HEALTH

First bionic eye procedure in Florida restores eyesight to woman after 16 years of darkness

Dr. Ninel Gregori (left) of Bascom Palmer Eye Institue with patient Carmen Torres (right).

Dr. Ninel Gregori (left) of Bascom Palmer Eye Institue with patient Carmen Torres (right).

A woman's dream of regaining her eyesight became a reality after becoming the first patient in Florida to undergo a bionic eye procedure.

Patient Carmen Torres is finally able to see light after 16 years of darkness, thanks to her new bionic eye. Speaking at a news conference at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami on Friday, she described the unforgettable moment. "It was very emotional," she said, "but I'm very strong. I didn't cry, I was laughing — I was just laughing like crazy."

It was a joyful response after a complicated procedure. 

Doctors used technology created by a medical device company in California, inserting into her eye an implant that consists of a receiver and an array of electrodes. The implant works in tandem with a tiny camera located inside dark glasses worn by Torres. 

"That's how I get my optics. Looking through the camera, and this is a coil, and this coil connects to Wi-Fi, to my implant inside my eye," she said.

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With time and training that includes playtime with her grandson, Torres has learned to interpret visual patterns. She likened using her bionic eye to learning a new language, adding that after an incurable eye condition diagnosis, she will be enjoying every moment of her new, high-tech eyewear. 

"They're cool. I look good, I look different," she said.

"Degenerations that are hereditary or age-related is what, right now, this device is aimed for," said Dr. Ninel Gregori with the Bascom Palmer Institute, "But who knows in the future?" he added.

Doctors with the institute have already identified a second patient through the Veterans Health Administration. They will fit him for a bionic eye once the finances for the procedure are in order.

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