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Success Stories, Media, Traumatic Brain Injury

Once Suffering a Brain Injury, Donna Now a ‘New Woman’

Mind-Eye Institute Helps Her Regain Ability to Drive, Read, Grocery Shop

Donna's Journey to Independence

Mind-Eye optometrist Carla Adams, OD calls her patient, Donna Weigel of Horicon, Wisconsin, a “new woman”. She has much more independence now, because she has regained the ability to drive – daytime or nighttime – which is a significant feat for someone who has sustained a brain injury. She has improved depth perception, is reading better, experiencing fewer headaches, and has no more vertigo. In short, Donna is back to being functional.”

As far as Donna’s journey to recovery, “she is about 80 percent there,” Dr. Adams says. “We have a few more issues to address, but our goal is to get her to 100 percent.”

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Stimulating the Retina with Light

Not a surprising statement since the Mind-Eye Institute team is noted globally for successful, clinical use of individualized lenses, filters, prisms, and other optical interventions to address the symptoms from brain injuries and other neurological and learning disorders by stimulating the retina with light

“Varying the amount, intensity, or angle of light passing through the retina affects how the brain interprets and reacts to information about the environment and can impact a person’s spatial awareness, body movement and selective attention to sound,” says Mind-Eye founder and executive research director Deborah Zelinsky, OD.

Indeed, the retina is composed of brain tissue and serves as an important component of the central nervous system. Environmental signals (in the form of light) enter the retina and convert to electrical signals, which propagate through neurons and interact with key brain structures. These retinal signals affect not only the visual cortex for eyesight but other, significant regions of the brain as well, linking with structures like the midbrain, thalamus, hypothalamus, and brainstem, Dr. Zelinsky explains.

With Mind-Eye Brainwear™ -- a reference to specialized eyeglasses, Mind-Eye optometrists are often able to maximize patients’ visual performance; improve perceptions of their world; lessen symptoms of brain injury, concussion, stroke, auditory/visual imbalances, and retinal processing dysfunction; and even address learning problems due to autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Overcoming Brain Injury: Challenges and Triumphs

Donna’s symptoms, which developed gradually over a period of decades due to two concussions and multiple medical issues. She underwent more than 40 surgeries beginning at age 11.  By the time she reached her 60s, she had no quality of life. “I could not read; I could not comprehend anything. I had difficulties getting what was in my brain to come out my mouth and would be left stuttering,” Donna says. She also suffered from headaches, light and sound sensitivities, and an inability to maintain attention and focus.

“I was a respiratory therapist, often dealing with life-and-death situations. If you were on life support, you would want a therapist who is able to focus. But I no longer had that focus, so I had to step away from my profession,” Donna relates.

Donna experienced her first concussion while in her 20s. The second “occurred about 10 years ago at work; my head struck concrete,” she recalls. “When it happened, I could not tell you my name immediately afterwards. Then I tried to drive home and ended up in the wrong town.”

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“Even the simplest of tasks like grocery shopping became difficult. When I entered the store, I had 10 good minutes to get what I needed and then a migraine headache would develop. I would become so overwhelmed I would just start tossing items into my cart. I just needed to leave.”

“Grocery shopping can present many challenges to persons with a brain injury,” Dr. Adams notes. “From the moment they walk into the store, the lighting can be a significant trigger for symptoms. Couple that with multiple sounds, the constant movement of people around them, and the need to focus while scanning crowded and colorful shelves for specific items, and the result is a very toxic environment, often prompting patients to flee the store.

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About the Z-Bell Test℠

During a typical Z-Bell evaluation, a patient keeps eyes closed and tries to locate and touch a ringing bell. If the patient cannot do so, a Mind-Eye optometrist places different lenses, prisms, and filters across the patient’s closed eyelids until an optimal combination allows the patient to find the bell immediately. These optical appliances bend the ways in which light disperses across the retina, thereby impacting brain function, Dr. Adams explains.

“Even when eyes are closed, a low level of light still passes through the eyelids and stimulates the retina, which is composed of brain tissue and is an overlooked part of the central nervous system. Retinal stimulation also activates parts of the brain not used for eyesight. With eyes closed, patients are still having to visualize surrounding space in order to locate the bell. The auditory input has to match the imagined location,” Dr. Adams says.

“By placing various types of lenses across a patient’s closed eyes, we can change the way light spreads over the retina, thus modifying the dynamic relationship between the mind’s visual inputs and the body’s internal reactions and responses.”

The Impact of Specialized Care at Mind-Eye

“Initially, I was missing the bell all over the place. Then, when Dr. Adams found the right combination of lenses [and placed them over Donna’s closed eyes], I started screaming and laughing. How does this whole thing work – with your eyes closed?” Donna asks.

Although the diminution of her symptoms has required several Mind-Eye lens prescriptions over time, Donna remembers experiencing something positive within about a half hour after wearing her first pair of Mind-Eye glasses. “My focus suddenly became sharper than anything I had experienced for decades,” she says.

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“Today I am bursting with happiness."

- Concussion Patient, Donna Weigel

Today, after about a year-and-a-half of care at the Mind-Eye Institute, “my life has changed. This may sound so simple, but I recently read a magazine article from start to finish. I was used to scanning articles really quickly because, after a few minutes, I would not be able to think any longer. In this case, I read the entire magazine from front to back, because I could,” Donna says, holding back tears.

“The difference Dr. Adams and the entire Mind-Eye staff have made in my life is incredible. When you sit down with Dr. Adams, you become her entire focus. She becomes like family. I am bursting with happiness every single moment of every day. I told my husband this must be what normal people feel. 

“I may not know exactly what 100 percent normal feels like, but I am headed in the right direction,” Donna adds.