For the first time in more than a decade, a Minnesota man is able to see his wife.
Nearly 20 years ago, 68-year-old Allen Zderad, began losing his vision. He was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. About 10 years ago, Zderad lost all vision and was unable to see anything other than extremely bright light.
Dr. Raymond Iezzi Jr., a Mayo Clinic researcher and ophthalmologist, connected with Zderad after treating Zderad’s grandson for early stages of retinitis pigmentosa. Dr. Iezzi rendered Zderad the ideal candidate for the first clinical trial of a bionic eye implant system called Second Sight in Minnesota.
In January, a tiny chip was embedded in Zderad’s right eye and doctors attached wires to it in an intricate surgical procedure. Two weeks later, the rest of the prosthetic device, which is set in a dark pair of glasses, was activated. The Mayo Clinic explains that the bionic eye implant “sends light wave signals to the optic nerve, bypassing the damaged retina.”
Once the bionic eye system was activated, Zderad was able to make out human forms, objects and other outlines. He was even able to see his own reflection as a silhouette in a window pane.
The first indication that the device worked came when Zderad reached out to grab his wife’s hands as she sat before him. They both broke into tears.
According to The Mayo Clinic, more adjustments and many hours of physical therapy and instruction are in order to make full use of the device.
Zderad excitedly said of his vision, “It’s crude but it’s significant. It’ll work!”
There are limitations to the bionic eye. Zderad will not be able to see full detail of images or faces. It does, however, allow him to navigate his way through public places filled with people without using his cane.
The Second Sight system significantly improves Zderad’s life, and most importantly allows him to see his wife again. “It’s easy,” he said “she’s the most beautiful one in the room.”