Heroes

They're in tears before his bionic eye is even turned on. His final reaction is priceless.

Allen Zderad has been legally blind his entire life. But his new bionic eye is giving him the gift of sight. Note: This video contains graphic footage of eye surgery from 2:09 to 2:17. If that sort of thing makes you squeamish, feel free to skip ahead.

They're in tears before his bionic eye is even turned on. His final reaction is priceless.
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It's been over 10 years since Allen Zderadi has seen his grandchildren and his wife Carmen.

Allen has Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition that causes total blindness when the part of the retina that turns light into vision deteriorates.


But Allen received some good news: He would be the first person to experience a bionic eye technique that had been researched for 20 years.

And it worked.

Thanks to a successful procedure, Allen was able to see his wife for the very first time. Cue all of the feels.

That's the emotional part. But the let's-geek-out, science part of the story is just as amazing.

Here's how a bionic eye works.

Retinal prosthesis, aka "a bionic eye," is an implant that can restore limited vision for people like Allen who suffer from degenerative eye conditions. While the idea of a bionic eye might have you thinking of "The Terminator," it's not an eye replacement.


All images via Hipster.

Doctors start by implanting tiny microchips into the patient's eyes.

In a healthy eye, the photoreceptors take in light and send a kind of nerve-ending Morse code back to the brain explaining what it has seen. Most people suffering from degenerative eye conditions have severely damaged photoreceptors, which causes them to lose their sight. So these microchips work almost like electronic photoreceptors.

The patient then wears special glasses equipped with a digital camera that captures what's in front of them.

That image then goes to a video microchip, to a radio transmitter behind the patient's ear, and then to the microchips in the patient's eye.

Imagine a science version of the game "Telephone" but way more complicated.

The real magic is how the digital camera explains to the eye what it's seeing. In some ways, it's kind of like a game of telephone, except the message doesn't get distorted. The video camera inside Allen's glasses takes the image it's capturing and sends it to the radio transmitter as a series of Morse-code-like pulses that signal light and dark. The radio transmitter then sends the light-and-dark combination to Allen's eye, which the brain is able to piece back together.

And viola! Although the picture is pixelated, Allen recognized his wife almost instantly.

Of course bionic eyes are pretty cool, but just imagine where this technology will be in the next five to 10 years.

That future is especially exciting for Allen and his family because his young grandson shares the same degenerative eye condition. And even though his grandson may end up using the very same bionic technology later in life, Allen's hope for him is one we can all stand to learn from:

"He can succeed, and that he's defined not by his limitations but by his abilities that God has given him, so I hope he appreciates that."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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