Published March 21, 2013
A southwest Georgia woman can see again thanks to a tiny, high-tech telescope implanted in her eye.
Jackie Carswell suffers from age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD.
AMD is very common, especially as we get older, like Jackie. It's progressive and gradually blurs and destroys your central vision.
At 76, Carswell, a retired school bus driver from Ellaville, Ga., was a serious bowler, with a high game of 288.
But about two years ago, Carswell had to give up bowling and a lot of other things when woke and saw lights flashing in her right eye. It was her first sign of AMD and it would eventually steal her central vision in both eyes.
"I was a little scared, I'll be honest with you. The first time I've ever really been scared of anything bad in my life. I was scared," Carswell said.
In November of 2012, Jackie underwent surgery at the Emory Eye Clinic to place the tiny telescope through her right cornea, right behind her iris.
"What the telescope does is gives you an extra three times magnification automatically," said Donna Inkster, an occupational therapist.
"I really thought it was going to be something big that would show up. I really couldn't visualize anything so small."
Jackie's scar tissue blocks her central vision so she can see the edge of people. She just can't see things like their faces. With the eye telescope, she's had to learn how to use her eyes independently so she uses one eye to walk around and navigate the world, and the other to see things up close.
"It was an awful amount of work, a tremendous amount of work," Carswell said.
Every week for months, Jackie practices with Inkster, who specializes in low vision.
"She's able to read letters down to newsprint size, which is phenomenal. That's very small," said Inkster.
"It was still trial and error for a while until I learned to - as the saying goes - to focus. But it's been very rewarding for me because -- there's just so many things I couldn't do and I can do now," Carswell said.
Jackie recently wrote her first check in years, and went grocery shopping by herself.
"People I know in the store thought I was the happiest grocery shopper they'd ever seen because I would go around just smiling. And the prices were not that good, that I could see," Carswell said.