It is a specialstory the one we share with you today.
Dorothea Kohlhaas was gifted with the retinal implant Second Sight Argus II.
There might not be yet a Retinitis Pigmentosa treatment, but technology is moving forward.
Here is the story that Dorothea wrote for NoisyVision.
My name is Dorothea. I am German and live in West Germany.
I was born in 1969 in a small village and lived there with my parents and two sisters.
When I was about 3 years old my dad noticed, that something was wrong with my eyes and so my “blind career” started. The ophthalmologist told my parents, that I could get blind one day. t I attended the regular school classes and proceed in my education as an assistant for a lawyer. In 1991 I started to work at the court as a secretary, where I am still working.
When I was about 29 years I had some examinations again at the University clinic in Bonn. There they told me, that I have Retinitis Pigmentosa. I was shocked about this diagnosis, even if I knew, that I could get blind. The doctors in the clinic told me that it wass a stable form, and it would take a long time before I get completely blind.
Nevertheless when I was 41 I became completely blind.
I got very unsure, did not trust myself and was afraid to go out alone.
But, I am a positive person and wanted to be independent and have a good mobility. So I trained hard little by little I found myself again and continued my normal life. I learned to accept my condition and considered it is a part of me, but just a part and not the whole person. My husband is visually impaired too and helped me a lot to gain trust in myself.
In 2013 my eye doctor called me and told me about a study they were doing in the University Clinic in Cologne. It was a study about the retinal implant Argus II.
I called them and in June 2013 I went there for a screening. At the end of a long day the Professor told me,
“You are eligible for Argus II”.
I was happy, but wanted to wait for some weeks and to think about it all.
The following conditions are important to be eligible for an Argus II.
– You have to have Retinitis Pigmentosa or a Usher Syndrome.
– You have to be older than 25.
– You should not be blind since birth.
– Your optical nerve should be in good condition.
– You should be fully blind or almost fully blind.
So I went home, but my decision was nearly made. I was completely blind so there was nothing to lose, only to win and if no one accepts to be part of a trial, the research will have no progress.
I went back to cologne on 7th October 2013. I was completely nervous!! On 8th October I had the surgery. When I woke up afterwards I felt really strange, sure I noticed that they had done something with my eye, but that there was a chip and a silicon belt around my eye bulb? I did not feel it.
So I had to wait 10 more days before I could start my second sight and hopefully smile again.
Then I was given a pair of glasses with a small camera in the middle and then I had the VPU (Video Processing Unit) in my hands for the first day. The engineer started to test the 60 electrodes on the chip.
Wow, what an experience!!!
Suddenly I saw some flashes, light points and some others lights. I was so excited.
And of course I wanted more. So I did a test on a touchscreen where I had to find on a black computer white squares, and after perceiving them I had to touch them with a finger. The computer voice started to say things like “correct“, that made me so happy,
I was crying.
It is not a natural vision, it is an artificial vision and it is hard work, to learn how to use it. After surgery I had 30 low vision lessons and 40 hours in Orientation and Mobility Training and you have to use it every day, to get a good benefit.
Now 5 years later I’m still very happy with my Argus II. I learned to perceive windows, lights, which is very helpful when you are in an unknown environment, you have better orientation. I can find a door, to get in and out. I can perceive movements of people.
When I am outside on the street I still have to use my cane, or my guide dog. But with Argus II I feel much safer, because I can perceive boards of the pavements, stairs, obstacles on my way. I can perceive the zebra crossings on the street, I can perceive movements of cars and people. All of these factors are giving me a lot more independence.
And I have some wonderful highlights. Now it is possible for me to perceive fireworks, no color, but the lights at the explosion. I have perceived the sea waves, which was for me unbelievable, white clouds in the sky and the most and best I can perceive my husband and follow him because I can see where he goes and our dogs while they play on the grass. It is not possible to see them clearly, but for me it is a lot of fun, just to see movements.
I was really lucky to get Argus II. I would definitely do it again.
If you have some questions about this you are always welcome to contact me (using the contact form here)
Real-life Story of the ‘Bionic Eye,’ the Argus II
Dorothea Kohlhaas – Second Sight Patient Case Study