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Success Stories, Traumatic Brain Injury

Jillanna Trowbridge Credits ‘Brain Glasses’ for Recovery from Brain Injury

She Now Reads 4 Books a Day and Enjoys Music Again

She’s reading four books a day and even thinking about going to law school – all because her “brain” glasses that turned 10 years of struggles with traumatic brain injury into a “world I could make sense of again.”

And, Jillanna Trowbridge of Oak Park, Ill. credits her ongoing recovery to Daniel Myers, OD and the team at the Mind-Eye Institute in Northbrook, Ill., where she underwent extensive testing in December 2019 and was prescribed a set of “brain” glasses. The effect of those glasses was almost immediate.

“When I put them on, I just started crying; I could see comfortably,” Jillanna says.

Until then, her double vision and the inability of her brain to process information had made “my whole world look scary – like a Picasso painting in which a person’s face is looking forward and to the side at the same time. People looked to me as if they were grimacing, frowning all the time. But, with my new glasses, the world no longer appears deformed. The people in it are not scary – they are smiling.”

A successful real estate entrepreneur in Hawaii, Jillanna was the victim of a brutal assault. The resulting head injury left her with a variety of what she terms “strange” and debilitating symptoms, which she began to notice during a several-week period following the incident. The symptoms eventually forced her to abandon her business and threatened her ability to care for her four children – ages 13 and under.

“I was disoriented, felt overwhelmed, had episodes of anxiety. My sense of space and time was altered; I could not tell you what the time of day it should be. I was experiencing double vision and sensitivity to light – like bright lights at night, making it difficult for me to read or drive a car. I also was hypersensitive to sound; listening to music was painful,” Jillanna recalls. “I had outbursts of anger and would frequently cry for no good reason, maybe just because the orange juice carton was half empty. I later learned that tears are the way an injured brain sheds toxin.”

Injury to the brain can disrupt its electrical and chemical circuitry, causing some patients to become confused about their surrounding environment and to exhibit inappropriate reactions and responses to movement or sounds. Sight and hearing are often not in sync, says Dr. Myers.

“At the Mind-Eye Institute, we first measure a patient’s visual performance and visual processing functions,” he explains. “Because the retina comprises brain tissue and is part of the central nervous system, our team then determines how light passing through a patient’s retina might be manipulated to impact brain pathways in a positive way. We do that by using individualized, prescriptive lenses, filters and other optometric interventions.”

Prior to the assault, Jillanna had successfully completed training for a two-year stint with Teach for America and had passed her law school entrance exams as well. But her injuries left her even unable to waitress in a sandwich shop, because “I could not read which bag of chips went with what sandwich.” She was reduced to washing restaurant dishes to earn an income.

Meanwhile, her search for help through the standard health care system proved less than satisfying.

“I saw neurologists, optometrists, ophthalmologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health and behavioral specialists. I had MRIs and CT scans done of my brain and I took batteries of psychological tests, but no one could find anything wrong with me,” Jillanna remembers. “I was prescribed medications that didn’t work and caused terrible side effects. Experts were telling me I was mentally ill, that I was fabricating, that I was malingering, that I was just a histrionic female with menopausal symptoms, which, of course, I was too young to be having.”

While still living in Hawaii, Jillanna became an advocate for brain-injured patients, serving as a public spokesperson for a not-for-profit group and even appearing before the Hawaii state legislature.

“I still could not read, but I could talk,” although her injured brain would sometimes cause her to stop speaking mid-sentence. “I know Mandarin Chinese, and sometimes only Mandarin language would work for me. Simply bizarre,” Jillanna says.

She registered for something called “Love Your Brain Yoga” in Hawaii and saw participants wearing special eyeglasses. When Jillanna relocated to the Chicago area, she started looking for doctors practicing what she calls 21st century optometry, but came up empty until she saw information about the Mind-Eye Institute on her Instagram app. She made an appointment there, despite her skepticism and a “high distrust” in a health system that had, until then, failed her.

But Dr. Myers proved “amazing,” Jillanna says, even though she at first considered some of the testing with filters and lenses “a lot of weird.” She was referring to the Mind-Eye’s patented Z-Bell Test℠, a simple, but revolutionary method of checking a patient’s awareness of auditory space — basically, how stable the eye/ear connection is.

During the Z-Bell Test℠, a patient reaches out, with eyes closed, and tries touching a ringing bell. If the patient cannot do so, a Mind-Eye optometrist selects different lenses, prisms and filters until an optimal combination allows the patient to find the bell immediately without conscious effort. Light still passes through the eyelids and activates parts of the brain not used for eyesight. Using eye/ear connections, with eyes closed, patients are still having to visualize surrounding space in order to locate the bell. Lenses in front of a closed eyelid shift awareness of space.

Results of the Z-Bell Test℠ helped guide Dr. Myers in prescribing eyeglasses that would start Jillanna on her journey to recovery.

“Today, I am sleeping better. I don’t have nightmares. I am not hypersensitive to light, sound and taste. I don’t randomly burst into tears,” says Jillanna, who calls her Mind-Eye glasses the “key to my recovery.”

She adds that the glasses have seemingly led to some unplanned benefits as well.

“I am reading as many as four books a day. I have become a library fiend; my mind seems to be starving for information and trying to get current,” she says. The brain transformation even has her considering law school again – a dream her injury had forced her to abandon.

“Because my glasses arrived during the Christmas holidays, I gave myself the best Christmas gift ever. I attended a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and was able to listen without pain. It truly was a blessing,” Jillanna says, smiling.

She has even gone – post-glasses — to Chicago’s Art Institute to enjoy paintings she has been unable to “see” for the past 10 years.

“These are extraordinary glasses,” Jillanna says. “I have already recommended Mind-Eye to at least 25 people and am considering taking my son there because he gets migraine headaches. There are a tremendous number of people who could benefit from the work the Mind-Eye is doing.”