Blindness is thought to be one of those ailments that are simply incurable. However, Montreal man Pierre-Paul Thomas, 68, who was born with congenital nystagmus — a condition where the eyes involuntarily move and distort vision — has miraculously gained vision.
Nystagmus is a medical condition that impairs vision. As a result of this eye disorder, people lose control of their eye movements, making them unable to focus their eyes in order to see. It can occur in infancy or in adults after strokes, head injuries, or as a result of vitamin deficiencies.
According to the Montreal Gazette, after a fall down the stairs in his home, Thomas fractured many of the bones in his face, including those around his eyes. After an emergency visit to the hospital, he was as good as new, though with some persisting scalp damage.
Upon consultation with Lucie Lessard, M.D., a renowned plastic surgeon, about his scalp, she asked, "Oh, while we're at it, do you want us to fix your eyes, too?"
His eyes? The eyes that had only seen shadowy grey and black for all his life, with cataracts protruding out of them in his old age? The eyes that could not see unless his hands were able to survey the surfaces or regions in question?
Yes, those eyes.
After a simple cataract-removing surgery, in use globally since the early 1900s, Thomas could, by some twist of fate, see once more. Dev Cheema, M.D., director of the ophthalmology clinic at the Montreal General Hospital, noted that cataracts are still the main cause of blindness globally. He conjectures that Thomas might have been able to see at a young age, even with his damaged optic nerves caused by nystagmus, but it was the cataracts that impaired his vision as he got older.
"All we had to do was remove the cataracts and [Thomas] was able to see," he said. "It feels great to do something like this. There's always a positive story to tell when it comes to ophthalmology."
Thomas can now marvel at colors, blooming flowers, and the faces of his sisters for the first time since his boyhood. In a video on the Montreal Gazette's website, Thomas admits that before his surgery "...everything was grey," but he now finds all that he is able to see beautiful. "It wasn't extremely pleasant for me, but that's how I was made," he said.
Thomas may never be able to see perfectly, as there is currently no treatment for his nystagmus or his damaged optic nerves. "But I'm happy," Thomas said. "A happy man. Say thank you for me to the Montreal General. They've given me my life back."