Retinal Implant Gives Woman Chance to See Again

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    NEWSLETTERS

    For the first time, NBC4 speaks to a woman who was legally blind for more than 30 years and is now having life-changing surgery to see again. Dr. Bruce Hensel reports for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 10, 2014.

    After being legally blind for more than 30 years, Lisa Kulik can see again with the help of a retinal prosthetic chip implanted on her eye that’s linked to an external camera mounted on a pair of her glasses.

    Suffering from retinitis pigmentosa, Kulik lost all of her sight leaving her with only a little bit of light sensation in each eye.

    The two-part device known as the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System implant gives Kulik a second chance to see again.

    Dr. Lisa Olmos De Koo, an ophthalmologist at the Keck School of Medicine at USC, attached the first part of the device, a chip implanted to Kulik’s retina, replacing the part that was damaged by her disease. The second part of the device is then mounted on a pair of special glasses capturing images before sending it wirelessly to the implant in her eye.

    When the implant receives the images, Kulik can see spots of light and can even tell the difference between shapes and sizes. Over time she will be able to see large objects.

    “Well it’s literally like seeing a child learn how to walk and then run. So the brain has to start to relearn this type of visual information,” said Dr. Mark Humayun, a pioneer of the technology.

    Although Kulik won’t be able to read a book or distinguish facial features, she’s just happy that she won’t have to rely on someone all the time.

    Kulik is the first person in the west coast to have a bionic eye implanted commercially.

    “I think it’s a miracle," Kulik said with a smile. "I knew one day it was going to happen, and I’m just so excited that it’s finally here.” 

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