Vision Therapy Success Stories: Hanah

As part of our Vision Therapy Success Stories series, we interviewed Ms. Hanah Vander Muelen. Hanah

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As part of our Vision Therapy Success Stories series, we interviewed Ms. Hanah Vander Muelen. Like so many who've experienced a lack of success from strabismus surgery, Hanah was told nothing could be done about her crossed eye and all the horrible symptoms she was experiencing as a result. At age 29, she finally found WOW Vision Therapy in Michigan where Dr. Alyssa Parz gave Hanah reassuring information. With a personalized vision therapy program that included Vivid Vision, Hanah found relief from her debilitating headaches, saw in depth for the first time, and gained tremendous confidence.

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At the age of 29, Hanah reached the end of her rope. The previous five years had been the hardest of her young life. Strabismus was physically and emotionally taking a toll on her.

“My life had become so difficult due to my eye turn..."

“I remember being in the examination room at Wow Vision Therapy with my husband, crying as I shared my story with Dr. Alyssa Bartolini Parz. I felt hopeless,” Hanah shared. “My life had become so difficult due to my eye turn, my strabismus. My self-confidence and self-esteem were so low that I had stopped making eye contact with people, chose to stay home instead of making new friends, and stopped driving at night completely. In the evening after putting my children to bed, I would try to watch TV, browse social media, or read a book to unwind only to have such a horrible headache after a few minutes that I’d give up and go to bed early to escape the pain.” She lived with these circumstances for five years.

Going back in time, the story of Hanah’s vision problems actually started soon after birth. “Like many infants, my eyes wandered and crossed during the first few months of my life. However, the alignment of my eyes did not correct themselves and I ended up getting glasses and having strabismus surgery at 10 months old. The strabismus surgery corrected the alignment of my eyes for a short period of time; however, as I grew older the misalignment became more apparent. I tried to strengthen the muscle in my weak (left) eye by patching and doing pencil pushups throughout my early childhood and adolescence.”

“When I was 15 years old, my left eye was turning out and, although I wasn’t bothered by it as a child, I felt self-conscious as a teenager. The doctor said there was nothing they could do and I trudged on, adapting in ways I never recognized. I had learned how to cope with the world around me and live in the space I occupied by using monocular cues.”

But by the age of 24, Hanah was experiencing a long list of negative symptoms due to strabismus.

“I had really awful headaches. I also struggled with severe dizziness while working on the computer at the office, even attempting to compensate by closing one eye. In my job as a dental hygienist, I didn’t feel confident interacting with my patients because I wasn’t able to make eye contact. On a personal level, I didn’t like the way I looked when my eye was misaligned, which was all the time. I didn’t like the way people took a double take at me or how they peered over their shoulder behind them and then asked if I was talking to them.”       

Additionally, Hanah struggled in judging distances and with poor memory and reading comprehension. She was also very sensitive to light. “If I was in a room that was not evenly and well lit, I would get a headache. I actually avoided restaurants solely based on their lighting.” Driving at night was exceptionally difficult. “Here I was at the young age of 24 and I couldn’t even drive to see a good friend because I wouldn’t be able to make it back before dark. The headlights of oncoming cars while driving at night gave me an instant pounding headache. I would become disoriented and would have to close my eyes,” Hanah added. Hanah said she depended on others for transportation or stayed home. But she did not want to live like this and began another search for answers.

“It was at this time that I began my search for a solution to the problem. I had visited a total of four ophthalmologists and optometrists with four differing opinions regarding how to fix my strabismus as an adult. I was told that there was nothing else that could be done for me, that I could go blind in my weak eye if I continued to suppress it, that surgery was risky and could lead to permanent double vision (but it was the only option for me), or that a combination of vision therapy and surgery could possibly work. I spent the next five years weighing my options as my symptoms worsened."

Finally, at age 29, I went to WOW Vision Therapy for my fifth and final opinion. It was there that I met Dr. Parz and she told me, with confidence, that I was a great candidate for vision therapy and that with a lot of hard work and dedication it could work for me!

Vision therapy changed Hanah’s life in a matter of weeks. “The first change was the elimination of my headaches. That came about in just a few sessions. By the eleventh or twelfth session, I felt like I could control my eye alignment and my eyes were straight. Just after that I achieved depth perception and peripheral vision. I was told it could take me two years to achieve all of this and I did it in nine months! I think Vivid Vision was instrumental in my quick success.”

"The first time I experienced seeing depth was while using Vivid Vision virtual reality."

Hanah shared her love of the fun, interactive games. “I think being immersed in a virtual reality helped me escape real world distractions and focus on vision therapy.”

“I graduated from vision therapy in January, 2020, after nine months of amazing success. My life has completely changed for the better. I see the beauty in raindrops and snowflakes. I engage with patients and have made wonderful new friends. I have no sensitivity to light and love to read. The first book I read after vision therapy, cover to cover, was Dr. Sue Barry’s Fixing My Gaze. I couldn’t put it down and cried countless times start to finish.”

Best of all, Hanah no longer feels like she is on the outside looking in. “I now feel as if I occupy my own space in this world, and that is quite a remarkable sensation. Vision therapy has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It was a tremendous amount of hard work, both mentally and physically, but it was worth it."

"Wow Vision Therapy equipped me with the knowledge, tools, and confidence I needed to gain control of my eyes and in turn gain control of my life.”

~Hanah Vander Muelen,
interviewed by Robin Benoit for Vivid Vision

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