Blind man gets life changing eye surgery

FOX 32 NEWS - Imagine being totally blind for 20 years and then receiving the gift of sight. It’s not a fairy tale, but a real-life miracle at the University of Illinois Hospital.

At the University of Illinois Hospital on Chicago’s West Side, a blind man has learned to see.

Robert Selby, 54, of St. Louis was born with a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which slowly destroys the nerves in the retina.

For the past 20 years, he had been completely blind, but never lost hope.

"I want to see again. I want to see things again,” Selby said.

Last month, Selby became one of just 60 people in the United States to undergo an artificial retinal implant. Doctors at the U of I hospital surgically attached a tiny sensor called the Argus 2 to Selby’s left retina.

A camera in his glasses then sends a wireless signal to the implant.

"So what we do is we send an electrical impulse to stimulate that, and then the electrical signal goes through the optic nerve and into his brain and he perceives light,” said Dr. Jennifer Lim.

What Selby sees are flashes of light that form the outlines and edges of nearby objects or walls or doorways - even people. It’s not a perfect picture, but enough to allow him to walk without help for the first time in decades.

"Blindness is gonna be cured one of these days. And this Argus Two is gonna be one of the reasons it's gonna be cured. The technology is absolutely amazing. And we're on the ground floor,” Selby said.

For now, Selby continues to undergo training to teach his brain how to decipher the flashes of light.

"When we saw him be able to do this, my team and I were actually in tears. It was that moving. And his family was too. Because this is why we went into our field,” Dr. Lim said.