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may - 'The trees were a deeper green than I imagined and so...

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'The trees were a deeper green than I imagined, and so tall' Three years ago, Mike May's sight was partially restored by a pioneering transplant using  stem cells. Now, as neuroscientists release their analysis of the effects of the operation on  the brain, we publish his remarkable account of seeing for the first time since he was  three t Mike May M The Guardian     , Tuesday August 26 2003 March 20 2000 I took my first flight since the operation on March 7. It was very bumpy and I was  keeping my mind off this by working. After about 30 minutes, I suddenly realised that I  could look out of the window, so I did. I could see some white lines in the distance and  brown and green patches sliding by on the ground. I was so excited and eager to find out  what I was looking at that I asked the person sitting next to me: "Excuse me, I just got  my sight back last week after being totally blind for 43 years. Could you help me figure  out what I am seeing?" There was a long pause as she decided whether I was a lunatic or  a miracle. I broke the silence by asking if the white lines I could see were mountains. She said: "No,  honey, that's haze." From then on, she and her husband gave me a play by play  commentary on the central valley, fields, channels, roads, Tehachapi mountains and,  finally, the Los Angeles coastline. I could see the water and even the waves. I picked out  white dots, which must have been sailboats. March 25  I have just returned from a conference and my first intense business and social  interaction with the use of low vision. I found it very distracting to look at people's faces  when I was having a conversation. I can see their lips moving, eyelashes flickering, head  nodding and hands gesturing. At first, I tried looking down, but if it was a woman in a  low-cut top that would be even more distracting. It was easier to close my eyes or tune  out the visual input. This was often necessary in order to concentrate on what they were  saying. I am sure there will come a time when all this visual communication will mean  more to me, but for now it is just distracting. Although I can't yet recognise faces I could remember the colour of someone's hair and  clothing. If someone I had spoken to earlier came up to me, I could see who it was and  acknowledge him or her before they said anything.
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  • Spring '08
  • GILDEN
  • White lines, white dots, Los Angeles coastline., inexperienced visual cortex, large framed photograph

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