The Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) support group at Gundersen Health System in Wisconsin is helping patients heal through artwork.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, TBIs are a major cause of death and long-term disability in the United States. In fact, about 30 percent of all injury deaths are due to a brain injury across the nation each year.
Steven Brown, 18-years-old, of Onalaska is one patient who attends the TBI support group at Gundersen Health System. His mother told WXOW that he looks forward to group because it gives him the chance to socialize with other people, something he hasn’t done much of since sustaining a brain injury in 2005.
Brown was running an errand on March 7, 2005 when he was involved in a head on collision on Highway 16.
Following the crash, Brown was unconscious for more than two months. He broke 50 bones in his jaw and underwent two brain surgeries due to injuries he sustained in the crash. Brown also had a shattered knee cap and now has a shunt and titanium plate in his forehead to help relieve pressure on his brain from his injuries.
“Diane Hohlfeld, Steven’s mom, said it was a horrifying thing to go through as a parent, but both her and Steven have found support with Gundersen Health System’s staff and monthly group,” the article reads.
Hohlfeld told WXOW that her son looks forward to group each month.
“He was so shy now he’s social and he doesn’t have a lot of outlets for it now. He just can’t stay home he just has to be out with people. This has been really good for him, meeting these people,” Hohlfeld said.
The Traumatic Brain Injury Support Group at Gunderson Health System has been meeting for about five years now. Art therapy is one aspect of the group and recently participants took part in the Unmasking Brain Injury Project by painting blank, white masks in an effort to express their stories and emotions.
A nurse who works with the TBI group said the art project allowed participants to express themselves, show what they’ve been through, but also it gives them hope for the future.
Brown told WXOW he loved it and that the project allowed him to show positive aspects of what he’s endured rather than always focusing on the negative.
“I had to relearn to do things and I thought, well that was kind of like a maze, so for the forehead I did a maze. And I thought, well, I’ll do half of the mask red, half blue from going from the old me to relearning things and this is how I am now,” explained Brown.
Unmasking Brain Injury is an international project that has helped individuals with brain injuries create more than 600 masks spanning across 17 U.S. States and two countries.