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Success Stories, Traumatic Brain Injury

Car Crash Left Me Dizzy, Emotionless; Mind-Eye Helped Get ‘My Personality’ Back

“I am back to laughing again. I am able to go out with friends. My personality is back.”

“I did not even know who I was or where I was standing. I could not spell, could not do math, could not even tell time by looking at a clock. I had light sensitivity, sound sensitivity. I did not have the capacity to understand what was wrong with me. The essence of me was missing. And then a book changed my life.”

That book, The Ghost in My Brain, sent Clare Mantelman of Barrington Hills, Ill. to optometrist Deborah Zelinsky, OD, founder and executive research director of the Mind-Eye Institute in Chicago’s north suburb of Northbrook, and to cognitive restructuring specialist Donalee Markus, PhD, of Designs for Strong Minds in nearby Highland Park. Clare was seeking help for symptoms that had grown progressively worse since a head injury she had sustained in a car crash in April 2019 when her vehicle was rammed from behind while stopped at a traffic light.

In the book, author Clark Elliott, PhD, a DePaul University Chicago professor, details years of struggles similar to those of Clare following his own brain injury in a car collision and describes the successful efforts of Drs. Markus and Zelinsky in “putting me back together.”

“Ghost in My Brain proved to be a life-changer. I recall underlining almost every sentence in the book and thinking: ‘This is me. This is exactly how I feel. I am not right,’” Clare recalls. “I saw Dr. Markus and Dr. Zelinsky starting in early 2020. At the time, I had no concept of ever getting better. But I remember leaving Dr. Zelinsky’s office knowing I was going to be okay.

“Dr. Markus taught my brain how to rethink and calmed my body,” Clare adds. “Dr. Zelinsky prescribed glasses – she calls them ‘brain’ glasses — that refocused my brain. I started enjoying life again.”

“Brain” glasses help resynchronize sensory signaling pathways, especially eyes and ears, by varying the angle, intensity, and amount of light passing through the retina, says Dr. Zelinsky.

“Disruption of sensory integration affects visual processing and leads to symptoms such as those that Clare was experiencing,” Dr. Zelinsky explains. “Visual processing is what enables us to respond appropriately to changes in our surrounding environment. By using therapeutic ‘brain’ glasses to manipulate the way light disperses across the retina, we can literally develop new informational signaling pathways in the brain. These new pathways circumvent damaged neurological ‘communication’ lines and re-establish more normal signaling patterns between the retina and deeper brain structures. That’s because the retinas are composed of brain tissue and serve as conduits between the outside environment and internal physiological and biochemical systems.”

Clare remembers hitting her head on the steering wheel and feeling “discombobulated” following the crash, “which totaled my car,” she says. She was told by health care staff at a nearby hospital emergency department that “you will have a headache, but probably be fine.”

She ended up with more than a headache.

“Unknown to me, I was not making sense when I talked. I was leaving words out of sentences. I felt a bit off balance.”

She made an appointment with a neurologist, who tested her and indicated she would get better. “But I still felt unbalanced, dizzy, and in a bit of a daze. Six weeks later, I returned to the physician, who said I was doing remarkably well. Just after that visit, I fell down the rabbit hole,” she says.

At the bottom of the hole, “nothing made sense to me any longer. I was beyond fatigued,” Clare says. “I would think, ‘Oh, I should do the laundry,’ but that is as far as I would take it. I never thought to gather up the clothes and get them cleaned. I would walk into a room and go completely blank: ‘Who am I; where am I?’ Then I would look at my feet and jog my memory, ‘Oh, yes, I am Clare, and I am standing in the bathroom.’”

She even forgot how to ride her beloved horses. “Several weeks after the car accident, I mounted my horse and could not remember how to use my legs to tell my horse to ‘go’ or to move side to side.

She also lost her ability to spell or use words. “The word ‘student’ became ‘stewdant; I was simply spelling phonetically,’” she says. “I had no idea when to use ‘to,’ ‘two’ or ‘too.’ But I was unconcerned because I did not know how badly off I was.”

Friends and family kept asking her, “Are you okay, Clare?” That is because “I was a blank sheet. My emotions were gone. And I had difficulty going places like to restaurants. There was just too much going on around me in those places. I could not concentrate on conversations; I had a hard time focusing on what someone would be saying to me. If a ticker tape of information started crossing the bottom of the screen while I was watching television, I would become overwhelmingly dizzy. And watching movies on a large screen – that was devastating. Too much information. Mind-boggling.”

Following comprehensive testing of Clare at the Mind-Eye Institute, Dr. Zelinsky prescribed color filters, which Clare was to wear for a matter of seconds in the morning and again in the evening before going to bed, and a pair of highly individualized “brain” glasses.

The specifically chosen wavelength of the colored filters “calmed my whole body; I could not wait to put them on before bedtime,” Clare says. “And the ‘brain’ glasses engaged everything around me. I was able to take in more information. I became re-energized. I was able to work again in my garden. I could handle bright lights. I could come home from a walk and, instead of sitting down exhausted, go out and do other things. I could drive a car again without getting dizzy,” Clare says.

Her recovery has not always been smooth. “I remember having a particularly bad day and an overall rough month. I was upset, angry, because the Mind-Eye glasses no longer seemed to be working. ‘I am not getting any better,’ I complained to my husband. ‘But you are getting better,’ he replied. ‘You are expressing emotion. Before, you lacked the capacity even to get upset.’”

Although not yet 100 percent (as of early 2021), Clare says “I am back to laughing again. I am able to go out with friends. My personality is back.

“What takes place at the Mind-Eye Institute is truly remarkable,” she adds. “The team there explained how my brain circuitry had to be retaught to function normally, even though I had no evidence of disease or damage. I consider it my responsibility to spread the word about what Mind-Eye and Designs for Strong Minds have done for me.”