In 2013, Sheryl Rhodes, facing stage three cancer and dealing with neuropathy caused by chemotherapy, fell backward down the stairs of her home.
“My daughter found me at the bottom of the staircase and called 911,” she said. “I was in a coma for eight hours, and they weren’t sure I’d wake up,” she said. “I wasn’t imme-diately diagnosed with having a concussion. Afterward, I thought I was OK but had headaches and would get intensely sick.
“I wasn’t showing up at meetings at work. I couldn’t do simple math,” recalled Rhodes, vice president of sales and marketing and principal of FMI, a specialized packaging company in Hanover Township, Lehigh County. “I’m in sales, and it was very hard for me to concentrate, very taxing. People would talk to me, and I’d glaze over.”
Two years ago, Rhodes’ husband, Kevin, researched evidence-based treatments and came across HOPE Laser Institute in Palmer Township. She decided to try it.
Her initial evaluation showed that her cognitive ability was below average at 21 percentile, “a scary number to be running a company,” she remembered thinking to herself.
But after her personalized cold-laser treatment plan for concussion, she was up to 79 percentile. Although not required, she visits HOPE monthly for maintenance treatments.
HOPE Laser Institute in Palmer Township opened in 2010 and now has franchised facilities in Kimberton, Chester County, and The Brain Restoration Clinic in South Caro-lina.
At HOPE (The Home of Photobiomodulation Excellence), healing comes from light stimulating the cells to function, repair and replace themselves more readily.
Co-founder Mary Chicchi has more than 25 years’ experience and holds a master’s degree in sports medicine. She and co-founder Adele Lukachek are both certified laser technicians.
Chicchi said light has been used as a treatment therapy for centuries.
“Light increases cell function and helps them repair and replace themselves faster than normal,” said Chicchi, president of HOPE Laser Institute. “At one time, a jaundiced child would be placed in the sun to help liver function. We absorb vitamin D from sunlight.”
Using low-level lasers, Chicchi and Lukachek stimulate cell function, increase the lymphatic system that regulates swelling and increases blood flow to treat concussion, trau-matic brain injury, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, sports injuries, CAPD (central auditory processing disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), Tourette syndrome, autism and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Our cells need energy to function and heal,” said Chicchi, who has treated Olympic and professional athletes, including retired quarterback Peyton Manning.
For treatment of concussion, the most common injury seen at HOPE Laser Institute, Chicchi and Lukachek use hand-held laser probes or whole body laser beds to decrease scar tissue and stimulate production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy source for cells.
The treatment, which penetrates through tissue, helps reduce brain swelling and increase blood flow, said Lukachek, vice president of HOPE Laser Institute.
“We had a 19-year-old patient with multiple concussions who was at zero percent comprehension at his pre-test and had difficulty remembering the simplest details,” Chic-chi said. “In less than four weeks, 74 percent of his cognitive ability returned. That’s unheard of.”
Since their opening, Chicchi and Lukachek have treated more than 2,500 patients in the Lehigh Valley area.
For treatment of the effects of stroke, laser therapy opens capillaries to increase oxygen and heal brain tissue, through neurogenesis, Chicchi said.
“We’ve treated the first child with Down syndrome and improved his quality of life,” Chicchi said. “Laser therapy has been used widely in Europe for 50 years but has been slow to catch on in the United States. It needs to be more mainstream because it’s highly successful.
“The treatment is painless, with no known side effects. It’s been used successfully in treating animals; why not humans?”
NOT COVERED BY INSURANCE
Laser therapy is not covered by insurance. All treatments are personalized and, when required, include pre- and post-testing.
“A lot of people don’t realize this modality is available because it’s not insurance based,” Lukachek said. “We offer a free consultation; there’s no charge if we can’t help.”
For the future, Chicchi and Lukachek have a straightforward business model.
“We need to get this treatment to people,” Chicchi said. “If it takes opening 100 HOPEs, that’s what we’ll do, because this work is our passion.”
‘I’M A DIFFERENT PERSON’
Rhodes is a believer.
“I’d recommend this treatment,” she said. “What I went through is perhaps comparable to a deaf person, not knowing what’s going on around you. I remember thinking about how my husband and I are responsible for 160 employees, to give them a better life.
“If you can’t help people, what good are you? HOPE helped me,” she said. “I was skeptical about what light could do for you. After two weeks of treatments, I noticed positive change. I’m a different person and taking things on again.”