Allen Zderad suffers from a degenerative disease known as retinitis pigmentosa, which causes parts of the retina that is crucial for turning light into vision to deteriorate. His condition has eventually resulted in him becoming totally blind.
A new bionic eye, however, has provided this 68 year old man from Minnesota a rare chance to see his wife once again in a decade with a video of him showing him laughing and crying at the same time when he first got a glimpse of his wife after many years.
Zderad is one of the lucky few worldwide to receive the newly developed Second Sight Argus II retinal prosthesis system, an implantable device with specially equipped glasses that allows patients to see light as well as the contours and silhouettes of people and objects albeit it does not restore normal vision.
The device became available in the U.S two years ago and Zderad received it at Duke Medicine. It was implanted on him at the Mayo Clinic making him the 15th person to receive an implant. Raymond Iezzi, a retinal surgeon and clinical ophthalmologist at Mayo Clinic chose Zderad to be the first person in Minnesota to receive the bionic eye partly because of his humor and optimism.
Iezzi explained that the device does not replace the eyeball but it interacts with the eyes. He also hailed the advances that made it possible to restore the sight of the blind.
"Mankind has been seeking to cure blindness for 2,000 years or more, but only in the past quarter of a century have we had the electronics and the packaging and all the other things come together to build a retinal prosthesis that could restore sight to the blind," Iezzi said
The Second Sight Argus II retinal prosthesis system was green lighted for implantation by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January 2014 after decades of research and development costing between $300 and $500 million.
Zderad's wife, Carmen, served as his sighted guide and whose face he has not seen for about 10 years. Though he remembers the faces of his grandchildren, his sight problem has prevented him from seeing the faces of the younger ones.
Retinitis pigmentosa is also a hereditary disease and one of Zderad's grandson also suffers from the condition. The treatment Zderad has received though is giving his grandchild hope of having a possible treatment someday.