Meet Vanessa Vanderidder

On June 7th, 2006 Vanessa sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a freak accident when she was on her lunch break from work. While she was waiting at a stoplight, an overloaded dump truck from a construction site sped by her car. Boulders were falling and breaking apart when they hit the ground. A 20 pound rock fragment bounced off the pavement, flew in her open car window and struck her in the head. Her skull was shattered leaving her frontal temporal lobe exposed. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Vanessa underwent several emergency surgeries as well as further planned surgeries. She required years of therapy and rehabilitation to re-learn how to walk and talk again. Her right side had a mild paralysis that particularly impaired her right hand. Ironically, prior to her injury, Vanessa worked as a special needs teacher, assisting individuals with physical and cognitive injuries including those with a TBI. She decided to employ a strategy on herself that she used with clients: finger painting as a therapeutic means to strengthen fine motor skills to help increase movement in her right hand.

Despite the great accomplishments made in therapy, Vanessa was unable to return to her former career following her accident. She continued painting because she found the texture of the paint between her fingers to be soothing and she was able to get lost in the colours. Rather than focus on her chronic pain she was able to redirect her thoughts to artful expression.

Over the years Vanessa broadened her art form from oil finger painting to using a mixed and varied medium. She started creating paintings for her family and friends and was recently connected to an interior designer, who has paired Vanessa’s paintings with her home designs. Currently, with the assistance of her partner, Vanessa has a website and is on Instagram. Her art has been shown in local galleries as well as being rented out for commercials and films. Always an advocate for education and therapy, a portion of sales is donated to the London Ontario Brain Injury Association. Animals are a huge part of Vanessa’s life as well, so she also donates to the local charity All Breed Canine Rescue.

Ten years post injury, Vanessa has a career again. She is an artist. She is a survivor.

View VZV's previous collection of art pieces