Archive | March 2020

The Magic of Stereo Vision

What does seeing in 3D really mean to someone who has been stereo-blind for 54 years?

*I’m driving home from enjoying a 3D movie with my daughter, who now sees in 3D too. It’s snowing and the flakes are coming straight at the windshield. I’m a little scared actually because I’ve never seen that before and it’s somewhat disorienting. But wow! How cool is that? We discuss the fact that we are seeing something so new and beautiful. I’m glad it’s just us in the car because others may think we’re crazy to be so thrilled about snow hitting the windshield.

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*I’m laying in bed looking up at my vaulted ceiling, which seems so much higher than before and the ceiling fan is so much closer to me than I realized. Funny how I didn’t appreciate that view before.

*I second guess myself parking my car because its easier than it was before and I can pull it in the garage without having an issue, or worrying that I might hit something.

*My husband throws me the keys and I’m surprised and delighted when I actually catch them. Who knew I could do that?

*I’m driving home from another 3D movie and the trees form a tunnel as I drive down the street which feels like it continues for miles in a straight line. (It always has, but I didn’t perceive it that way before).

*I look in the mirror and my two eyes look back at me, straight, focusing together finally.

These are only a few examples of the many joyful moments I have experienced since teaching my eyes to see right.

Lately I’ve realized that even though I have indicated that vision therapy combined with surgery brought me the results I desired, I haven’t really expressed publicly what that has meant for me. It didn’t happen all at once, so I don’t consider it an event with a timeline where I can say “here is my life before stereo vision, and here is what it’s like after.” Rather, I grew into it gradually by developing abilities that at first I could only exercise in the doctor’s office with vision therapy equipment. I had a limited amount of ability when I started vision therapy: about 12 inches from my face. That was one reason my doctor was initially hopeful regarding my outcome.

When I took an extended break in 2013, I was extremely discouraged. I had worked for 21 months, from November 2011 until August 2013, which included 68 sessions of vision therapy and countless hours at home, all with no measurable results. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so stubbornly against surgery, but I wanted to exhaust all possible options first. My eyes were not noticeably crooked for much of my life, but by this time it was pretty obvious. During this time frame I was substitute teaching periodically and the children would frequently ask about my eyes. I wanted to be very up front and educate them about eye issues, but sometimes I was too emotionally spent to be up to the task.

During my break from vision therapy, I got my insurance license, became employed doing medicare insurance over the phone and enjoyed the break from worrying how my eyes were being perceived by those I served. My VT doctor got trained in Syntonics and that’s what I tried when I went back to vision therapy in May 2016. I had felt some progress prior to the break, but I think the improvement was in my brain and my eyes couldn’t cooperate yet. I had 27 more sessions of VT and then finally the surgery, followed by 24 more sessions which brings the total to about 120 sessions. I share this so you have some context for how very much I wanted to see in 3D.

At one point in the middle of all that, Dr. Davies asked me about my goal with vision therapy. Did I want my eyes to look straight, or see in 3D. I told him I wanted it all. It took a great deal of time, money and effort on my part and it’s worth it all. I also owe a debt of gratitude to my talented doctors and therapists. For me this is not an end result though. When I take a break from doing vision therapy exercises at home, I lose ground and so does my daughter. That’s why we have 3D movie dates and I have made it a habit to do a little bit every day to remind my eyes and my brain what they can do together. I also feel that the struggle has made me appreciate my new vision more than I would have otherwise. It’s not something I can afford to take for granted.

Healing from traumatic brain injury and stroke

Recently a good friend who is around my age (50s) suffered a stroke due to complications of kidney failure and the accompanying dialysis. I was very concerned about her and asked about the damage she incurred from the stroke. She explained that it was mainly her vision that had been affected and she was no longer able to read or even view TV or screens of any kind. She was suffering from extreme boredom because most of the things she enjoys doing use those basic visual functions. She is very familiar with my story and knows that I did years of vision therapy, but it didn’t occur to her that her situation might prompt such work. So I recommended that she see a vision therapy doctor as soon as possible. Luckily she was able to do so and is on the mend. It’s not the first thing doctors recommend though, so it really pays to be informed!

I recently came across an interesting article by Amy Zellmer (https://www.healio.com/optometry/primary-care-optometry/news/blogs/%7B194db35c-f748-4af2-a3ee-eea6db7fb936%7D/neuro-optometric-rehabilitation-association0international/blog-what-i-wish-my-doctors-knew) where she details the pain and debilitating symptoms she endured because of her mild traumatic brain injury and what she wished her doctors knew. They are things that really should be broadly understood. I continue to be amazed that so often people don’t realize there is help available. Effects of the mild traumatic brain injury included aphasia, short-term memory problems, difficulty processing multiple stimuli and visual-vestibular symptoms, such as dizziness, poor tracking, fixation and saccades. She shared all the details in her book Life with a Traumatic Brain Injury: Finding the Road Back to Normal. She finally found vision therapy and was able to heal. The five things she lists in her article are:

“–Even a mild concussion can cause significant visual-vestibular problems.

–Symptoms may be immediate or take some time to manifest and they can last months or years after the injury.

–Rest is not sufficient to resolve the symptoms.

–Vision therapy isn’t just for children — it can help adults like me, too.

–The Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association is a good resource for finding doctors and therapists who can treat mTBI sufferers.”

If you want to see the entire post, it’s available here: https://www.healio.com/optometry/primary-care-optometry/news/blogs/%7B194db35c-f748-4af2-a3ee-eea6db7fb936%7D/neuro-optometric-rehabilitation-association-international/blog-what-i-wish-my-doctors-knew

I searched the website for the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association (NORA) and was gratified to find my own doctor listed.  Here’s the link: https://noravisionrehab.org/ and the site looks like this:

NORA logoIf you have suffered a stroke or traumatic brain injury, it’s worth looking at getting that kind of help.