Odd things, daily.
When New Jersey woman Karen Byrne was 27 she underwent surgery. Her corpus callosum, a band of nervous fibres that bridge the two hemispheres of the brain, was severed in an attempt to cure her epilepsy. She was left with a completely different problem. Karen’s own hand turned against her.
Now 55, Karen suffers from “Alien Hand Syndrome” (AHS), a rare neurological disorder in which one hand functions involuntarily from the rest of the body. When her corpus callosum was severed, so was the connection between hemispheres of the brain. A power struggle ensued between the two halves of her brain, resulting in her unruly left hand.
Karen recalls the moments after the operation when she realised something was amiss. “Dr. O’Connor said, ‘Karen, what are you doing?’ … Until then I had no idea that my left hand was opening the buttons on my shirt. So I started re-buttoning with the right hand and as soon as I stopped the left hand started unbuttoning them again.”
Karen’s condition only got worse from there. “I’d light a cigarette, balance it on an ashtray, and then my left hand would reach forward and stub it out. It would take things out of my handbag and I wouldn’t realise so I would walk away. I lost a lot of things before I realised what was going on.”
Karen’s hand then tried to choke, slap and punch her. She would occasionally wake to find the hand strangling her.
Although there is no cure for AHS, Karen is on medication to keep her left hand in check.