Published on March 29, 2018

Every Mask Tells a Story

Amy Day

The display of masks on the lobby walls at Genesis Physical Therapy and Wellness, Bettendorf represents more than the colors, flowers and other embellishments of the artists.

Dizziness, courage, survivor, overwhelmed and confused…

Those are words representing the thoughts of the artists.  Every mask tells a story of a brain injury patient.

The artists from Iowa have suffered a stroke, seizure, accident, or other condition resulting in either temporary or permanent brain injury.

Unmasking Brain Injury is a pop-up art exhibit at Genesis Physical Therapy and Wellness, 4017 Devils Glen Road, Suite 100, Bettendorf.  The masks will be on display through April 6.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa organized the display.

It is estimated that as many as 93,000 Iowans are living with disability from acquired brain injury.  Nationally, an estimated 2.4 million children and adults in the U.S. sustain a traumatic brain injury each year.  More than 3 million Americans live with lifelong disability because of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

A large number of patients from the region, many of them patients of Genesis Physical Therapy and Wellness, have contributed masks now on display.  Genesis Physical Therapy and Wellness offers neurological rehabilitation therapy and services to children and adults who have a brain injury, along with other physical therapy.

Here are several of the stories behind the masks:

Amy Day of East Moline remembers involuntarily clenching her fists in bed. She was not feeling well.  She had a headache.

“I would wake up, then pass out, wake up, then pass out. Thankfully, my boyfriend called 911,’’ she said.

She was suffering a stroke.  She had a stent surgically placed on the right side of her brain and spent 30 days at a hospital in Peoria.  She suffered short-term memory loss.

The words on her turquoise mask reflect her recovery.

“I was overwhelmed, confused, afraid, and irritable. But mostly I was alive. I survived,’’ she said.

Day now attends the Genesis LIFT (Learning Independence for Tomorrow) program four days a week. LIFT is a CARF-accredited day treatment program focused on rehabilitation for adults after neurological injuries, such as stroke or traumatic brain injury.

“Hopefully, people going through something like this will be strong,’’ the 39-year-old said.   “I would tell people going through this not to be worried. They can get through this.’’

Day hopes to return to her job in the coming months.

“Right now I’m going to school. LIFT is my school,’’ she explained.

Jim Campbell of Bettendorf suffered a stroke in November 2016 during the removal of a tumor from his brain.

Immediately following the stroke, Campbell was paralyzed on his left side and initially needed a catheter and a feeding tube.  He could still talk.  A major blood vessel in the brain, the middle cerebral artery, was surrounded by the tumor and this blood vessel was unfortunately damaged during the surgery. 

"The tumor was big and had to come out," Campbell explained.

 

His mobility and cognition are both improving through the LIFT program. 

 

“I’ve made a lot of progress. I love the LIFT program,’’ he said.

Campbell’s mask is divided by colors. The blue side represents the darker side of his journey. The yellow side, he said, is more positive.

On the dark side has been his occasional frustration with the loss of cognitive function.

“I have degrees in math and computer science and I have trouble now with simple math,’’ he explained.

He said he is fortunate to have had a support team at home.

“I appreciate what my wife and kids have done for me. That’s what it takes. You need to have that support,’’ he said.  “I would tell people going through something like this that it’s a marathon, not a sprint and to remain hopeful.’’

Robin Monson of Davenport suffered a seizure in December 2015.  She went from being a highly organized office manager to not being able to open an Excel spreadsheet, let alone work on the columns of data.

“I was not able to perform the tasks I needed to keep the job,’’ Monson explained. “I love Genesis therapy here.  They make you see you can do things you thought you’d never do again.  They build you up while being realistic that you might not ever do everything you were able to do before.  They keep it real.’’

Monson was emotional when she read the story explaining her mask.  Words on the mask included dizziness, afraid, courageous, different and guilty.

“I feel guilty because of how much support I have needed.  My husband (Bill) is my angel.  He has been my biggest fan and my encouragement that I could do something I didn’t think I could.’’

Monson is back at work as an office manager with Rainbow International, a home restoration company with an office in Davenport.

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