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Unmasking Brain Injury

Brenda’s Story

I have experienced 5 significant traumatic brain injuries in my 54 years thus far on this earth. My first happened when I and some friends were having a dirt-clod fight with big chunks of soft clumpy soil, across the street from my home, when I was 9 years old. Richie had no clue that there was a big rock inside a clump of soil he threw at me, and it hit me on the top of my head, opening up a main artery, and pretty much knocking me almost unconscious. I lost a whole lot of blood and, after stitches were put in, I slept for almost 2 days.

My second experience was in a car accident. I was driving in Swope Park, near the KC Zoo, and I wasn’t aware that Royal’s pitcher Dan Quisenberry and his brother Mark, were in my direct cross path. I hit Mark’s car directly behind Dan’s passenger seat. My car was totaled, with my head shattering the windshield in its entirety. Fortunately, Dan and Mark were not hurt badly. They were so exceptionally kind in repeatedly contacting my parents for a day or so, in order to check on my medical condition.

Third injury came on a bicycle that I have no memory of ever being on. I apparently had a seizure as I was falling asleep on the bike, flew over the handlebars, landing on one side of my head. Police investigation concluded that I must’ve tried to stand up and walk a short distance before I fell again and hit the other side of my head on the street asphalt. I was unconscious for 26 hours and suffered far-reaching damage to my left frontal lobe, prefrontal cortex, left temporal lobe, and left parietal lobe.

My fourth injury occurred at an oil change station. I was out on the floor being shown where to put the windshield wiper fluid into the vehicle I was driving. I had been given permission to come out onto the floor. He showed me, and when I stepped forward to look, I did not realize that the Pathfinder was not pulled forward fully over the grease pit hole. I fell in foot first, but ricocheted onto my head hitting shelving all the way down. This was my most embarrassing accident.

My final accident occurred in May 2015 during a suicide attempt. Depression and anxiety have been the primary collective fallout from all the head injuries. During this attempt, I somehow got too close to the edge of the bed and fell out, slamming my head in several locations on the exposed bed frame. Another injury with lots and lots of blood.

Through all of this, I have learned that I bounce reasonably well on my head, and that it can take a lot of battering, and I seem to come through it, maybe with more operating complications from day to day, but still alive.

The mask was covered first in broken pieces of black paper, as I feel horribly broken apart with no way of being successfully pieced back together in a correct whole ever again. The black also represents the oil from the oil pit I fell into, as well as the persistent darkness of the world I now feel as I am forced to live in. But I do try to hold onto hope, which is shown by the shining glitter atop the black.

The foil in the eyes are essentially communicating both the rock that I was hit in the head with and the dullness that others noticed in my eyes as I went through the struggles with the various head injuries and the mental illness that was caused by it.

The crazy-looking but fun buttons show how unpredictable my mood can be, but sometimes I can make a good joke out of how bad and then unexpectedly good it can get. The butterflies symbolize a sense of freedom that I crave and fight for each and every day, but I am also terrified of this same freedom. The six small colorful butterflies are a connection between the hope I desperately try to hang onto. The two black butterflies represent the hope that I lose touch with as well as the representation of being stuck in place, just as I feel I am stuck in my life circumstances and cannot escape them.

The blue sparkly tears are tears of both pain and hope, from what once were bright blue sparkling eyes.

The car emblems tell a short pictorial story of my run-in with a Royals player, that I could have found a better way to ask for his autograph.

The bicycle parts are what remain to remind me of the most severe accident with life impacting injuries.