Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Caitlin Eleftherion.  Dr. Eleftherion graduated from the Illinois College of Optometry in 2014.  She then completed the Irwin B. Suchoff Residency in Vision Rehabilitation at SUNY College of Optometry.  Dr. Eleftherion is currently in private practice in New York and Connecticut and specializes in vision rehabilitation after brain injury. 

Meet Maria: A 29 year old female who 8 years ago was a perfectly healthy college sophomore who enjoyed singing and playing violin.  She came down with meningitis while studying abroad in college and was hospitalized in a coma for over a month.  We saw her a few years afterward and at that time, numerous MRI’s had detected scar tissue formation and loss of some brain matter.  She had seen many doctors and was receiving many therapies.  She and her parents came to us for help, as they suspected vision was a missing piece of her rehabilitation process.

She was seen for an evaluation a few years ago, at which time she was found to have a significant convergence insufficiency and many visual processing deficits.  Maria lost her understanding of right and left and her family had to accompany her everywhere because she would often get lost on her own.  She had difficulty walking through doorways because she lost her ability to understand where her body was in space.  Getting from one part of a room to another was challenging if there was anything in her path she needed to navigate around.   Math was very difficult for Maria and she could no longer calculate amounts of change necessary when paying for things in stores.  She had to drop out of school and gave up playing the violin.  Maria had lost most of her independence.

Vision therapy was recommended for her convergence difficulties, but our prognosis pertaining to her processing deficits was guarded. We knew we could certainly help Maria, but we were not sure by how much.  On her first therapy session, Maria was asked to lie on her back in order to complete an activity called “Angel’s in the snow.”  Maria got down on her hands and knees and could not figure how to lie down on her back, looking over her shoulder, trying to figure out where her body parts were and how exactly she was going to get them in line to put her back on the floor. We knew then that we had to start at a very beginner level and raise the difficulty as Maria improved.  We first began with having Maria learn to appreciate the two halves of her body.  From there, she learned how to team one half with the other.  Then, she slowly but surely directed this re-learned understanding to her ability to direct her body through space.

Maria is very remarkable, sweet, often insecure, but always pushes herself to do well.  All my time working with her she missed just 2 appointments and it was only because she had final exams scheduled at the same time.

Maria is now back at school as a full-time student studying psychology. She recently started volunteering at a local rehab hospital working with other patients having suffered traumatic brain injuries.  She is engaged to be married and has a great support system with plenty of friends and family.  Her mom recently accompanied her to a therapy session and she told us how great Maria was doing!  She now commutes to our office by herself without assistance.  She can estimate time and is never late.  Though she is not currently driving, Maria tells us she can now direct the driver from the passenger seat when traveling to familiar places. She walks without bumping into things and has a better understanding of where her body is in space.

We continue to work with Maria and are hopeful she continues to improve. Her next goals are learning to drive and to manage her bank account on her own. Maria continues to make great strides and push herself to achieve her goals despite any challenges she faces. Working with Maria has truly been eye-opening and demonstrated to me without a doubt, the power of vision rehabilitation.

Photo “A Dilemma” by Julie Manzerova via Flickr