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  1. Hillsborough

Forest Hills man seeks new sight through innovation

Star Barineau, right, hopes to raise enough money to purchase a special pair of vision enhancing glasses to help her son, Donny Capelle, regain his sight. Capelle has been legally blind since a 2010 motorcycle accident. LARRY FELDMAN | Special to the Times
Published Oct. 31, 2018

FOREST HILLS — Always a cautious biker, Donny Capelle put on his protective helmet, leather riding jacket, boots and gloves when he boarded his motorcycle one fateful morning in June 2010.

As he departed his Brooksville home, he experienced the same sense of safety and comfort as the other countless mornings he made that same trip.

But Capelle had driven less than a mile from his home when an unknown vehicle struck him head on. His motorcycle flew into the air and landed in a ditch. The driver sped away leaving his body mangled, bleeding and unconscious.

It didn't take long for a passerby to see the aftermath and immediately call for emergency rescue.

The accident left him inches from death.

Paramedics raced Capelle to Tampa General Hospital where he spent the next 41 days in the intensive care unit.

On a 24-hour ventilator, multiple trauma doctors and nurses surrounded his severely damaged and comatose body. His friends gathered outside his room. Many prayed for a miracle that he would endure.

•••

Capelle, now 49, did survive, but the accident left him with a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) that now affects his short-term memory. He also had broken ribs, a lacerated liver, and multiple compound fractures to his right arm. What's more, he's legally blind in both eyes.

Starr Barineau, Capelle's loving mother, proved to be a special miracle, staying at his bedside until doctors released him.

"For him to survive, I knew I had to be strong for Donny and the entire family," said Barineau, as tiny tears rolled down her cheek. "I am no longer just his mother. I am his legal guardian as well."

As a result of his injuries, including his impaired sight, Capelle now requires 24-hour care.

He did not have enough insurance at the time of the accident to cover the enormous cost of on-going treatment. So, he relies on his mother and step-father Buck for emotional and physical support while living with them in Forest Hills.

•••

Barineau, diligent in her son's daily care, found a new innovation on the Internet from a company called eSight. The company developed and sells an optical device that has the technology to assist a person with low vision to see in greater clarity and color.

Worn like a normal pair of glasses, they house a high-speed, high-definition camera that captures everything the wearer looks at and then displays it on two near-to-eye displays that can be adjusted to the viewer's needs.

Advanced, medically-validated algorithms optimize and enhance the footage so that the individual's eyes can truly see it, and in real-time.

Company spokesman Eric Down said eSight works to enable everyone who is visually impaired to have true independence.

•••

Barineau was elated about the product and its life-changing prospects for her son until learning of eSight's $10,000 price tag.

Despite the sticker shock, she accepted an invitation from the company to let son try the glasses at its Tampa in Woodland Park Executive Center off of Waters Avenue.

However, the eSight representative reminded her the glasses might not work for Capelle. Undaunted, the brave mother and son drove to the appointment with hope and promise.

"Don't worry Donny, if these work for you we will find a way to get the money," said his optimistic mother.

•••

They arrived at the location and met product demonstrator, Rick Pam. He explained to Capelle what he was going to do. He had to put the glasses on him and then he needed to sit still until he could adjust them.

He asked Capelle if he could see him, he said he thought so. Pam told him he needed him to read the eye chart. He adjusted the glasses and Capelle said he could see the letters.

"I was in tears," said Barineau.

Capelle read the 20/20 line, turned to his mother and realized it was the first time he had seen her in eight years.

"Mom, you've gotten old," he uttered.

•••

With the unbelievable success of the demonstration, Barineau reviewed her lacking finances with Pam.

He then offered a funding website page sponsored by the company. It enables family, friends and local organizations to donate to Capelle in order for him to reach his financial goal and receive the glasses.

"I want the eSight so I can see all the people that I have missed seeing for so long," said a hopeful Capelle. "I want to be able to walk around without bumping into things. I will be able to actually see, see my family and friends.

"I want to see Christmas again, that will be a real miracle."

To date, Donny Capelle has raised $6,100 toward his goal. If you wish to donate to help him purchase the glasses, please go to giving.esighteyewear.com/starr-barineau.

Contact Mike Merino at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

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