Saturday, May 30, 2009

Phantom arm

I first heard about phantom limbs when I read the splendid Phantoms in the Brain by V. S. Ramachandran a couple of years back.  (If you are as jobless as me and have a couple of hours to spare, you can listen to this 2006 interview with Dr.Ramachandran. He is an engaging speaker.) It was then that I realised that I also had a phantom arm when I regained consiousness. But my phantom was different from the ones that I had read about - it was not that of a missing arm but of an extra right arm on which I was lying.  

I used to wonder why I was being made to sleep on my right arm but when I looked at my right side I could see my right arm lying freely.  I did not know what to make of it.  Anyway I could not tell anyone anything. I thought it might be because the sheet had got crumpled and it would be rectified when the sheet was changed. But it was the same story even after that.

Fortunately I did not experience any pain, just the discomfort of sleeping on some thick object. It disappeared after a few days - I don't remember how many days it lasted. In fact, I don't remember much about it - how thick it was, whether it was complete, what happened to it when  I was turned to the sides...

When I learnt to communicate, I did not mention anything about this.  People had just about accepted the fact that I was ok mentally.  If I had told them about a non existant arm they would have quickly concluded that the poor guy had an addled brain after all. I had forgotten all about it and remembered it only when I read Ramachandran's book and realised that it was a real phenomenon.      

I have since learnt that a phantom of an extra limb is called a supernumerary phantom limb. People seem to develop phantoms of all sorts of body parts. The most bizzare case I read about was of a guy having delusions of a second jaw. It must have been really disconcerting to think that you are turning into a moray eel.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Suresh & Jayashree,

    Your blog encouraged my brother,Mohan (Raman's friend)to be more positive about his health & attitude towards life. Thank you!
    Dr.V.S. Ramachandran is an engaging speaker. Listened to just half the interview .You write very well and have a great sense of humor :)....have read all your posts so far.
    Waiting to read your next post!