While driving to work in August 2017, ROK Health & Fitness owner Mike Hawksby was losing consciousness behind the wheel.
“All I remember is darkness,” Hawksby recalled, sitting at a table in his gym nearly six months after the incident. “I’ve never passed out in my life.”
Hawksby recounted that there were residential homes to the left of him and an intersection straight ahead, so as he was fading, he yanked his car to the right toward parked cars. “You know you’re going out,” said Hawksby, who turned 41 on Feb. 1. “And you just have to react or do something, or else you can’t.”
Hawksby eventually passed out and drove into a tree. After a witness called 911, Hawksby was admitted to South Nassau Communities Hospital, in Oceanside, where he stayed for three days.
While there, he was informed that he suffered a stroke some time before the accident, but the stroke was not deemed the cause. The episode happened in the center of his brain, called the basal gangla, and affected his cognitive skills such as thinking, his mood and movement. Hawksby said the side effects did not include the facial droop or paralysis, symptoms commonly related to a stroke, so he was unaware he had one.
Two years before the crash, Hawksby was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, meaning his heart was beating out of time. That put him at risk for stroke or passing a blood clot. The problem was fixed through surgery, Hawksby said, and neurologists and cardiologists were never able to determine what exactly caused him to pass out while driving.
It was a long road to recovery for Hawksby, who was not able to drive for several months after the accident. He said he still sometimes gets severe headaches, is often affected by light and noise, and finds it difficult to text, read and write.
While searching for ways to feel better after the accident, Hawksby’s friend, Mike Lohan, told him to try neurotherapy, or neurofeedback, which is non-invasive and uses real-time displays of brain activity to teach self-regulation of brain function. Lohan uses neurotherapy to help those who are battling addiction, by regulating the pleasure center of their brain that causes cravings.
“I can’t sing the praises of it enough,” Hawksby said. “And I feel like not enough people even know what neurotherapy is. It’s real, it works.”
Sahra Robinson, who has operated Serenity Zone, currently based in Island Park, with her partner Jeff Cornatzor for seven years, said Neurofeedback has many uses. It is used to regulate dysregulated brain waves, she said, noting that it is a necessary component for complete wellness, and helps those struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, chronic pain, addiction, insomnia, post-traumatic stress, migraine/headaches, learning disorders, anxiety and depression and many more neurological conditions. Robinson and Cornatzor iboty have many certifications for neurotherapy.
Robinson said the brain produces four distinct brainwaves. She added that scientific research has demonstrated that, for any given circumstance, there is an accepted normal pattern of brainwave activity. A healthy, balanced, and properly regulated nervous system will produce the appropriate brain waves at the appropriate levels and at the appropriate times for any given situation.
All neurofeedback, or NFB, begins with a Quantitative Electroencephalogram evaluation. The QEEG is an assessment tool designed to objectively and scientifically evaluate a person’s brainwave patterns.
The procedure consists of placing a snug cap on the head. Embedded within the cap are 12 small sensors that are designed to measure and record electrical activity coming from the brain. The sensors do not put any electrical currents into the brain — they simply record signals coming from the brain. The brainwave data recorded with the QEEG is statistically compared to a large normative database and a report is generated. This assessment procedure allows the clinician to determine whether a client’s brainwave patterns are different from normal. The assessment provides neurofeedback training protocols that will be used during the training sessions. These protocols are designed to re-train the brainwave patterns toward normal. As the brainwave patterns normalize, the brain is able to operate more optimally and efficiently, Robinson said.
No fewer than 30 sessions, called neurosessions, are required to help re-train the brain, according to Robinson. The 30-minute sessions are recommended at least twice a week. “We can’t fix stress, but we can fix our reaction to the stressor,” she said. “Through neurofeedback, people are much more mindful, calmer and equipped to be in a much better state to handle everything going on.”
Serenity Zone has a large clientele, including Hawksby. Robinson noted that because he had a stroke, neurofeedback is ideal to help his brainwaves fire properly, improve his mental health and well being, and give him the proper energy, focus and mood, as well as improve his memory.
“For him, I definitely see a difference,” Robinson said. “I see a difference in his mood. I see a difference in his outlook on things and I see a small difference in his memory.”
Bringing neurotherapy to ROK
Hawksby and Robinson said their goal is to provide neurotherapy to members of ROK, at 510 Ocean Ave. in East Rockaway. Because of the gym’s size — about 23,000 square feet — Hawksby said bringing in an outside business to operate would not be difficult.
“I want to see how I can bring it to the club,” he said. “Because I feel like everyone is dealing with something. Everyone’s looking for answers. Everyone’s looking to improve their health and life and quality of life, and I feel like this could be a good fit for a lot of people.”
Hawksby said his business model has always had a wellness component. There are chiropractors, physical therapists and a yoga studio in place at ROK. He noted that about 500 members come through the doors each day. “We’re all used to training our bodies,” he said. “In the health club, especially, we have everything here to improve the body. How about improving your mind?”
ROK hosted a health and wellness fair on Jan. 29 to introduce people to neurotherapy. Robinson said most members were open-minded, and that the message was for people to use NFB to "train their brains and change their lives".
Hawksby said he hoped that neurotherapy could benefit other people like it has helped him. “Your overall mood, your overall motivation changes,” he said. “You wake up with a much better feeling about what you’re gonna do in the course of the day or week and what you have to accomplish.”
For more information, visit Serenity Zone’s website at www.sztherapy.com, or contact (516) 415-2190.