Meet The Nurse Who Feels Other People’s Pain – Literally | Megyn Kelly TODAY


>>>THIS WEEK, WE ARE PICKING OFF A NEW SERIES CALLED “MAKING SENSE.” WE’RE GOING TO EXPLORE THE MYSTERIOUS AND AMAZING WORLD INVOLVING OUR SENSES. FIRST UP, WE’RE TALKING TO A NURSE NAMED MEGAN PULLMAN WHO CAN LITERALLY FEEL YOUR PAIN. IT’S CALLED MIRROR TOUCH SYNESTHESIA. LOOK HOW SHE LIVES WITH THIS.>>I’M GOING TO GET YOU.>>TO BE A NURSE AT ST. LOUIS CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL IS THE BEST THING I CAN IMAGINE. YOU’RE A STRONG GUY, AREN’T YOU? I CHOSE TO BE A NURSE BECAUSE WHEN MY BROTHER WAS BORN IN 1992, HE HAD A SEVERE HEART DEFECT. HE WAS TREATED HERE AT ST. LOUIS HOSPITAL. HE HAD TWO OPEN HEART SURGERIES. NURSING WAS AN EASY THING FOR ME TO GIVE BACK.>>Reporter: MEGAN’S DEDICATION TO HER JOB MAKES HER A BELOVED NURSE.>>I GET THOSE CHEEKS.>>Reporter: BUT THERE IS SOMETHING ELSE THAT SETS HER APART. MEGAN CAN ACTUALLY FEEL WHAT HER PATIENTS FEEL.>>I HAVE A BRAIN TRAIT CALLED SYNESTHESIA. MY BRAIN HAS CONNECTIONS THAT OTHER PEOPLE’S BRAINS DO NOT. I HAVE A TYPE CALLED MIRROR-TOUCH SYNESTHESIA, WHERE I FEEL OTHER PEOPLE’S EMOTIONS AND OFTEN TIMES FEEL THEIR PAIN OR OTHER SENSATIONS AS MY OWN. ALTHOUGH TO A LESSER DEGREE. IF SOMEONE’S HURTING, FOR INSTANCE, IF THEY HAVE A CUT ON THEIR ARM, I CAN FEEL THAT THEY’RE SAD OR THEY’RE PROCESSING THAT PAIN IN THEIR HEAD. WHEN I VISUALIZE THE INJURY, I GET A FEELING ON MY SPINE THAT’S SIMILAR TO BEING ON A ROLLERCOASTER. IT’S THAT GUT-DROPPING FEELING AND THE ELECTRICITY SHOOTS UP MY SPINE AND OUT MY ARMS AND MY EXTREMITIES. ON ANY GIVEN DAY, I NEVER KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT.>>Reporter: AS A WIFE AND MOTHER TO THREE SMALL CHILDREN, MEGAN CAN SOMETIMES FEEL OVERWHELMED BY IT ALL. AND IF HER KIDS GET SICK –>>JUST AS ANY MOM HATES TO SEE THEIR KIDS SICK, IT’S MORE SO FOR ME BECAUSE IF THEY’RE SICK AND FEELING NAUSEOUS OR HAVE A HEADACHE OR ARE IN PAIN IN ANY WAY, I’M FEELING IT, TOO.>>Reporter: OVER THE YEARS, MEGAN HAS FIGURED OUT A WAY TO USE SYNESTHESIA TO HER ADVANTAGE, BOTH AT HOME AND AT WORK.>>NOW THAT I KNOW WHAT MTS IS AND I KNOW THAT IT’S A REAL THING, I’M ABLE TO HARNESS THAT AND I CAN PURPOSELY USE IT TO MAKE MY PATIENTS’ DAY BETTER. IN MANY CASES, I FEEL LIKE THIS IS A GIFT BECAUSE IT HELPS ME HELP MY PATIENTS.>>PLEASE WELCOME MEGAN PULLMAN. [ APPLAUSE ] SO, I HEARD THAT THIS IS HEREDITARY AND THAT YOUR GRANDFATHER HAD IT. CAN YOU TELL THE AUDIENCE HOW HE FIGURED OUT WHICH OF HIS GRANDCHILDREN MIGHT ALSO HAVE IT?>>SO, MY GRANDPA SAW SOUNDS. HE DIDN’T REALIZE IT WAS HEREDITARY UNTIL THE GOLDEN PAGE OF GOOGLE IN THE ’90s.>>WHAT DO YOU MEAN SAW SOUNDS?>>IF HE HEARD A SONG, IN THE SPACE IN FRONT OF HIM, HE WOULD SEE A VISUALIZATION WITH COLORS AND SHAPES AND MOVEMENT.>>THAT CORRELATION BETWEEN A COLOR AND A SHAPE OR A COLOR AND A LETTER OR SOMETHING, THAT’S VERY COMMON. GO AHEAD. AMONG YOU PEOPLE.>>IF YOU THINK ABOUT ALL OF THE WAYS OUR BRAIN PROCESSES SENSES, THERE’S SO MANY WAYS CHRIS CRISSCROSSING CAN HAPPEN. I DON’T SEE SOUNDS BUT I FEEL SOUNDS ON MY BODY. FOR EXAMPLE, IF I’M LISTENING TO A VIOLINIST, I WILL ACTUALLY FEEL IT DEEP IN MY CHEST.>>HE CALLED UP AND ASKED HIS THREE GRANDKIDS WHAT QUESTION?>>HE SAID WHAT IS THREE? AND ALL OF MY SIBLINGS SAID A NUMBER. AND I SAID BLUE.>>THAT’S HOW HE KNEW SHE HAD IT. THREE IS BLUE. AND WHAT COLOR IS “A”?>>YELLOW.>>OKAY. WE HAVE A LOT TO TALK ABOUT. WE’RE GOING TO DO THAT AFTER THE BREAK. MORE, ALONG [ APPLAUSE ]>>>WE’RE BACK, NOW WITH MEGAN POHLMAN, A PEDIATRIC NURSE WITH MIRROR TOUCH SYNESTHESIA. WE’RE TALKING TO THIS PROFESSOR OF NEUROLOGY AT HARVARD WHO HAS MIRROR TOUCH SYNESTHESIA, WHO WRITES ABOUT IT IN HIS NEW BOOK “MIRROR TOUCH.” YOU CAN HAVE 80 TRAITS OF SYNESTHESIA. YOU HAVE ALMOST ALL OF THEM, JOEL.>>QUITE A BIT OF THEM. MIRROR TOUCH IS THE ONE THAT REALLY HAS AFFECTED ME AS A PHYSICIAN.>>WHEN YOU SEE ME DOING THIS, DO YOU FEEL THAT?>>YEAH. LIKE THERE’S A PHYSICAL LITERAL PHANTOM HAND MOVING ALONG THE LEFT SIDE OF MY FACE.>>STATUE OF LIBERTY?>>YEAH. IT’S LIKE MY ARM IS EXTENDED UP. IT’S LIKE A MIRROR. BECAUSE IT’S YOUR RIGHT HAND, I FEEL IT IN THE LEFT SIDE OF MY BODY. MIRROR TOUCH IS THE MIND-BLOWING PART OF THE BRAIN THAT HARDLY ANYBODY KNOWS ABOUT. RESEARCH HELPS US TO UNDERSTAND HOW WE RELATE WITH ONE ANOTHER.>>1.6% OF THE POPULATION HAS THIS. EVERYBODY THINKS THEY HAVE IT A LITTLE BIT. IS THAT POSSIBLE? CAN YOU HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF THIS?>>WE’RE ALL ON A SPECTRUM WHERE ONE OF US, 1.6% OF THE POPULATION CAN BE TESTED IN A LAB AS HAVING MIRROR TOUCH. BUT A LOT OF US FALL ALONG THAT SPECTR SPECTRUM. PEOPLE THAT WALK INTO A ROOM AND TAKE ON THE NEGATIVITY IN THAT ROOM MAY BE HIGHER.>>WHAT DO YOU FELL ABOUT PEOPLE THAT CAN FEEL EMOTIONAL PAIN, WHAT IS A FUNERAL LIKE FOR YOU?>>IT’S VERY OVERWHELMING. EVERYTHING FROM THE GRIEF OF THE FAMILY TO JUST THE AWKWARDNESS OF EVERYDAY INTERACTIONS WITH HUMANS CAN BE OVERWHELMING.>>ARE YOU LIKE A HUMAN LIE DETECTOR? CAN YOU TELL WHEN A PERSON IS GETTING NERVOUS ENERGY?>>SOMETIMES. I WOULD LIKE TO THINK I’M GOOD AT DOING THAT.>>WHAT ARE YOU FEELING NOW?>>I THINK WE’VE DONE A GOOD JOB OF FREAKING EVERYONE OUT.>>YOU’RE RIGHT. ON THE PHYSICALITY, WHEN YOU WATCH A BOXING MATCH, GO YOU FEEL PUNCHES IN THE FACE?>>YEAH. IT’S — AS A BRAIN DOCTOR WITH MIRROR TOUCH, THERE’S THE PLEASURABLE EXPERIENCES AND ALSO THE PAINFUL EXPERIENCES, AS WELL. AND THAT CAN HELP US HAVE A DEEPER CONNECTION WITH OUR PATIENTS, INCLUDING THEIR PAIN AND CARE. THERE WAS A WOMAN WITH CEREBRAL PALSY WHO COULD NOT SPEAK. AND I WAS ASKED TO SEE HER BECAUSE SHE HAD BECOME COMBATIVE ONE MORNING. AND I FOUND THAT SHE WAS AGITATED BECAUSE SHE HAD BLOOD CLOTS IN HER LUNGS.>>I WOULD BE WATCHING NOTHING BUT DISNEY. MAYBE SOME CINEMAX. I DON’T KNOW.>>I DON’T WATCH A LOT OF BOXING.>>WATCHING CARTOONS, I REMEMBER WATCHING BUGS BUNNY CHEWING ON THE CARROT AND FEELING LIKE I WAS CHEWING ON A CARROT.>>HE DEVOTED HIS LIFE TO

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