To Beg For Amputation
Science is not even close to figuring out why people suffer from what's being called Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). I think before you can understand the biology and/or psychology behind this terrible sickness, you need to understand a sufferer's struggles.
Below are some exceprts from Susan Smith's article:
I was six when I first became aware of my desire to lose my legs. I don't remember what started it - there was no specific trigger. Most people want to change something about themselves, and the image I have of myself has always been one without legs.
As a teenager, in the privacy of my own home, I used to play by myself at being an amputee. I would pretend I had one leg, strapping the other one up behind me and wearing oversize trousers so there was no shape.
Two years ago, I told [my husband] that now was the time and I was going to remove my left leg. My first attempt was in March 2005. Of course I was scared of dying, but I had got to a point in my life where I could no longer fight it.
First I needed to freeze and kill the leg so that surgeons would amputate it afterwards. I ordered dry ice pellets. I put on layers of pantyhose, because you do not want it sticking to you, spread it in the back of the car and sat with my leg immersed in it for one hour. The pain was indescribable: it hurt so much I passed out a few times. I was scared, but more so of failure.
I had not damaged the leg enough to have it amputated in hospital, so the following September I made a second attempt, and this time I stayed in the dry ice for four hours. My husband drove me to hospital, but they refused to amputate. Incredibly, they said the wounds were superficial and that I would be walking within a few months.
I slowly recovered my strength back at home. But the leg became so infected that there was a danger of the bacteria getting into the bloodstream and killing me. After nine months of agony, I told my GP that if I didn't see someone fast, I would take off the leg myself. Within two days I had an appointment with a different surgeon.
The amputation, last June, went without a problem, and my left leg was removed from just above the knee. I felt better as soon as I came round.
I already feel more complete now that one leg is off. I have always been an outgoing kind of person, but my confidence is much higher now as my body is more like I want it to be. Removing the next leg will not be any easier than the first; the pain will be horrendous. But I have no regrets about the path I have chosen. In fact, if I regret anything, it is that I didn't do this sooner. For the first time in my life, I can get on with being the real me.
Susan's experience carries the typical BIID symptoms. This seems to begin in childhood, around 5 or 6 years old. There are several theories as to the cause of BIID, but this is such a relatively new mental illness and modern medicine doesn't have all the answers. The three prevailing theories are:
1. A child sees an amputee and somehow, that transfers to the child's mind that this is the ideal body image.
2. A child sees the attention and sympathy an amputee receives and longs for that as well. This soon becomes a strong desire to become an amputee.
3. Finally, there's a some sort of short-circuit in the brain's cerebral cortex that's in control of a child's limbs.
There are no official treatments for BIID. A person with this illness will simply try to figure out a way to have their limbs removed. Some will beg a surgeon to do it, others will become so desperate like Susan, they hurt themselves so that a doctor will have no choice but to amputate.
But there's a personal liberty issue involved with this. Is the desire to amputate a limb much diffreent than any other form of self-mutilation like getting a tatoo or any body piercing? Many would suggest that it's a person's right to have an arm or leg amputated if that makes the person happy and feel complete.
Regardless, hopefully modern medicine can begin to unravel this disorder and provide more help to its sufferers.