Brain injury survivor finds healing, new calling through art

Brain injury survivors from across the state are marking a creatively important milestone Friday night. They’re revisiting the challenge of unmasking their brain injuries through art. 

For at least one young woman, it’s led to a new path in life. 

"I'm a traumatic brain injury survivor, as well as an adaptive crafter," said Hannah Cate. "I’ve kind of turned my disability into a way of teaching others about it through my art."

If art has the power to heal, then Hannah has found the right brush stroke.

Hannah Cate

Hannah Cate, a brain injury survivor and adaptive crafter. (FOX 9)

"An adaptive crafter is really anybody who has a disability who has to craft in a different way using different tools or techniques to make it work for them in their body," Hannah explained. 

More than 10 years ago, Hannah suffered a series of concussions while playing soccer and basketball. They rewired her brain, causing muscle weakness.

The struggle led her to the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, particularly to their outreach project called "Unmasking Brain Injury in Minnesota." 

brain injury alliance mask painting

Brain injury survivors paint masks as as a way to "unmask" their brain injuries.

"Never did me, in our wildest dreams, think it would hit the nerve it did," Brad Donaldson of the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance.  

Across Minnesota, brain injury survivors poured out their souls in paint and markers, including Hannah. 

"This is what she put together, and the thing that I was struck by is on the side she has these quotes. ‘I will never be me again. It will be okay’," Donaldson said of Hannah’s mask. 

Hannah Cate mask

Hannah Cate's mask, which she created at the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance's "Unmasking Brain Injury in Minnesota" event. (FOX 9)

"I like to say that that day really changed my life," Hannah said. "It showed me how I can use art to heal myself and grieve my past life, and really accept my new life."

That new life is teaching others to heal through art. 

"Yeah, so on my Instagram blog, I do product reviews to hopefully help people not have to go through that trial and error process that I did because craft supplies are very expensive, you can very easily drop $500 in an hour at a craft store," Hannah said. 

You could call her an adaptive art influencer.

Hannah Cate crafting

Hannah Cate, a brain injury survivor and adaptive crafter. (FOX 9)

"It’s definitely been a fun ride. I’m having this Instagram blog and seeing my followers grow," Hannah said. She now has more than 5,000 followers on her Instagram page, called @coping.through.craft. 

"To see my followers grow means that there’s more people that I can help," she said. 

All because of a simple mask that still heals and teaches.

"And I think it's really important for people to learn about these invisible disabilities, invisible illnesses, and to stop judging people for how they look on the outside, and really just moving forward, hand in hand to help each other," Hannah said. 

The Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance is hosting a special video premier Friday night looking back at the unmasking project and how some people’s lives have changed during the past five years.

You can find all the viewing details at