Health Alert: New device helps blind patients see - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Health Alert: New device helps blind patients see

Sarah Bullington was one of the first to take part in the device trials at Akron Children’s Hospital. (Source: WOIO) Sarah Bullington was one of the first to take part in the device trials at Akron Children’s Hospital. (Source: WOIO)
As she talks about the "L," it appears on a computer screen. (Source: WOIO) As she talks about the "L," it appears on a computer screen. (Source: WOIO)
Bullington looks at her mother's face and reaches out to touch it. (Source: WOIO) Bullington looks at her mother's face and reaches out to touch it. (Source: WOIO)
(WOIO) -

At age 3, Sarah Bullington was a Make-A-Wish child when she went blind. Her wish was to get a trip to Disney and she got it. But that doesn’t even come close to the wish she has now, which is to own a device that will help her see again.  

A brain tumor left her blind as a toddler, and although she’s kept a good attitude, able to figure out how to do whatever she wants to do, this new technology can mean a different future. 

At age 21, Bullington is seeing things...differently. The Medina woman says a device called BrainPort takes practice. 

"Very exciting. And when I did it three years ago, it was like, amazing. Like, didn't think it worked like it did," Bullington said with a big smile. 

Bullington is leading the way with this technology. She was one of the first to take part in the device trials at Akron Children’s Hospital three years ago and she can't get enough of it. 

The pair of camera-equipped glasses electronically transmit images to her tongue through a special paddle she puts in her mouth. That information then goes to the brain to be deciphered.

Dr. Richard Hertle, who trained her on it, says the tongue takes the camera images to the lingual cortex, and not knowing what to do with that kind information, the lingual passes it to the section of the brain that does recognize that kind of information, the visual cortex.

That creates images Bullington can make out. Although they are somewhat blurry, they are clear enough for her to move around more independently. 

"It’s very fun," Bullington says, "going around things I could see ahead of time, before I actually come upon them!" 

Those around her can see what she is believed to see on a computer monitor hooked up to the BrainPort.

Just being able to make out a big cut-out of the letter "L" is so exciting. As she talks about the "L," it appears on the computer screen. In fact, the first time she used it, she maneuvered her way around an obstacle course set up in a hospital hallway.

"I was in tears," said mother Kelly Dudas. "It was just amazing. My little girl could see again."  

It’s especially real when Bullington can look at her mother's face and reach out to touch it, practicing her spatial skills.

Bullington tells us her dream is to get her jewelry line going. She wears the pieces she's made with pride. 

If she can already do that without the BrainPort, she can only imagine what she might be able to do with one.

"I think it would help me, like, get a job, and just be more independent," explained Bullington.

The problem is the device costs $10,000, which is money she and her family don't have. But, they do have the determination to get it through fundraising. 

If you want to help, here’s how:

- "Sarah’s TO SEE Fundraiser" dinner set for Oct. 10 at Brunswick Eagle’s Pavilion at 349 Pearl Road in Brunswick. Cost is $25 per person. Doors open at 6 p.m. Call Kelly Dudas for more information at (330) 350-2511.

- Donate at any First Merit Bank to Sarah Bullington.

- "Spin Event: Sight for Sarah" set for Nov. 1 at Tone Medina Fitness Center at 378 Lafayette Road in Medina. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call (330) 416-6118 for more information.

- Donate to their GoFundMe page.

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