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Masks give expression to the hidden disability of brain injury

Published on

Jake Romphf

Sarnia’s Ron Daye is intently painting a mask, half of it in vivid red.

The other half will feature a mix of blue and green and yellow.

“I think the red comes out to reflect what happened to me,” said Daye, who suffered a brain injury in a 2014 explosion at Shell Canada that left him with memory loss and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The blue, he adds, helps calm him when he gets upset, and the yellow indicates his life is still bright.

Daye’s mask and those of other brain injury survivors will be on display at a June 1 open house, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., hosted by the Brain Injury Association (BIA) of Sarnia-Lambton.

People with brain injuries often have trouble concentrating and experience difficulty in social situations and relationships, said Lori Girolametto, the association’s program director.

“It doesn’t mean that the person can’t participate in everyday living, it just means that they have to do it in a different way.”

Association members and their caregivers have been decorating the masks over the past six weeks, part of a campaign called Unmasking Brain Injury.

The works will be on display during a reception at 1705 London Line, in the Victorian Order of Nurses’ community room.

Because a brain injury is a hidden disability, the masks allow survivors to express what they’re going through, said Girolametto, whose husband was injured in a motorcycle accident.

“It allows them to express their experience of living each day with a brain injury,” she said.

Girolametto helps organize a weekly coffee group, various activities to improve motor skills, and other social events.

“It provides them with a social setting to have them reintegrate back into the community,” she said.

“Brain injury survivors tend to become isolated, often because family and friends have difficulty understanding the journey that they’re on.”

Daye said the activities are helpful.

“It’s good for me,” he said.

His wife Wendy, who participates in almost every event, said the association offers a support system for Ron, as well as for herself.

She said a little patience goes a long way when encountering someone with a brain injury.

“Being patient, being nice and giving a smile, it’s not that hard to do.”

Brain injuries in Sarnia arise mainly from concussions as well as motor vehicle and workplace accidents, Girolametto said.

Following the open house, the masks will be on display at the Refined Fool and then at other locations including The Lawrence House and Sarnia Library.


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