Photo by Wikimedia user Alanthebox
After years of being almost completely blind, 55-year-old Roger Pontz is getting a second chance at sight.
Pontz, who was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease as a teenager, is now slowly regaining his vision — all thanks to a “bionic eye”.
A visual prosthetic developed by medical company Second Sight, the bionic eye works as part of a system to help damaged eyes transform light into images. Electronic implants are placed on top of the retina and work in conjunction with an external camera, glasses, and video processing unit. Images captured by the camera are converted into a signal and sent to the implants, stimulating the retina’s remaining healthy cells to pass the signal along to the optic nerve — and ultimately allowing the eye to “see” again.
How is the bionic eye working out for Pontz so far?
“It’s awesome. It’s exciting — seeing something new every day,” he says.
Pontz is one of just four Americans to be fitted with the artificial retina; the system was only cleared for use by the Food and Drug Administration last year. But with the success that bionic eye procedures have had in Europe over the past few years, the high-tech device is expected to find continued success in the U.S., too. Twelve centers — including one at the University of Michigan where Pontz received his implant — are now accepting patient consultations.
Thanks to the bionic eye, Pontz can now make out glimpses of his cat, his grandson, and his wife Terri. And though Terri drives her husband nearly 200 miles to the university for check-ups and occupational therapy, she says she’ll gladly make the long trek.
“What’s it worth to see again? It’s worth everything.”