It’s safe to say that every person on the planet at some point in their lives will deal with an insecurity about themselves. Those who reach a certain age and save enough money may choose to have plastic surgery in order to correct what they see as imperfections, but for others, a nose job or breast augmentation isn’t enough to mold their bodies into perfection.
Hundreds of thousands of able-bodied people around the world look upon the physically disabled and covet their lives. From a young age they see people in wheelchairs, leg braces, or without limbs and wish that they, too, could live disabled. These people live with Body Integrity Identity Disorder, or BIID, and most keep their impulses to themselves because they don’t want to face public scrutiny.
Still, there are others who take amputation matters into their own hands because they were born with conditions that left them in pain or addictions they feel they can’t break. Those who identify with BIID are a part of a “transabled” movement that is gaining momentum as people are requesting doctors to perform amputation surgeries even though they don’t have any illnesses or physical ailments that require surgery. Many therapists diagnose those with BIID as having other emotional or mental disorders, causing the sufferers to resort to dealing with their issues in solitude or in support groups with others who have the same desires.
These stories of real people who cut, sawed, or even shot themselves in order to reach their limbless goals will make you squirm in disgust, but for them they feel as if having a missing body part has made them whole.
15. Chloe Jennings-White
When Chloe Jennings-White was 4, she first felt that she shouldn’t have legs that worked. Even as a small child, she wondered what life would be like if her legs were no longer mobile because it would be then that her body would feel complete. She would see disabled children and envy their lives, and when she saw her aunt who wore leg braces, she would become jealous of her immobility.
Just five years later Chloe made a plan. She got on her bike and rode it off a stage in an attempt to paralyze herself. She was upset when she walked away from the accident with nicks and cuts, but she was still determined to one day complete her goal.
Now at almost 60, the Cambridge and Stanford University graduate takes risks whenever she has the chance, hoping that one day her living on the edge lifestyle will cripple her permanently. As an avid skier she takes to the most dangerous mountains and attempts daredevil moves trying to hurt herself. “Doing any activity that brings a chance of me becoming paraplegic gives me a sense of relief from the anxiety caused by the BIID,” she said.
Chloe likes to get around in a wheelchair or using crutches, spending most of her time wearing leg braces and not using the bottom half of her body. She found a doctor that is willing to cut her sciatic and femoral nerves to disable her legs, but she’s saving up for the $25,000 surgery. “I don’t know why it upsets people,” she said. “It’s the same as a transsexual man having his penis cut off. It’s never coming back, but they know it’s what they want.”
14. Jewel Shuping
Like Chloe, Jewel Shuping’s desire to have a disability began when she was a little girl. When Jewel was born she was a healthy baby girl, but by the time she entered childhood she had an overwhelming desire to be blind.
When she turned 21 her desire turned into an obsession. She couldn’t take having the ability to see so she found a psychologist who helped her dream come true. In 2006, Jewel and the sympathetic psychologist met for two weeks to make sure this is what Jewel really wanted, and then during a session, the psychologist poured drain cleaner into Jewel’s eyes. They waited 30 minutes before seeking medical attention and now Jewel is completely blind.
“I really feel this is the way I was supposed to be born, that I should have been blind from birth,” she said. “It hurt, let me tell you. My eyes were screaming and I had some drain cleaner going down my cheek burning my skin,” Jewel said. “All I could think was, ‘I am going blind, it is going to be okay.'”
13. Mariah Serrano
New York resident and 21-year-old Maria Serrano was born with a club foot that had given her pain all of her life. She grew up dreaming of a career in fashion and she hoped that one day she would be able to wear shoes like other young women her age.
She made the decision to have her leg amputated and replaced with a prosthetic limb so that she could finally wear a pair of high heels. People born with a club foot are able to wear leg braces or have surgeries as children in order to help correct the condition, but by the time Maria made it to 16-years-old, her doctors couldn’t see any improvement after undergoing five operations. She opted for voluntary amputation and had her surgery in the summer of 2009.
12. “One Hand Jason”
Of the thousands of people who live their lives as BIID amputees, “Jason” is one that is comfortable sharing his story, but not with using his real name. He allowed his friend to interview him about his condition and decision to get rid of one of his hands.
Jason said that ever since he was young, he felt that his hand was a birth defect and felt as if he had to remove it by cutting it off right above the wrist. The people closest to him don’t even know the true story of how he lost his hand. He told them that it was an accident, but what he failed to mention is that he staged the whole thing.
“I don’t want to be hugely specific, but I used a very sharp power tool, after having tried out different methods of crushing and cutting,” he said. “I know first aid so I was able to stop the bleeding with pressure, but I was worried that I could pass out and not call for help and lose too much blood. No worries, though, I guess I’m in good enough shape that I didn’t even feel dizzy.”
He wanted to make sure that the injury was so severe that surgeons would be unable to reattach his hand and practiced how he would sever his limb using animal legs he bought from a butcher.
“As a little kid, I soon learned that I was the odd one out, and that amputation was a bad thing,” he said in his interview. “My parents reprimanded me for staring at amputations, but it was totally mesmerizing for me. Somehow I made it through high school, with hormones and peer pressure doing their best to mask my feelings.”
After a little practice, he found the perfect way to rid himself of his “defect” and successfully chopped off his hand. He has no plans on getting rid of any other limbs and now feels as if his body is just right.
Not everyone who wants voluntary amputation surgery suffers from BIID. A man named Patrick didn’t have a problem with any of his limbs, except for his hand that he couldn’t use any longer. With no feeling in his hand, Patrick felt as if he was carrying around dead weight and thought he would get more use out of a synthetic hand. In his case, doctors were more willing to help him with his request.
After speaking with doctors and specialists, he was able to have his surgery and was fitted for a brain-controlled prosthetic. Unlike those that wanted to get rid of their limbs because they didn’t feel as if they should have been on their bodies, Patrick just wanted a replacement that was more fitting for his life. He’s able to use his hands for almost all of his needs from large to small including the things we take for granted such as tying his shoes.
10. Aron Ralston
While he was literally between a rock and a hard place, Aron Ralston made the difficult decision to cut off his own arm in order to once again see freedom. All he had was a blunt pocket knife which he used to cut through skin, flesh, and muscle before he broke his bone, severed his nerve, and cut through the rest of his arm. If that wasn’t fascinating enough, wrap your mind around the fact that the mountain climber recorded the whole thing with his phone, hiked through the rest of the canyon, and had to rappel down a cliff before he was able to find help.
His story was played out in the film 127 Hours, titled after how long he was trapped in the Blue John Canyon in Utah before he freed his forearm from a dislodged boulder. James Franco played him in the film and acted out the gruesome scene so believably it earned the movie a MA15+ rating.
9. Zheng Yanliang
Sometimes people go to drastic measures in order to help themselves when they feel as if there isn’t any other option, such as the case was for Zhend Yanliang. The farmer, who also worked in a factory, began having pains in his legs in 2012. After multiple visits to the hospital, doctors told him that he had an arterial embolism and because there was no cure for his condition, the only thing they could do was amputate. If he didn’t go through with the procedure he would only have three months to live.
There was a problem: the modest man couldn’t afford the surgery. The pain in his leg increased until he couldn’t take it anymore. Neighbors told a news station that they would hear him screaming in agony in the middle of the night and his painkillers weren’t helping at all. Yanliang made a decision that many people couldn’t even think about. One day he bit down on a piece of wood while he took a metal saw and a knife and cut off his leg.
When his wife found him, he was bleeding profusely and he’d bitten down on the wood so hard three of his teeth had fallen out. She rushed him to the hospital and he recovered nicely, only for doctors to tell him he had the same condition in his other leg. Before Yanliang took out his handy saw and knife once again, another surgeon who saw the farmer’s story in the newspaper agreed to perform the second amputation surgery in a more sterile environment for free.
Unlike many others on this list, it wasn’t until “John” (not his real name) was a teenager that he just knew he was meant to become an amputee. As a child he did play games alone where he pretended to be missing limbs, but he didn’t have a cognizant realization about his disorder until later on.
He talked to Vice about his discomfort of having a limb that he didn’t believe was supposed to be there, admitting that it’s an “odd” feeling. “Every step felt odd and it even felt odd sitting,” John said. “If I got busy I would forget about it but the feeling would come back as soon as I stopped. There were periods when the feeling was less troubling and times when it was worse.”
He hopped online and found groups on Yahoo! where he met other people like him. Although he would have loved to have a painless surgery, doctors are reluctant to carefully remove body parts without there being a clinical reason to do so. At 15 he made the plan to fall off his bike and have a train run over his leg. He didn’t go through with it, but without getting into too many details, he did reveal how he was able to rid himself of his burdensome leg.
“I was super nervous. I just knew that somehow three dozen lead pellets would find their way through my leg,” he said. “I was so nervous I almost threw up, but I knew it would give me the best chance to relieve my discomfort, so I counted to three. Later, when it was done, I was awash with relief. It was over and I was free.”
7. “Max Price”
A first glance, Santa Fe, New Mexico graphic designer “Max Price” (again, not his real name) looks like anyone’s typical next door neighbor. However, for years Max was secretly dealing with his BIID, admitting that his need to cut off his leg became an obsession in his life.
Like others who suffer from Max’s condition, the graphic designer took it upon himself to remove his leg, and his method was by using a log splitter. If that sounds painful — it was. According to Max, it was also quite messy. He still refers to the incident, which happened over ten years ago, as an “accident” and said that he treated his wound and drove himself to the emergency room for help after only partially amputating himself.
Unfortunately for him the doctors rushed to his aid did what they could to successfully reattach his leg. He lived with his heavy load for another six months before he encountered multiple complications with his reattachment and he found a surgeon that agreed he would live a healthier and more painless lifestyle if his leg was removed.
6. Little Wang
It’s safe to say that we live in a culture that relies heavily on the internet. As the years go on there are more people who are diagnosed with having internet addictions and therapists are treating more people who can’t seem to stay offline.
One of those individuals was a 19-year-old young man who goes by the name “Little Wang.” According to the Jiangsu TV channel Little Wang went to extreme measures to control his compulsions by cutting off his own hand with a knife he found in his parent’s kitchen.
“We cannot accept what has happened. It was completely out of the blue. He was a smart boy,” his mother told reporters.
She detailed the story by saying that she went to see her son in his bedroom around 11:00 p.m. but he wasn’t there. All she found was a handwritten note that read, “Mom, I have gone to hospital for a while. Don’t worry. I will definitely come back this evening.”
She later found out that her son had taken the knife and chopped off his hand at the wrist somewhere outside of the home on a bench, called a taxi, and then was transported to another location where he disposed of his hand. Investigators were able to later locate his dismembered hand and reattach it, although there was no guarantee if it would have the same mobility as before.
5. George Boyer
People who take amputation into their own hands run the risk of dying during their staged accidents, and if it wasn’t for George Boyer’s landlady, he might not have been here today. In September of 1992 George had come to the end of his rope in trying to figure out how he could live his life in bliss without his leg. After much research George figured out his method of removal: a shotgun.
He planned everything down to the very last detail and made his way to his backyard with his cordless phone so that he could call for help. He aimed his shotgun in the perfect place that would have the least amount of pain and blood loss and pulled the trigger. He tied a tourniquet around his leg but forgot that his cordless phone doesn’t work in his backyard and almost bled to death.
The Grim Reaper was knocking on George’s door when he was found and rushed to the hospital. He was there for 10 days while doctors tried to reattach and reconstruct his blown up limb but in the end they couldn’t avoid amputating his leg at the hip.
4. Kevin Wright
At eight-years-old, Kevin Wright didn’t feel like his leg was supposed to be a part of his body. “I didn’t understand why, but I knew I didn’t want my leg,” he said. Other BIID sufferers in his position live uncomfortably while searching for a physician who will aid them in their quest to remove a limb, but Kevin got lucky and found a surgeon in Scotland who was willing to do the job.
When Kevin was almost 40-years-old the doctor removed one of Kevin’s legs, claiming that he was helping sooth the emotional pain Kevin had been living with for his entire life, even though there was nothing physically wrong with him. Kevin said that he was worn down and desperate for help so he was happy to meet someone who sympathized with his plight.
Kevin underwent surgery in September of 1997 at the Falkirk Royal Infirmary. “Of course I am not a different person now, but I might well be,” Kevin said. “I have happiness and contentment and life is so much more settled, so much easier.”
3. Phillip Bondy
This is the tragic tale of Phillip Bondy, a man with BIID whose last-ditch effort to amputate his leg led him to the offices of Dr. John Ronald Brown in Tijuana, Mexico. The 79-year-old New Yorker waited eight decades to finally have this surgery that would make him feel comfortable with his body, but not long after his operation he was found dead in his hotel room in National City, California. The coroner later revealed that Bondy’s cause of death was gas gangrene.
Bondy’s friend, another BIID sufferer, was the one who came across Bondy’s body. This person, too, was supposed to have surgery performed by Dr. Brown but at the very last minute changed their mind. When police searched Brown’s apartment in San Ysidro they found hundreds of bottles of super glue, a number of blood-soaked towels, and videos of Brown’s poorly performed operations.
Brown was charged in California for second-degree murder and during his trial the neglect in Bondy’s surgery was revealed. Another surgeon who helped the prosecution told the court that Brown didn’t leave enough skin to cover Bondy’s bone and stump, so the skin flap was overstretched and didn’t allow enough blood flow. The flap would die and an infection that produced gangrene developed.
2. Danielle Bradshaw
Teenage athlete Danielle Bradshaw was born with a dislocated right knee and developmental dysplasia in both her hips. Throughout her life, without notice, her hips would often slip out of place and her right leg was unstable. Because she was in so much pain and had trouble walking, Danielle had doctors amputate the lower half of her right leg in 2010.
Her physician fitted her for a prosthetic limb and for the first time Danielle was able to enjoy sports, specifically sprinting. However, that wasn’t the end of Danielle’s amputation requests from her surgeons. When she turned 15 the pressure on her left leg from running track was extremely painful because her foot has severe tendon damage and deformed toes that slowed her down on the track. In order to run faster and compete in the Paralympic Games one day, Danielle requested for her doctors to amputate her left foot as well.
1. The Case Of “Karl”
“Karl” (not his real name) is living the life he always dreamed of with the legless body he always thought he was supposed to have. It was back in 2000 when Karl had had enough with his walking life and, while sitting alone in his parked car with 100 pounds of dry ice, Karl’s journey began.
“The first thing I did was I used a wooden flour scoop to scoop some granulated dry ice into the bucket,” he said. “It filled the wastebasket with carbon dioxide gas, which was 79 degrees below zero.”
The former college chemistry major placed his legs into the large wastebasket, frequently adding more dry ice for 45 minutes until it was filled to the brim. “I spent the next six hours well-packed in the dry ice, and then I’d add more dry ice to keep it topped off.”
Beforehand Karl installed automatic hand controls into his vehicle so that he could drive himself to the hospital once the six hours ended. Days later Karl’s legs were black and decaying, so they didn’t have any other choice but to amputate. He now feels his body is the way it was meant to be.
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