Elderly colorblind man sees color after hitting head

YAKIMA, Wash. -- It's a medical mystery in Yakima. Local doctors don't understand how it happened, but after hitting his head in a bad fall, a color blind man is now seeing everything in technicolor.

Richard Riggs has been a life-long musician. Playing the violin since the age of five, and a music teacher for the last 45 years.

While his keen sense of hearing has allowed him to appreciate the sounds of music, his sense of sight hasn't been the sharpest, being colorblind since birth.

But all the changed with an unexpected turn of events.

"As a 70 year old man I fall quite a lot, as a matter of fact, cause my legs are not strong," said Riggs.

But a recent fall and hard hit to the head somehow changed his vision for the better.

"I've been colorblind since I was born, and at age 70 I see colors of the rainbow now," said Riggs. "I see shades of pastel, I see a girl with the pink hair right here in this store."

Now Riggs has a whole new world of colors to explore.

"Every March we take a trip to Hawaii, I can't wait to get there with my new color sense and watch the flowers...and the bikinis," said Riggs.

Curious if something like this has happened before, KIMA contacted Dr. Ross Bethel from Selah Family Medicine to ask about color blindness.

He says it's caused by a genetic pigment defect in the retina of the eye, so falling can't really cure someone. Yet unable to explain the phenomenon, he suspects it may actually be that after hitting his head he perceives colors differently than before, possibly from a concussion from the fall.

However it happened, Rich is enjoying his new sight.

"The old-fashioned Walt Disney slogan was, 'The world is a carousel of color,' I get it now, I'm seeing the world that way," said Riggs.

Richard Riggs has lived in Yakima since 1966. He has a doctorate in education from Columbia University, and has played the violin, among other instruments at all the local clubs.