MEDICINE

Bin-Bin to have implants and new prosthetic eyes

Boy whose eyes were gouged out will also get navigation sensors to help him detect shapes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 September, 2013, 1:08pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 3:16am

Guo Bin, the six-year-old Shanxi boy whose eyes were gouged out by an attacker, will receive implants in his sockets as soon as today in preparation for fitting artificial eyes that will give him a more normal appearance - but not his sight.

The boy, known as Bin-Bin, arrived in Shenzhen with his family from the northern province on Sunday, after making his first journey by air.

Doctors said he was still hopeful that he would be able to see again but present technology would only go as far as helping him navigate.

"He was very excited [about the plane trip]", said Dr Dennis Lam Shun-chiu at whose hospital Bin-Bin will be treated.

"He asked his mother whether they were in the sky already. He went near a window and wanted to see the sky but he couldn't," Lam said.

"He still has hope that he will be able to see again. His parents dare not tell him that the chance is small."

Lam, who saw the boy at his C-MER Dennis Lam Eye Hospital on Sunday, said Bin-Bin had told investigators he was aware that he had lost his eyes and said it was a woman who did it.

Since the attack two weeks ago he has been treated at a hospital in Shanxi. Lam, who is offering free treatment for the boy, said his wounds were stable and there were no signs of infection.

After four to eight weeks, doctors will give him prosthetic eye pieces that are coloured to look like normal eyes. These will be attached to eye tissues and muscles to give normal eye movement.

Lam has also ordered navigation sensors from Japan and Europe and hopes Bin-Bin can start learning to use them in the next few months. If necessary, he might go to Germany or Japan for training.

Fitting of the first implants depends on the extent of damage to the eye sockets. If there is not enough tissue to hold the implants, doctors will graft tissue from his buttocks. They will make a decision after examining him in the operating theatre.

Lam expects that Bin-Bin will have to stay in Shenzhen for two or three months so that he can be properly cared for after the operation.

"His mother had suggested that she could use a handkerchief to clean his wounds," said Lam in disbelief.

The navigation devices, worn on the forehead or tongue, capture images and translate them into electric signals that stimulate the skin. No surgery is needed.

A device might enable Bin-Bin to lead a more independent life, as it could help him navigate in places familiar to him, Lam said.

He would get an idea of distinctive shapes and lines.

"When we saw him on Sunday he was a very smart and lively boy. I think he will have a good chance of learning it," said Lam.

He added that the possibility of electronic eyes - that send images to the optic nerve - would be explored in the next five to 10 years when the technology had developed.

The hospital said that the family was very resistant to talking to the media at the moment and wanted a break.

As there have been many offers of donations, Lam said his hospital, which will be covering the medical fees, will work with a credible charity to collect money that would go to the boy's future expenses such as education.