Health Report- shining a light on vision with a new device to help the blind to see

Health Reports

Thirty nine million people worldwide are living in total darkness while legally blind.

Many of these people have lost their vision from accidents or disease. A breakthrough device is shining new light and allowing them to see like never before.

Bungee jumping, sky diving, baseball, you could say that Jason Esterhuizen lives for the thrill of it all even when that thrill is experienced in total darkness.

“I try and take up any opportunity that comes my way,” said Jason Esterhuizen, legally blind.

Almost nine years ago, a horrific car crash destroyed Jason’s eyes.

“I went up through the sunroof. I lost my right eye, my left eye, my optic nerve got torn. I broke my eye socket, my nose, my jaw at the top, at the bottom, my temple, my cheekbone and my skull” said Esterhuizen.

Jason was told he would never see again. He was told that medicine would not be able to fix this for him, but maybe technology could.

Jason is now seeing the light. He is the second person in the world using an experimental device called Orion.

“We’re giving people artificial vision,” said Nader Pouratian, MD, PHD, Neurosurgeon at UCLA Health.

Images are captured by a tiny video camera mounted on sunglasses converted into a series of electrical pulses.

The pulses stimulate a set of 60 electrodes implanted on top of the cortex which results in Jason perceiving patterns of light. Little white dots on a black background.

“They can see the flashes of lights and patterns that they can interpret and use in everyday life,” said Dr. Pouratain.

According to Jason, he can see two or three dots from 50 feet away. As he moves closer he can see more and more dots which tells him that something is coming towards him.

This gives Jason more confidence and a newfound hope for his future.

“It’s mind boggling to think that this is even technologically possible,” said Esterhuizen.

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