Her ‘World Was Collapsing;’ Then, She Read About a Ghost
Book, Mind-Eye Institute Put Brain-Injured Patient on Path to Recovery
My world felt as though it were collapsing,” recalls Christie Young.
That’s because this Arizona resident had become lost in a “maze of missed diagnoses, misunderstandings, judgments” and what she refers to as “lack of effective treatment protocols” for years after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in a car crash in 2012.
Then, Christie read a book. Not just any book, but one recently authored by Clark Elliott Ph.D., a DePaul University academician and specialist in applied artificial intelligence. Entitled The Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole My Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get It Back, the book details the author’s eight- year struggle to find practitioners who could help him return to health following a mild traumatic brain injury, including what he calls the “magic” work of the Mind-Eye Institute (https://www.mindeye.com) in Chicago’s north suburb of Northbrook, Ill. and that of Institute founder and research director, Deborah Zelinsky, OD.
But Chicago is so far away from my home, Christie thought. She considered other options, even scheduling appointments with an optometrist, who practiced in her area and was listed as having expertise in vision deficits related to traumatic injuries.
“I was tested, and results indicated nothing alarming,” she says. “The optometrist’s evaluation focused on the structure and correction of my central eyesight – getting it to 20/20. I later learned that central eyesight testing often misses problems involving peripheral visual processing.” She had two appointments with that eye specialist and decided to call Dr. Zelinsky.
The rest, of course, is history.
“Christie’s symptoms were classic of brain-injured patients – short-term memory lapses; difficulties with communication; problems with executive functions like writing, planning and problem-solving; inability to concentrate; and dysfunctional spatial awareness. Her sensory systems remained stuck in fight-or-flight mode,” says Dr. Zelinsky, whose optometric clinic emphasizes neuro-optometric rehabilitation. She is internationally noted for her expertise in retinal processing and its impact on overall brain function.
“We can use many different types of optometric tools to readjust a patient’s balance, visual processing and eye-ear integration,” Dr. Zelinsky explains. “Changes in luminance on the eye affect how the brain interprets and reacts to information about the environment and can impact a person’s spatial awareness, body posture and selective attention to sound.”
Much of the Institute’s emphasis is on assisting patients in recovery from traumatic brain injury, stroke or symptoms from post-traumatic vision syndrome. A percentage of Institute patients have learning problems and require a more solid connection between their eyes and ears to develop needed visual skills.
Back to Christie.
She was at a complete stop when a car being driven at a high rate of speed struck her vehicle from behind, causing her whiplash and a variety of physical injuries, including herniated cervical and lumbar spinal discs and a spinal-pelvic-hip and thoracic twist injury. What she did not realize – for at least several months afterwards – was her physical pain had been masking symptoms of her brain injury. That is, until her concussive symptoms gradually worsened.
“I started noticing that I was not feeling well, and my cognitive abilities were declining,” Christie relates. “I began to lose my short-term memory as well as my ability to plan and problem-solve. My communication skills became a jumbled mess. I lost my creativity. My central nervous system seemed stuck in overdrive.”
Ultimately, the health issues forced her to quit her job as a marketing professional.
She began a tortuous odyssey through the health system, trying to have a plan for recovery from her disrupted brain circuitry. She was evaluated by a neuropsychologist, a local neurologist, and brain-injury rehabilitation therapists, who “could only provide me with compensation techniques to help me navigate through my day.”
Christie even underwent 30 neurofeedback sessions, which temporarily addressed some of her post-concussive symptoms. But, shortly afterwards, her difficulties returned.
“I was tired, frustrated – literally ‘at the end of my rope,’” Christie says. It was about at that point in her life when she started reading The Ghost in My Brain. A neurofeedback practitioner in whom Christie confided suggested that Christie “contact the doctors” in the book, namely Dr. Zelinsky and Donalee Markus, PhD, of Designs for Strong Minds™ in Highland Park, Ill.
Christie did. The year was 2017 – five years after her car crash.
“Meeting with these two extraordinary leaders in 21st century brain-injury diagnostic testing and rehabilitation renewed my hope in recovery,” Christie says.
Upon returning to Arizona from Chicago, she added a new eye-care expert to her recovery team by making an appointment with an Arizona optometrist certified to use mind-eye’s patented testing program. The optometrist prescribed her therapeutic eyeglasses to establish new neural pathways in her brain.
“I have now recovered fully from all my post-concussive symptoms and have graduated from therapeutic lenses to regular, prescription eyeglasses,” says Christie, who currently volunteers as a writer-blogger for a national brain-injury organization. “The previous lenses were like training wheels on a bicycle – used until I could do it on my own.
“Through multiple doctors and heartbreaking health care experiences, I learned that I have to become an advocate for my own health,” Christie concludes. She calls “miraculous” how the Dr. Elliott book and a simple suggestion from a neurofeedback expert took her on a path of recovery to the Mind-Eye Institute and Designs for Strong Minds™.