Despite brain injury, Massey creates greeting card biz

Barbara Hootman

Twenty-year-old Brian Massey suffered a near-fatal accident in 1993 that resulted in a traumatic brain injury.  Now at the age of 43, and after years of surgeries, healing and therapy, he is applying his love of photography to a greeting card business  he created called “Pure Heart Cards.”

Survivor of significant brain trauma, Brian Massey has turned his love of photography into a greeting card business.


Massey graduated from Owen High School in 1991 and entered the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Millington,Tennessee.  While in high school and after graduation he worked at  Tyson Furniture Co. His plans to become a pilot were cut short by a severe knee problem. On Aug. 20, 1993, his  life and that of his parents Debbie and Gary and brother Kurt changed forever when a neighbor pulled out in front of Massey's motorcycle. The accident happened in front of Massey's home, a place where his parents have lived for 43 years.

“At one point the hospital asked us to decide if we wanted to donate Brian’s organs,” Debbie Massey said in a recent interview.  “He spent one month in neuro-trauma ICU and one month in a room at Mission Hospital."

With the help of Kelli Redcliff, Masseys' job coach and a qualified developmental disability professional, Massey started the greeting card business. The cards feature his photographs of scenes from the Swannanoa Valley.

One of Brian Massey's favorite photo subjects is his favorite cat.

Debbie Massey said her son was exceptionally intelligent throughout high school and his Navy training school.

“He graduated at the top of his class at (the) training school,” she said.  “People forget that the same person is inside a scared and broken body as before."

She remembers the day she left Brian, who doctors said would never speak, at home while she went to the grocery store. When she came back he was talking, stimulated she believes by the family photos he was looking at when she left. His family cared for him around the clock. His brother Kurt took off a year off from college to help take care of Brian. Kurt Massey is a doctor today, his mother said.

Brian was working with another job coach, an employment specialist, but he reached a stalemate because he couldn’t fit into a traditional job. Redcliff picked up the story here.

“I was driving back to the office in October after spending several hours with Brian," she said. "We were getting to know each other, looking through the many pictures that Brian has taken. I kept thinking he needs to do something with the photos because they are so good. Then it came to me that a greeting card selection might be the business for Brian.  I talked to Debbie, and then we talked to Brian. And he was excited.”

Brian lives independently in a mobile home close to his parents’ home on North Fork Road.

“Every day Brian helps me and Gary around our place,” Massey said. “It helps him, and it helps us.”

“His place is immaculate with everything in its place,” Redcliff said.  “Most people can’t keep house like Brian does.”

Brian said he has developed a deep appreciation of the mountains, nature and God since his accident.

“I tell people that the accident is the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said.  “It changed me, and I am a better person. And now I am going to have my own business. Every day I read the Bible. I’ve started reading it for the fifth time. I read it out loud."

The most hope Massey's doctors, as many as five or six at a time, gave his parents was that Brian would be a vegetable.

“My husband’s attitude was Brian will be what God wanted him to be,” Debbie said. “It’s turned out to be a whole lot better than what the doctors predicted.  Some days I just wasn’t sure if Brian would recover at all. The road has been hard for all of us.”

Brian’s greeting cards featuring nature scenes and his favorite cat will be displayed throughout Black Mountain and the Swannanoa Valley. Periodically, the cards will be changed with those depicting new scenes. Brian also designed the hand-written messages inside each card. Pure Heart Greeting Cards will sell for $3 each. Debbie is the bookkeeper for the company.

Survivor of significant brain trauma, Brian Massey has turned his love of photography into a greeting card business.

“We developed a simple business plan for Brian’s company,” Redcliff said. “But it is a well thought-out plan that suits Brian’s needs.”

Redcliff said she was never surprised that Brian could create a business of his own that uses  his creativity.

“It is amazing what those suffering from traumatic brain injury can accomplish,” she said.  “I see it every day in my work.”

Each year, Massey celebrates Dec. 15, the day in 1993 that he woke from an almost five-month-long coma.

“I thought I had just been born,” he said.  “And it was true because I started life all over again.”

His mission in life now, he said, is to show and tell about the love he has found in Jesus Christ.

“God healed me, and He loved me first,” Massey said.  “He made the beautiful scenes that I photograph and  turn  into greeting cards.”

For more, e-mail Massey at  A Facebook page is being created for Pure Heart Cards.