NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, March 5, 2015, 2:30 AM
After partially regaining his sight thanks to stunning new technology, a blind North Carolina businessman visited the Big Apple this week to finally see the sights.
Larry Hester came to New York from Raleigh to take advantage of the bionic eye he got in October after going blind three decades ago.
“I’m just anxious to see as many sights as I can,” Hester told the Daily News.
“I never gave up hope throughout those 33 years that there would be some sort of medical breakthrough.”
The 66-year-old retired tire salesman can finally see a little thanks to the groundbreaking Argus II Retinal Prosthesis Device.
On Wednesday, he checked out the New York Stock Exchange, where he was able to make out the outlines of nearby skyscrapers.
“It keeps going up and up and up,” he marveled.
“Good grief, pretty amazing. Look at it!”
Hester can make out bright lights and other stark contrasts — and so says New York is perfect for him.
“There are lights just flashing and sparkling all over the place,” he said. “I just keep a smile on my face all the time.
“It’s exciting just to experience being with people on the sidewalk.”
Hester lost his sight due to retinitis pigmentosa — a disease with no known cure that slowly wore down his retinas.
“Vision was closing in around me,” he said. “You lose your independence of driving. You can’t throw a football with your son.”
In a heartwarming video posted online, Hester is seen on Oct. 1 waiting for the Argus II to be switched on after an electronic stimulator was surgically implanted in his left eye at Duke University Eye Center.
“My whole family was in the room,” Hester recalled. “It was a moment I’ll never, ever, ever forget.”
After Dr. Paul Hahn pushed a button to activate the device, Hester saw bright lights and exclaimed: “Yes. Oh my goodness. Yes!”
His ecstatic wife ran over to kiss him.
“For him to have a second chance means the world to me,” Jerry Hester, also 66, told The News.
“It was like, ‘Is this really happening? You need to pinch me.’”
To create the miracle, a small video camera sits on Hester’s glasses capturing everything he “looks” at.
Footage is sent to a small computer he wears at his side that transforms the images into signals.
That data is sent back to the glasses and transmitted through a small antenna to 60 electrodes implanted against his retina.
The electrodes emit pulses of electricity up the undamaged retinal cells to the optic nerves to create the perception of patterns of light which can be interpreted as images.
“A few years ago we would not even have expected to have a device like Larry is able to wear today,” said Dr. Michael Smith, chief medical editor of WebMD, which profiles Hester in their new Future of Health series with Robin Roberts.
“People like Larry we’re going to be following closely.”
Hester can only make out the outlines of people — but says that’s been enough to transform his life, including his interactions with his wife.
“I was able to walk over and put my hand on her cheek — and not give her a black eye or put my finger in her nose,” he said.
“Those functional things mean so much.”