In 1978 a 19-year-old Indian girl, Bhagawhandi P., suffering from a malignant brain tumor was admitted to hospice due to her astrocytoma. There are several types of astrocytoma that can form anywhere in the central nervous system (brain & spinal cord). This appeared when she was only seven-years-old. Though it was restricted and not as malignant, allowing her to lead a normal life for ten following years. “She lived life to the full, lived it gratefully…for she knew she had a ‘time bomb’ in her head” (Sacks, 1985). When she was eighteen, the tumor returned with higher levels of malignancy and it was no longer removable.
When Bhagawhandi’s tumor returned, it started to expand moving towards the temporal lobe, steroids were given to reduce cerebral edema. The tumor weakened her left hemisphere causing numbness, followed by more frequent and strange seizures. Her previous seizures were grand mal convulsions, which she had on occasions. Though, her newly characterized seizures involved temporal lobe seizures that caused her not to lose consciousness, instead she would look and feel more dreamy (Sacks, 1985). Furthermore, EEG confirmed the temporal lobe seizures corresponded to involuntary reminiscence taking place. Additionally, this vague dreaminess became more concrete as Bhagawhandi encountered what seemed like visions of India. In Bhagawhandi’s dream like sate, she saw visions of landscapes, villages, homes and gardens that she loved and knew as a child.
Neurologists in the text inferred these temporal lobe seizures were due to the steroid she was receiving to keep the tumor under control. The massive doses of steroid are possibly causing toxicity within her system, resulting in the dreamy hallucination. However, it was crucial to continue giving her the steroid, otherwise she would have gone into coma and died within days (Sacks, 1985). Typically this “steroid psychosis” is often excited and disorganized, quite contrary to Bhagawhandi’s case, her dreams were lucid yet peaceful and calm. Oneirophrenia, a mental state that is characterized by hallucinations, is another explanation of the dreams proposed in the text, which may sometimes occur. Though the “phantasms” experienced were clearly all memories of her childhood. Hughlings Jackson explains a doubling of consciousness, since Bhagawhandi’s dreams occurred on a conscious awareness. “They were not obviously ‘over-cathected’, or charged with passionate drives. They seemed more like certain paintings, or tone poems, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, evocations, revocations, visitations to and from a loved and cherished childhood” (Sacks, 1985).
As Bhagawhandi’s days passed the dreams and visions occurred more frequently, growing deeper. They were no longer occasional occurrences, instead most of her day she would be in a trance with a smile as she dreamed. When the doctors asked her what was happening she notified them, “I am going home....