How a Blind Woman Can Actually See… But Only When Things Are Moving

Milena Channing lost her eyesight in a stroke at 29 years old and is considered blind.

“When I woke, it was completely black, absolutely black,” she said.

Yet, not too long afterward, she found she could see something. She described to NPR how when giving her daughter a bath she could see the water moving.

At first, doctors told Channing the apparition-like images she said she was seeing must be hallucinations.

“You’re blind and that’s it,” Channing told NPR of what the doctors said.

But Channing didn’t believe that was the final answer. She could see rain. She could see steam coming from a coffee cup. She could see the ponytail of her daughter moving, but not her daughter herself. Later, she learned what she was seeing was real.

Channing can see her daughter and others moving, like a shadow with some color, but she can't see faces. (Image source: YouTube)
Channing can see her daughter and others moving, like a shadow with some color, but she can’t see faces. (Image source: YouTube)

Dr. Gordon Dutton told Channing that she was experiencing Riddoch’s phenomenon, which ophthalmologists have described as a condition where the “stimulus is perceived during movement but not with static presentation.” In other words, the patient can see something if it’s moving but not if it’s still. 

NPR reported the Dutton suggested she get a rocking chair, which did in fact help her see things more when she herself was in motion. Later, brain scans confirmed that the part of her brain that processes motion was not harmed in the stroke, unlike the part of her brain that processes stationary sight.

While not knowing what her daughter looks like it gets frustrating at times, Channing said she later thinks, “Oh well, at least I’m here.”

Watch NPR’s report about Channing, in which she describes how she sees the world now:


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