More than a decade after losing her eyesight, Carmen Torres can finally see again, thanks to a bionic eye and a first-of-its-kind surgery.
"I was happy and I was just laughing like crazy," Torres told reporters at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami on Friday, describing what it felt like to see light after so many years in the dark. "It was very emotional, but I'm very strong. I didn't cry."
Torres, 58, began losing her sight at the age of 18 due to retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative genetic disease in which eyesight degrades over time. By the time she reached 45 she was completely blind, the Miami Herald reports.
Things began to look up in November of last year, when Torres underwent a procedure to install the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, in the first surgery of its kind in Florida.
Her doctor acknowledged the procedure itself was fairly complicated and involved many intricate steps.
"It's a meticulous technique,” Dr. Nina Gregori told reporters, one that requires "exact, precise measurements of where to place these components on the eye and we really took our time."
The system works by translating images from a small video camera affixed to Torres' glasses into electrical signals, which are then beamed to a tiny implant in her eye. Those electrical impulses stimulate the retina and the brain interprets them as light, allowing Torres to "see."
Only about 100 patients worldwide have received the implant so far, according to the hospital. The system received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in 2013.
Over time, Torres learned how to understand the visuals -- which she said was like learning a new language -- and she's now able to engage in all manner of activities, including playing with her grandson, reports Miami's 7News.
Now, nine months after the surgery, Torres can, for the first time in more than a decade, see things like sidewalks and buildings. When she gazes at the night sky, adds Local 10 News, she can even see the stars.