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Success Stories, Traumatic Brain Injury

‘My Brain No Longer Wonders Where My Body Is in Space,’ Patient Says

She Thanks Book, Mind-Eye Science for Her Symptom Relief

An unremarkable car crash, which initially caused only some neck pain, eventually led to a cascade of symptoms that “ripped away my very heart and soul – my photography, my work.” Now Fawne Frailey’s three-and-a-half years of struggles are ending, thanks to a book and to what she calls the “science” being applied at the Mind-Eye Institute.

“Until recently, my whole life had been confined to lying in bed in a quiet, dark environment,” said Fawne, during an October 2020 interview outside a hotel near the Northbrook, Ill.-based Mind-Eye Institute. “I was a monk in my own house. I was forced to sit with my pain and find the necessary strength deep inside me to keep going. I could no longer work as an artist. Most of my friends who did not understand fell away. I was left in total isolation. No one understood me. Plants became my friends. It was devastating to lose what felt like everything. It forced me to hone my mindset, for that is all I had control over, into a mediation practice that saved my life.”

Confident the Mind-Eye team could bring an answer to oftentimes “terrifying” symptoms that she found difficult to understand, Fawne made her first trip to Chicago from her home in Hawaii in October 2019. She did so in the hope that she would eventually experience the same relief described by Clark Elliott, Ph.D., a former Mind-Eye patient who authored the 2015 book The Ghost in My Brain following years of his own challenges with symptoms of brain injury.

“When I first went through Dr. Elliott’s book, I was not ready to hop on a plane and see Dr. Zelinsky at the Mind-Eye Institute. But Clark’s experience kept resonating with me. I picked up the book for a second time and decided to make the appointment,” Fawne said. “I have found Dr. Zelinsky and her team to be so devoted to their work. Many of their patients have received their lives back. I am honored and grateful to have been able to travel here [to Northbrook]. My symptoms are falling away, and I am starting to feel the joy again of who I am as a person.”

The “Dr. Zelinsky” to whom Fawne refers is Deborah Zelinsky, OD, founder and executive director for research at the Mind-Eye Institute. Dr. Zelinsky and her team have become internationally known for their studies in retinal processing and their understanding of how changes in the way light disperses across the retina impacts brain function and sensory integration, including eye-ear interaction. In fact, the Mind-Eye Institute has achieved significant clinical successes in using therapeutic eyeglasses, lenses, and other optometric interventions — Brainwear® — to help patients redevelop visual skills during recovery from debilitating symptoms of brain injuries and other neurological disorders.

Fawne’s story began when her car, while stopped, was rear-ended by another vehicle. The bit of neck pain she was feeling immediately following the crash was not enough to send her to a hospital emergency department, but she did not anticipate the progression of symptoms that would slowly develop in the ensuing weeks.

“I started getting horrible headaches. I felt so incredibly dizzy performing any task. Sounds and lights became completely overwhelming; I felt as if the world were attacking me. My family had to whisper to me. Earplugs with noise cancelling headphones and sunglasses were my new look. Reading, cooking, even simple things like talking on the phone proved a huge struggle,” Fawne related.

“Literally everything was suddenly super-stimulating and incredibly taxing and caused me symptoms. All I could do was lie in bed – quiet and still – day after day after day. The fatigue was like an elephant on top of me, even when undertaking the most basic tasks. For the first few years, I cried every day. My heart was broken from the life that had been suddenly ripped from under me. I felt so lost, so confused, so alone, not knowing what was going on with me but understanding that something was clearly very wrong.”

Concentration also proved a major problem for Fawne. “Just the act of talking was a challenge. Being asked questions felt as if darts were flying at me from all directions. I was unable to keep up with normal conversation flow. I would mix up numbers and misspell words, which was not at all like me,” Fawne said. She recalls sitting in one doctor’s waiting room using her jacket to cover and protect her eyes from the fluorescent lighting and blocking her hearing “because the crinkling sound of secretaries filing papers was causing me to cringe.”

The symptoms forced her from her partnership in a wedding photography business. “My partner and I kept thinking each month that I would be better the next. Yet, with every new month, we were having to call scheduled couples and tell them that a female replacement photographer would join my partner to shoot their wedding. It proved an emotionally and financially exhausting experience. These clients were like friends, and the thought of having to add stress to their day was completely devastating. They had trusted me with their special day, and I could not deliver. I had to walk away from clients who had been booked a year-and-a-half in advance,” she said.

Even more disconcerting was the difficulty she had “articulating what was happening inside me,” which of course was making her journey through the regular health care system all that more difficult.

“My complaints were dismissed by many physicians. They were telling me ‘nothing is wrong with you; just go home and rest.’ Not feeling validated or understood was heartbreaking,” she said.

Fawne also sought help from practitioners of holistic and complementary medicine, including chiropractors and functional neurologists. Although she found some relief through these modalities, it did not prove long-lasting, because those practitioners helped her body become more balanced, but her problem was coming from the environment, which they could not control. “Eyeglasses alter the environment – that combined with the work of other practitioners was the key for Fawne,” Dr. Zelinsky said.

After learning about the Mind-Eye Institute from Dr. Elliott’s book – a book initially recommended to her by a craniofacial therapist, Fawne arranged to see Dr. Zelinsky and be evaluated.

Fawne underwent Dr. Zelinsky’s patented Z-Bell Test℠, in which a patient reaches out, with eyes closed, and tries touching a ringing bell. If the patient cannot do so, the Mind-Eye optometrist determines the optimal combination of different lenses, prisms, and filters in front of the patient’s closed eyelids, allowing 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. With eyes closed, patients must visualize surrounding space in order to locate the bell.

“I was missing the bell, missing the bell, and then Dr. Z started putting lenses and color filters across my eyes. Suddenly, I can hit the bell with my eyes closed,” Fawne stated.

Dr. Zelinsky prescribed Fawne a pair of therapeutic “brain” glasses. “I was so excited when I received them, I instantly put them on and then, ‘whoosh,’ I felt myself returning back into my body and having a relationship with the world again,” Fawne said. “I could see that I am here, the wall is there, and my bed is over there. Until then, I had failed to understand how badly out of connection I had been with my environment. No wonder lights and sounds were so invasive, and I felt dizzy all the time.”

For more than 30 years, the Mind-Eye Institute has been assessing patients’ “visual processing” skills. “Visual processing” refers to the brain’s almost-instantaneous ability to take in external sensory signals (from eyesight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) and meld them with a person’s internal sensory signals. The brain then processes the combined information, allowing a person to react and respond to his or her environment.

“When intact, visual processing enables people to understand and interact appropriately with the world around them. If brain circuitry is out of sync because it has been disrupted by trauma, disease or is underdeveloped, people can become confused about their surrounding environment and exhibit inappropriate reactions and responses,” says Dr. Zelinsky.

For Fawne, who is wearing her fourth pair of Mind-Eye glasses and has now traveled a couple times to the Mind-Eye Institute’s center in Northbrook, the effect has been “amazing.”

“I can take photos again and am working on being able to drive a car,” said Fawne, who is employed part-time creating marketing photographs and videos for her father’s business. “My brain no longer wonders where my body is in space. I am feeling more relaxed and at ease. I can actually remain in a conversation when there is more than one person around me talking. That had been a really challenging problem.”

In fact, Fawne has been feeling so good, she even ventured a trip to India early in 2020 – “something that would have been unfathomable before my [Mind-Eye] glasses,” she stated.

“The brain injury took away my career, my social life, my friends. Every part of my life was falling apart, and the Mind-Eye Institute helped me put back all the pieces. I am forever grateful.”