When Coleraine boy Ewan MacKerracher volunteered to paint some pictures for the Child Brain Injury Trust to show what it was like to live with an acquired brain injury, nobody imagined that a few months later they would be part of an exhibition at one of the top galleries in the UK.
However, the nine-year-old’s paintings have been so well received that the exhibition is now on display in the Education Room at the Saatchi Gallery in London.
The exhibition highlights the eight areas of difficulty that children with an acquired brain injury can often have problems with – including attention and concentration, behaviour issues, social skills, fatigue, perception, communication, memory and executive skills.
Lisa Turan, Chief Executive of the Child Brain Injury Trust, explained: “We want this exhibition to not just highlight some of the difficulties children with an acquired brain injury face, but alsto to make adults think about how they act and react to children who may be exhibiting some of these behaviours and who unbeknown to them, have an acquired brain injury.”
Ewan’s mum, Kerrie, explained how Ewan got his brain injury: “Ewan was first diagnosed with a brain tumour just after his fifth birthday.
“After 12 hours of surgery, the tumour was mostly removed, but there was a danger it would regrow.
“The recovery from surgery was slow and lots of physio was required. Unfortunately, two years later it started to grow again, and he underwent a further 10 hours of surgery.
“This surgery was deemed a success, though he will continue to be monitored through MRI scans for many years to come.”
Kerrie added: “Over the course of the last couple of years, as Ewan grows, we have begun to see subtle differences between him and his younger siblings – like remembering a short list of things to do before leaving the house.
“Also at school, his teachers had commented how he struggles with concentration and is easily distracted, plus problems remembering what he had been asked to do.
“We got in touch with the Child Brain Injury Trust, who have been a huge help, not only at home with suggestions but the charity also came to his school and met his teacher.
“Wwan was asked to paint pictures of things he finds hard after his tumours.
“So he painted two pictures: one entitled “Give my head peace”, which reflects how he finds it hard to zone out everything else to listen or focus on one person) and the other was entitled “It’s party time!”, which reflects how he finds it hard to surpress his feelings and emotions in public, for example in a library.”
Speaking about the work of the charity, Lisa Turan says: “The Child Brain Injury Trust supports children, teenagers and young adults up to the age of 24 with an acquired brain injury and their families.
“We offer emotional and practical support to the child and family. We also work with their brothers and sisters and go into schools to help with support strategies for the child.”
Francesca Wilson, Head of Education at the Saatchi Gallery said: “These paintings are extremely moving. We’ve had many school groups and visitors see the paintings and comment on how powerful they are.
“The visual expressions of the challenges faced daily by the children give the art works true originality and integrity.”