Blind regain sight with bionic eye

History is being made in Hazelwood.

ST. LOUIS, MO. - You may not know it, but history is being made in Hazelwood and by a blind man.

Bob Selby was one of the few to receive an artificial OR bionic eye implant.

5 On Your Side's PJ Randhawa was there as he experienced some of his first images.

For 25 years, there was just darkness - until one day in November, when the blind man saw.

"It was a bunch of pixilated light. Imagine all of a sudden you see these blobs of light and they're flashing," said Bob Selby, Hazelwood resident, and bionic eye recipient.

The blobs of light were Selby's first images in decades, and each day, the clouds of blindness part a little more.

"I've seen the colors, the people, you want it back," said Selby.

Selby was asked what he saw while wearing his new bionic eye, while sitting across from reporter PJ Randhawa. 

"I'm seeing you actually, and you're flashing. It's like pulsating light. almost like a fast strobe light," said Selby.

How does it work?

"On the glasses, right here is a miniature video camera and what it does is shoots video in real time. A video processing unit. It takes the images, breaks it down to symbols and breaks it down wirelessly, and transmits it to my retina. And that’s where flashes of pixilated light, you see these flashes of light and they try to form objects. Like things with great contrast you’ll see those," said Selby.

The technology has restored sight to just 200 patients worldwide.

Dr. Jennifer Lim is head of the program at the university of Illinois-Chicago

"You become, partly, if you will, a bionic person," said Lim.

But if you're thinking 6 million dollar man, forget about it. So far, the images Selby sees take time to analyze.

"He's only at 240 pixels, and your comp screen is 1280 by 1280," said Lim.

But even with his new, limited vision, Selby feels overwhelmed. Now he's training himself to interpret a whole new visual language

"My coolest experience was walking out to the pier. I could see the rail, follow it to the ocean. I look out and see all these white lines. It's hard to explain but it was waves. The tops of waves," said Selby.

But what seems like a miracle is just an early stage of a medical breakthrough.

"God carefully restored [vision], we're not anywhere there. And don't claim to be but with God's help and science and tech, we're able to do it," said Lim.

And Selby? His future is coming together before his eyes

"In ten years, I probably will see your face. That may be overestimating it. It could be sooner than that. It's neat stuff," said Selby.

Selby says the total cost of the surgery was around $150,000, which was mostly covered by Medicare. For more information on eligibility, visit them online.

© 2017 KSDK-TV


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