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Date of amputation: 18 July 1996
Time since amputation: 1 year
Age: 27 Male
Motor cycle accident
Foot lost in accident; amputated on arrival at hospital
No previous damage to limb
It was a motorbike accident: I don't remember anything about the actual accident at all, only what people told me afterwards. Apparently a child on a push bike came across the road at a blind bend, and as I avoided him I collided with an on-coming car. The phantom is a very bizarre, changing, random image of a blurred foot: a blurred sort of leg. Its as if the leg has gone to sleep and you can still feel your foot although you can't feel the touch: you can still feel the presence of the foot. It is actually very painful. It doesn't feel like a real foot; it feels like a numb foot, but you can feel the presence of everything. I can pull my toes up, push my toes forward, rotate my foot: all movements that a foot and ankle would be able to do. I can feel as if my toes are pushing down my boot, but I can't feel the intimate sensation of touch.
One thing that I have been able to feel with the phantom is water. When I am in the bath and my leg is under water I can feel it eddying round the toes, and a sensation of the water going through the hairs of my leg. Its quite bizarre, quite pleasant. I see the phantom as a useful thing because it gives me good foot placing with my false leg. This is the only remnant of my leg there is; despite the pain I don't want it to go. I can imagine it disappearing, and I feel a bit fearful.
Date of amputation: July 1994
Time post amputation: 3 years
Age: 64 Male
Soft tissue sarcoma
No recollection of previous damage to arm
It started with a swollen wrist which came up overnight and was very painful. The pain diminished and it was virtually ignored for the next year, but then it turned out to be a sarcoma. I had an exploratory operation and radiotherapy. After two years I started to get lumps again in different places: it obviously wasn't going to go away. It was still below the elbow but getting close to it, so it was decided that the only way of being fairly sure of getting rid of it was to amputate. It feels as though the arm is still there, bent at right angles at the elbow. It is as if it is encased in plaster or a tight bandage from just above the elbow to the fingertips The arm will move laterally, but I can't change the angle of the bend.
The phantom and the prosthetic arm are two independent arms. Bending or straightening the prosthesis makes no difference to the phantom, but if I can't move the stump I can't move the phantom. When the stump is angled backwards the phantom passes through my body to the back: the actual position of the stump affects the position of the phantom. I only notice the phantom if I think about it or if it is doing one of its twinges; otherwise it is not there. The wrist where the intense radiotherapy was done is more noticeable than any other part of it. The phantom doesn't respond to anything. Its just there. I can't scratch it, I can't hit it, I can't do anything with it; its not there except that it feels as though it is there. I know it is mine because I can move it, but I don't really regard it as part of myself.
Date of amputation: 10 February 1997
Time post amputation: 7 months
Age 23: Male
Explosion of home made firework in hand
No previous damage to arm
I was making my own fireworks: bangers & different items and as I was putting one together it detonated. The resulting blast broke my right hand and there wasn't a lot left of my left to reconstruct, so when they gave me a choice of reconstruction or amputation I chose amputation.
I was expecting my wrist to be sore where they had actually removed to. I wasn't expecting sensation in my hand that was no longer there. They have been trying to control it at the pain clinic, with no success so far. The pain starts in the palm of my hand and it radiates in a pins & needles feeling out towards my finger tips. Then it' seems to sit under my finger nails. The only thing that removes the phantom is going to sleep. From waking up to going to sleep it's constantly in the back of my mind saying 'I am here: something is wrong and it hurts'.
It's a long wrist amputation, so I can move the guiders for the fingers and when I think I am moving my thumb I can actually feel it moving. I can hold my stump and think that I am touching my hand. It's annoying because I know it's not there, but my brain won't listen to what I am trying to tell it. I suppose I do regard it as part of myself, although I would rather get rid of it.