It's been 33 years since Larry Hester started going blind. But thanks to a new bionic eye, the 66-year-old is experiencing vision once again, Duke Medicine reports. Granted, "it's not vision as we traditionally know it," a Duke University scientist tells Duke Medicine. But "turning this device on allows him to experience a whole new world." Hester is the first person in North Carolina, and only the seventh in the country, to receive an Argus II Retinal Prosthesis Device. Last month, he had a sensor implanted in his eye; it gathers light signals from a camera on his glasses.
On Oct. 1, the device was turned on for the first time. Could he see? "Oh my goodness. Yes!” he said. Hester suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that causes gradual blindness and is shared by some 50,000 to 100,000 Americans, Today reports. Now he can identify contrasts—for instance, the difference between a door and a wall. He's already spotted a white duck in a pond and his wife's flowers, and the Herald-Sun reports he's hoping to see Fourth of July fireworks. The vision has also provided a "sweet and precious moment," his wife says. "The other night I was sitting on a dark leather chair [and] he was able to scan over and see my face because it was lighter. And he reached out and touched my face." (Click to watch a 3-year-old boy hear for the first time.)