Author and Christy Award nominee (two nominations!) Jocelyn Green joins us again this week for a two-part series on phantom limb pain.
As an added bonus, Jocelyn has graciously offered to give away a personalized copy of her latest novel, Widow of Gettysburg, to one commentor. To enter, leave a comment on any of her posts WITH your e-mail address. Must live in the USA. Winner drawn midnight, Saturday, May 11th, 2013 and announced here at Redwood’s on May 12th, 2013.
Jocelyn has also graciously said she’ll send you a signed bookplate if you have any of her novels and would like one. Again, MUST have your e-mail.
You can view Jocelyn’s previous posts at Redwood’s here and here.
Welcome back, Jocelyn!
Though the phenomenon of phantom limb pain had been recorded long before the Civil War, it was Silas Weir Mitchell, a Philadelphia physician specializing in nerve injuries during the Civil War, who coined the term. Phantom limb pain, or PLP, occurs when a patient feels pain in an arm or leg that has been amputated. Mitchell studied PLP (or sensory hallucinations, as he also called them) in depth at the Turner’s Lane hospital in Philadelphia, dubbed the Stump Hospital because it focused on caring for amputees.
If a character in your story is an amputee, like one of my characters in Widow of Gettysburg, the following will be helpful to you.
What Mitchell Found
· Almost every amputee at Turner’s Lane Hospital experienced PLP.
· Most of them came out of anesthesia feeling the presence of the amputated limb.
· Those who did not immediately feel PLP usually felt it within three weeks.
· Usually, the patients felt the missing hand/foot but not the section of limb directly beyond the stump.
Mitchell wrote: “The patients describe themselves as knowing that they have a hand which is connected to a stump, and feel able to move it, but of the rest of the limb they are unconscious, and the subjective sensations which are so common are always referred to the hand or foot, and rarely to the continuity of the member.”
· In about one-third of the leg cases, and in one-half of the arm amputations, the patient felt that the foot or hand is nearer to the trunk than the extremity of the limb.
· The type of pain could be burning, itching, stabbing, or cramping.
· Missing legs usually felt as though they are hanging straight down, while missing arms felt as though they were bent at the elbow or locked in the last position they were in prior to the operation.
· Treatment of water dressings on the stump helped with burning sensations in some cases, but most efforts to relieve PLP were ineffectual.
· Amputee veterans wrote to Mitchell decades after their operations and shared that in their dreams, they had all their limbs perfectly whole.