More than one-million people in the United States are legally blind. Many are like Cheri Robertson, who once had her eyesight, but lost it in an accident. Now, something that looks like a science fiction device is restoring the sight in some patients.
In Cheri's case, she lost both her eyes in a car accident 15 years ago, but she has since traveled to Portugal to become one of a select group in the world to have special electrodes implanted in her brain. Then, with the help of this device, she is actually able to see again. Neurosurgeon Kenneth Smith says the procedure is the first to reverse blindness in patients without eyes.
Smith says, "They are really seeing. The brain is getting impulses just like when you and I see." Here's how the device works. A camera on the tip of Cheri's glasses sends signals to a computer that's strapped around her waist. The computer then stimulates electrodes in the brain through a cord that attaches to the head. Patients see flashes of light and outlines of objects.
The surgery is not performed in the US yet, but Dr. Smith hopes it will be available here in the next five years. The main safety concern is an infection where the port goes into the head. Patients who are interested in this should understand that it only works for those who could see at one time but lost their vision.