The word “mezza” means half in Italian, and when I ask my older Italian patients in New Jersey how they’re feeling, it’s common to get a reply of “mezza, mezza” – meaning, half and half or so-so, if they’re having health issues. There’s almost a sense of guilt in not putting on the happy face of wellness.
The word “mensa” means table in Latin, and symbolizes individuals who are in the top two percent of intelligence scores. When Clark Elliott was a child, his IQ was reportedly extremely high. As a 6th grader he would sit in on math and physics classes at U.C. Berkeley. It takes a special type of brain, perhaps one trained in artificial intelligence, to have the metacognitive awareness to reflect on his long road back from concussion, thanks in large measure to neuro-optometric care rendered by Dr. Deborah Zelinsky. It is a journey that Clark shared on Sunday in Denver as the Guest Speaker at NORA’s 2015 Awards Luncheon.
Clark began his presentation with a slide giving the background of his book. In short, he is a Prof of AI and Cog Sci at DePaul University in Chicago who experienced a concussion from being rear-ended in an MVA in 1999 and took meticulous notes consisting of 1200 pages over 8 years during his recovery period demonstrating that his form of mTBI can leave one wth enough metacognition to be an observer of what isn’t working properly, yet with the type of fragmentation that is a major disruption to continuing life as it was. Clark was advised by leading neurologists that whatever recovery that can occur after mTBI does so after two years, and he must learn to live with the cognitive state in which he resided in 2001. A chance meeting in 2007 with the cognitive restructuring specialist Dr. Donalee Markus, led him to neuro-optometric specialist Dr. Deborah Zelinsky. Together with the writer Pamela Janis, Clark does a superb job of detailing Dr. Zelinsky’s approach in his chapter on the Mind-Eye Connection. Optometrists can gain further detailed information on Dr. Zelinsky’s model in a chapter she wrote that appears in a book on advanced neuroimaging.
Clark’s book is a marvelous read. While a book of this nature is cathartic for its author, it is also celebratory of the power of neuro-optometric and allied rehabilitative approaches. If you work with mTBI patients it is a must-have for your library. Clark applies many useful metaphors for the brain fog one experiences after mTBI, including worn out and ineffective back-up batteries, but there is no way I can do all of his insights justice – particularly those related to vision – so please, just go ahead and obtain his book! If you’re in the Chicago area you can catch Clark’s presentation on June 2 at the B&N at DePaul U., and on June 7 at the Chicago Tribune Printer’s Row Literary Fest. You can also see Clark in Washington. DC on June 3 at Politics and Prose, and on June 15 in Seattle at Elliot Bay Book Co. at Seattle Town Hall.