Pro Snowboarder Grateful ‘Never’ Doesn’t Always Mean ‘Never’
Mind-Eye Institute Helps Former Olympic Hopeful See 1 – Not 2 – Worlds
Doctors told former professional snowboarder Kevin Pearce his double-vision could “never” be eliminated. But Kevin found Deborah Zelinsky, O.D., and “never” is not in her vocabulary.
That’s why Kevin’s eyesight is gradually returning to single vision.
“Kevin came to us after seven years of searching for care” following a traumatic mid-brain injury in a snowboarding training accident, says Dr. Zelinsky, an optometrist who founded and serves as research director for the Mind-Eye Institute (http://mindeyeinstitute.com), based in Northbrook, Ill. “He had sustained both horizontal and vertical strabismus” – a condition in which eyes do not properly align with each other when looking at an object.
Although Kevin underwent eye-muscle realignment two years after his injury to correct the strabismus, Dr. Zelinsky says such surgery is standard treatment and “succeeds in making the eye appear cosmetically straight but doesn’t always address function – how the brain interprets the new information.”
“I was told by my doctors that it would not be realistic of me to expect single vision in every aspect of my gaze,” says Kevin, an Olympic hopeful who was injured while preparing for the 2010 winter games in Vancouver, Canada. “Every time I looked up, I would see two worlds.”
But, in his case, the doctors were wrong.
During his first visit to the Mind-Eye Institute in 2017, Kevin underwent a battery of visual evaluations that included a refractive examination to check his eyesight, including aiming and focusing abilities. He also had an assessment of eye movement control at conscious, subconscious and unconscious levels, and a spatial awareness analysis using the Z-Bell Test®.
The bell test was developed by Dr. Zelinsky as a simple but revolutionary method of checking a patient’s overall awareness of surrounding space and his or her integration of visual processing with awareness of auditory space. Eyeglass prescriptions developed through the Z-Bell Test® are therapeutic, bringing patients like Kevin relief from a range of symptoms caused by eye-ear imbalances, brain injuries and other neurological issues.
As a result of those first tests, Dr. Zelinsky prescribed Kevin an initial set of “brain glasses” — with prisms — designed to bend the light entering his retinas in a way that would help establish new informational pathways around injured brain tissue. The glasses were intended to optimize the relationship between central and peripheral receptors in his retinas, while improving interaction between his eyes and ears.
They worked, and Kevin began experiencing a gradual shift from double to single eyesight. He has since graduated to other therapeutic eyeglasses, and, following an eye exam in 2018, was determined to no longer require prisms with his lenses. “He went from needing 21 units of prism to zero,” Dr. Zelinsky reports.
“The retina is a piece of brain tissue. The way in which light disperses across the retina can impact brain function through the nervous system and body chemistry,” says Dr. Zelinsky, noted worldwide for her work in neuro-optometric rehabilitation. “Changes in ambient lighting affect how the brain reacts, interprets and responds to information about the environment by impacting a person’s spatial awareness, movement, and selective attention to sound.”
Using remedial eyeglasses, with combinations of lenses and/or other optometric interventions such as prisms and filters to selectively stimulate light on the retina, Dr. Zelinsky has helped patients like Kevin redevelop visual skills during recovery from debilitating, life-altering symptoms of brain injuries.
Kevin continues to speak publicly and often about his challenges – and successes – in recovering from a critical brain injury. In 2018, he was one of the featured presenters at the “Neuroplasticity of Visual Processing” conference, sponsored by the Mind-Eye Institute and held in Deerfield, Ill.
And, he remains forever thankful that Dr. Zelinsky refuses to take “never” for an answer.
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