to open-up to a much greater degree than I had experienced before. I forced myself to go deeper within my heart to identify what was of interest post injury, and still within my capacity level. What could I do with an acceptable level of competence in our culture that I would fully embrace? Helping others as a recreation therapist was revealed at the vocational rehabilitation screening. “I can do this,” was my immediate feeling. I received help from many new friends as I headed on a journey to become a certified therapeutic recreation specialist. I use recreation as a tool to help individuals discover their current ability level and maximize their participation in any recreation activity of interest. My new journey came with many small failures, requiring me to adjust, adapt, and improvise as necessary to achieve acceptable standards on my new career path. The journey was worth it. Now it is 15 years post injury, and I’m working part time at Hinds’ Feet Farm. I learned to let go of what no longer served the new me, and I accept my present level of human capacity, interests, and feelings about life’s issues. I have found a comfort zone with myself and my team of supporters. Notice my mask and the color of my face. I admit, my ability to mix paints and generate the natural color of my skin tone deserves an F minus grade. I am Not green! Just because I cannot work with paint doesn’t exclude me from participation in this mask project. I believe in enlivened hope and the joy of living one day at a time with present abilities, including accepting those less-than moments.
Name: Jenny B.
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: I chose purple because it has always been my favorite color. Green and yellow were my high school colors. I love yellow sunflowers because they are bright like the sun, which brings me happiness. I try to stay positive and happy even though my activities are limited. I’m just thankful to be alive!.
Name: Christopher P.
Brain Injury: While in the Army, I had a motor vehicle accident. It was 3/9/2000. I was 19 years old.
Explanation of Mask: The yellow and blue represent the abrasions that were left on my brain after the accident. The cross represents how wonderful God has been to me, helping me overcome so many roadblocks. My family is my best support. They have been there helping me the entire way.
Name: Eric P.
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident at 16
Explanation of Mask: I’ve always liked bright colors. Bright yellow represents my bright future. I want to inspire others to achieve things they never thought they’d be able to do. I don’t want a free pass! I want to be identified as normal; for the man I am; what I stand for, do, and accomplish. A disability is a gift, not a weakness, and can be turned into strength. One of my goals is to be a millionaire so I can give back to the community and give all the glory to my lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
Name: Eric S.
Brain Injury: Hit by a truck when I was 9 years old
Explanation of Mask: Brain Injury gave me a better way of looking at things. I’m really smart, so I’m getting things done for me now. The simple way is just doing it but I have to think of it differently. I hate being on a time limit. Before the accident, I was on the wrong road. The accident made me a people person with patience. I want to be a motivational speaker. The blue is for patience. The red is for my determination to get a task done. Green is for my education and wisdom. The gold crown is for positivity. Purple is for my outspokenness.
Name: Harry G.
Brain Injury: Hit while attempting to help someone in a fight while stationed in Germany with the Army.
Explanation of Mask: The red represents my anger for what happened to me and the black represents hatred for the people that did this to me. I sometimes struggle to forgive. I am braver than the men who did this to me.
Brain Injury:Abuse at the hands of my parents as a small child.
Explanation of Mask: I had a crappy childhood, but the one happy memory is eating with my neighbor, Mama Debbie. I like living at Lippard Lodge. My favorite thing to do is cook! I included my initials JDG because I really like my name. While I don’t have my family, I have great friends and housemates.
Brain Injury: Car Accident at 21
Explanation of Mask: The Ying-Yang because after my brain injury I was so confused. I knew what I was supposed to be doing, but they wouldn’t let me do it. I understand now, but I was totally confused. The pink and purple are for the now. They represent happiness. I understand my brain injury and I’m living with it.
Name: Teresa F.
Brain Injury: Shot in the head at the gun range one day before I was to marry my husband.
Explanation of Mask: The black is where my injury occurred. It is no big deal because things always get better. I always look for things to do, like gardening and book club. My husband, two children and family are important to me. I have worked on a landscaping committee for 10 years.
Name: Tamara P.
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident in 1996
Explanation of Mask: I was a Presbyterian pastor at a church and for many years after my TBI, I thought I would return to doing this again. I volunteered as a chaplin at a retirement facility until realizing I had too many cognitive limitations to serve as a pastor again. In the Bible, the rainbow was a sign given to Noah, that God would not cause a flood again. For me, the rainbow is a sign of hope. The moon shines in the darkness and reminds me how the Holy Spirit is present in the bleakness of brain injury.
Brain Injury: Lighting equipment fell, while I was working on stage. I literally had no idea what hit me, just that my nose was crunching in my head as I collapsed. They said it was just a broken nose….then within days things changed.
Explanation of Mask: I wanted to show how different what people see on the outside is from my insideworld. I kept getting told by folks, “well you look good!” as if that is the most important thing. I was foggy headed, dizzy most of the time, constant headaches for 3 years. My vocabulary went from 3 syllables to 4 letter words. No doctors seemed to see or hear me. They said, “There is so much we don’t know about the brain, but no, that can’t be the cause.” Why don’t they want to learn from us? We are going through this, and can inform from the inside of TBI. It has been 5 years now, and I continue to heal and grow; mostly by not giving up or believing, “it is as good as it gets.” We can heal together faster!!!!!
Name: Sherrill K.
Brain Injury: Dirt Bike Accident in 1984
Explanation of Mask: The red side of my mask represents when I did not feel whole initially following my accident. Things came back in pieces. The other side of the mask is blue and shows how I feel now. I am more complete because my memories have come back.
Name: Sara P.
Brain Injury: Encephalitis
Explanation of Mask: If I was a better artist I would make the mask look like me. I don’t hide my feelings well. A person with brain injury experiences many emotions that someone without a brain injury probably won’t ever have to. I have accomplished a lot after surviving a TBI, but still get very frustrated with the effects that will never go away. It’s definitely true that, “You’ll never understand until you have a brain injury.”
Name: Jeffrey E.
Brain Injury: Drank beer then rode my moped, hit the curb, flipped and hit my head on the pavement.
Explanation of Mask: I feel angry and ashamed. I am sad about lost relationships and cry a lot. Since the accident, I realize that decisions have consequences. I try not to make the same mistakes. I am the very proud dad of a 7 year old son.
Name: Jennifer T.
Brain Injury: Hit by Car
Explanation of Mask: She feels angry and disoriented because she doesn’t get to do half of the things she wants to do since her injury. Sometimes she feels grouchy. But she thanks God to be blessed to be alive and to meet new people and make friends. Red represents the hurt and disappointment. The black is for the dark side of me. She feels loved by her family.
Name: Joshua G.
Brain Injury: Anoxia at 16 months old.
Explanation of Mask: My mask represents my love of sports. I value my family and friends. I feel I have accomplished some incredible things in my life despite having a brain injury. I love to smile and make other people happy. The doctors say I’m a miracle.
Name: Kat S.
Brain Injury: Passenger in Motor Vehicle Accident when I was 18.
Explanation of Mask: The black side is the part of my brain that is damaged. My brain is gone. I feel lonely, angry, confused. The tears on my cheeks are for my loss of myself. My emotions are deeper now. I feel love and happiness around others that understand me.
Name: Kitty B.
City: High Point
Brain Injury: When I was 24, I had a single vehicle accident after hydroplaning on a rainy day.
Explanation of Mask: Brain injury has such a lack of understanding. It frustrates me! I am cheerful and try to be courageous, but at the same time I am embarrassed. This mask shows my sadness, but it also shows determination. I still have a “normal” face, but I also am covered up by my injury.
Name: Mathieu N.
Brain Injury: Damage to my right temporal and left frontal lobes from a bicycle/train collision in 1985.
Explanation of Mask: Like most TBI survivors, I feel like my life was divided into two parts by my accident. Prior to that, I was on my way, nineteen years old, accepted to art school, in a serious relationship, and on my way to a new job. The next thing I knew, I was practically paralyzed, with tubes in all my orifices, unable to talk or think. Thirty years later, I have a new life, but one with immense challenges due to problems with learning new things, a tremor in my right arm/hand, and weakness on my right side. I have a hard time controlling my anger. I take medication for seizures, recurring blood clots, and for depression. I am single, when all I wanted was a family of my own. I suffer from insomnia and have lost my self-confidence. I am glad to be alive. There are many, many good things about my life, but it is not the life I expected to be living.
Name: Michael G.
Brain Injury: Fall and Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: Having had a traumatic brain injury at a young age, I never knew that there was a reason for some of my challenges. Then getting another TBI, as an adult, I thought I had nothing to grieve. After all, I wasn’t dealing with the severe effects that challenged others I knew who had a TBI. Sometimes I sense I’m in a whirlwind spiral when I lose my balance or when I’m overloaded with too many thoughts. It takes conscious effort to peel away layers and open both eyes to the reality of my TBI. And yes, I’ve had a life of springtime growth and mindful engagement with all that is inside and around me. The support of friends and others guides and sustains me on this life journey.
Name: Paul N.
Brain Injury: Viral Encephalitis
Explanation of Mask: I contracted herpes simplex virus in Minsk, Belarus. It went to my brain, causing hemorrhaging to occur and damage to the front left part of my brain. The black part of the mask signifies the damaged side, with one or many large tears. Today I exist using only my right side. My happy face signifies my positive, hopeful attitude.
Brain Injury: Brain Tumor
Explanation of Mask: My mask has many colors painted on it like a rainbow. I am a very unique individual and have various sides to me. I react to situations differently and am not afraid to speak my mind. I am from Texas and have learned that if you have the stuff then “bring it on baby!” You will never find anyone like me, so don’t try.
Name: Willie M
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: So many faces in the world, that sometimes it’s hard to find your identity. A thousand faces, but they all look the same. All smiling and looking at me, like what is he going to do next? Its attention I don’t need or want. It’s hard living with a brain injury; feeling angry, sad, embarrassed, and lonely. What’s next for me?
City: Mount Airy
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: My accident was in 2012. I’ve been working hard in rehab ever since. I would like to get back to fishing and catching big bass. I like NASCAR. My favorite driver used to be Dale Earnhardt, but now it is Austin Dillon. I am a hard worker and will NEVER give up!!!!
Name: Willie S.
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident in 2013
Explanation of Mask: I’m glad to be a citizen of America and trusted the decisions that all my doctors made at the time of my injury. I was happy to be able to walk again, so blessed by my creator to still be alive and loved by my family. I am excited for the TBI program at CMC, and am grateful for the help I’ve received. Thanks be to God!
Brain Injury: Hemorrhagic stroke due to skiing accident
Explanation of Mask: The heart depicts my lost marriage due to my wife unwilling or unable to handle the changes in my life. The blue tears are for the sorrow that I felt for losing my job, income, way of life, and use of my left arm and leg. The brown represents the ongoing hard work that I put in during rehab-sometimes one has to get dirty. The mask over the eyes is for the blindness in my right eye and limited vision in my left. The words around the perimeter are topics that I struggle with on a daily basis including fear, doubt, career, money, rejection, anger, pain, loneliness and acceptance. The smile is for the fact that I am a survivor when no one thought I would survive, let alone recover. The cross is strength from the Lord to persevere in the face of adversity and overwhelming challenges.
City: Mount Holly
Brain Injury: Anoxic brain injury at age 18 due to drug overdose
Explanation of Mask: Well, I wish I wouldn’t have done what I did. I wish I could go back and be normal and not have a brain injury. At least I have a second chance to start over. Drug use is very bad and does terrible things to people, like change their personality.
Name: Ann MG
Brain Injury: A fall off a scooter into the street in 2007
Explanation of Mask: On my mask are examples of my artwork, in the form of a collage. There are medical scans of my brain which I have colored with ink and blue watercolor. Collage is a media that I feel best expresses my experiences; like my thought patterns and my memory, the collage is composed of images, words, and objects that do not illustrate a linear narrative, but rather relate piece by piece, in a chain of associations.
Name: Alex L
Brain Injury: Sustained in 2013 while working
Explanation of Mask: My mask represents my happiness. I am happy and thankful for being alive, for the ability to paint this mask and have a second opportunity for life. I am happy because people around me treat me with respect. The tears represent my fall.
Name: Shelby T
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident while at college
Explanation of Mask: The Pittsburg Pirates are my favorite pastime. I go to spring training, watch on TV, and go to Pittsburg for live games sometimes. They are exciting and fun to watch, and I get to brag when they are winning, especially to the Yankee fans at my gym.
Name: Danielle H
City: Camp Lejeune
Brain Injury: Pedestrian struck by a car at age 22
Explanation of Mask: The rays of sunshine show my optimistic mindset post TBI. The cross represents feeling uplifted and blessed when I was in the rehabilitation hospital. The cap and diploma demonstrate my determination to finish my Master’s degree once I recovered. The red around my eyes indicates the frustration I feel when people forget that I battle with a TBI, or when I’m struggling to get help. The unfinished white areas show my resilience, because I haven’t stopped fighting yet, and there is more to come in the years ahead
Brain Injury: Passenger in a Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask:My mask is titled “Bird Brain”. I want to trade my brain in for a new one PLEASE! “Is there no way out of the mind?” “I know pretty much what I like and dislike; but please don’t ask me who I am.” These are quotes by Sylvia Plath that I identify with very much. My favorite book of Sylvia’s is “Bell Jar”.
Name: Dave B
Brain Injury: T-boned by a 60,000lb box truck
Explanation of Mask:I hope the mask speaks for itself. Jesus Christ is my lord and savior. I graduated from Penn State and I am a big fan of Joe Paterno! I have been weight lifting since 7th grade. I had an awesome dog named “Boomer” who I lost after living 2 1/4 years longer than the vet said he should’ve. Blessed be the name of the Lord, “you give and take away, you give and take away.” Thank you, Lord Jesus, Amen!
Brain Injury: Car accident. I was driving with two little girls in the backseat, but they sustained no injuries.
Explanation of Mask: How I feel on the inside is one side, and how I look on the outside is on the other side. I look “normal” pre-accident on the outside. On the inside, I’m living through a fog (grey color) with lots of questions about how I did things before my accident. The wrinkles represent feeling very eager to be my pre-accident self. I feel loved beyond belief!
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident 11 years ago
Explanation of Mask: I feel “forgetful”! I am thankful for family and friends. I am frustrated with my memory, and challenged every day. Blue is my favorite color. Yellow eye represents my “third eye” helping me to get to places I often have trouble finding. The 4-leaf clover represents that I am lucky to be alive.
City: Fuquay Varina
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident at 18- coming home from a drinking party
Explanation of Mask: Mad because I’m alive and here on earth. I wish I were back in heaven with God. My story is on YouTube: Salvation is Dynamic. I know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus loves you. I met him and came back to spread his word.
Name: Alvin H
Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury
Explanation of Mask: I am always spaced out, yet I still earned my Bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at El Paso. Their mascot is a miner. I included a picture on my mask to represent the miners search for gold, just like I am in search for my place in the world.
Name: Tommy J
Brain Injury: Brain tumor found between my brain and skull. Intense radiation treatments from childhood cancer caused this tumor to develop.
Explanation of Mask: I used the colors red and black because I attended NC State University and graduated with an agricultural degree. I have a passion for volunteering for the NC Cooperative Extension. People describe me as outgoing, inspiring, hardworking, and kindhearted. My hobbies are working on classic cars, jeeps, and sailboats, as well as collecting tractors.
Name: Allyssa L
Brain Injury: I had the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck when I was a baby
Explanation of Mask: I put a horse on my mask because I used to ride horses when I was a little girl. I still like horses. I chose the color yellow because I have blonde hair, and typed out words that describe my personality.
Name: Diana R
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident in 2013
Explanation of Mask: At first, my brain was empty of any thoughts as I was in a coma. Then I awakened and had partial thoughts. I put the muddied grey spot in the middle as I still sometimes get muddled in my thoughts, but most the time I am okay. Fatigue is an issue with me so I put the anti-fatigue sign. I used to do everything quickly, but now I cannot rush either physically or mentally, so I put the Red Hot Rush sign upside down. Somehow my brain transposes my thoughts and the exact opposite comes out of my mouth. Overall I am happy so I painted the face with happy colors (yellow and sky blue). I used to just move from point A to point B and get things done, and not noticing anything in-between, but now I do. Life and nature are beautiful!
Name: Matt B
City: Wake Forest
Brain Injury: I was a passenger in a car wreck.
Explanation of Mask: My mask includes hunting, because I never thought I’d be able to hunt again and its good therapy. I want to get married. Both my family and Dale Jr. have gotten me through a lot. I’m loyal to the Lord.
Brain Injury: Two weeks after giving birth to my twins, I had a massive stroke related to my pregnancy.
Explanation of Mask: I lay helpless on my bedroom floor, and I remember hearing my boys crying and my husband calling my name. I tried to talk, but couldn’t get the words out. I was told months after, that I had a stroke and two blood clots on the right side of my brain. I couldn’t talk, walk, feed myself, or see out of my left eye. My doctors called me a miracle. The mask represents the pain I felt inside my head, and the tears I shed from the intense pain. I am very lucky to be alive.
Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury
Explanation of Mask: The bicycle represents my accident, and New Jersey is the state it happened in. The phone was my lifeline! The shoe represents my struggle to get around. The flower depicts how I’ve blossomed into a strong woman, living on my own and showing responsibility. The lock represents how I had to open up to new things after my accident. The unconditional love from my family helped me to grow up.
Name: Diandra J
Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury
Explanation of Mask: My mask shows that yes I’ve had a brain injury, but it opened up a lot of doors for me to help others. My future holds beauty, goals, gratitude, and independence. By helping my dad, we strengthened our relationship. We discovered that pine needle tea naturally rebuilds brain stems, and is a good replacement for coffee. I’m like the wolf on my mask, because I won’t stop until I get what I want out of life.
Name: Erkland G
Brain Injury: TBI resulting from being shot during an armed robbery
Explanation of Mask: Black represents how I felt when this all happened: angry, crushed, powerless, bitter, and frustrated. I was temporarily blinded from the gunshots. The help wanted sign is for when I was calling out for help. The coffin represents my father’s death. The Duke blue sky represents how my life is getting in order. God blessed me! My eyesight was restored, and I’ve experienced a beautiful rainbow of change. I now enjoy working out, cooking, and eating healthy, and I am finally getting back to work.
Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury
Explanation of Mask: The wreck I was in left me with a never-ending feeling of not being on the ground. I am in a constant state of confusion. I am very aware of my body, but I am not always confident. What an experience…that will last a lifetime. WHY must there be tragedies?
Name: Rachel C.
Brain Injury: I had a car wreck
Explanation of Mask: The right eye has slanted lines and an open pupil because it doesn’t work that well. I drew in the right side of the mouth because my left arm doesn’t work. I don’t talk well. I painted with pink and purple because I think they are pretty colors. I’m living my life without some things that meant a lot to me, but that’s the way it is now…and that’s me!
Name: Anthony G.
Brain Injury: Frontal, temporal, and occipital lobe damaged. Major impact was on the left side of my skull.
Explanation of Mask: How I felt and currently feel about what happened to me. Qualities that are gone; vision in left eye, sense of smell, use of the left side of my face, and whole left side of my body. My face feels deformed, like I don’t look “right”, from smiling, talking, eating, and facial expressions. My mind is always racing; so busy thinking, but just as quick forgetting it all. I can no longer fully protect my wife and children. There is now a “new” relationship with them.
Name: Rashad J.
City: Not Disclosed
Brain Injury: I was hit in the head with a broken umbrella.
Explanation of Mask: If I didn’t have the accident, I would be in jail or dead. My mother prayed for God to save my life. Whitney Houston was a beautiful lady that could sing, until she messed up her life by smoking crack. I love her and her daughter.
Name: Martin D.
Brain Injury: A bicycle accident. I tried to avoid a jogger and flew downhill, over the handlebars and onto a granite curb.
Explanation of Mask: I spent 5 1/2 weeks in a coma, and lost all memory of the previous 2 years. Today my brother is my anchor! This “unmasking” creating represents; lost relationships, past accomplishments and 18-year career as a teacher, the loss of my mom, dad, and childhood home. I hole onto my parents love and early memories. The glitter represents my new titanium skull parts.
Name: John G.
Brain Injury: Hemi Craniotomy
Explanation of Mask: The part in red is the head injury. The blue is the cool, calming part. And it’s all a balancing act, coming from my mouth. The expression on my forehead helps me to ensure that the blue/positive things outweigh the red/negative, injury related issues. The red, white, and blue represent that I am a proud American!
Brain Injury: Stroke
Explanation of Mask: My stroke left me in a dark cloud, feeling as angry as red hot shooting flames, and as isolated as a deserted island surrounded by murky waters. The bridge represents support from the loving family and healthcare providers who helped me to spread my wings, and regain a beautiful life full of sunshine and hope.
Name: Jerry H
Brain Injury: Car wreck 1978. Fell 25ft in 1985.
Explanation of Mask: My mask is blue because I love UNC basketball. I outlined my features so they stand out. Before my accident I enjoyed hunting, fishing, and walking. Now I enjoy good food, and computer games. I feel fantastic, and continue to try to be happy, and do my best.
Brain Injury: Car Accident in 2007
Explanation of Mask: I painted my mask black and white like a ying yang, because it represents good and evil, and that is something I struggle with. The white side has a picture of a family- my daughter has my heart. She makes me a good person and makes me very happy, especially when she says “I love you Daddy”. The black side has the negative feelings that I struggle with every week.
Name: Troy G.
Brain Injury: I was born with schizencephaly. This means I was born with clefts on the right side of my brain.
Explanation of Mask: The sad boy represents my feelings of being afraid and hurt. The helicopter represents being alive and grateful. My brain injury has impacted my ability to do things, and the way I communicate with others. The dog shows my feelings and emotions of being lovable, kind, and strong.
Name: Theresa S.
Brain Injury: Shaken Baby Syndrome at 3 years old. This affect my vision and left leg.
Explanation of Mask: I decided to put ballet shoes because for 9 years dance was a huge part of my life. As a result of my injury I had to have leg surgery, which impacted my ability to dance. The car, and words “Disney World” represent my feelings of being and adult and having young interests. The heart represents love, because God saved me and has continued to protect me.
Name: Wendy L
City: Carolina Beach
Brain Injury: Fall on Concrete
Explanation of Mask: My life before and after. Before, I woke up every day knowing I was the eyes of the world. My life was a sunshine dance, and I was a butterfly. Then that Father’s Day I was suddenly in a bright light, and my life has never been the same. My lips are the same, but I have no voice. Parts of who I was seem to continually fly away: my visibility, memories, dreams, and understanding; fly, fly away. Daily I think, “In the darkness before the dawn, let your soul shine.” The blue coloring on my mask represents my mother ocean, which is my true love. The feathers represent the following quote: “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings songs without words and never stops at all.” I look at my mask and say, “Don’t let the shadows of yesterday spoil the sunshine of tomorrow. Never stop looking at life through the eyes of wonder.”
Name: Wanda W
City: Sneads Ferry
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: The purpose and black zig zags on my mask represent what my journey looks like – back and forth, and then back again! I believe in never ever giving up; keep trying, keep working, and never stop. I am thankful for life and for my husband’s support; we are survivors! I live simply and try to speak out and educate others. I feel tired at the end of the day and week, and I experience memory issues dealing with constant strategies. I am overcome with sadness and grief at times for what was lost in my accident. “Broken brain syndrome” is what I say when things go wrong and those around me see.
Name: Paul K
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: On my mask, the lighthouse represents my new location in North Carolina. The green and gold eyes signify that I am from Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Go Packers!) The sailboat and butterfly images are characteristics of freedom and transformation, just as a caterpillar forms into a butterfly. Various adjectives on my mask have different meanings; for example, family means support, life is better than the alternative, to be ready is to be prepared for what is to come, recovery is a continuous process, use your head to think, keep in touch/communication with others, home is always a nice place to be, and love always.
Name: Nicholas S
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: I found out the hard way about why you shouldn’t drink and drive and not wear a seat belt. The following sentences describe quotes and symbols I have featured on my mask. The quote, “To live life in fear of losing it loses the point of life,” was from a fortune cookie. The Nike sign is for my scar on the side of my head that was injured. The picture of the car is what it looked like after my wreck. I have also included a poem on my mask that I wrote after the accident.
Name: Max P
Brain Injury: Assaulted after a party one night
Explanation of Mask: My brain injury has led to a loss of senses and an increased level of rage. I am only a lost victim shoved aside to suffer through the brutality of this world with no smell and poor vision, unable to yell as needed. The rest of my mask represents how such things as rocks, motorcycles, and family have helped me to stabilize my being and make it through all of these tough times of anger and disappointment.
Name: Maggie S
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: I was in a coma for 28 days. Physical therapy and MDs helped me to “re-learn” my physical body along with many mental challenges; this took months. Now, I am a very happy soul that allows time to pass as I volunteer my free time at various charities- I meet so many people!
Name: Kristin W
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: I didn’t do any premeditating as I made my mask. I just made it hoping it would turn out well and that it would come together to tell as story. I cried quite a bit, and this is represented by the words “memory” and “the last reflection” on my mask. I had a hard time talking for a while; maybe this helped me heal as my mind grew.
Name: Karen S
Brain Injury: Motor Vehicle Accident
Explanation of Mask: I was a volunteer EMT responding to a 911 call when I hit black ice, and the rest is history. The new me: still getting to know her! I am wild and crazy like my hair and continuously discovering my new path. On my mask, the red blobs represent the brain bleeds I experienced. I was thankful I did not need surgery because the bleeds reabsorbed. The black lips and nostrils signify my loss of smell and taste. The bells and musical notes correlate with the ringing in my ears. I thank God this is not my home; home is yet to come a long time from now.
Name: Jason B
Brain Injury: Fall off a golf cart. Left parietal, occipital, right temporal extreme frontal lobe damade
Explanation of Mask: A veil of hidden identity cursed by hopeless frustration of who I was and who I am! As the night divides the night, and the day destroys the night. Embrace, indulge, love every moment in time! Faith is something we believe yet cannot see, when we truly believe then our eyes will open and see the fruits of our faith! Blessed for a second chance. Thank you my Father in Heaven and Son of man. Give Thanks! Amen.
Name: Augustus B
Brain Injury: Subdural Hematoma from Fall
Explanation of Mask: Two of my neighbor’s dogs tripped me up. Half of my head was shaved. On my mask, the red coloring shows where my scar is located. I sometimes have problems walking and finding words. I hope to continue to improve.
Name: Dave M
Brain Injury: Stroke
Explanation of Mask: I used the color orange because it is like oompa loompas in Willy Wonka. Purple is for the reflection on my past life. I chose red around my mouth to indicate “vibrancy”. The screws in my forehead represent an image of my craniotomy. Nothing is more important to me than music! I feel stronger as a result of my injury.
Name: Jennifer W
Brain Injury: Brain tumor at age 13 around the stem of the brain
Explanation of Mask: I grew up in Phoenix, AZ. After my surgeries, peopled started to not understand me. I could not understand others either. As time went by, I got more frustrated because I could not communicate well with others. After coming to HFF, I am more relaxed because we all understand TBI and ABI.
The left side is flesh colored with happy words because I feel wanted at HFF, and I can smile and laugh. The right side is blue for sadness. The tears are because I am sad because I have trouble communicating with family. The clenched teeth are because I get frustrated.
Name: Bill B
Brain Injury: 1-10-13 from a stroke
Explanation of Mask: The colors represent my heritage and the place where my children were born. America is where I call home. I put my son’s eyes in my mask because I try to see life through his eyes. I feel grateful about life! I am resilient and motivated in my recovery. Resilient is the name of my book that inspires people to never give up! Neki is the title of my next book.
Name: William B
Brain Injury: I hit my left frontal lobe when a truck mashed on the brakes when I was returning from my social work job. I had 2 jobs at the time Walmart and Social Work. Either way I am lucky to be in the condition I am in now.
Explanation of Mask: My mask has the colors of the Carolina Panthers. I have been on a roller coaster ride ever since I got out of the hospital “Wake Med”. I was pretty depressed for a while, as well as isolated and lonely. However, I began to cling to T.V. church as well as music by August Alsina, Kendrick Lamar, Hozier, and that about sums it up. Now coming to therapy keeps me busy and also gives me hope because I have a lot more to do with my life here on Earth. My fight is to get back to social work and changing the lives of children and families of all walks of life.
Name: Juan C
Brain Injury: Victim of a gunshot wound inflicted during a robbery
Explanation of Mask: Before the accident I worked very hard, happy and free. I painted the mask blue, sky blue, and green. Green is for positivity, and for balance and trust in my mind. At Hinds’ Feet Farm I feel good about the people there and the supervisors. I’ve been there for 2 months and they’ve helped me a lot. God Bless the whole farm.
Name: Bobby E
Brain Injury: Baseball bat incident and falling backwards into an electrical box
Explanation of Mask: I feel like I am broken inside. I choose to keep things to myself. I know that things will be hard, but I will not give up. Sometimes I am tired of all I have to do to get better. I know no one will do everything for me, so I do it. Sometimes I feel helpless when I have to turn and ask others for help. But I appreciate all the help I receive. Sometimes I become angry when I try to do things and can’t because I know I can do it. In the long run, I will beat this.
Name: Alyssa J
Brain Injury: Benign neuro-cytoma in the right ventricle of my brain
Explanation of Mask: For about 15 or 16 years, I was a pretty normal American girl. The first white section of my mask represents that time of my life. When I was in 11th grade, I started to have anxiety attacks and I was not as social as I used to be. The white mixing into the black is representative of when things started to progressively get worse. Eventually, as symbolized by the black section, things were just terrible. I never went anywhere, I was too nervous too, even rarely saw some extended family. The dark gray is when I was in the hospital after having emergency brain surgery, when more severe symptoms started to show. Progressively things have gotten better. I’m not entirely who I used to be, as shown by the lighted gray, but I’m getting there.
Name: Casey C
Brain Injury: Traumatic brain injury, stroke, fractured skull, pelvic and right foot drop from motor vehicle accident on September 21, 2004
Explanation of Mask: The road on forehead going from side to side copies the inclusion on my head from removal of skull with my red blazer on top. The tear on the left eye and question mark represent the emotions of upset, confused, and wondering what comes next. The cross in the middle of the forehead represents the cross and how blessed I have been since injury. The sunshine represents the common nickname I’ve gained since, “Casey and the Sunshine Band.” The total injury was a life changing experience, difficult at times but glad it is a part of my history because I feel it has truly made me a better person.
Name: Bradford H
Brain Injury: 3/21/2009 TBI
Explanation of Mask: Before my TBI/Rebirth spiritual awakening. I was headed down the wrong path. I was involved with the wrong crowd of party goers that would eventually lead to destruction. After my TBI, God opened my eyes and the veil was torn. I was reborn, I had to be taught everything over again. How to walk, talk, eat, and dress myself. It changed my perspective from the worldly temporary mindset to the Godly eternal mindset!!
Brain Injury: June 2014. Fell 25 feet while at work.
Explanation of Mask: My family has meant a lot. They’ve gone through a lot but have always been by my side. My life is like a jig saw puzzle. Some parts fit and some don’t. My sight is like tunnel vision and I see double. But thankful to be alive.
Name: Paul H
Brain Injury: Near fatal stroke in 2008 resulting in severe aphasia (loss of language)
Explanation of Mask: I am a United Methodist Minister, but because I have aphasia I can only speak a few words and short sentences. My mask represents the way I feel… my mouth is both happy and sad, as are my feelings. The eyes reflect the love and faith that get me thru each day- my faith in God and the love of my family and friends. The cross on the forehead represents my love of Christ and his love for me. I believe he is with me always. I never give up hope as the saying says. No matter our situation, we are all connected thru love, laughter, and hope.
Name: Greg O
Brain Injury: From a fall
Explanation of Mask: Blue represents gratitude, being lucky, feeling unlimited in my recovery and always thinking about ways to stay strong.
Purple represents hurt and pain … but I will overcome and am powerful.
I am always looking at everything and trying to find the positive.
Brain Injury: Car wreck, Mild TBI
Explanation of Mask: I’ve been in 2 car wrecks. First I was driving alone and ran up on a curb. This led to my car spinning out of control. I ended up over correcting too much and my car flipped. I was launched through the windshield. Second car accident was scary. I was t-boned and riding passenger with a friend.
Name: Jashon G
Brain Injury: I had a brain aneurysm at East Carolina University during my senior year.
Explanation of Mask: My mask representation of my life. 1. The patch represents my college mascot and the visual impairment at the beginning of my injury. 2. “Often wrong” over my mouth because I sometimes or usually say the wrong information when relaying back the information. 3. Orange cross- my baptism at Elevation and orange is the church color 4. Jersey ECU for my college 5. Guy dancing because I was a great dancer before my injury 6. Monkey- Alpha Phi Alpha trademark 7. Woman in window- my isolation 8. Dog- my love for dogs
Name: Joan P
Brain Injury: Brain leak in San Jose, CR, 2007
Explanation of Mask: I don’t remember what happened but I was told I was beaten and given surgery and was induced to coma during healing between 3 months. I woke up in Charlotte and my family told me my husband was in jail. 8 years later I was declared “competent” again and I was able to bring my husband home. No, he didn’t ever try to hurt me, and he died after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2014.
I know who the real criminals are: The Guardianship System!!
Name: Kristin W
Brain Injury: I was hit in the head while driving. Due to a recall on my vehicle, my airbags did not deploy and my seatbelt didn’t lock. I suffered a severe concussion.
Explanation of Mask: I used words to express a few emotions that I experience and I am still experiencing everyday.
Name: Rodney H
Brain Injury: Fell off bleachers at age 6 and hit by a car at age 9
Explanation of Mask: The left side represents bad emotions of anger and confusion. Why did it have to be me? The right side represents good emotions of my faith and peace. I feel like a new person now.
Name: W. K. M.
Brain Injury: Removal of brain tumor from the 4th ventricle. 1 concussion from a mugging. 1 concussion from a car accident
Explanation of Mask: Having brain trauma/injury was the best thing that ever happened to me. The black vines represent the “Great Void,” the Great Unknown, the creative force yet to reveal itself in manifest form. I am a conduit free from blockages, ready willing and able to express creativity.
Name: Destiny N
Brain Injury: Car wreck when I was 18
Explanation of Mask: The mask is in two parts to represent the before and after my brain injury. Before: The flower represents that I was a generally happy person; the music note is because I had a lot of musical talent; the pink lips because I found myself attractive. After: the silver represents the titanium plate in my skull and my anxiety; the cat calms me down during anxiety attacks; the tears are because it hurt physically and mentally; the orange lips are for TRYING to be attractive but not knowing how.
Name: Zena J
Brain Injury: I was the caregiver for my daughter who had a brain tumor
Explanation of Mask: Before the discovery of my daughter’s tumor I had noticed behavioral changes. Eventually during a trip to the ER at our local hospital, the tumor was discovered ad she was rushed to another hospital for surgery and spent the next 3 months in recovery.
The colors represent darkness to light, the words on my mask covers the range of emotions that I felt while watching my daughter go through this experience. The cross represents my faith in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I do not believe I could have made it through that time in my life without Jesus. No matter how difficult our journeys may be, we can rise above.
Name: Mary L
Brain Injury: I was the caregiver for my daughter who had a brain tumor
Explanation of Mask: Through the experience of surviving, I have come to cherish the state of being alive and to be given a new chance to experience more fully the grace and joy in my life. The injury is depicted as a red “star” shape on the top of the mask, in my case a subarachnoid hemorrhage. The words represent the positive aspects of healing from my injury. The base color is gold for I have come to know that I, like everyone else, am as valuable as gold!
Brain Injury: TBI following motor vehicle collision
Explanation of mask: I chose the color pink because it makes me happy. Hot pink is my favorite color. It makes me think of my son and how he likes “Paw Patrol.” I was so glad he wasn’t in the car with me, and so pink makes me happy. I wanted to write the word “awful” on my head because my head hurts and I don’t like how it makes me feel. I wanted to put “make-up” on my mask because I love make-up and wish I could cover my face up, I don’t like how I look. I put the words “bad” on my cheek because I do feel bad. I feel bad for what happened. My son is 2 years old and he has hearing loss. I taught myself sign language to learn with him by watching YouTube videos. You rub your hand on your cheek to let people know “you feel bad.”
Name: David S
Brain Injury: I was 16, hit another car by drinking alcohol. Stole my cousin’s car and flipped the car over a couple of times.
Explanation of mask: Black clouds, sometimes I feel blue, but red in the face because I want to be able to walk, again, I feel sad, happy most of the time.
Name: Micheal G
Brain Injury: Fall and motor vehicle accident
Explanation of mask: Having had a TBI at a young age, I never knew that there was a reason for some of my challenges. Then getting another mild TBI-this time as an adult-I thought I had nothing to grieve. After all, I wasn’t dealing with severe effects that challenged others with TBI. Sometimes I sense I’m in a whirlwind spiral when I lose my balance or when I’m overloaded with too many thoughts. Many times I must take notes to get the info I hear to sink in so I can recall it later. I feel like I have to work two times harder than others. It takes conscious effort to peel away layers and open both eyes to the reality of my TBI and yet I’ve had a lifetime of spring time aliveness and growth-mindful engagements with all that is inside and around me. The supports of friends and others guides and sustains me on this life journey.
Brain Injury: I didn’t have enough oxygen getting to my brain at birth.
Explanation of mask: I’m a very quiet, calm person. I am easy to get along with. I’m curious about a lot of things. It keeps me going throughout the day. If I’m not curious I end up sitting in my recliner and feeling sorry for myself. I live alone and it keeps me going, my curiosity. I have pictures of computers on my mask because I have been working with computers since I was 16 years old and I want to continue it. I have even built a computer.
City: Asheville, NC, formerly Madison, AL
Brain Injury: TBI from drunk driving when I was 22
Explanation of mask: I am using red and a white heart because I am a nice guy. I respect everyone. The heart is for women. I love women. The brown mark on my forehead is for my brain injury. That is where I have a scar on my forehead from my accident. I am nothing like the person I once was. Nothing at all. I was a drunk and now I don’t drink anymore. It’s been about 13 years since I got really drunk.
Brain Injury: Bleeding in my head when I was a baby. I had a stroke.
Explanation of mask: I like the color blue. It is my favorite color. It represents the sky—like outside! I drew red cookies in the middle. They are red to look like Christmas cookies that I lay out for Santa. The orange is the color of the jack o lantern for Halloween. I love going trick or treating, getting candy and dressing up. My mask looks beautiful. I love working at my job at Kmart and I love going bowling with Hinds’ Feet Farm to Sky Lanes. I also love when we have open gym because I love to play basketball. Basketball is my favorite sport. Like Michael Jordan who is the best basketball player. I am amazing! I feel like my life is wonderful. I like being Jalen!
Brain Injury: Brain aneurysm
Explanation of mask: My mask looks like me. I am happy. I smile a lot. My face hurts from smiling all the time. I love my son. He’s handsome and he has awesome curly, dark brown hair. I like to play brain games because they are fun and make me think hard. I like to eat good food.
Brain Injury: At 21 months old I was in a near drowning and deprived of oxygen for an unknown length of time.
Explanation of mask: I adore symbolism and used colors to symbolize my feelings and experiences. I put yellow to represent that I’m dependent and I am not sure I will ever not be dependent. The yellow is over my eyes because my dependency is staring me in the face. I’m trying to be positive but also realistic. I put red because I do have excessive emotions. My emotions go everywhere. They are very dramatic and there are lots of them. They feel extremely strong. Orange because I do have lots of good relationships and lots of confidence but I also lack self-discipline and motivation. I’m unable to do anything without another person there encouraging me. I am not able to think good thoughts on my own. I need other people to be positive for me and push good thoughts into my head. My emotions are very difficult to control which has the biggest impact on me. My family and animals are important to me because they love me and are willing to help me out in any way necessary. Some things I like about myself are that I am good with words—they are a major, major strength of mine. I am able to express myself well verbally. Many people might think I am selfish because I ask for so much but I am really very generous. I only ask for so much because I am not able to go out and get it for myself.
Name: Darren H
City: Mt. Pleasant
Brain Injury: April 1, 2006- Attached after playing basketball
Explanation of mask: I love basketball, I played forward on my high school team. A scout from Florida State watched me play and got my name and said he wanted to draft me.
Jesus is Lord and without him I would not be here.
Jennifer Lopez is muy bonita!
Name: Donald C.
Brain Injury: Diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multi-form Cancer Stage 5
Explanation of mask: I am a brain cancer survivor, which is represented by the gray ribbon. Red represents the color of injury and what I remember when waking up from surgeries. Blue is my favorite color and makes me think of peace. I wasn’t supposed to survive, this is almost always fatal. God blessed our family when I lived longer than expected.
Name: Caitlyn L.
Brain Injury: Multiple Concussions
Explanation of mask: My mask represents how everyone else sees me versus how I see myself and what I am going through. The outside looks “normal” to most people I come in contact with. They can’t see the struggle that lies beneath the surface. This is represented by the glitter side of the mask. It is so easy to fake being okay with a simple smile. Most of the time, however, I deal with a lot of depression and anxiety due to my multiple concussions. On the inside it feels dark and lonely at times. I spend some days fighting off my dizziness and migraines while trying to keep a brave face. My mask represents the literal “mask” that I wear everyday. Traumatic brain injuries are the hidden injury because it is hard to see from the outside. The darkness that I feel inside is represented by the dark side of the mask. Sometimes I feel empty inside due to losing favorite sport of cheerleading. I look perfectly normal but on the inside I am constantly struggling.
Name: Adam R.
City: Fuquay Varina
Brain Injury: Traumatic brain injury from a motocross accident in May 2010
Explanation of mask: I want to drive and go back to work. I loved my job as a computer programmer. I’m working everyday to exercise my brain and make it stronger so that one day I will return to the career I love and miss.
Name: Hope Y.
Brain Injury: Left frontal lobe and temporal lobe. I was in a car accident.
Explanation of mask: My mask is revealing my optimistic attitude and my hopefulness of life in general. My husband and I have two daughters and we are trying to raise them to be honest workers. I love cooking just about anything, butterflies, cats, the color purple, soccer, shrimp, being at the beach, listening to the ocean, flowers, and volunteering when I can. I feel like I can never use enough love!
Name: John F.
Brain Injury: Stroke in November 2008
Explanation of mask: Green light bulb: I was on. Always Working. Red light bulb: Had a stroke, brain was shut down and was broken. Yellow light bulb: Re-learning everything = walk, talk, everything, one step at a time with the love of my caregiver and God who will never abandon me.
Name: Jeffrey L.
Brain Injury: Brain injury in result of an automobile accident
Explanation of mask: My life was very colorful prior to my TBI (left side). The blank part of the mask represents the void in my life when in the hospital and during rehabilitation. The right side of the mask indicates I’m still not fully living my life. I’m still improving after 30 years and am slowly living more and adding color to my life.
Name: Phoenix N.
Brain Injury: I had a massive stroke at 14. I have no right brain. I’ve had countless surgeries and I rely on my left brain only.
Explanation of mask: Starting back to age 1 after my incident, the definition of a Phoenix is to rise from the ashes in the freshness of youth to live through another cycle of years. Which all I did was rise from the ashes. =)
Name: Aaron S.
City: Accident was in Kissimee, FL
Brain Injury: Feb 4, 2011 I was involved in a motorcycle accident on the way to class
Explanation of mask: YOLO stands for “you only live once.” I included this on my mask because that’s my life motto, so that I can remember to make the best of everyday. Everyday is not promised and yesterday has already passed. TCOB: “Take care of business” reminds me that “business is business” and “friendship is friendship” and you don’t combine the two.
Name: Jalen E.
Brain Injury: I had a stroke at the age of 2
Explanation of mask: My mask is blue because I love the color blue. I put the taco by my mouth because I love eating tacos, but I wish I could learn how to make them. My favorite drink is Mountain Dew. I put the shoes on my mask because I don’t know how to tie my shoes yet, but I am proud that I am able to work stocking shoes for Kmart. The guitar is there because I enjoy country music and the music of Bruno Mars and Drake. I am a good musician too. The basketball player is there because I love playing basketball. I also love bowling and jumping on my trampoline.
Name: Lisa R.
City: Spruce Pine
Brain Injury: I was hit by my husband when I was 23 years old
Explanation of mask: I feel really sad about my brain injury. I like to work and I am not able to work as much as I would like to. I have two children and grandchildren, but I don’t get to see them as often as I want to. I have seizures now and I am no longer able to live in my own home. I am sad, I want to think good.
Name: Sheila B.
Brain Injury: I received a TBI from a motor vehicle accident in 2013
Explanation of mask: I divided my mask in three parts: Hope, Faith, and Love. The top left corner has a cross which represents faith. The top right corner has an anchor that represents hope. The bottom section has a heart with the state of Louisiana that represents love. The brown pelican is the state bird. The magnolia is the state flower. The crawfish is my favorite food to eat, especially boiled. Louisiana represents my Cajun culture and heritage and “Laissez le bon temps rouler,” means “Let the good times roll.”
Brain Injury: I came home from work, and I fell. I can’t remember what happened after that. I possibly had a stroke.
Explanation of mask: One side represents where I was, and the other side represents where I am at now. I am peaceful, relaxed, grateful, and hopeful. I am partially blind since the accident. The left side represents how I used to be before I came to this program. I was mad, agitated, frustrated, fearful, and lonely. I have a good time at the clubhouse. I’ve came every day, four days a week, for the past five years.
Brain Injury: Suffered in an automobile accident in Baltimore. The car went down an icy road in Baltimore where I was working. I suffered physical disabilities and short memory problems.
Explanation of mask: The mask depicts the physical and mental frustration I have. I suffer from memory problems, altered mental capabilities, anger, frustration, inability to perform tasks as quickly and efficiently as I once could, loss of patience and unable to properly handle frustrations, despite my efforts. I still, sometimes, find a way to explode. I’m trying to foresee the problems before they explode. I’m basically keeping my fingers crossed, hoping I can handle my problems before frustration causes them to explode! Gateway has helped me, thankfully!
Name: Sandy O.
City: Rocky Mount
Brain Injury: I experienced a brainstem stroke at the age of 36.
Explanation of mask: My mask is gray and yellow. They gray side depicts my feelings when I experienced my stroke. The red words with Xs through them show the things I lost. The yellow side depicts my positive outlook that I have 18 years after the stroke. The purple words are things I have retained or gained since my experience.
Name: Teddy S.
Brain Injury: Stroke at the age of 46 that left my right side of my body paralyzed.
Explanation of mask: I see things in black and white. My mask is symbolic of how I’ve approached my stroke. The black side represents all the bad things associated with my stroke. The white represents where I was before and will be again.
Name: Mike G.
Brain Injury: I was hit by a truck.
Explanation of mask: I was intoxicated and staggering home when I was ran over by a truck. I love rock and roll, and I lived a hippy life. I get through life by smiling regardless of my disability and still try to joke to keep humor going. Life goes on! We have to adapt and overcome!
Name: Gerry P.
City: Rocky Mount
Brain Injury: I had a stroke when I was 53.
Explanation of mask: My Siberian husky dog woke me up and saved my life. I loved my dog. Her name was Cleopatra, and she was very loyal. She had ice blue eyes and a liver colored nose. After my stroke, the took my dog away. I like 4-legged dogs. Dogs can be lifesavers.
Name: Sheila K.
Brain injury: I was hit from behind by a truck while I was stopped on highway 70. On October 13, 2015, I was diagnosed with a concussion, as my head was severely shaken by the impact. Now I have to get shots in the back of my head for headaches. Also, my left arm has permanent nerve damage. I also have memory issues. I am thankful to be alive.
Explanation of mask: I want to be able to share my experience. This has been really hard emotionally, as my only child was killed on May 2, 2011. He died from a broken neck, so this all comes back to the forefront and that itself is enough to deal with. He was only 27. On the day of my wreck, I thought I was going to hit a car head on. I went to the hospital via ambulance and then on October 15 and 17th. I had to go UNC-ER due to extreme pain in my head. This all put a strain on my marriage. It was not my fault, and I just go to my happy place at the beach. Being there, I am not judged. I am also the caregiver to my mom and she resides in assisted living, so I have to continue to do that as well. I am her power of attorney, and I have to stay on top of her situation. This makes me have lots of extra stress, but I do the best I can.
Name: Johnathon W.
Brain injury: I have a head and neck injury. I was blown off a vehicle.
Explanation of mask: The forehead is yellow because I’m happy to be alive. The red line represents that I am half-bred. Black means I faced the jaws of death and came out victorious. I am on the winning side all through the blood of Jesus.
Name: Kathleen S.
City: High Point
Brain injury: I was hit by a drunk driver.
Explanation of mask: When I was 19 years old, I was hit by a drunk driver. I was attending Guilford Tech in hopes of being a counselor or massage therapist. I live in a group home and we need more support. I will never give up hope. I would like for others who have a brain injury to get the services they need. The tears represent the struggles after my accident, but I am a fighter and a volunteer, so I’m always looking for that hope.
Name: Darlene S.
Brain injury: I had a stroke on my right side of my brain, affecting the left side of my body.
Explanation of mask: I woke up on a Sunday morning. It was snowing outside. I couldn’t sit up in bed, and I kept falling over on my left side. I have slurred speech. I was rushed to the ER too late to get medicine to stop the stroke. I was told that it was a miracle that I survived. I have a blood clot in the brain, and there is nothing that can be done except to keep taking my meds. I keep having transient ischemic attacks, and it makes me angry. The blue side with the pom-poms represent the snowy morning. The purple side represents my feelings and my favorite color. The yellow feathers represent my hair.
Name: Henry F.
City: Winston Salem
Brain injury: I was in an automobile, and I ran through a fence. I was intoxicated, and as a result, I have a brain injury. I am blind in one eye.
Explanation of mask: I love music and am active in First Baptist church. I sing in the choir. My masks symbolizes the song “red, yellow, black and white. They are precious in his sight. Jesus loves everyone.” After my accident, I’ve never drank alcohol again.
Name: Parrish H.
Brain injury: Car Accident
Explanation of mask: I am like Jacob in the Bible. I was struggling with the Lord, and I was struggling with bad decisions that I made. Due to my accident, I lost all of my blood, and I ended up in a coma, paralyzed from the waist down. My long-term memory is good, and my short-term memory is not bad. I have repented my sins, and I am a much better man. God still blesses me today. Like Jacob, I struggled with the Lord, and now I live with the consequences due to my actions. I believe God will give me the strength to do what I want to do and be the person I want to me.
Name: Jeff M.
City: Siler City
Brain injury: Tractor Accident
Explanation of mask: I was four years old when I jumped off my grandpa’s tractor. I got ran over. I live in a group home, and every day I am challenged with doing things. I have a girlfriend who I have been with for 8 years. She lives two hours away, so the staff takes me once a month to see her. I met her at White Lake when I was on vacation. This life is not easy, but I make the best of it.
Name: Jessie B
Brain injury: Traumatic Brain Injury
Explanation of mask: Cross- Only way to heal physically and mentally. Lightening- physical injury inside & out. Glasses- vision issues & now have to have glasses. Green ribbon- TBI. Purple ribbon- Existing R.A. Kayden- Only son. Nick- husband; when finally awake after injury I immediately wanted him by my side.
Brain injury: Choked on food and was in a coma twice. I nearly died.
Explanation of mask: I put purple on half my mask to show that I’m sometimes sad or angry. I chose purple because it is a darker color and represents sadness for me. I put blue on the other half of my mask because it is a bright and pretty color to represent that sometimes I am happy. I put hearts on my mask because I am a very lovable and caring person. I put tears on my mask to show that sometimes I am sad and cry because of my brain injury. There are shining stars on my mask because I am a star for still pushing through my challenges every day. There is also a horse shoe on my cheek to represent how lucky I am to be alive and to show my love of horses and animals.