First Bionic Eye

Just found out my aunt was the first person to get the new FDA approved bionic eye!  When I found out, I nearly broke out in tears.  She was always an inspiration to me. 

In her forties (20 years ago), she started losing her sight.  We all knew it was a matter of time before she would completely lose it.  But never once, did I hear her gripe or complain about it.  She accepted it as a fact of life.  She became very proactive about it.  She learned to recognize faces by feel, she got a computer with voice-recognition software.  She never gave up, even though it meant she would have to give up her job as a cake decorator.

But now, so much of that will change.  Even though the technology isn’t there yet to give her full site, she’ll be able to see a little.  Shapes, large letters, some objects.  And for the first time, her grandchildren (and grandnephews and niece too!). 

I think this was made possible by the grace of God.  He gave us the free will to dream of these advancements.  Her gave her patience and strength to deal with going blind.  Her patience and strength always amazes me.  And now, it’s finally  paying off for her.

From the Times Bulletin:

Kalida woman has first U.S. FDA-approved bionic eye

NANCY KLINE, DHI Correspondent
Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:01 AM
Linda Schulte shows her glasses featuring a camera that sends a message to the computer she is holding. This computer then sends a message wirelessly to the prosthesis with electrodes that are installed on her retina. The board (at right) is used as the training to help Schulte recognize shapes. (Putnam Sentinel/Nancy Kline)
Linda Schulte shows her glasses featuring a camera that sends a message to the computer she is holding. This computer then sends a message wirelessly to the prosthesis with electrodes that are installed on her retina. The board (at right) is used as the training to help Schulte recognize shapes. (Putnam Sentinel/Nancy Kline)

KALIDA — Linda Schulte said she cried when she found out there may be a way that she could “see” once again.

The 65-year-old Kalida woman was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when she was in her forties. Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited retina degenerative disease that causes slow but progressive vision loss due to a gradual loss of the light-sensitive retinal cells. Patients with RP experience loss of side and night vision, and later central vision, which can result in near blindness.

Schulte said she initially heard about the process as a member of the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

Then in February 2013 she heard a news item that the process known as Argus® II Retina Prosthesis System, developed by Second Sight Medical Products Inc., of Sylmar, Calif, had received FDA approval.


Once she heard this, Schulte was anxious to see if she qualified for the implant. Contacting the California company she learned 10 sites in the United States had been approved to do the implant.

“They recommended the Cleveland Clinic since I live in Ohio,” Schulte said. “But when I contacted them I waited and waited and never heard back.”

Schulte then contacted the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center in Ann Arbor, another approved site. “They called right back and were excited,” she said. Once the process began, Schulte discovered she had to have patience to endure the many steps and setbacks on her road to receive her “bionic eye.” She had her first appointment in Michigan on Sept. 23, 2012.

Her initial exam revealed she had cataracts.

“They decided to have the cataract taken out of the right eye, since they thought this was the better eye.”

Schulte had the cataract removed in Lima and then returned to Michigan for an exam. During the exam it was discovered there was a mole on the back of the eye making it not good for the implant.

“I was depressed at that point,” Schulte admitted. She returned to Michigan to have the cataract taken out of her left eye. The doctors in Ann Arbor determined this eye would qualify for the implant.

“Then we set up to have the surgery on January 2,” Schulte said. “We had to cancel because there was a blizzard and we couldn’t get to the hospital.” The surgery was rescheduled for Jan. 16, 2014. Dr. Thiran Jaysunder was her surgeon.

“The doctor offered to pay for my hotel room if I would come up the night before,” Schulte said. “He wanted to make sure I was there for the scheduled surgery.”

Schulte was the first patient in the United States to have the Retina Protheses System implanted after the system received FDA approval. Schulte said there were doctors from all over the world present at the surgery along with representatives from the Second Sight Medical Products company.

The surgery to put in the implant took four and a half hours. Schulte had the surgery on a Thursday and came home on Saturday. The Schultes had to rush back to Michigan on Sunday when Linda’s eye began to seep. She had to have followup surgery on Feb. 6 when it was determined she needed another stitch.

“I had to wear a big eye patch all this time,” Schulte said.

On Feb. 25, the Schultes returned to Ann Arbor for an appointment where Linda was given her new glasses to go with her bionic eye. She was instructed to wear the glasses so she could get used to them.

After Schulte had sufficiently recovered from her surgery the retinal prothesis was activated. Training then began for Schulte to adapt to the new vision.

Schulte’s glasses are equipped with a camera that captures images and converts them into a series of small electrical pulses. The pulses are transmitted wirelessly to the prothesis and the numerous electrodes on the surface of the retinal. These pulses are intended to stimulate the retina’s remaining cells, resulting in a corresponding perception of patterns of light in the brain.

She is having to learn to interpret these visual patterns. She has three or four more visits for her training to adopt to the new way of seeing. Schulte understands she will not have 20/20 vision or be able to distinguish faces, but will be able to recognize dark and light shapes.

“I saw my grandson playing basketball,” she said proudly. She was outside when he was playing wearing a shirt with a white stripe on it. “I could see the flashes for the stripe and hear the basketball and knew I was seeing him play basketball.”

Another time she was baking cookies and saw the gallon of milk through flashes on the counter. “It kept me from knocking the milk on the floor,” she said.

Schulte said she and her husband “Smiley” have really appreciated the support they have received from the community. “They have been so good with their support and prayers,” she said.

“I couldn’t have done this without my husband,” she added. “He has been supportive and driven me back and forth for all the appointments.”

Since her surgery, four other patients have received the implants and another man is scheduled to have it. Schulte has been in touch with two sisters who had the surgery and the man who is going to have the surgery.

“They want us to get together so we can share our experiences,” she said.

Schulte said if a person is considering the implant they need to have one or two people who are able to make the many trips to the hospital that are required.

“You also have to understand you won’t get back things like being able to drive or read, but will experience some of the great little things like getting to see your grandchildren run around the yard.”



Republican Bill to Force Vegan Restaurants to Serve Steak!

House Republicans have introduced a bill that would require vegan restaurants to serve meat products.  Republican Mark Ingram from Alabama wrote the bill.  He says, “They are operating a restaurant.  They cannot serve food without serving meat.  People need to eat meat.  Who are they to deny this to consumers?”  The bill is expected to pass the house, but Democrats in the Senate have vowed to vote it down.

If you agree this bill is wrong, and a violation of the Restauraneer’s rights, you would be correct. 

If you think this bill is a good idea, you either have a good sense of humor, or you are a moron.

If you think this bill is wrong, but also think Hobby Lobby is in the wrong, you are either a moronic hypocrite, or a self-righteous asshat.

Because it’s pretty much the exact same argument.  The only difference is, the owner of Hobby Lobby has a Constitutional right to his religion.  Vegans to not have a constitutional right to be vegans (unless they consider it a religion). 

I’m sorry, but there really is no difference in these two examples.  Vegans have the right to decide what services they will offer to their customers.  Hobby Lobby has a right to decide what benefits they provide to their employees.  If the owner of Hobby Lobby feels it is a sin to provide contraception to employees, then that his is Constitutionally guaranteed right.

And neither is absolutely needed to live a healthy, long life.  Plenty of people live to be a ripe old age without eating meat.  And birth control is not absolutely needed.  Yes, it can be used to regulate menstrual cycles.  But meat can be used to regulate bowel movements.  Some folks don’t like the feeling of having to eat beans to get their protein because of the gas it gives them.  And some women don’t like have menstrual cycles that come sporradically.  Both have valid points.  But the vegan restaurant should not be FORCED to compromise their beliefs because I don’t like beans, just as the owner of Hobby Lobby shouldn’t be forced to compromise his beliefs because someone don’t want a child.

Just as I can go to another restaurant or store to buy my meat for my protein needs, an employee can choose to join one of the exchanges or obtain insurance elsewhere for their birth control needs. 

And so many people have absolutely no idea what Hobby Lobby’s actual stance is on this topic.  They don’t want to bar their employees form using birth control.  They understand it’s their right to do so.  Just as a vegan restaurant can’t stop me from buying meat somewhere else.  They choose not to.  Even if I eat meat at their restaurant, they still are not hurting animals, right?  Wrong.  They are.  They would then be an accomplice to the suffering of that animal in their view, and that’s why pretty much every intelligent person would oppose a bill like the one I made up above.  Yet, many of those same people oppose the stance of the owner of Hobby Lobby.

Just most vegans are ok with me eating meat, most that don’t approve of birth control don’t mind if others use it.  Are there some in the fringe that are out to ban it?  Yes, absolutely.  But there are also the militant vegans out to ban meat consumption.  They are not representative of the populace, however.   

So why do they support the ACA mandate that Hobby Lobby not have the same right to not be an accomplice to something they feel is wrong?  In the owner’s eyes, it is as much of a sin for him to provide it as it would be for him to use it. 

Here’s what really riles my feathers about it all.  So many people call Hobby Lobby ignorant becuase employees can still use the money they earn working there to go buy it. 

Is that ignorance, or is it compromise?  See, what these folks don’t understand is, the owner of Hobby Lobby just wants to protect his rights.  He doesn’t want to force his views down others’ throats.  That would be Facism.  And Hobby Lobby supports the right of people to choose to use birth control if they choose, just not be a part of it. 

Every one of us have something that we don’t agree with that is legal to do.  Whether it be pre-marital sex, spanking your children, adultery, how others choose to invest their money, the list goes on and on.  But for the most part, the rational people of this nation just choose to not partake, but do not go so far as to try to ban others from doing it.  That is exactly what Hobby Lobby is doing. 

It would be a completely different story if the chain store were to start firing people that used birth control, but they aren’t.  The owner is simply asking to not be forced to take part and fund something he is against because of religious beliefs. 

If you still feel Hobby Lobby should be forced to provide birth control in the insurance they mostly pay for, then you should also agree that vegan restaurants can be forced to sell meat to customers that FULLY pay for the product.  If not, I’m sorry, you’re just a hypocrite.

You may not like it… but it’s just the Grim Truth.