Unmasking brain injury at Holland Bloorview
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Unmasking brain injury at Holland Bloorview

Unmasking brain injury (UBI) is an arts-based movement started in the United States. Its aim is to promote education and awareness about brain injury and to give people with brain injuries a voice around what it’s like to live with a brain injury. The UBI movement has come to Canada and The Ontario Brain Injury Association and local brain injury associations have been collaborating to unmask brain injury throughout Ontario. June is Brain Injury Awareness Month, which makes it an ideal time to start a conversation about what brain injury means to those who have one.

Holland Bloorview is the first pediatric facility to join the unmasking movement. Our aim is to bring awareness about childhood brain injury through the masks and the stories behind the masks. We are excited to showcase a couple of the stories behind masks created by youth at Holland Bloorview.

Name of Mask Maker: Cristina

Brain Injury: Four Brain Surgeries

Explanation of Mask:

I acquired my brain injury at age 17 through a ruptured arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which led to a hemorrhage and caused a stroke. I had three AVMs in my brain, which had to be removed through intracranial surgeries and radiation. My mask contains words, the good and bad, which represent me as a person. I often feel that people tend to see me as having mutually exclusive characteristics; as an example, people often are surprised when I tell them that I’ve had a brain injury and I’m in university. I want to show people that people with disabilities are more than their disabilities; that we have other characteristics that don’t revolve around our disability.

Name of Mask: TiCranium

Brain Injury: Brain tumour – diagnosed at age 17

Explanation of Mask:

The blue parts represent “wellness” and my desire to be well despite the pain of my brain tumour that affected primarily my right side – represented by the red. The gems arranged on the top of the mask and as “tears” represent the beauty of each individual despite their injury/disability, and the fact that each struggle is unique and tragically beautiful. Fighting between the difficulty of brain injury and trying to find joy and happiness in our lives is what many brain injury survivors do every day, and I want to showcase that continuous struggle through my mask.