It’s hard to imagine someone not only hoping to lose the use of her legs, but finding a surgeon who will perform an unnecessary $25,000 operation to make make her a paraplegic.
Strangely, the surgery would be a dream-come-true for 58-year-old Chloe Jennings-White, who suffers from the rare psychological condition Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), which compels the woman to imagine herself as a paraplegic.
In 2010, she found a surgeon overseas who was willing to cut her sciatic and femoral nerves, which meant she would lose all sensation in her legs. Chloe has been hoping for this since she was four years old. At age nine, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
She avoided a polio vaccination at school. She remembers, “There was an epidemic and some kids ended up in leg braces…I dreamed I might end up like them, but didn’t.”
When that didn’t work, Chloe intentionally rode her bike off a 4-foot performance stage, landing on her neck, which resulted in just a few bumps and bruises. She also scared herself into the realization that she did not want to die.
She just wanted to damage her legs, which led to more risky behavior and a few broken bones, but her legs were never affected to the extent she hoped. She confesses, “I felt happy even just risking my legs.” Chloe has gone so far as to fashion “pretend” splints to wear on her legs.
In 1991, London-born Chloe moved to Utah, where she donned snow skis and hit the slopes to fulfill her wish. A skiing accident in 2006 provided Chloe with a back injury and the ideal excuse to get leg braces.
She says she really didn’t need them, “but I decided to use it as a reason to get some. I wouldn’t need my pretend splints any more.”
Since the cost of the surgery to make her a paraplegic is financially impossible for her at this time, Chloe has resorted to other methods to satisfy her urge for non-working legs, even while seeing a therapist to address the disorder. A wheelchair purchased on the Internet is now Chloe’s preferred way to tackle her everyday life. Apparently, this change in mobility works for her.
“When I first sat down in the wheelchair, it just felt so right. It felt like somewhere I belonged,” she says. “Something in my brain tells me my legs are not supposed to work,” admitting further that, “Having any sensation in them just feels wrong.”
What would you like to tell this woman before she has this life-changing surgery?