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.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I am sane

Sorry for the delay.  Some painting and cleaning work was going on in our house and Jaya was roaming around holding a mop and broom in her hands - not the ideal implements for blogging, you will agree. You can expect such excuses from me once in a while. The work is still pending so don't be surprised if the next post also gets delayed. There, I have given you my excuse in advance!

Continuing from where we had left last,  when I was recovering consciousness no one knew what mental state I would be in.  So the first item on everyone's agenda when I became sufficiently alert was to determine whether I was nuts or not.

A doctor told me to blink once if the answer to his question was Yes and to stare unblinkingly if the answer was No. Then they started quizzing me.  

- Are you able to understand what we speak? One blink - Yes
- Is your name Suresh? One blink -> Yes
- Is this your wife? One blink  ->  Yes
- Can you feel the sensations? (A few pokes) One blink -> Yes
- Are you feeling cold? No blink -> No
- Are you working in Indian Bank?  I did not know how to answer this question because I was working in Indbank which was a subsidary of Indian Bank and many people used to refer to it also as Indian Bank.  Fortunately someone asked if I was working in Indbank. One blink -> Yes. 
Soon it became clear that I did not belong to the realm of the living dead.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The fog lifts

I was unconscious for about 2 weeks.  I am told that I had all sorts of tubes connected to me.  But when I regained consciousness I only had the tracheostomy, the ryles tube and urine catheter. 

Unlike Rip Van Winkle, I did not wake up suddenly one day and wonder what I was doing in a hospital.  I surfaced slowly and gradually everything around me became clearer.  I don't know how long this took.  At that time I did not know how long it had been since I had fainted in the bathroom. After a few days, I  learnt that I had suffered a brain stem stroke.  I knew only vaguely about strokes and knew nothing about the brain stem. 

At this time I used to look frequently at a rectangular patch on the wall opposite to me trying to figure out what it was.  Each day it will became a bit more clear but I could not understand what it was.  One day it suddenly clicked into focus: it was just an ordinary electrical board!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jaya returns to Coimbatore

Jaya got a call from my sister saying that I had been taken to the hospital. She contacted my office to find out what had happened. They had not heard about the incident and promised to get back to her after they had enquired about it. They found out all the details and informed her about the situation.

It being vacation time, there was no transport available out of Hyderabad. Finally a taxi agreed to bring Jaya, Sujit and her parents to Coimbatore. They kept checking with the hospital for updates and were told that all tests were normal.

Obviously, the car developed some mechanical problem about 60kms from Coimbatore at a place where nothing was available including phones. (At that time, mobile phones were not as ubiquitous as they are now.) Folks in the hospital were worried when the car was delayed and checked with the police to find out if there were any accidents reported on the route. They heaved a sigh of relief when the car finally arrived about six hours late.

For the sake of brevity, I have skipped all the drama and stuck to the bare facts.