ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Khaleda Rahman has always considered herself a champion.
She grew up in Bangladesh with a hereditary disease known as retinitis pigmentosa.
It affects 1.2 million people worldwide, and there is no cure.
Rahman says she started to notice her vision deteriorate even at a young age – but that didn’t stop her from competing in the Olympics.
For the last few decades she’s been living in the Syracuse area and hoping for medical advancements.
Now that day has come: she is the first person in New York State to receive an FDA-approved Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System – also known as a bionic eye.
“Before the procedure, my right eye was totally black," said Rahman, who lives in Manlius. "Nothing I could see out of it. And after doing the surgery, I found out that I see some of it.”
It’s an electrical device implanted on surface of retina, wirelessly connected to a computer on a pair of glasses.
“What it does is create a new sort of vision for the patient," Dr. Ajay Kuriyan, of the Flaum Eye Institute at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "So it’s nothing like the vision that you and I are used to, or the vision that patient was used to having in the past. But it provides an ability to take in parts of the world through looking at different areas of contrast. So if you’re looking at a completely white wall, the device won’t necessarily be helpful for you. But if you’re looking at a white wall with an open doorway, you can see that contrast and be able to find your way to that doorway.”
Restoring light and motion can be life-changing.
“The whole goal is to provide an alternative for these patients," Kuriyan said. "Because their whole lives they’ve been told there’s nothing there to help them. And now there is something there to help them.”
Patients are still required to undergo post-surgery training – nothing Rahman can’t handle.
“She has a very can-do attitude," Kuriyan. "And so I don’t think that ever scared her or anything like that.”
Rahman says she does take off the glasses when she cooks – partially to protect the equipment, but also because she can cook a meal for her family without any help.
“All my athletic techniques in my kitchen," Rahman said. "Timers, judges. I can be champion on that.”