Dean Scott has found peace in art since a tobogganing accident led to a brain injury that changed his life.

Dean Scott has found peace in art since a tobogganing accident led to a brain injury that changed his life.

Fruitvale resident discovers artistic talent in aftermath of brain injury

Check out Dean's leatherwork at Waneta Plaza in the West Kootenay Brain Injury Association's art gallery open Wednesdays.

For Dean Scott, having a conversation at a party with someone would be like trying to tune into one radio show while 10 played at the same time.

But if you get the chance to talk with the Fruitvale resident one-on-one, you’d never know he has a brain injury and his animated storytelling will likely have you in fits of laughter.

Scott’s life has dramatically changed since a toboggan accident in 2006 landed him in the hospital where he suffered from oxygen deprivation and, as a result, an anoxic brain injury.

He no longer does well in crowds, gets distracted quite easily and loses his train of thought.

But he has learned to accept his new challenges and is the first to make light of it.

When the former rigger hung up his hard hat and tuned into his artistic side, he first discovered leather work, and now music.

His leather creations are on display at the West Kootenay Brain Injury Association’s art gallery in Waneta Plaza, which is currently open on Wednesdays and during special mall events but its hours may become more constant if there is volunteer interest that now comes with more support.

The West Kootenay Brain Injury Association has received nearly $9,500 to run its Connect Program from now until November.

The non-profit organization was one of 12 projects to receive funding from the Disability Without Poverty Network, which works to support the improvement of social inclusion outcomes.

Connect provides support to people with disabilities who may need some help getting back out in the community and relearning  skills.

“When you have a brain injury a lot of people lose confidence in their abilities because sometimes their abilities to communicate — read, write, speak — have been affected or they actually end up with some paralysis and some physical disabilities,” explained association executive director Kelly Johnson. “They lose a lot of self confidence so they tend to isolate themselves at home.”

The grant will allow the organization to connect these individuals with their community again by supporting them in a volunteer opportunity that they may not have attempted because they don’t know how.

A support worker would shadow and guide them through such everyday things like navigating the local bus to get to their volunteer position.

Scott’s brain injury hasn’t disrupted his ability to problem solve, really, but more how to express himself. He describes the new version of himself as highly exaggerated. His thoughts and feelings are more intense now and he works hard to keep his inner peace.

“You find ways to cope, it’s all about learning and so is everyday living even without a brain injury,” he said. “Sometimes it just puts a little twist into life.”

His life certainly took a turn about seven years ago when he shattered his vertebrae and ended his construction career.

He previously worked half way across the country on the top of a building either bolting up or directing crane operators.

His brain injury has left him homebound where he’s found his own adventures.

“I wake up now with a kiss and a squish from my kids,” he smiled. “They’re probably my biggest inspiration, that and the outdoors.”

In a way, Scott revisited his childhood when the accident left him sitting still in a back brace.

“When I was a kid I used to draw and paint and all that stuff and then I guess as I got into the workforce, all that stuff was pushed aside,” he said. “I guess I needed something to do and growing up leather always caught my eye like the old brief cases from Indiana Jones.”

A leather hide that hung in his basement for years gave him an idea and he began edge braiding, first a vest and then a purse. He now a has a number of different items on display in the gallery but after mastering the craft of hand sewing and then working with an industrial-style sewing machine, he has shelved leather work and changed his medium to music.

In just over a year he has learned how to play the guitar (and sing), with help from his talented friends with over 120 years of combined experience.

Scott admits at first learning to cope with a brain injury was tough but assured it did get easier.

“I think we all have the ability to overcome difficulties, whether we have a brain injury or not,” he said. “Don’t ever let anybody tell you you can’t do something after a brain injury.

“I’m doing things that I never thought I could.”