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Mum has eye implant 'switched on'
IT sounds like the stuff of science fiction novels.
But after a gruelling eight-hour ‘bionic eye’ implant a mother-of-two, who has been blind since she was 12, last night spoke of the moment she began to regain her vision.
Annette Hornsby, from Cowley, underwent the pioneering operation at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital on June 14 where an implant was inserted into her skull.
This week Mrs Hornsby returned to the hospital for the big ‘switch on’.
And in a moment which she never thought would be possible, and which drove her husband Andrew to tears, Mrs Hornsby was able to see the outline of a triangle in front of her.
She said: “I could see very bright flashes of light. They were asking me to trace what I could see with my finger.
“I was saying I could only see a flash of light, but my finger was drawing the right shape.
“My husband had tears in his eyes because I had drawn the shape of a triangle. He became quite emotional.”
The 46-year-old volunteered to take part in a groundbreaking Oxford trial into restoring sight to sufferers of a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP).
It is an inherited degenerative eye disease in which there is damage to the retina – the layer of tissue at the back of the inner eye that converts light images to nerve signals and sends them to the brain.
Mrs Hornsby was diagnosed with RP when she was seven-years-old, and has been blind since she was 12.
The final checks on the ‘bionic eye’ were carried out on Wednesday under the direction of Professor Robert MacLaren.
In May the Oxford Mail revealed how Prof MacLaren fitted the first retinal implant at the back of patient Chris James’s eye.
Prof MacLaren said: “The vision is different to normal, and it requires a different type of brain processing.
“We hope, however, that the electronic chips will provide independence for many people.”
Mrs Hornsby added: “The right side of my face was swollen after the operation, but now there is just a bit of a bump.
“All I wanted was for my bald patch to grow back.”
Mrs Hornsby said she hopes the bionic eye will one day help her to see the faces of her children Jake, 18, and Rebekka, 21, who has just given birth to her first grandchild, baby Kaitlin.
The operation not only signals hope for more than 200 county sufferers of RP, but it has been revealed it could one day help sufferers of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older people.
Mrs Hornsby added: “It feels wonderful to be involved, to be part of history.
“I can tell my grandchildren, and they can tell their children, that was their Nana who was involved in that.
“And hopefully, in years to come, this operation will be a lot more readily available.”
Doctors are unsure to what extent the operation will restore Mrs Hornsby’s sight but are hopeful it could have significant effects.