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07/31/2013 03:01 pm ET

Montreal Man Sees For First Time After Having Been Blind For 68 Years

Pierre-Paul Thomas didn't realize it at the time, but falling down a flight of stairs may have been the best thing he has ever done.

As a result of that fall two years ago, the Montreal man, born blind, can now see for the first time in his life.

Per the Montreal Gazette, Thomas' tumble broke bones throughout his face, necessitating the reconstruction of his eye sockets. Several months later, at a followup appointment evaluating the need for more surgery, Lucie Lessard, a doctor at Montreal General, asked, “Oh, while we’re at it, do you want us to fix your eyes, too?”

The 68-year-old man couldn't believe his ears.

From birth, Thomas had suffered from a condition caused by damaged optic nerves, cataracts and congenital nystagmus, a syndrome that leads to rapid, involuntary eye movements. Surgeries in his youth hadn't accomplished anything, so he'd given up hope.

Thomas had the surgery, and is now able to see -- an experience that he describes as overwhelming at times.

"I have to learn colours," Thomas told CBC News. "I reassure myself about what something is by checking with my fingers."

He told the Montreal Gazette that he was fascinated to see trees budding in the spring and tulips blooming.

"It's like I'm a child all over again," he said.

Dr. Miguel Burnier, a senior ophthalmologist at McGill University Health Center, told CBC that cases of this sort don't happen often.

"It's rare certainly, it's not frequent," he said. "We have seen, for example, patients that believe that they don't have any solutions for their case and then suddenly we do have a solution."

(h/t The Montreal Gazette)

Rare or no, Thomas is grateful -- WATCH an interview with him, above.

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