Our appointment went well today. Corey handled the long day beautifully. We left the house at 7am to drive into Philly for a 9am appointment. We don’t live 2 hours from Philadelphia but with rush hour traffic, parking and logistically moving Corey our trip required every minute of that time.
We saw Dr. Jennifer Hall at Wills Eye Hospital. I was very impressed with her especially with her approach and demeanor with Corey. She treated her with the same respect you would any young woman 19 years old. I write this because Corey does not receive the same respect from some professionals as well as some of the general public. I remember hearing Dan Gottlieb mention that as soon as he was placed in his wheelchair he lost his identity. People would make assumptions about his condition and couldn’t see past the chair to see the man. I heard his comment but didn’t understand its meaning until recently. We recently experienced a sobering moment as a random observer heard Corey trying to speak with me and assumed she was mentally challenged and born with her current condition. I politely educated her on Traumatic Brain Injury.
At first Dr. Hall was concerned with how she and Corey would communicate. I always bring her white board with us and explained that Corey can write her answers. She was thrilled! Dr. Hall tested Corey for 2 ½ hours. She first tested her on her ability to see colors. There were pictures of colored circles with numbers embedded within the circles. The colors had various degrees of brightness and color depth. Corey was required to write what colors she saw as well as label the numbers within the circles. If there was a two digit number, Corey consistently saw the right number only. For instance 19, she would write 9.
She then was tested for peripheral vision. Corey was asked to keep her eyes on Dr. Hall’s nose. As Dr. Hall moved her hand in multiple locations she would flash varied numbers 1-5 with her fingers. Corey had to write the number she saw while maintaining her stationary gaze.
They moved to depth perception and double vision testing. Although Corey still has some issues with vertigo, it was evident that it’s improved and Dr. Hall confirmed she definitely doesn’t have double vision.
Prior to dilating her pupils, Corey was given the usual eye exam. Dr. Hall covered one eye and Corey had to read the vision chart (writing her answer for what she could see per line)
Now for the results; the dilation revealed healthy eyes. There are no tears to the cornea, no ligament damage, no damage to the retina, everything is intact and those beautiful blue eyes are perfect. Dr. Hall did confirm a visual field cut to the left. She called it left neglect. At the moment Corey can not process and perceive any stimuli on the left side of her body; not due to lack of sensation. The neglect is due to the damage sustained during the accident. Place your left hand on the left side of your nose and close your left eye; that is what Corey see’s. Her pupils face straight so even if we position the stimulus to her right, she still has the left field cut.
I asked Dr. Hall her thoughts about Corey’s long term vision. She began to recite the usual; she’s young, study of the brain is now revealing a greater plasticity to regenerate and reconnect, etc. Then Dr. Hall looked at the paper work we were asked to submit. It detailed the injuries of the accident as well as the diagnosis of her TBI. Her experience as a neuro ophthalmologist has given her first hand experience with the victims of accidents like Corey’s. She explained further that it’s more common for a patient like Corey to have crossed eyes and damaged tendons, ligaments and even scar tissue that affects the position of the pupils and vision as a result of the impact of the accident. That is not the case for Corey.
Dr. Hall then casually asked, “How many years has it been since her accident”? I stated it’s only been 14 months. The information didn’t register immediately and as Dr. Hall processed my comment she was about to continue when she asked, “Wait, what was the date of the accident”? I reiterated the date and she looked at Corey confidently and emphatically stated, “Oh sweetie, you’re coming back!” “You’re going to be great”. She told Corey that she sees many patients with TBI’s especially with diffused axonal injuries. She rarely see’s a patient with Corey’s level of awareness, response and intellect at 14 months. Usually a patient like what she saw today in Corey is at least 3-4 years post accident. Corey looked at her with a broad smile and gave her a thumb up!
Corey when you are working day in and day out at your recovery, it’s hard to see the big picture. When a doctor or person working with individuals that are coping with a similar injury states comparisons that they have personally experienced, it is very affirming that all your hard work is paying off. Today’s itinerary is proof. Despite the exhaustion of todays travel you returned home in time to complete an hour of PT from 3-4 and an hour of OT from 4:30-5:30. That drive is the reason “you’re coming back”! You may not be communicating verbally yet but those beautiful blue eyes speak to us about your enthusiasm, confidence and determination every day, xoxo