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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 18 June, 2019
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"That felt like Christmas day" - blind woman sees for first time in five years thanks to 'bionic eye'

Rhian Lewis has suffered from a degenerative eye disease since she was a young girl.

rhian Rhian Johnson Source: BBC Science News/Facebook

49-YEAR-OLD Welsh woman Rhian Johnson hadn’t seen anything with her eyes for more than five years.

Diagnosed with a condition known as retinitis pigmentosa (which destroys the light sensitive cells in the retina known as photoreceptors) when she was just five, the mother-of-two is completely blind in her right eye and has virtually no vision in her left.

Until now that is.

Doctors from the Oxford Eye Hospital in England implanted a tiny electronic chip at the back of her right retina.

The chip acts as a substitute for the decayed photoreceptors and links up with the optic nerve at the back of the eye.

You can see the exact moment in which Rhian tells the time with her right eye (for the first time in 16 years) in the below video:

Posted by on Tuesday, 18 June 2019

“Oh my God!” she exclaims after verifying that she told the time correctly using her hand.

Honest to God, that felt like Christmas Day.

Those experiencing the pioneering technology, which is the subject of ongoing National Health Service (NHS) research, cannot generally immediately interpret what they are seeing as the parts of their brain that deal with images have been dormant for so long.

Once the brain becomes accustomed to its new helper, a kind of black and white vision is enabled. For people who have not seen in years, the difference to be made to their lives is immeasurable.

“They sort of put the magnet to the little receiver there on my head, and switched the receiver on,” said Rhian.

They said I might not get any sensation and then all of a sudden within seconds there was like this flashing in my eye, which has seen nothing for over 16 years, so it was like, oh my God, wow!

Rhian’s case is the subject of an episode of the BBC’s Trust Me I’m A Doctor to be broadcast tomorrow.

You can read more about her experience here.

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