A Massachusetts neurologist’s rare condition is helping him to relate to patients in a way that not many others can.
Dr. Joe Salinas of Massachusetts General Hospital has mirror touch synesthesia, an extremely rare condition which causes him to have sensations of what his patients are experiencing.
“I remember one patient who unfortunately had an amputation of the arm from an accident. I remember feeling as though my arm was dismembered, and I could feel the blood,” Salinas told CBS Boston.
While he doesn’t feel the pain a patient may be experiencing, the sensations are enough to make him feel unsettled, he told the news station.
Salinas has experienced these sensations for as long as he could remember, training his mind to focus so that he isn’t distracted by them. While he counts it as an asset, others see it as a burden.
“They’re kind of crushed by those sensations because it’s too much and it’s overwhelming and they develop issues with anxiety and depression and essentially become shut-ins at times,” Salinas told CBS Boston.
“I think it’s empowered me to really connect with my patients. There’s a wall that’s torn down when you feel a lot of the sensations that your patients feel as well,” he told CBS Boston. “It’s like being aggressively put in somebody else’s shoes.”
According to the report, only about 1 to 2 percent of the population experience this condition.
“It’s part of who I am. It would be really weird not to have it,” he told CBS Boston.