The making of Fuzzy Brain sculpture

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 may have had the drug, or I may have had the placebo. Either way, just being a part of this world-wide study provided hope and I’m convinced aided in my recovery.

 

Five years on the results of the study have been published in The Lancet 

Read more on BBC News

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.

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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

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darkness, tangled, static
dizzy, anxiety, frustrated

head, black, frustrated
purple, fuzzy, charity
green, numbness, India
garage, concrete, broken
memory, writing, frustration
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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. 

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Location: cycle path

Bonn Square, Oxford

This is the central retail area of Oxford. For my popup art piece I used plastic bags which were readily available in 2014 and given out by retailers.