By 2020, the number of people who lose vision to eye disease is expected to double...but advances in science are catching up and opening the world of sight to the blind.
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Host: For most of us it’s another household choir for Kathleen Blakes sorting laundry is an accomplishment at 23 he world started going blurry. Kathleen: And I started tripping over things and thought I just needed eyeglasses. Host: Doctors diagnosed her with retinitis pegementosa a hereditary eye disease. Kathleen: I just keep thinking you know 23 years from now though we have a cure for this so I don’t need to worry about it. Host: Over the next 15 years her world went dark, now she’s one of 14 people in the US with the new bionic eye. Doctors implanted an artificial retina into Kathleen’s eye. Doctor: What goes in the eye is a very delicate surround wrap type electro which then touches the nerve cells and excites them. Host: Kathleen wear a special pair of glasses equip with the camera, it captures images and converts them into electrical signals that are transmitted wirelessly to the implant. The implant on scrambles the signals creating a black and white picture it travels through the optic nerve to Kathleen’s brain. Doctor: Over a period of time they can recognize our job which is the door, the chair, the table. Kathleen: The way I can really tell us when I have something white here there is not a big contrast to my skin and I get no flash when I take this one boom I got a big flash on the dark. Host: While there is still no cure for blindness technology has given Kathleen some things she’s waited 20 years to see. Kathleen: I was able to see the fireworks in the sky. Host: Giving a blind a glimpse at what the future holds. I’m Melissa reporting.