The story of Dorothea
My name is Dorothea and I live in Germany. I’m 45 years old and since the third year of my life I have been visually impaired. At the age of 29 I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. I have been completely blind now for about four years. It is impossible to slow down or reverse the process of that disease. Even though I have gotten used to ‘being blind’, I have not been able to come to terms with it entirely.
And then I came to know of a retinal prosthesis in Germany (Argus II) through my ophthalmologist in 2013. An examination appointment in the eye clinic in Cologne determined that I am suitable for the system. The surgery took place in October 2013. Since that time I have a chip on my retina, that it is not visible from the outside.
Often I am asked what this kind of perception is like, but this is not at all easy to explain because it can’t be compared with the ‘normal’ seeing I had before. I have learned how to use the visual information provided by the Argus II system and this meant practicing at home as often as possible. When I switch on the system I begin to scan all objects of everyday life, such as windows and doors. The more contrast there is the better I can realize them and orientate myself.
Some months ago I realized that I can perceive things well enough with the implant to iron our daily laundry. For me this is a great improvement in my life because it helps me to be more independent. But what is more important is that it is very emotional to recognize the persons that you love again. Three months after the operation I suddenly realized that I can see the outline of my husband again – that was an extremely amazing moment for me. All of a sudden his entire silhouette lit up in my field of vision and apart from hearing and feeling him I was able to visually perceive him as well. This was – and still is – an overwhelming feeling. When we go for a walk, the dogs are leading so I can look at trees and the sky and see contours of buildings and when I am looking at my husband’s feet, I can see them moving and that is amazing.
Last year I started my own video blog to document my life at www.sehschuelerin.blogspot.de. I hope this will help me to comfort other patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa. It is my way of showing the world how a blind person can use technology to do things that were previously impossible.