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Traveling Exhibit Showcases Art by Brain Injury Survivors

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) impact a substantial number of individuals, contributing to about 30% of all deaths in the United States. For Traumatic Brain Injury survivors, day-to-day life can feel isolated. TBI survivors often face challenges with communication, which can lead to confusion and misunderstandings.

Because the injury is highly misunderstood by the public, TBI survivors sometimes feel detached from the rest of society. However, one art initiative plans to bridge the gap between TBI survivors and their communities.

Survivors Unite to Unmask Brain Injuries

A traveling art exhibit called Unmasking Brain Injury showcases painted masks created by brain injury survivors. The project has produced a collection of over 800 masks, available on display and online. Unmasking Brain Injury began in the United States and is now becoming an international initiative.

“The mission of Unmasking Brain Injury is to promote awareness of the prevalence of brain injury; to give survivors a voice and the means to educate others of what it’s like to live with a brain injury; to show others that persons living with a disability due to their brain injury are like anyone else, deserving of dignity, respect, compassion and the opportunity to prove their value as citizens in their respective communities.” (TASS Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center)

Survivors and advocates can now come together to redefine a disability that affects millions of victims each year.

Voices Heard Through Art Installation

The artwork included in Unmasking Brain Injury is as varied as the individuals who painted them. Participants included in the project became injured through a myriad of traumatic events, from car and train accidents, workplace injuries, criminal assaults, electrocutions, to brain tumors and birth-related injuries.

The art display includes real stories written by brain-injured artists or their caregivers. The masks express raw emotion, telling the story of life before and after the incident.

One brain injury survivor, Steve B. From Hammond, Louisiana shared his mask as part of the exhibit. Steve’s life changed when he was involved in a work-related accident where he was hit by a large bolt. He suffered an irreversible brain injury as a result.

Steve described the emotion that he put into his mask,

“Hopeless, cheated, afraid and anger… these are just a few of the emotions I feel and wanted to show on my mask.  I feel I have been cheated out of my life and spending time with my family and friends.  Much of my time is spent being afraid because I suffer from memory loss.  I am also very angry at my situation, so I tried to show that on my mask.”

Karyn H. from Roswell, Georgia who suffered a brain injury after a car accident, also decorated a mask in support of the art installation.

As Karyn explained,

“The secret to maintaining my intelligence is my love for books.  I have the best potential for dealing with special needs.  The puzzle is my brain being solved.  I have been through so much.  My speech deficit takes away the power of language.  To regain my speech will give me life!”

With the use of some paint and a little imagination, TBI survivors make their stories come to life and contribute to the expanding movement. Survivors and caretakers who come together as a community can offer support while sharing a healing experience.

Joey’s Story

Depending on their specific injury, TBI survivors can face a variety of challenges. Some are affected by impaired thinking, memory problems, troubles with movement and sensation (e.g., vision of hearing), and emotional changes (e.g., personality changes, depression, anxiety). Other brain injuries fit the description of a “silent epidemic” when symptoms and effects go largely unnoticed.

While injuries can vary from person to person, most TBI survivors never return to their previous way of life.

Joey Buchanan’s life forever changed after his accident. The former firefighter was extinguishing a house fire when a 50-pound load of sheetrock fell from an 8-foot vaulted ceiling and struck his head. He suffered a mild brain injury.

Buchanan has accepted his disability as his new reality.

“Those with traumatic brain injuries are no different than anyone else. We have just been chosen to live a new kind of life. A different kind of life. We are not special. Maybe even more normal than many out there.”

After his initial shock following his diagnosis, Joey felt bombarded with internal questions, wondering why he had to endure such an injury. Through much contemplation, he found a purpose in his pain.

Joey believes his accident happened,

“so that others may be educated about this injury…so that others may see that there are huge struggles associated with this injury…so that others may see there is hope and life after this injury.”

Join the Movement

The traveling exhibit is a learning experience for everyone, from students, parents, survivors, and everyone in-between. Now you can spread the word by requesting this art display to be showcased at your event.

Interested in becoming an advocate of the movement? Unmasking Brain Injury is currently looking for volunteers to serve as guides to answer questions while the masks are on display. As first-hand experiences dispel stigmas, TBI survivors and advocates are collectively taking steps towards public acceptance and understanding.

If you are a brain injury survivor and would like to make a mask to be displayed at a traveling exhibit, submit your information to share your story with the world. TBI survivors can now harness their emotions, one art piece at a time.


Brain Injury Awareness Month Seeks to #ChangeYourMind

change your mind about brain injury

March marks Brain Injury Awareness Month, when survivors and advocates of traumatic brain injuries unite to spread awareness about the “invisible” injury. Each year, the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) selects a theme designed to help educate the public on the matter. This year’s campaign is called “Change Your Mind.”

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Get Involved: Virtual Brain Injury Awareness Day is February 13th, 2018

brain injury awarenessDealing with a life-long injury can feel overwhelming. If this describes you or a loved one, you’re not alone.

Traumatic brain injuries affect more than just the lives of victims. Friends, family members, caretakers and survivors alike know how devastating a brain injury can be. That’s why The Brain Injury Association of Virginia is taking a stand to advocate for those living with the “invisible injury.”
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Know the Signs and Take Action to Prevent Drowsy Driving

fatigued drowsy driverNearly 21 percent of all car accidents involve a drowsy driver. Adults should be getting seven to eight full hours of sleep every night, yet many people suffer from stress, insomnia, or bad habits that prevent them from getting a full night’s rest. Driving while drowsy does more than make you yawn. By making sleep a priority, you can prevent accidents that could change your life forever. Continue reading

Doctor Retains Our Firm in $30 million Civil Lawsuit

A prominent orthopedic surgeon from Virginia Beach, Virginia was attacked in her home on the morning of January 2, 2015. The surgeon’s name, Jamie Alexandra Dale.

head_injury_jordanHer attacker: Former Washington Redskin’s safety, Curtis Jordan (pictured).

Ms. Dale’s injuries were caused by repeated slams of her head into the floor, an addition to physical injuries to her back, legs, and other areas of her body. Dale was able to get herself to her bedroom and away from Jordan, where she went in and out of consciousness. While this happening, Jordan made an effort to clean the area where the assault happened, and grabbed his belongings then left the scene.

Ms. Dale’s neighbors became suspicious and came into her home, finding her in a bedroom and called 911 resulting in immediate hospitalization. Within the lawsuit filed by our firm on Ms. Dale’s behalf, both EMS and police noted blood on the carpet in the bedroom and hallway, as well as the door frame, stairs, and our client’s bedding.

Lead trial lawyer of the Brain Injury Law Center, Stephen Smith stated: “Dr. Jamie Dale needs closure to know that Curtis Jordan is off the streets and in prison for what he did. Continue reading

Teach Believe Inspire – Interview with Jessie Riley

Jessie-RileyConcussion and traumatic brain injury have always been a part of professional sports, but it’s only in recent years that awareness and activism has grown up around the issue. Jessie Riley, our Teach Believe Inspire award winner for January, has experience on both sides of history. Keep reading for her reflections on life as an athlete before TBI awareness, her excitement for the future of her company Kitanie, and the epiphany she experienced from a simple coloring book.

What do you remember about the aftermath of your first concussion? Did your family or coaches express any concern when you immediately got back on the ice? 

I don’t remember the accident, or hitting the wall. I just remember stepping on a block coming out of the turn at full speed and then waking up with my coach looking down at me lying on the ice. He helped me up, but it was all a blur because I was so dizzy. I went back to the Olympic Training Center, but when I saw the trainers, there was never any mention of concussion or even neck injury. They just told me to rest. I remember my coach had to drive me home because I was too dizzy to function. But that was it. No tests were done. No x-rays. I completed in the US Olympic Trials two weeks later and came in 12th place. The top 6 made the Olympic team. Continue reading

Teach Believe Inspire Award – Jessie Riley

Teach Believe Inspire Award – Jessie Riley In 1998, competitive ice skater Jessie Riley was coming out of a return, bent on improving her speed in hopes of qualifying for the Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Maybe her focus was too strong; maybe her goal had given her tunnel vision. Whatever the reason, the skater’s next move—one she had made hundreds of times before during training—went awry. Moving at a speed of 30 mph, Jessie Riley skidded and slammed head-first into the wall of the rink.

Everything after that was blackness.

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Brain Injury in Soccer


It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was. Audiences at least year’s Women’s World Cup semifinals were paralyzed in shock as they watched medics rush to the rescue of Morgan Brian and Alexandra Popp. The two opposing players illustrated, in real time, the dangers of soccer head trauma.

Just seconds before, Germany’s women’s team had a free kick. Morgan Brian, a defender for the United States, jumped up to “head” the ball. Unfortunately, Alexandra Popp made the same move, only a split-second later. As the ball bounced effortlessly off Brian’s forehead, her skull descended backward, and cracked unexpectedly against Popp’s forehead. The force couldn’t have been any greater if they had actually been trying to assault one another.
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Teach Believe Inspire – Interview with Cavin Balaster


Cavin Balaster, our December Teach Believe Inspire award winner, is a true renaissance man who has devoted his talents to solving the puzzle of brain injury in new ways. We were able to speak in more depth with him this month about the details of his recovery from TBI, his current research into nutrition therapy, and his upcoming memoir (due out in 2017).

For more information about Cavin, you can subscribe to his podcast Adventures in Brain Injuryon iTunes, access his free eBook (available on his website) or visit his .

Do you remember feeling any misgiving or fear when you climbed up the side of the water tower that night in 2011?

I actually have no recollection of climbing the water tower. In fact, I do not remember a single moment of this entire day, or about a month following my fall. I wish that I could tell you what thoughts went through my mind. Perhaps I was scared. Perhaps my life flashed before my eyes as I crashed from one steel beam to the next. But the truth is, I do not remember a thing.

The most defining moment of my life has been wiped away, and I am really only able to tell this part of my story based on information that has been relayed to me by others.

During your first months of therapy, what made the biggest difference in helping you toward recovery?

This is a great question, and one that I get a lot. There were several aspects of my recovery that I didnt expect would make such a positive impact. In fact, Im in the process of writing an eBook about this very subject.

I had incredible social support, which makes a world of difference no matter what were going through. And of course, I am very thankful that I was fortunate enough to receive the initial treatments and surgeries that saved my life.

Honestly, nutrition probably played the biggest role in my recovery. I had been in a brain fog throughout much of my recovery and was very emaciated and underweight. Not only was I relearning to talk, walk, and eat again, I was also healing and rewiring my brain. I was putting serious work into repairing my body and learning to adapt, and I couldnt progress without making sure I was adequately fueling all that work.

Had you written much before your injury?

I had not done a tremendous amount of writing before my injury, but Ive been a songwriter and musician all of my life. I was a bartender in NYC for years, and storytelling is a forte of any good bartender. The craft of songwriting and storytelling is about conveying a feeling, and that is what I try to do in my writing.

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Teach Believe Inspire Award – Cavin Balaster

Teach Believe Inspire Award – Cavin BalasterThere are a lot of words and phrases that can describe the experience of undergoing a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Over the years of interviewing TBI survivors for this blog and working with many, many more on their litigation cases, we thought we had heard them all.

But after encountering Cavin Balaster, we heard a new description of TBI. One that challenges perceptions of what TBI really means, and encourages everyone to rethink their presumptions of what is possible for survivors. For his clever, courageous reassessment of the nature of TBI, we are pleased to present Cavin Balaster as our Teach Believe Inspire award winner for this month.

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