Woman successfully receives first bionic eye at URMC

URMC successfully implanted the first bionic eye in a woman from the Syracuse area.

At 71-years-old, Khaleda Rahman accepted that she would never see again.

She was born into a family in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, with a hereditary, degenerative eye disease known as Retinitis Pigmentosis.

Rahman, a renowned athlete, starting losing her vision as a child and it only worsened over the years.

Her home of 25 years, in the Syracuse area, started to become unfamiliar. She couldn't find the doorways or halls and started bumping into walls.

One month ago, at the University of Rochester Flaum Eye Institute, her world changed. It is something she did not even know existed: A bionic eye.

A team of doctors implanted the device, studded with electrodes, and activated it. A pair of glasses with a tiny mounted camera capture light and motion. The bionic eye works with the camera to create visual pathways.

"I saw Dr. Kuriyan's hand waving there, this way," Rahman said. "All of the sudden it just came!"

Her doctors said the feeling was indescribable.

"We just turned on the device, I put my hand in front of the camera and waved it and asked if she could see it, and she said yes," Dr. Ajay Kuriyan said. "She actually reached out and grabbed it. She said it was the first time she was able to do that in many, many years and that was very rewarding to see."

Doctors Mina Chung and Ajay Kuriyan say the implantation of the bionic eye is not just a first for the University of Rochester, it is a first in the state of New York.

"It's an incredible advance and until now, we had nothing to offer," Chung added. "To make it a reality has taken many years of research and vision."

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