The Masks


In Partnership With

Name: Sheri

City: Lake Delton

Brain Injury:  As I was leaving work, I had a headache in the back of my head so severe that I drove myself to the hospital.  Tests showed that my brain was bleeding

Explanation of the Mask: My mask is surrounded by deep purple for my rich faith in God.  Yellow is my happiness from a fully organized and busy life.  Green is my vital, natural flowing strength.  Teal is the all-around balance I felt I had in life.  White around my eyes is the simplicity I felt which made life so grand.  Pink is my sentimental memory.   Black is the brain injury, separating the unity of life as I knew it.  Now life is emotional, exhausting and full of struggles.  I am learning a new way to live

Name: Samantha

City: Greendale

Brain Injury:    I almost died, (from what we have gathered, on the morning of October 22, 2014, Samantha was at home getting dressed to go to work we believe she fell and hit her head on the corner of a wood table.  (She did have drugs in her system that we were told caused bleeding on the brain.)

Explanation of the Mask:  The colors represent being beautiful but scared, afraid but resilient, and a fierce warrior that continues to fight against all the odds.  The color paint around the eyes symbolizes how Sam is a fighter and she survived despite facing death more than once.  The X’s across the eyes represent her now being blind. )  I have a cane now (she is now blind because her brain swelled, which put pressure on her optic nerves resulting in blindness. So, Sam now walks with a blind cane).  The cross on the forehead represents her faith in God and that God kept her alive for a reason. It symbolizes that she is loved, her life matters and means something and she is special. Sam was and always will be a fighter.  As she goes through the struggles and hardships of her now everyday life,  I tell her “BE STRONG SAM – YOU ARE IN THERE AND YOU KEEP FIGHTING TO COME OUT” and she says to me “I will mom,  I am trying hard.”

Name: Patty

City: Appleton

Brain Injury:    Endured 20 plus years of severe physical abuse, multiple falls, blows to my head and car accidents.  After my last hard fall five years ago, I was diagnosed with a TBI.

Explanation of the Mask:    Pain, anger, fear, and peace from forgiveness in Jesus.  Learning, Coping: Learning to accept that there are some things more challenging than others.  Eye tracking, memory balance, focus, fear, pain, faith, and beauty challenges 

Name: Myeshia (Mask is in memory)

City: Waukesha (Birth Place) Florence, SC (Living at the time of the accident)

Brain Injury:    (Mother / Family Statement) Myeshia was riding in a golf cart, a car cut off the golf cart.  She was thrown and hit her head on the road.  She suffered a fractured skull and a brain bleed.  9 days later on 6-5-2021 at 3:33 am she went home to be with the Lord surrounded by my love, family, and friends

Explanation of the Mask:  The Sunset and Ocean is symbolic.  The darkness of the ocean shows our deep hurting and emptiness our family feels without her.  The bright colors show our anger and pain that this happened to our sweet girl at only 33 years old.  The butterfly is how she shows herself to us.  Harley symbol represents what she loved, her passion.  Her motto “Live Free” is how we will live every day to keep her spirit and name alive.  Puerto Rican flag because she loved her culture and we plan to spread her ashes there on her birthday.  

Name: Jamie

City: West Bend

Brain Injury:    I was in a car accident on my way back to UW-Whitewater after coaching my volleyball Team comprised of 15-year-old girls.  (I was 20)

Explanation of the Mask:  My mask highlights my life post injury, although I think my TBI helped create big deal out of little moments.  Prior to my accident, I had also been a lifeguard – now I need one!   , Although I had a major volleyball addiction before my accident.  My purple additions represent my main college’s color.  

Name: Kyle

City: Mayville

Brain Injury:    I was 21 years old riding a crotch rocket (motorcycle) on backcountry roads.  Somehow, I ended up crashing and had to go on a ride in a helicopter (Flight for Life).

Explanation of the Mask:  I feel confused a lot of the time.  I cannot anything in my head and I cannot remember many things throughout the day

Name: Micki

City: West Bend

Brain Injury:    I was 17 years old when I was involved in a car accident

Explanation of the Mask:  The left side of the mask represents my life before the brain injury.  I was a happy carefree girl.  The lightning bolt represents the car accident and the recovery.  The right side of the mask represents my life with a brain injury.  Life has many challenges.  I have not figured out my future yet or where I am going.

Name: Bernice

City: Menomonee Falls

Brain Injury:   It is hard for me to get myself across.  People don’t understand who I am until they get to know me.  The moon to me is my brother.  He will always be in my heart!  The sun is my happiness and joyfulness.  I used to own a Harley Davidson motorcycle and riding was my passion.  The Harley Davidson means to me that rides will never end.  I have two cats named Boots and Mylo.  They bring me comfort.  Mylo is my male cat and he is such a devil because he likes to terrorize Boots, the female cat.  I have always had pets and they bring a tremendous amount of joy to my life.

Name: Peggy Ann

City: Waukesha

Brain Injury: I had my first TBI in second grade from crossing the street and being hit by a car.  I was also misdiagnosed with being mentally ill.  Because of this, I was on psych meds for 30 years and that altered the way my brain functions.

Explanation of Mask:  The blue half of the mask reflects living in the darkness with an inner knowledge of a power greater than myself, our creator of the universe whom I lovingly call God.  The white side of the mask is after my near death experience reflecting within God’s love and light.

Name: Lucille K

City: Muskego

Brain Injury: Stroke

Explanation of Mask:  The right side of my throat and body is partially paralyzed and the right side of the mask illustrates my frustration with swallowing, writing, and walking.  The left side of the mask shows that I am enjoying life the best I can.  I enjoy my computer, my TV Shows, getting to go out to the store, and visiting with family.

Name: Richard K

City: Muskego

Brain Injury: Too little oxygen during heart surgery

Explanation of Mask:  My daily life is rough.  I have short term memory and it is frustrating.  The mask shows how angry and frustrated I feel that I cannot do the things I used to.  I feel tired most of the time and I struggle with depression.  However, I do enjoy playing Spider Solitaire on my computer, watching old westerns on TV., listening to country music and being able to keep in touch with family

Name: Dawn W

City: Brookfield

Brain Injury: I was riding my Trek bike without a helmet and I was hit by a box truck, resulting in a brain injury.  My other brain injury happened when I was driving an SUV and I was involved in a roll-over accident with 3 other cars.

Explanation of Mask:  The eyes are red because they are still swollen from the accident.  The feathers are all the cracks in my head.  The lines are stitches.  The words express how I feel today.  Some good words and some continuously bad words.  Yellow developed as my favorite color because it’s cheerful and sunshiny

Name: Kathy R

City: Oconomowoc

Brain Injury: Falling backwards down a flight of cement stairs in 2009

Explanation of Mask:  Right side represents how I felt 1 1/2 years ago.  Left side represents how I feel battling a medical condition the last 1 1/2 years.

Name: Gary R.

City: Abrams

Brain Injury: I was a camp counselor up at Red Arrow Camp in Woodruff, WI.  I was the designated driver one of the nights, but the driver did not give up his keys.  Driving back to the camp late that night, the driver lost control and drove into a tree on my side of the car.   

Explanation of Mask:  I was the archery counselor at the time of my accident.  I feel relaxed and I have clear thinking while shooting my bow.  Today’s problems do not matter with my bow in hand.  The words on the mask embody how I felt before my accident.  The tree on the mask represents my accident but also my love for forestry.  Lastly, the cooler and beverage on the bottom of the mask represent what the driver was doing at the party.  He was double the limit two hours after he ran us into the tree. 

Name: Katie M.

City: Waukesha

Brain Injury: I was in a rollover car accident in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan  

Explanation of Mask:  I went from angry, confused and blind to happy, joyful, resilient and grateful!  I have fireworks on my mask to help me remember good times with my Mom and Dad.

Name: Bari

City: Abrams

Brain Injury:  I was a passenger of a car that was rolled over by a semi-truck.    

Explanation of Mask:  My mask, in part, represents a passion of mine, dance, which I can no longer do. I can still dance, but it will never be the same as it once was. It is so painful for me to dance (more mentally than anything) because I remember how I used to dance. There are videos of how I used to dance and I can no longer dance this way. There are words at the top of this mask that read “just breathe” and “the true story of.” Just breathe, because often when I would dance I would literally hold my breath and forget to breathe. The true story of, because my mask is my story in a capsulized version. The middle represents a storm complete with lightning bolts, which is very similar to how crazy everything got during my recovery. My recovery was ever changing (a lot of ups and downs) and a very turbulent time of my life. The bottom represents how I was given a choice, which was to live or die and I chose to live.

Name: Maria V.

City: Waukesha

Brain Injury:  Pseudotumor Cerebri 2011 was my 1st brain surgery to put in a VP shunt.  In 2013, it broke and malfunctioned.  It took three more brain surgeries to repair it.  I am now visually impaired.    

Explanation of Mask:  I tried to make mine a sugar skull, like from Dia de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead.  My mask represents a departed soul; that is how it feels.  I accept the new me as I know we are not to doubt God’s path

Name: Scott D.

City: Pewaukee

Brain Injury:  I was riding my bicycle without a helmet in a bike zone and was hit by a drunk driver.

Explanation of Mask:  My mask represents the question I think about if I had worn a helmet.  I have a pounding headache every day.  I cry more (not tears of sadness) and laugh more than I did before the accident.  I feel my future is rising to the sun.  I feel I will be a better and happier person because of the accident. 

Name: Steve B

Brain Injury:  On March 7th, 2005 I was in a head on collision. I don’t remember 4 ½ months, and I have short term memory loss. I broke every bone above my lower jaw. I really struggled with anger!

Explanation of Mask: The maze represents the struggle to re-learn to walk, talk, and swallow, it also represents my new “normal”. The contrasting red + blue represent my old and new “normal”. The “black” eye represents losing my left eye.

Name: Chris J

Brain Injury: Feb. 5th, 2001 collecting mail from my apt mailbox on foot, I was hit by a 69 yr old gentleman w/ emphazema & diabetes so hard I was in a coma for one month. Dr. Mark Stevens, neurosurgeron @ Mayo Clinic Health System, gave me a shunt to relieve the increasing pressure of my brain & prayed for me as he worked. I thank God for him every day. He inspired me to volunteer @ Mayo since October 2001, to present, to help others as Dr. Stevens & the Good lord, helped me.

Explanation of Mask:

  • Spirituality – remains of the “workable” parts of my brain that embrace the Holy Spirit of “good deeds” they inspire in me to help with, bless, & encourage others           facing life challenges
  • Unity – knowing that we are all brothers and sisters here on Earth together, helping, caring for, loving one another
  • Peace – no anger, frustration, embarrassment, anxiety, beyond what I can combat, w/ the Good Lord’s help…

Name: Archie

Brain Injury: Several Strokes

Explanation of Mask: Red is for where my stroke was. Black is for all I can’t do now – challenged, overwhelmed and frustrated at times. For pain – headaches. Green represents being resilient and strong and to keep trying. Orange is for humorous, funny and playful. I’m big tease. White is what I can still do today. For my wife, children, Grand and Great Grandchildren! Our friends too and my pet cat Squirt. 

Name: Barb

Brain Injury: Stroke and discovery of two brain aneurysms. I have them checked yearly. People tell me “You’re a walking time bomb” and “You don’t look like you had a stroke.” What am I supposed to look like?

Explanation of Mask: 

Tear drop – represents all negative feelings I have. Fearful, irritated, frustration, anger, forgetful, depression, misunderstood.

Butterfly – rebirth

Cross – faith

Facial drawings – “looks can be deceiving”

Clock – the time it takes to relearn, improve your body & mind

Star – come out on top and shine

Heart – Giving and receiving love

I try to be positive in my daily life. I want others to know that things could be worse, be thankful!

Name: Bill

Brain Injury: Stroke

Explanation of Mask: My mask is self-explanatory. 

Name: Chris

Brain Injury: Four years ago, I suffered a stroke which did not affect my physical abilities but affected my speech, memory and general confusion at times. I know I am not the person I once was. 

Explanation of Mask:  The mask reveals my hopes for a complete recovery. While I know I may never have a complete recovery but I press on.

The mask says, “Do more of what makes you happy”. I cannot control what others think of me but I can control my own attitude towards others and daily activities.

The mask is like an alter ego which hides the pain inside that I sometimes feel. The mask is what I hope to become.

Name: Chuck

Brain Injury: Right side of brain was damaged due to a stroke.

Explanation of Mask: I have been a stroke survivor for 9 years. I continue to enjoy life because of my supportive family, doing activities that I want to do. My mask is a symbol of how I feel about my life and what you make of it. I am happy. 

Name: Diane

Brain Injury: In January 2011, I had a stroke that affected the left side of my body. 

Explanation of Mask: The words and symbols represent my faith that Jesus will help me through this journey. The heart represents that I should still love myself. The blue flower represents my motivation to keep exercising. The pink flower represents frustration. The green flower represents being overwhelmed. The black represents my effected side.

Name: James F.

Brain Injury: Two separate singular ischemic strokes.   

Explanation of Mask: 

Dot is a vanishing point, it defines both extrospection introspective.

Coincidentally, it shows the relationship of the outer facial area, and relative intensity of new life changing point.

In some cultures, facial markings visually represent ones’ standing in society. The after effects of a stroke, sometimes resonate subtlety or overtly, confronted with the change one navigates in societal standings, because of diminishments of lost abilities.

Name: Jim

Brain Injury: Stroke

Explanation of Mask: My mask is my way of expressing my emotions and frustrations.

Name: John

Brain Injury: I had a stroke in 2004. It was on the left side of my brain. It affected my speech and my right arm.

Explanation of Mask: Past – NO. Future! Future! Future!

Name: Julie

Brain Injury: Vertebral artery dissection affected the cerebellum and brain stem giving me two strokes in one weekend.

Explanation of Mask: Awareness is what it is all about: The black side represents the anger and frustration of having strokes, yet also teaches awareness of what to look for if you or a loved one, friend etc. might be having a stroke. Also, the sticker at the top I thought really described me because after stroke I never did get back totally to my old self but created a new me. With keeping some old traits too. The white side represents life after stroke. More feelings I have after stroke. Usually these and somedays more added.

Name: Maureen 

City: Green Bay

Brain Injury: In July 2017 I had a gigantic brain aneurysm. During surgery to get the bleeding to stop I had a stroke. I cannot do many of the things that I used to do. I do not feel “complete” or “whole”. I know one day I will be back to doing everything that I used to do, but I am not a very patient person. I have faith that I will make a full recovery.

Explanation of Mask: Events that I missed are marked with certain colors: pink and blue are grandchildren’s birthdays that I missed. Orange and brown are for Halloween with the grandchildren. Red and green are Christmas. Red is Valentine’s Day and my wedding anniversary.

Name: Mitzi

Brain Injury: Stroke

Explanation of Mask: The best thing to do is put on a smiling face.

Name: Pete

Brain Injury: From a stroke on Christmas Eve of 2014. 

Explanation of Mask: Describing the positive and negative side of personality after my stroke.

Name: Renee

Brain Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury, Subarachnoid hemorrhage, Subdural hematoma, Increased Intracranial pressure

Explanation of Mask: Shortened, shaved hair on the right side and top of head represent the cerebral shunt needed due to increased intracranial pressure. Fractures around the eyes represent various orbital fractures causing binocular diplopia (double vision).  Symbol on the nose represents loss of smell.  Symbol over the mouth represents loss of taste. Red heart represents love, prayers and support of family. Yellow cross represents the many prayers for healing offered by family, friends and churches. Black triangle represents my three and a half weeks in a coma.

October & November 2017 – My fall happened October 17, 2017. In November, once out of my coma and stable, I was flown to Shirley Ryan Ability Lab for rehab in Illinois.

Name: Kathy

Brain Injury: Stroke

Explanation of Mask: My mask shows normal on the outside with a malfunction of my brain. It explains how all links to memory stop, name, my home, my family, where I went to school. There is no link to retrieve until it, on its own, returns.

It is not like losing your keys, or forgetting an appointment. It is totally blank.

It is frustrating when people tell me its normal. I feel like people question my reality.