Monday, July 15, 2013

wee little kittens

Janet Simpson is sitting in her wheelchair in the bedroom. She smiles when we walk in and introduce ourselves. There’s a balance to her as solid as the wheelchair itself, an enveloping kind of patience, something that has come to terms with the loss of a leg, a stroke and a slew of other complications. She adjusts the fall of her pleated skirt.
‘How can we help?’ I ask her.
She shrugs.
‘Well, I don’t really know if you can. It’s all a bit…’ She tails off, and gently shakes her head.
Mr Simpson is standing in the doorway.
‘I’m sorry to call you out,’ he says, ‘but we were all a bit worried with these things Janet’s been seeing.’
‘I’m not worried,’ she says.
‘Kittens,’ says Mr Simpson.
‘Kittens? Where?’
Janet sighs.
‘Wee little kittens. So big,’ she says, holding her hands about a hamster’s width apart. ‘They sit over there, amongst the TV cables, playing, messing about, you know.’
‘Can you see them now?’
She nods.
‘But it’s not all the time. And then sometimes I see these worm-like creatures. They writhe about, up the walls, across the ceiling. I don’t like those so much. And then sometimes it’s swarms of creatures, creatures I’ve never seen before, flying in through the window.’ She shrugs again. ‘I prefer the kittens.’
‘We thought it might be something to do with her stroke,’ says Mr Simpson. ‘She’s quite calm about it all, though. She just seems a bit put out we can’t see them, too.’

‘Wouldn’t you be?,’ she says, then smiles up at us. ‘What are you going to do with me? The Loony Bin, I suppose.’


Sabine said...

UTI? I am serious.

MrTomVee said...

Odd. She seems quite composed about the fact that sje's having hallucinations. I wonder if that is despite or becuase she understands that these are not real? The armchair neurologist in me is vorrting for the earlier.
I guess if more people could tell hallucinations apart from real kittens and worms, your job would be a lot easier at times.

Daniel Rutter said...

The only upside of losing your eyesight is that you may gain entertaining hallucinations. Just as you (well, I, at least) can start seeing things in the dark when you've had no visual stimulation for some time, the brain can start making up more and more elaborate things when an input channel goes dark.

The visual version is "Charles Bonnet syndrome", I think; the deafness version where you start hearing music from nowhere is "musical ear syndrome".

(There's also "Anton-Babinski syndrome", where you're blind but because of brain damage have the delusion that you are not.)

The hallucinations can be terrifying as well as fun, of course, and they're hardly likely to make it easier for you to cope with the world. But if I end up stuck fading away in an old-folks home, I'll accept free horror movies as well as free kittens. :-)

jacksofbuxton said...

Loony Bin,now there's a phrase I haven't heard in a while.

At least they're kittens and not rampaging tigers.

Spence Kennedy said...

Sabine - UTI is always the first suspect in things like this, but it was interesting that Janet didn't have any other symptoms - no temp / dysuria / dizziness etc. She seemed perfectly fine in herself - excepting the hallucinations!

MTV - It was surprising that she wasn't erm... more surprised. But I thought it was because to Janet the kittens were actually real, and not wispy phantasms. She was bemused more than anything, which I admit is a remarkable reaction.

Daniel - I looked this up online and came across Charles Bonnet Syndrome - a fascinating phenomenon I'd never heard of. But that relation between visual stimulus and brain, the latter compensating in strange ways for a tailing-off of the former, seems to make sense. The world is just not as straightforward as we (think we) see.

I'd settle for strange animals, so long as they were kitten-cute & non-threatening. I suppose you could end up with more malevolent forms (the worms didn't sound too nice, although Janet didn't seem that bothered).

Jack - Exactly!


Cheers for all your comments!

Anonymous said...

We’ve recently had a family member who exhibited very similar symptoms, only it was pink flamingos sat in trees and vines growing from the bedroom ceiling... the diagnosis was heading in the direction of dementia with Lewy bodies.

Spence Kennedy said...

Sorry to hear it, UHDD. I checked out the link - thanks for that. Such dreadful things, these motor neurone illnesses. They just seem to be such cruel and insidious attacks on the very essence of someone. I hope your family's getting all the help it needs to cope.