A 51-year-old blind woman in Colorado was brought to tears as she saw her son once again after more than 15 years with a newly-implanted bionic eye.
Denver resident Jamie Carley got her bionic eye implant turned on last week at the University of Colorado Hospital's Health Eye Center. She went through a five-hour implant surgery on Nov. 2 and had been waiting ever since for it to be turned on.
Doctors implanted a microchip into Carley's retina. Along with special glasses, Carley can now see.
Carley said that as soon as she got her sight, she focused on the window, followed the outline around, and saw her son.
"It was pretty amazing. Hiding behind the glasses, I got a little teary-eyed. It was just so emotional," said Carley.
Carley's condition is called retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that causes cells in the retina to die. Carley first lost her ability to see right and left. Over time, she also lost her peripheral vision and night vision. She was only in her 20s when it occurred.
Dr. Naresh Mandava, an ophthalmologist, implanted the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System bionic eye onto Carley. She can perceive light and dark, and see outlines better.
"It's contrast, I'm seeing white on black or I can invert it to black on white," she said.
On the nose piece of the special glasses is a tiny camera. The visuals taken by this camera is transmitted through a video processing unit which routes the signal back to the glasses and then to the implant in Carley's right eye. There are about 60 electrodes implanted in her right eye. These electrodes send the signal to an optic nerve in her brain.
"It shows me the shapes," said Carley. "It's a new way of seeing."
Dr. Mandava said they had to work around the device throughout the surgery. They used the device at the end of the procedure when they tacked it to the back of the eye.
Carley's implant surgery costs $150,000, but insurance will cover the cost, Mandava said.
Over the next few months, Carley's brain will learn how to interpret all the visual signals it is receiving. Her sight will greatly improve, doctors said.