Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Man Who Lost His Body

In 1971 Ian Waterman was a butcher on Jersey. He was nineteen, newly qualified and working flat out to make a go of the business. Then suddenly he went down with what seemed to be gastric flu. But it wasn’t. He became wobbly and weak. Within days he had collapsed and was in hospital, unable to move or feel his body.

He has never regained that feeling, yet against all the odds, he has made an apparently miraculous recovery. HORIZON tells Ian’s extraordinary story. Ian had contracted a disease of the nervous system so rare that the doctors on Jersey were unable to diagnose it. It had destroyed all the sensory nerves responsible for touch, and for conveying information about muscle and joint position, senses so fundamental to our capacity to move in the world that they have been called a sixth sense.



Without this “proprioception” we can have no inner sense of posture or limb position and cannot initiate or control movement. Ian was told that he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. But Ian wasn’t paralysed, and he was determined that he was going to lead as normal a life as he could. With the help of physiotherapists he discovered that he could regain control of his limbs through his eyes. So long as he could see the limbs he was moving, he could will his muscles into action and monitor their movements. Doggedly, he taught himself to stand and walk, to use cutlery and a pen, to pick up mugs of tea and to gesture convincingly while talking, but each movement required unfaltering conscious effort.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find, the use of the word miracle in this documentary takes away from the plight and struggle of the patient.
Otherwise, brilliant documentary.