Jeroen Perk – Second Sight patient case study
Jeroen Perk, 39, works for the Netherlands’ Customs & Excise. He is totally blind due to the genetic disease Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) diagnosed at the age of 11. In some people, like Jeroen, RP progressively robs patients of their sight, even their perception of light.
Jeroen was the second person in the Netherlands to be implanted with the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, also known as “the bionic eye”. The surgery, by Dr Marco Mura, took place at the Oogziekenhuis Eye Hospital in Amsterdam in June 2013.
Since then, Jeroen has been using Argus II to help him navigate outdoors, in social situations such a rock concerts and when eating out, and amazingly, has even been able to repeatedly hit the bullseye on an archery target.
Jeroen also enjoys using the system when he’s out socializing in clubs and restaurants with his girlfriend, Nanda.
“Argus II helps me to be more confident generally in life. With the system, it is much easier for me to get around outside because I can sense where obstacles and road crossings are.”
“Socially, if I go into a restaurant, I can perceive whether there is someone already sitting at a table, and the shape and size of that person. I can chat to them, if I want.”
“I also use it when I go to pop concerts and clubs – I enjoy the light shows. I enjoy going to Ibiza in the summer. I love travelling and I enjoyed going to Norway last summer (2017) – Nanda and I did a lot of walks, including a 10-mile hike – there was a fjord and it was very beautiful – it was great to see the contours of the mountains. Also, I loved seeing the very high dramatic waterfalls – it was exciting. The rocks are very dark and the water is very white – I saw that quite clearly. One of the most fantastic things I have ever seen with the Argus was on the Lofoten Islands. In the summer you get the midnight sun there. The light was so wonderful. It felt like paradise. The Argus was helping me to see this light: it was a miracle. I was jumping, laughing, crying because I could see everything. Now I have Argus II, every day is interesting – every day is an experience. The year before I went to Belgium and Luxembourg, I was travelling and the Argus II was broken and I didn’t have the system for one or two weeks – it was hard being totally blind, I really missed the system.”
“All in all, Argus II has transformed my life for the better.”
Jeroen can also ski with the Argus II and he explains how a couple of years ago, he was able to go skiing and “see” and enjoy the Alpine landscape using the Argus II system.
“The one previous time I went skiing was back in 2003 when I still had a little bit of my own natural sight remaining before I went totally blind. I went skiing with a guide back in 2003 because of my poor sight. I am a beginner skier although I enjoy it a lot. This time, I also took a ski guide who uses verbal commands “left” “right” and “go”. But what was different this time is that when I used the Argus II system, I could ski a little easier than with my small amount of remaining sight – I found it easier this time than before. On three occasions when I was scanning the horizon to find my guide, I could follow the contours of the mountain and also I could see the outline of my guide. I could see him on three occasions – when we were skiing at an altitude of 2100 metres to 2200 metres. I could follow him visually when it was very sunny and there was a high contrast sensitivity for me to follow him visually. Most of the time I followed the guide’s voice but it was wonderful to actually see the guide. On the T bar lift – I saw the contours of it and I could see where I must go.”
“It is easier for me to see the outlines of objects when the atmosphere is full of light…I can’t see details, but it helps me navigate. The Argus II system, it`s a new chapter in my life. I felt like a winner when I was skiing. I’d love to be able to go skiing regularly – I was smiling and I very emotional – I got tearful because the system has given me something else that I can do pretty independently. Being in the mountains was really beautiful. I was scanning mountains when I went up on the cablecar to 3000 metres – I could see the mountains with all the snow – and I could see the light and dark of the mountains.”
“On Saturday night in Lausanne – my girlfriend Nanda and I were in the park on the hill there was a lake on one side and the city on the other side. I was scanning the lake: it was amazing on the other side – it was a very beautiful sight.”