Love is blind, but not for much longer.
A Minnesota man who lost his eyesight to a degenerative retinal disease got to see his wife of nearly 50 years for the first time in a decade — thanks to a bionic eye.
Allen Zderad, 68, put on a pair of dark glasses with a camera near the bridge of the nose. It was the last piece of a puzzle that allowed him to reached out to grab his wife Carmen’s hands as she sat in front of him.
Both shed tears of joy.
“Obviously, I’m not able to see the details and facial features and so on. But just being able to acknowledge [my family’s] presence, not only by sound but also the image I get, is pretty exciting,” Zderad said in an interview with Yahoo News.
The shades contain just part of the prosthetic device that shoots light wave signals past the damaged retina, straight to the optic nerve.
In January, Raymond Iezzi, MD, an ophthalmologist, implanted a small chip and wires into Zderad’s right eye during a surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
“I would like to say I think he’s a remarkable man, when you consider what he’s overcome in dealing with his visual disability,” Iezzi said in an interview for the Mayo Clinic. “I’m just humbled and tremendously impressed by him. I think he’s an inspiration to us all.”
About 20 years ago, Zderad started having severe vision problems because of an inherited and incurable disease: retinitis pigmentosa. He started to lose the light-sensitive cells that respond to low light.
He was blind after a decade and only capable of making out extremely bright light, sidelining his professional career.
Iezzi met Zderad through his grandson, who had been showing early stages of the same disease.
“Tell your grandfather I’d like to see him,” he told the boy, according to a press release from the clinic.
As of Feb. 4, after receiving the glasses, Zderad can finally see what’s most important to him: Carmen, their 10 grandchildren, and the rest of their family — something he never thought would be possible.
“I didn’t really know that there was work going on in this area for an artificial or bionic eye until probably the middle of last year. And it had obviously been going on for years, decades,” he said.
Second Sight Inc. created the technology that is turning Zderad’s life around, but he still needs to undergo hours of physical therapy to get the maximum benefit.
“Allen was the 15th in the United States and the first in Minnesota to receive it,” Mayo Clinic spokesman Bob Nellis told Yahoo News.
Still, there are limitations. Zderad will not be able to see the fine details of pictures or images, but he will be capable of navigating crowded rooms without the use of a cane.
Even though his vision is crude, he will have no problem telling his wife apart from anyone else, according to the clinic.
“It’s easy,” Zderad said. “She’s the most beautiful one in the room.”