The making of Fuzzy Brain sculpture
Fuzzy Brain has been delivered to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an unveiling is due in early 2022.
Background to the commission: In 2014 I fell off of my bike and fractured my skull, resulting in a ‘traumatic brain injury’ (TBI). As I waited on the CAT scan bed to be rolled into the machine, I was asked if I wished to take part in an international drug trial that was studying the effects of a particular drug on bleeds on the brain. As I had no other bruises on my body (having broken the fall with my head – no, I wasn’t wearing a helmet, but I always wear one now!), I was therefore an excellent candidate for the clinical trial, called the CRASH-3 Clinical Trial.
The CRASH-3 Clinical Trial by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) was a worldwide clinical trial of 12,000+ people to see if a drug called tranexamic acid could reduce deaths from TBIs. Around 69 million people are estimated to experience a TBI worldwide each year.
CRASH-3 provides evidence that a low-cost drug could prevent deaths from TBI by as much as 20% depending on severity of the injury.
Tranexamic acid (TXA) is most effective in mild-moderate head injuries but shows no clear impact in severely injured patients. It’s also safe to give and is most effective the earlier it is given. If TXA is given to all TBI patients immediately after injury, it could prevent tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths around the globe each year.
I was lucky. I have recently learned that I did receive the drug. My fall was witnessed by many people in busy Bonn Square, where I had my accident, and I was whisked off to the John Radcliffe Hospital right away. Others may not be seen at a hospital so quickly, which is why the LSHTM have a CRASH-4 trial underway. It was shown in the CRASH-3 study that the critical time to be treated is within 3 hours after sustaining a bleed on the brain. CRASH-4 involves paramedics and other first responders administering the drug immediately, if the person meets certain criteria. You can read more about the CRASH -4 trial here. I am proud to have been asked to be one of the layperson representatives on the LSHTM trial panel.
Five years on the results of the CRASH-3 study have been published in The Lancet
In 2020, following my participation in the CRASH-3 study, I was commissioned by the LSHTM to produce a sculpture that conveyed my experience recovering from a brain injury. I have completed the sculpture in black clay. There is a small glazed area, and dyed wool to represent the 'fuzzy' thinking I experienced after the accident.
Workshop with charity Headway
Sunningwell School of Art, where I teach, asked if I would be interested in working with Headway, a charity dedicated to helping those who’ve experienced brain injuries. Headway was instrumental to my recovery, so I jumped at the change to give something back.
In the end, we came up with the idea of a series of three clay workshops, called Wracking My Brain, the results of which you can see here. Three words had defined my own recovery from TBI - depression (which had affected me in the aftermath), fuzziness (a feeling in my head that persists), and coffee (constant smells are common after TBIs) - so I asked the Headway participants to think of three words that would express or describe how they felt after their injury or post brain surgery.
These three words helped Headway staff and myself to understand what each has been through, and were a springboard to the sculptures displayed today. Each conveys a powerful story of adversity and acceptance and is a beautiful depiction of a life-changing personal experience
darkness, tangled, static
dizzy, anxiety, frustrated
head, black, frustrated
purple, fuzzy, charity
green, numbness, India
garage, concrete, broken
memory, writing, frustration
colour, love, protection
As part of my recovery, I produced a pop up art piece on the site where the accident occurred. The popup was a Thank You to the passersby who came to my aid, comforted me, and phoned for an ambulance.
Location: cycle path
Bonn Square, Oxford