Amherst man regains vision with "Bionic Eye"

Posted at 11:51 PM, May 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-03 12:40:34-04

Curt Krull had no vision problems until his late 40s.  The Amherst man was working in a lumber yard, building things and cutting wood, when he noticed his sight slowly started to go.

“It was like looking in a tube in a tunnel.  And everything started getting smaller and smaller.  Like slowly turning the lights out on a dimmer,” he explained.

It turns out Curt had a degenerative eye condition, which caused him to slowly lose his sight.  Not an easy thing for anyone, but especially for a man whose hobby, and living, depended on it.

“After 26 years I had to be let go, because of my eyesight.  I had to retire early.  I wasn’t ready for it,” he said.  “I was only 49 at the time.  And I wasn’t ready for that to happen.  Didn’t expect that to happen.”

It was a devastating loss.  But Curt and his wife of 40 years Barbara made it work.  As his eyesight got worse, they teamed up, building decks and finishing basements, doing the work Curt loved.

“He told me what to do, and what to get for him.  He could still do it by feeling,” Barbara explained.  “You know, we did it together.”

Still, they always wondered if anything could be done to bring Curt’s sight back.  A few years ago, they read about a new eye implant that had just gotten FDA approval, called the “Argus 2”.  It uses a chip implanted in the eye, and glasses with a camera, to create sight.

“It’s a chip that sits on the surface of the retina, and stimulates what’s left of the retina,” explained Dr. Alex Yuan from the Cleveland Clinic.  “The chip bypasses the dead cells, and stimulates the remaining cells, which then are able to send the information to the brain.  And the brain intercepts that signal, and interprets it as an image.”

After years of research and a number of let downs, Curt and Barbara finally connected with Dr. Yuan.  In August of 2015, Curt got the surgery.  A month later, it was time for the moment of truth.

“They turned it on and wow! exclaimed Curt.  “Not that I could see a lot, but I could see things moving finally.  Bright lights, the doctors went by.”

Barbara was by his side as he saw again for the first time.  It was an emotional moment for the couple, who had been through so much together.

“It was a miracle.  It really was,” she said.

Months later, the Krulls got another miracle.  This time it came at Christmas Eve service.

“I could see the flame flicker.  For the first time.  It was a little emotional.  That I could actually see a candle again.” said Curt.

Curt’s eyesight isn’t close to what it used to be – but he’s still in the garage wood working…with the help of a talking measuring tape.  He says he knows his limitations, but is doing more and more each day.

And he and Barbara have a message for anyone who might find themselves facing a similar struggle.

“We’d just like other people to know about it so if they have the opportunity – go for it.  Don’t let anything stop you,” they said together.