British woman with ‘bionic eye’ speaks of joy after reading clock for first time in years

Rhian Lewis is first person outside Germany to be fitted with implant to restore sight after retinitis pigmentosa left her virtually blind

A blind woman fitted with a “bionic eye” has spoken of her joy after she was able to tell the time for the first time in more than six years.

Rhian Lewis, 49, was given the retinal implant as part of an ongoing trial at Oxford’s John Radcliffe hospital. Surgeons at the Oxford Eye hospital implanted a tiny electronic chip at the back of her right eye’s retina in an attempt to help her see.

The mother of two, from Cardiff, has suffered from retinitis pigmentosa – an inherited disorder – since she was five. The condition causes gradual deterioration of photoreceptors, the light-detecting cells in the retina, which can lead to blindness. One in 3-4,000 people in the UK have the disease, for which there is currently no cure.

Lewis is completely blind in her right eye and has virtually no vision in her left eye. The implant, made by a German firm, Retina Implant AG, was placed in Lewis’s eye in June in an operation that can last six to eight hours.

During follow-up tests, Lewis was asked to look at a large cardboard clock to see whether she could tell the time. She had not been able to tell the time with her right eye in 16 years or with her left eye for about six years.

She said “Oh my god” when she realised she had managed to recognise it was three o’clock. She added: “Honest to god, that felt like Christmas Day.”

(…)

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