Eye Miracle

Reporter: Alison Fan

"I was a grown man but I was crying. Because I could see and I could see like I hadn't seen for 47, 48 years..."

Sons and daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Four generations of his own family that Dawesville pensioner Maurie Newborn has never seen. Until now.

Maurie has been blind for nearly 50 years. Now at the age of 74 he is seeing all his loved ones for the first time. His 6 children, 11 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren and wife Val.

After two freak accidents as a youngster, Maurie's sight was restored with an artificial cornea transplant. What Maurie and his doctors call a Perth-born miracle:

"It has the potential to bring sight back to at least ten million people world-wide."

The team who helped Maurie see again:

Professor Geoff Crawford who developed the artificial cornea; a world first.

Lions Eye Institute founder Professor Ian Constable.

Optician Dr Jean-Pierre Guillon.

"It allows people to see and we have patients who have 20-20 vision after the implant of this..having not seeing anything in their lives for years".

"I couldn't leave my own home . I couldn't go out in the street on my own. Now I can do just about whatever I want. I can read. I can watch TV. It's just like being born again" says Maurie.

Maurie lost his left eye in a childhood accident:

That left eye was removed and replaced with a glass eye. Then in another tragic freak accident -he was blinded in the other eye when chemicals splashed his face in a work accident.

Since then Maurie's had no sight .He received an artificial cornea transplant --that was then perfected when Dr Jean-Pierre Guillon experimented with a specially adapted lens

Doctors and scientists don't use the term miracle very often ,but Maurie Newborn is one patient they happily put in that category. Professor Ian Constable says its usually pure science that one major medical breakthrough often paves the way for another.

"When we started in 1983 at the Lions Eye Institute cataracts you waited until you were nearly blind before you operated ..the success rate was something like 95 per cent. you just moved away from sandbags after the operation so that people could move --to stitches. Now there are no sutures. not stitches the operation takes 20 minutes with an ultra sound machine and a new lens is folded in and the patient can go to work the next day."

And now another world first for Perth in the fight against blindness tele-medicine:

A hand-held imaging device that can detect eye disease, developed by Perth professor Kanna-ga-sing-gam Yogi-sahn. As it's small its potential is enormous, replacing expensive 100 year old technology used only by specialists in major cities. This portable camera can be used by a school nurse or an outback medical worker to transmit images to eye specialists anywhere in the world.

"If we had a photo of every eye in Western Australia we could pick up most of the blindness. You could pick out who was going to go blind from Macular Degeneration who was going to go blind from Glaucoma, from diabetes and we basically eliminate the residual blindness in the community."