‘Bionic eye’ helps man see wife for first time in 33 years

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DURHAM, NC -- A North Carolina man recently became the seventh person in the United States to receive a so-called bionic eye, helping the 66-year-old see for the first time in 33 years, according to the Duke Medicine website.

Larry Hester was diagnosed with retinas pigmentosa in his early 30s and had since become blind. In September, doctors began the process of inserting his so-called bionic eye, an Argus II Retinal Prosthesis Device, and he saw for the first time earlier this month.

In a YouTube video posted by Duke Medicine Oct. 7 showing Hester’s device being activated, he can be heard saying “yes” repeatedly as doctors and his teary wife asked if he could see.

The video has since been seen nearly 900,000 times.

The wireless technology connects a sensor that was implanted in Hester’s eye to light signals sent from a camera mounted on his eyeglasses. Doctors warned that the device would not restore normal eyesight, but should provide light-and-darkness differentiation that could help him distinguish a door from a wall, a painted cross walk, or his wife’s face.

Hester’s wife, Jerry, said her most cherished moment since the procedure occurred as she watched a football game, and the contrast of the dark room and her light skin was enough for her husband to see flashes and reach out to touch her face.

“It was just a beautiful touch,” she said.

Hester planned to return to the Duke Eye Center regularly for training and was eager to provide researchers with information they could use to enhance the technology, according to the health website, which covers the entire Duke University Health System.

“I just wonder how I have been so lucky,” Hester stated on the Duke Medicine website. “Why me? But if I can use what I learn from this to help others with RP, it will not just be for my benefit.”

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