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Bionic Eye Helps Woman See For First Time In Years

By Howard Nathan

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)- A woman from Johnstown is the first person in the mountain west to receive a bionic eye to help her see.

Jamie Carley has retinitis pigmentosa, which caused her to lose the ability to see left and right and then over time she lost her night vision and her peripheral vision. Jamie was in her 20s when she lost her eyesight.

After a five-hour operation at the University of Colorado Hospital Eye Center in Aurora, and some help from special glasses, she is able to see shapes. And after 15 years, she saw her son.

"I saw my son for the first time and it was amazing, in fact, even he got emotional," said Jamie.

During the operation doctors implanted a microchip into the retina of her right eye. Three weeks later, she's actually seeing.

Jamie Carley
Jamie Carley (credit: CBS)

"It's contrast, I'm seeing white on black or I can invert it to black on white," said Jamie.

Here's how it works: Jamie wears special eyeglasses with a small camera on the nose piece. What the glasses see is transmitted through the transmitter on the side to a video processing unit. The processing unit then routes a signal back to the glasses and then to the implant in her right eye.

"We have to work around the device throughout the surgery and then we use the device at the end of the surgery when we tack it to the back of the eye," said surgeon Naresh Mandava.

There are 60 electrodes in her right eye that send the information to her brain which enables her to see.

"It shows me the shapes," said Jamie. "It's a new way of seeing."

The operation costs $150,000 but her surgeon believes insurance will cover the cost.

Howard Nathan is a veteran newsman. Decades later, he still enjoys writing a clever sentence, asking the tough question and talking to people in Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Howard and read his bio.

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