After six years of struggling with concussion symptoms, Sue Hebeisen of Minneapolis says she can smile again, determine left from right, comprehend – and sometimes tell – jokes, and “read more than just big-panel comics. Most importantly, she is better able to manage the involuntary movements that plagued her for years — all because the team at the Mind-Eye Institute in Northbrook, Illinois and puzzles developed by the founder of Designs for Strong Minds in Highland Park, Illinois put her on a road to recovery.
“There seemed to be no treatments, therapies, or medications to relieve my symptoms. I tried everything the standard health system could provide. I was shaking, trembling, experiencing uncontrollable arm and leg movements and painful muscle contractions, and struggling simply to walk. I was regressing,” Sue says.
But, in 2019, she recalled a book she had read earlier – “one I had seen in an optometry waiting room and then ran out to buy it.” Called Ghost in My Brain, the book details the writer’s long road to recovery following a traumatic brain injury. That author — DePaul University Chicago professor Clark Elliott PhD — credits Deborah Zelinsky, OD, founder and executive research director of the Mind-Eye Institute, and cognitive restructuring specialist Donalee Markus, PhD, president and founder of Designs for Strong Minds in Highland Park, Ill. for his dramatic return to health.
“I cried when I read the book. Dr. Elliott described the same symptoms I was experiencing,” Sue says.
She later made the call to Mind-Eye and scheduled an appointment in the spring of 2020. During that initial testing, Dr. Zelinsky prescribed Sue her first pair of “brain” glasses. On subsequent visits, Sue received follow-up evaluations from the Institute’s Carla Adams, OD and was advised to download puzzles and games through Dr. Markus’ app for improvement of her comprehension and cognition.
Designs for Strong Minds works with the mind, enhancing a patient’s ability to think, judge, plan, and organize through use of pictures and puzzles that are “hierarchically organized into specific areas – much like the brain is organized,” Dr. Markus states.
Meanwhile, the Mind-Eye team has achieved international recognition for its use of therapeutic eyeglasses, lenses, prisms, and filters to vary the amount, intensity, and angle of light that passes through the retina. The retina is part of the central nervous system and a primary portal through which information enters the brain.
“By manipulating light with eyeglasses – ‘brain’ glasses designed for processing other than sharp eyesight, we are often able to reduce symptoms and restore comfort to patients who need to rebuild visual processing skills compromised by brain injury, head trauma, stroke, and other neurological disorders,” says Dr. Zelinsky. The Institute’s unique, scientific-based testing protocols and advanced visual skill-building also help develop new processing capabilities in patients with dyslexia, attention disorders, and other learning deficiencies, she explains.
Dr. Zelinsky explains that neurological disorders and injuries to the brain can affect visual processing by disrupting the synchronization of a person’s external senses, particularly integration of eyes and ears and/or internal processing. Visual processing is what enables individuals to respond appropriately — internally and externally – to signals from their world. Abnormal processing leads to a variety of symptoms, including light and sound sensitivities; difficulties reading, concentrating, and learning; brain fog; problems organizing and staying on task; sleep and memory issues; and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“When the brain fails to function efficiently, busy environments – sights, sounds, smells, people – can literally cause one to become dizzy, nauseous, confused, stressed,” she says.Dr. Markus agrees. “Patients with mild to moderate traumatic brain injury oftentimes complain of visual processing difficulties. They struggle to look at something, to follow a moving object, or to find something on a grocery store shelf or in their own refrigerator. Even the smallest differences – signals from a person’s right and left visual circuitry clashing or moving at varying rates – can affect visual processing, cognition, socialization, participation in sports, work activities, and decision-making abilities.”
Designs for Strong Minds offers graphics that are intended to address a patient’s spatial perception, visual closure, part-whole relationships, variation in perspective, form constancy, figure ground, visual imagery, and memory skills – all of which can be compromised by head injury.
Sue, who had been in robust health before the 2014 rear-end car crash that caused her brain injury, eventually went from a cane to a walker; became overwhelmed by the lights, sounds, hundreds of items, and movements of people in grocery stores; developed light and sound sensitivities, double vision, and ringing in her ears; endured frequent headaches, brain fog, fatigue, and an inability to read comprehensive and smaller-type materials; and often proved unable to understand conversation, especially the jokes and humor of other family members. But, during her two-and-a-half years of care at the Mind-Eye Institute and exposure to Dr. Markus’ puzzles, Sue is regaining something she thought she had permanently lost – hope.
The puzzles and Mind-Eye glasses “have helped me significantly,” Sue says. She still uses assistance to ambulate but has been able to put aside the walker in favor of forearm crutches and has greater management of involuntary movements and tremors – an accomplishment she calls “the greatest success of my care at the Mind-Eye Institute. I was even able to complete a short hike during this past summer.”
Her tinnitus – ringing in ears – also has declined, as have her headaches and light and sound sensitivities. Her cognitive and visual processing capabilities have improved to the point where “I can play board games again, better understand when someone is joking, engage in conversation, know left from right, and read more than comics.” And “I can smile again,” says Sue, who estimates she has completed about 50 percent of her journey to recovery.
“I am most grateful Dr. Elliott authored a book about his struggles with concussion. It brought me to the Mind-Eye Institute and familiarized me with Dr. Markus. I only wish more people could take advantage of the science” that the Mind-Eye Institute and Designs for Strong Minds practices, Sue states.
Although Sue Hebeisen is enjoying progressive symptom relief, her experience is not always the norm nor is it guaranteed for every patient. Check out the Mind-Eye Institute and Designs for Strong Minds websites at www.mindeye.com and www.designsforstrongminds.com for additional information.