Lidia Lopez knew from a young age that she had a degenerative eye disease that would cause her eyesight to deteriorate over time. By the time she was 50 years old, her vision was completely gone. At 61 years old in 2018, Lidia was living in total darkness.
However, new technology is bringing some light back into Lopez’s life.
Lopez was the recipient of Houston’s first Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, a retinal implant commonly referred to as the “bionic eye.” After implantation of the Argus II, a small camera in Lopez’s glasses captures video that is passed through a small computer that she wears. The computer and glasses work together to send a wireless signal to an antenna in the implant. This allows Lopez to perceive patterns of light, enabling her to see again for the first time in over a decade.
The device was implanted by Dr. Amir Mohsenin and Dr. Garvin Davis, both ophthalmologists affiliated with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and assistant professors of Ophthalmology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and the Robert Cizik Eye Clinic.
“Due to their impaired vision, these patients are very dependent on their family members or others for basic needs. A device like this can completely change a patient’s life,” said Dr. Mohsenin. “Just being able to navigate rooms and knowing if the light is on or off are big steps for patients who have been completely blind for a number of years.”
The Argus II was successfully implanted on January 11, 2018. After a month-long recovery, Lopez returned to the clinic on February 12 to have the device activated.
The instant that Lopez’s device was activated, a huge smile spread across her face. She panned her head side-to-side, trying to take it all in. According to the physicians, it’s still new to Lopez and she has to spend some time getting used to the device.
“We are the only approved center in Texas and the surrounding states to implant the Argus II,” said Dr. Davis. “It’s exciting to be able to give some someone like Mrs. Lopez a bit of her independence back. We are planning to implant about four to five of these devices each year moving forward.”
Watch how Lopez reacts when her bionic eye is activated.