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"I can’t see cars coming, but people around here realize I don’t do too good and they watch out for me," the widower said.
The telescope, a miniature replica of the original Galilean version, works by magnifying what’s in front of the patient by more than two times and projecting it back onto the parts of the retina that still work.
"It recruits the peripheral retina [for central vision]," Moshirfar explained.
This means Chappell will lose peripheral vision in the eye with the implant. But he’ll retain it in his other eye, and ideally the two will work together to form more complete images.
Before the surgery Chappell (pronounced like chapel) underwent tests to see if he was a good fit, including looking through a simulator scope to show how the implant might improve his sight.
"I could read the eye chart as far as my son could with his natural eye," he said.
His surgery took just over an hour. Chappell was sedated but awake throughout.
Flanked by colleagues eager to observe, Moshirfar began by peeling back a portion of the fibrous protective layer of the eye known as the sclera.
He made an incision at the edge of the iris and inserted a device to break up and suction out Chappell’s clouded lens. Then he replaced the lens with the telescope, tucking it inside the pupil behind the muscular ring of the iris.
It took a few minutes to get the telescope positioned just right.
"Hang in there. We’re almost done," he told Chappell. "The lens is in there. I just have to suture it with about nine to 10 stitches, OK?"
Chappell was able to return home that day. But he has months of therapy ahead of him to retrain his eyes and brain.
In a clinical trial of the telescope in 219 patients, 90 percent were able to see two more lines on an eye chart, and 75 percent moved from severe or profound impairment to moderate vision impairment, according to the FDA.
Chappell is optimistic but worries he’ll forget to heed Moshirfar’s warnings against rubbing his eye.
"I don’t know if my brain will adjust to it or not," he said.
But the risks are worth the chance of being able to do things most people do without a second thought, he said.
"I’m pretty healthy. Everyone says I look good, but I can’t see myself in the mirror," he joked. "But I’d be in better shape if I could do little things like see scores to the ball games on TV and or what I’m eating on my plate."
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