9/2/2014

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Mini telescope-type device helps the blind see again

Mini telescope-type device helps the blind see again
SEATTLE -- A newly approved device is helping the blind see again by using a telescope that doctors insert into a patient's eye.

"Boggles the mind that something like this can be done," said Charles Depoe.

Depoe has struggled to see the world since he was diagnosed with macular degeneration. Eventually he lost all sight in his right eye.

"I was preparing just to sit in the easy chair at home staring at the wall for the rest of my life," Depoe said.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over the age of 60, and it can't be stopped or reversed. But, Depoe decided to undergo a newly approved surgery to try and help.

"So, it works just like a telescope that you look through externally," said Dr. Thomas Gillette at Swedish Medical Center, who inserted the tiny telescope about the size of a pea into Depoe's eye.

Once in place, it tricks the brain into focusing beyond the damaged parts of the eye.

"It was a life-changing event is what it was," Depoe said.

While 250 patients have the device across the nation, Depoe is the first and only person in Washington to have the device so far. And as soon as he came out of surgery, he could see again. What he sees is a bit hazy and telescoped but Depoe says the device doesn't feel awkward at all and sometimes he forgets it's even there.

He still can't drive, but he can read the newspaper again and do odd jobs around the house. And his wife is no longer just a silhouette.

"Got a life - that's what it did for me," Depoe said.

And for Dr. Gillette and his team at Swedish, that makes it all worth it.

"Makes me feel that a lot of hard work has had its rewards," Gillette said.

The cost of the telescope alone is $16,000 but it is Medicare approved. Not all people with macular degeneration qualify for the device.
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