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Date of amputation: 1988
Time post amputation: 9 years 3 months
Age 35 : Female
Hand lost in road accident: re-attachment attempted;
hand amputated 10 days later.
No previous damage to hand/arm
I was involved in a road accident in which my hand was found disconnected at the site of the accident. An attempt was made to reconnect it, but the lower arm was later lost through secondary infection. The amputation was only about a week & a half after the accident, but I had perhaps four operations in the six months after that to get the stump right. I have had the phantom ever since, although its not there all the time. When the pain increases it seems to be larger; it is definitely heavier than a normal limb. I can open and close my hand, and this helps to ease the pain. I seem to be able to move it like a normal limb, but the joints are very large, and its much stiffer. I am not aware of the wrist at all, not even aware that there is a wrist, but I can clench and move the fingers individually. At the time of the accident I was aware that my engagement ring cut into my finger, and that is still there. At first I used to get quite uptight that I must be crazy because I was imagining a hand there; but it is so definite that nobody can convince me that it is just in my mind. Especially when it is itching its so real that I feel as though I can actually scratch it. I can pin point where its itching, and yet I am aware that it is not there.
When I start trying to move the limb the phantom doesn't go with the part that I have got left. Most of the time the phantom just feels flat; I have to think about it to make it a solid form. I wasn't born like this and obviously I do miss my arm, yet sometimes the phantom pain makes me feel whole again.
Date of amputation: 1964
Time since amputation: 33 years
Age: 52 Male
Motor cycle accident: brachial plexus lesion
Arm amputated 4 months after accident
No previous damage to limb
At first I had a phantom limb whilst the arm was still there, because the arm was paralysed. The phantom used to float away from where the arm was. I was in a hospital bed and it would float through the bedclothes and get cold, so I developed this habit of sleeping on my right side so the phantom limb drifted into the mattress and stayed warm. At the beginning used to believe I could get the arm back. Now nearly all of the arm has disappeared, but if I am wearing the artificial arm and I swing my arms as I walk, the right arm swings.
If I can see the artificial hand out of the corner of my eye or I can feel it up against my leg the phantom hand is inside the glove. If I can't see the artificial hand I can be wrong; I could be six inches out as to the location of the hand: the phantom hand can miss the artificial one in terms of spatial placing. There is an intermittent crushing pain, but the phantom is always there. Its part of me; it will never go away completely. I will always be this; I will always have two arms, its just that one of them is missing. The real me is without the prosthesis. Its uncomfortable, its not me. It is surprising how one armed I look when I see photographs of myself. My self-image is two armed.
Date of amputation: 3 May 1988
Time post amputation: 9 years
Age: 35 Male
Complications following broken leg
Lower leg amputated 5 years after accident
No previous damage to limb
I was playing football and I received a fracture of the lower third tib. and fib. and complications set in. I suffered from a compartmental compression, which is a crushing of the nerves and arteries from the inside by fluids from the trauma of the break, and this went unnoticed. My circulation was affected: this went on for about five and a half years until I lost my leg. I could still feel massive pains in my foot the day after I had my leg amputated. I could feel all those pains but they couldn't have been there, they weren't there, it was psychological. The mind is carrying on as if your leg is still there, but it is not there, so those pains couldn't have been real.
I can remember walking down the street with my leg on, when I was actually capable of walking, and sometimes it felt as though my leg was really back. I could feel the vibration through the foot. Sometimes the phantom feels like my own leg, but it feels like having a dead piece of meat touching the floor. I can feel a vibration when the leg hits the floor, although I know its not there. Its basically a part of me which moves normally when I walk or run, although I feel my foot as it was after the accident when it was damaged. Sometimes it feels like there are bits of the foot there and sometimes there are bits missing. It seems real, as if I or someone else can touch it. Sometimes I put my foot up to put a sock on and there is no leg there. If something was falling I would go to move it out of the way. Sometimes it is useful because it brings back good memories: it brings you back down to earth again, and sometimes its a nuisance because of the pain.