MIAMI – It's estimated that nearly 1.3 Americans are legally blind.
Now a doctor in Florida is helping people who have no other treatment options regain some vision using a unique procedure, using stem cells and patients are saying seeing is believing.
Alison Milianta lost her vision due to a brain tumor a few years ago.
"You panic, it's almost like you're in an earthquake, it's like everything is closing in on you," Milianta said.
That's when she found retinal specialist Jeffrey Weiss, MD.
"I will not accept that somebody is blind and that's it. In 2010, I did the first ocular retinal stem cell surgery in Düsseldorf, Germany," said Dr. Weiss.
Since then, Dr. Weiss says his procedure is now FDA compliant in the United States. Dr. Weiss uses stem cells from the patient's own bone marrow.
He explained, "These are your stem cells, you do not need to be immunosuppressed."
Then he injects the stem cells around each eye, letting the growth factors go to work.
Dr. Weiss continued, "Once the cells are there they may stimulate the remaining cells that are already present to start functioning again."
He says it typically takes four to six months for patients to see improvement. Alicia Johnson lost her vision at age nine and traveled to Florida from Tennessee for her first procedure in 2016.
Johnson said, "The blind spot is not as big as it was, I'm not tripping over things."
She's back for a second procedure with the hope of someday driving again.
"I went out and bought a little Volkswagen which I've always wanted, convertible," Johnson laughed.
Giving hope to those living in the dark.
Dr. Weiss treats many conditions that cause blindness and reviews a patient's records for free, although the procedure is not covered by insurance and costs just under $20,000.
Dr. Weiss' stem cell procedure is registered with the National Institutes of Health.