Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A blow to blindness

This boy will have a story to tell for the rest of his life. Gerhard van der Merwe is a 7-year-old from Potchefstroom, South Africa. When he started across the street in front of his house with his 12-year-old sister Nadia, he didn't see the taxi approaching to his right. Gerhard has had very limited vision in his right eye since being born to his diabetic mother. He was outfitted with strong glasses when he was only 9 months old. Though there had been some improvement from the age of 2, the boy could barely distinguish light and dark with his right eye. So two weeks ago, he was struck by the car. "He didn’t see the taxi approaching from his right and walked right in front of it. He was flung about 12m through the air. Nadia was walking behind him. We were afraid that he was dead," said his mother. At the hospital, he was diagnosed with a mild concussion from a blow to the faulty right eye. His mother describes, “In hospital he kept telling us he could see. He had to get stitches in his right eyelid, and it was swollen. So we thought he meant the swelling was subsiding and that he could distinguish light again. But he kept saying he could see." Eye specialists confirmed the reversal of Gerhard's defective eyesight, which may have been due to pinched nerves. The grade-schooler is glad he will no longer have to sit in the front of the class - where all the naughty kids sit - any more.

Gerhard is not alone. I found several other examples in the weird news of vision being restored accidentally:
  • Don Karkos, a veteran from Lisbon Falls, Maine, who was blinded in his right eye during combat in World War II, had his sight spontaneously restored shortly after he was head-butted by a horse.
  • Xu Yulian, a 74-year-old woman in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, regained the sight in her left eye after running into a protruding door latch.
  • Vern Harryman, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who was blinded in his right eye as a 10-year-old boy, could see out of it again after walking into a light pole. "You can't imagine what's it's like. If nothing else, being able to see better ought to knock 6 strokes off my golf game.''

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