NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)– There may now be a way to restore vision with the help of a new device.
About 10 years ago, 59-year-old Steve McMillin noticed problems with his vision, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.
“Somebody would toss me a tool on a job and I couldn’t see it,” McMillin said. “I’d see it leave the guy’s hand but I couldn’t follow it or see it come towards me.”
McMillin’s eye disorder, Retinitis Pigmentosa, was quickly worsening. Within four years, he was completely blind.
“Scared the hell out of me. It’s like what do I do now? I can’t work. I can’t see,” he said.
Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved what McMillin calls a bionic eye.
“She said, ‘You’re, you’re a good candidate so we’re scheduling you for surgery,'” he said.
Just weeks later, McMillin was in an operating room at Cleveland Clinic where a team of surgeons implanted a tiny electronic device in his right eye.
“What the device does it bypasses the part of the retina that’s not working and utilizes the remainder of the retina to give vision to these patients,” Dr. Aleksandra Rachitskaya said.
McMillin was then given special glasses with a camera. The camera records images and sends them to a wearable video processing unit. The device in the eye receives the images, stimulates the retina and the brain interprets it as a vision.
“The vision is based on contrast. They can see an outline, or they can see a door, a walkway. The vision that this implant provides is not the vision that we’re used to,” Rachitskaya said.
“I could make out the images of, you know, all the people in the room, all the lab coats, and people walking around,” McMillin said.
He is enjoying his new independence and said he has a greater appreciation for the little things in life.
“It’s for seeing your grandkids jumping around and watching them walk around a room. It’s like, now I know what this is for,” he said.
The camera on the glasses doesn’t move, so instead of moving his eyes, McMillin moves his head. He is still learning to interpret the images he “sees” but with vision rehab and training, he’s getting better at it all the time and doesn’t need to hold onto someone’s arm to get around.