• By Dennis Douda

“Bionic” Eye Implant Offers Hope of Restoring Vision

February 23, 2015

It’s a medical story, a science and technology advancement and a romance wrapped into one moment: when a man who is blind sees his wife again for the first time in a decade.

Allen Zderad began to have serious vision problems about 20 years ago due to retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease affecting the retina. There is no effective treatment or cure. It ended his professional career and after a decade he was effectively blind, unable to see anything other than very bright light. He adjusted, even continuing woodworking by developing his sense of touch and spatial relationships. But he was unable to see his family, including ten grandchildren or his wife, Carmen.

Enter Raymond Iezzi Jr., M.D., Mayo Clinic researcher and ophthalmologist, who had been seeing Zderad’s grandson, who has early stages of the same condition.

Journalists: B-roll of patient Allen Zderad's first experiences with the Second Sight system and of his surgery to implant the device is available in the downloads. Dr. Iezzi's sound bites on the technology, retinitis pigmentosa and the patient experience are also available. Click here for transcript.

Watch KARE 11 medical news report: Man gets bionic eye, sees wife for first time in decade.

To schedule an interview with Dr. Iezzi, contact Bob Nellis at Mayo Clinic Public Affairs: 507-284-5005 or newsbureau@mayo.edu

“Tell your grandfather I’d like to see him,” the scientist-physician told the boy. The former 3M employee from the Twin Cities turned out to be the ideal patient for the first clinical trial in Minnesota involving a bionic eye implant that sends light wave signals to the optic nerve, bypassing the damaged retina. A tiny wafer-like chip was embedded in his right eye, wires attached in a surgical procedure in January, then two weeks later, the rest of the prosthetic device set in glasses was activated.

For the first time in a decade, Zderad was able to make out human forms and outlines of objects, doorframes, chairs and tables, - he even saw his reflection as a silhouette in a window. The first indication that the device worked: He lunged out to grab his wife’s hands as she sat before him. The both broke into tears.

Dr. Iezzi was also moved. “This is great for this family. It’s also very unusual for a scientist like me to be able to actually apply outcomes of what we’ve worked on for years to help a patient. That’s very special.”

More adjustment is needed, along with hours of physical therapy and instruction, in order to make full use of the device, which was created by Second Sight, Inc.  Zderad is the first in Minnesota to receive the device, and only the 15th in the United States. There are limitations: He will not be able to see the detail of faces or images, but he will be able to navigate through a room full of people, in church or in a mall without using his cane. It greatly improves his quality of life, and most of all, he can see his wife again. “It’s easy,” says Zderad, “she’s the most beautiful one in the room.”

A big thank you Linda for all your hard work!! I always looked forward to working with you and am going to miss your smiling face coming to work each shift! Congrats on your retirement!

Hats off to you Linda! You have touched a lot of hearts over those years. God bless!

Congratulations on your retirement, Linda! You have had such a positive influence on many, many lives in all your years here – both patients and staff! Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication.

Congratulations Linda! I am so thankful for having worked with you. You are a fabulous mentor and nurse. I many times revert back to things you taught me as a new nurse many years ago. New Prague is blessed to have had you as an employee for 48 years!! Best of luck in the future and enjoy retirement.

Congratulations to you!!!! Enjoy your retirement.

Congratulations Linda!!!! Now that you have worked so hard you can play hard! Enjoy your retirement.

Congratulations on your retirement, Linda! I am so happy for you! You have worked so hard, you deserve to have a fun and relaxing retirement. We will miss you so much!

So happy for you Linda. Have a wonderful retirement. We will miss you.

Congratulations Linda, on your 47 years here at NP Hospital! God Bless you with an abundance of years to enjoy what you and Lee love to do. You were and are a blessing to all of the patients you cared for, and the staff you worked with. I was fortunate to work with you for a lot of years, and will miss seeing your smiling,(and maybe tired) face leaving in the morning when I come in. Enjoy your family and your newfound free time!!

such a pleasant person to work with and see throughout my years here in New Prague. Always a friendly smile and helpful information. Best wishes to Linda in retirement.

Congratulations Linda!! New Prague Hospital has been so lucky to have you as a part of our team all of these years. You have cared for so many patients-all with a kind, caring, compassionate attitude. You set the bar high, and quietly expected others to do the same. We have all learned from you, and will miss you deeply. Best of luck to you always!

Linda you will be missed!! I have so enjoyed working with you over the years and appreciate all the great care you have given to the patients you provide care for! Enjoy your retirement!

What an amazing Nurse and person! We are all lucky to have had the opportunity to have you in our lives as a co-worker, friend, nurse and mentor. Congrats Linda on Retirement!

Linda, you are one of the best!! The kindness and care you have shown all of your patients is one of the many qualities I wanted to immulate as I watched and learned from you when I started way back when. I am blessed to have worked with you, trained under you and laughed often with you. I wish you the best in your retirement.

Linda, you are one of the best!! The kindness and care you have shown all of your patients is one of the many qualities I wanted to immulate as I watched and learned from you when I started way back when. I am blessed to have worked with you, trained under you and laughed often with you. I wish you the best in your retirement.

Please login or register to post a reply.