ABC7 News, California.
Friday, June 09, 2006.
June 9 - KGO - At first it was considered science fiction, doctors helping patients without sight to see again. Now, for one lucky woman, it is becoming a reality. Amazing technology is giving her the first visual images.
Some call her the bionic woman, others call her a medical miracle, but Cheri Robertson has given herself another title:
Cheri Robertson: "I just call myself the robo-chick."
Cheri is blind, but this device allows her to see not with her eyes but with her brain.
15 years ago, Cheri lost both of her eyes in a car accident. She was just 19 years old.
Cheri Robertson: "When I realized yes, I am going to be blind, I thought, I guess I'm going to learn to do things a little differently now."
And she did. Cheri traveled to Portugal to become the sixteenth person in the world to have special electrodes implanted in her brain. With the help of a device, she can see again.
Cheri Robertson: "I said, 'oh my god, I can see it. I can see it,' and I was just so excited!"
Neurosurgeon Kenneth Smith says the procedure is the first to help patients without eyes.
Kenneth Smith: "They are really seeing. The brain is getting impulses just like when you and I see."
A camera on the tip of Cheri's glasses sends signals to a computer that's strapped around her waist. The computer then stimulates electrodes in the brain through a cord that attaches to the head.
The technology is already pretty amazing and should get even better with more research. The electrodes inside the skull actually stimulate the back of the brain which then creates images. Patients like Cheri see flashes of light and outlines of objects. Not perfect but certainly better than nothing.
Cheri Robertson: "Whatever I see is just two splashes of light, so I know something is there."
Cheri says support from her mom and the local lion's club keeps her spirits high.
Cheri Robertson: "If I was all depressed, I couldn't affect anybody's life for the good, and I want to make a difference."
Friends, family and doctors say she already has.
For the surgery to work, patients must have once had vision. So far, the surgery is not performed in the US yet, but doctors hope it will be in the next five years.
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