Monday, June 23, 2008

Itchy The Killer

Atul Gawande's latest article in the New Yorker sounds like an awesome horror story. Phantom limbs, the nervous system and the science of pyschotic, compulsive and self-mutilating itching:
For M., the itching was so torturous, and the area so numb, that her scratching began to go through the skin. At a later office visit, her doctor found a silver-dollar-size patch of scalp where skin had been replaced by scab. M. tried bandaging her head, wearing caps to bed. But her fingernails would always find a way to her flesh, especially while she slept.

One morning, after she was awakened by her bedside alarm, she sat up and, she recalled, "this fluid came down my face, this greenish liquid." She pressed a square of gauze to her head and went to see her doctor again. M. showed the doctor the fluid on the dressing. The doctor looked closely at the wound. She shined a light on it and in M.'s eyes. Then she walked out of the room and called an ambulance. Only in the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital, after the doctors started swarming, and one told her she needed surgery now, did M. learn what had happened. She had scratched through her skull during the night--and all the way into her brain.


[via Jonah Lehrer, a bastard who isn't linking to the New Yorker article]

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