May 21, 2023 12.00 pm This story is over 10 months old

Eye Guide MC: How a Spalding woman reclaimed her life from the Parkinson’s abyss

A genius invention spawned from desperation

By Local Democracy Reporter

A Spalding woman afflicted with Parkinson’s disease has got her life back after taking matters into her own hands with an innovative device that controls her symptoms.

Sandra McDonough, 60, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 20 years ago, on the eve of her 40th birthday.

Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological condition affecting the central nervous system. It relentlessly attacks the senses, impacting movement, speech, sleep, eating and more – and it can often develop into a form of dementia in advanced stages.

Eye Guide MC hooks to your ear and has a stick which aligns into your peripheral vision, sending alternative signals to your brain to nullify Parkinson’s tremors. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

To help combat her Parkinson’s, Sandra has invented the Eye Guide MC – a weighted device that hangs over her ear and sticks out into her peripheral vision.

This genius device has given Sandra her life back, but it has been a long journey to today.

Around ten million people across the world have Parkinson’s disease. It has become the fastest growing neurological disease on the planet, crippling not just those diagnosed with it, but families and loved ones, too.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

“When you have Parkinson’s it isn’t just you who has it, it’s those around you as well”, Sandra said from her Eye Guide MC offices in Spalding.

“Every single day, whatever I experience, my husband Chris has to watch it and he has to pick it up. The days where you don’t want to get up or feel you can’t, he has to be the one there motivating me to do it.”

Chris is always by Sandra’s side through thick and thin | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Sandra and Chris have been married for 39 years, and  more than half of their time in marriage has been affected by Sandra’s Parkinson’s.

To many this would be an unthinkable struggle; to Chris, it’s part of his vow to love Sandra unconditionally.

“We’re married for life”, he said. “In sickness and in health, and I will stick by that forever.”

Physical symptoms include severe tremors, slowness of movement, intense migraines, rigidity and more – but it is the psychological impact of this condition which truly takes its toll.

Sandra still struggles with Parkinson’s, but with no clear route to cures in sight, she acted now to improve her quality of life. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Sandra describes the condition as an equivalent to being bullied, every single day of your life.

“If you could imagine being bullied, and that doesn’t ever go away, that is Parkinson’s. In a funny sort of way, you’re being bullied by your own senses.

“You can’t move where you want to move, you can’t think the way you want to think, you want to be like other people, but you can’t be like other people.”

She has won multiple awards across Lincolnshire for her efforts. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

It has caused Sandra to re-evaluate her life, and make the difficult realisation that the Sandra she once knew is no more.

“It’s bullied me into submission, to the point where I am now away from the person I was, and the hardest part about it is you can’t run away from it.

“You have to become a new person and reinvent yourself, a person with the Parkinson’s. If that means you now have a tremor, or you can’t eat off your plate the way you used to, that’s you now. It’s who you are.”

A closer look at the Eye Guide MC device. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Quality of life is the mantra that inspired Sandra to take the courageous leap towards Eye Guide MC.

The device was initially made to combat her own symptoms, but has now become a sensational business helping hundreds of people across Lincolnshire.

The trial and error process of Eye Guide MC has seen Sandra try a range of different ways to combat her symptoms, starting with a cable tie device that goes across your head. It was eventually fine-tuned to become the small device we see today.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

“I made it small and it didn’t work”, she said. “I was at a loss then for two years.”

Then one night, after making a weight for her arm to help her tremors, Sandra realised they had gone. Off came the device, and back came the tremors.

That was when Sandra found the formula of weight and alignment with the device, adding weight to the earpiece to level out her Parkinson’s symptoms in a way nobody had ever seen before.

It is barely visible when talking with Sandra, which was a majorly important factor for her. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

This eureka moment was taken to Sandra’s nurse in 2017, who said that the idea was too good to keep to herself.

The device is calibrated to sit in the perfectly in the person’s peripheral vision and can send a new message to the brain.

These messages to the brain override signals which affect balance, speech and movement, as well as the tremors people with Parkinson’s suffer with.

Above all else, it has allowed Sandra to find her smile again. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The device can also improve the mood of the person wearing it and allow them to feel more confident, providing a visual sensory stimulus to help with walking.

The device is not a miracle cure for the condition, but instead a way to improve quality of life for those who suffer.

Eye Guide MC has been given a medical device accreditation as well as a CE Mark, meaning it conforms with health standards and practices.

With no real scientific or business acumen behind them, Sandra and Chris set about getting the patent for the device and marketing it, with the help of a number of people in the community.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

They have since been given grants by Parkinson’s UK and the University of Lincoln for this device, and hopes it can help not just those with Parkinson’s, but also other neurological or mental health conditions.

“I don’t think I realised how important Eye Guide was at the time. I just saw it working on me and thought it was great, but when you start seeing everyone else benefitting from it, you realise it works, it helps, and it changes lives.

“Someone told me to take it off and put it away because it would need clinical trials, but I don’t have time for that. I wanted my life back and everyone with Parkinson’s wants their life back.

“I was told nobody would buy it, and here we are selling to hundreds of families.”

The Eye Guide MC offices in Spalding. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

So what’s the big secret behind it? How does it work?

Sandra: “The honest answer is I have no idea, neither did the neurologists, they couldn’t believe it – we were achieving the same results with the guide as doctors do with deep brain stimulation treatments.

“The beauty of the guide is that it hasn’t just affected the way I walk or the way I talk, it has improved my mental health immeasurably too. It helps with anxiety, too.”

To find out more about how Eye Guide MC is helping people to reclaim their independence, visit their website.