Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Adding And Subtracting

Ryan and Dave are the most unique identical twins you'll ever meet. After tiring of piercing, tattoos, and implants about three years ago, they began exploring much heavier surgical modifications. Dave had spent two and a half years in pre-med at Queens University in Kingston, and using contacts made both there and online he and his twin brother have changed themselves in ways far beyond anything anyone else has ever attempted.

BME: Let's quickly talk about how this all got started.

RYAN: I guess when we were about thirteen we started getting tattooed. This is when we were living in Phoenix. I won't deny that we had pretty poor judgement and got some pretty bad tattoos. Luckily, they were fairly light and over time we got some real nice coverups, as you can see.

DAVE: Our lives in Phoenix were actually pretty rough and our parents knew that we were running with the wrong crowd, so when we were sixteen they sent us to live with our aunt in Toronto -- Canada -- it was a bit of a culture shock but turned out for the best. I finished high school at the top of my class and was offered a biology scholarship at Queens University which soon transitioned into Pre-Med. Ryan stayed in Toronto and got hooked up with the piercing scene.

RYAN: Some friends of mine were just setting up a new studio -- Dave and I had been doing piercings on our friends for about a year, and it just seemed like the right thing at the right time so I decided to become a piercer. At this point the piercing community was pretty young and it was an "anything goes" scene and still mostly underground -- I got to meet a lot of guys into amputation and castration and really heavy stuff. It got me thinking a lot about what we wanted to do with our own bodies. I introduced Dave to them as well and he shared my feelings.

BME: What happened next?

RYAN: After discussing and thinking about it very seriously for about a year, we decided to take the big step. To put it simply, Dave had his entire right arm (since we're left handed) amputated at the shoulder and we surgically reattached it immediately behind my right pectoral muscle.

Ryan "holding on to" Dave's arm.

BME: Wow. If I wasn't looking at it right now I'd never believe it. How was the procedure done?

DAVE: Obviously there was no clinic willing to do a procedure like this (we didn't even bother to ask), so we had to do it all under local anaesthesia since we simply didn't have the facilities to safely administer general anaesthesia. We had a group of two practitioners and two assistants working on us. First we elevated my arm and using an Ace bandage we slowly squeezed all of the blood out of it. Then we tourniquetted as high up on the shoulder it could be, and injected lidocaine into the exsanguinated veins. Almost immediately there was no feeling whatsoever. An amputation knife cut through the skin and muscles, and a bone saw did the final removal. Bleeders were ligated and the wound was cleaned up. This entire part of the procedure took about forty minutes.

RYAN: At the same time as Dave was being worked on, the other practitioner and his assistant prepared the attachment site on my chest. Veins and arteries were spliced to supply blood to Dave's arm and the skin and some of the subcutaneous tissue was peeled up to merge as smoothly as possible. Luckily the healing went smoothly. The transplant healed up in about a month, as did Dave's stump.

BME: You're a bit vague as to who did it. Who were the "practitioners" and how did you find them?

DAVE: When we had the procedure done we signed non-disclosure agreements and legally swore to protect the identities of everyone involved. As far as how we met them, you'd be amazed how many kooks you meet in med school. That's as far as I'm willing to go on that question; I'm sure your readers will understand. This type of procedure is simply not acceptable.

BME: Did you have any difficulties with rejection?

RYAN: That's the nice thing about being identical twins! We share the same genetics!

BME: You can't be that identical -- You're wearing glasses and Dave isn't.

RYAN: Dave wears contacts; he's vain. Anyway, because our genetics are the same, healing a transplant is no more difficult that healing a severe laceration. I'm exaggerating a little, but it's not the same as a regular transplant.

Dave (left) and Ryan's (right) left hand modifications

BME: The arm is amazing, but I've got to admit that this "alien finger" thing you've done is really something. It's unlike anything I've ever seen before. It's actually quite disconcerting!

RYAN: Yeah, we're very proud of it. When people see the arm, they think it was an accident -- transplants like this do get done every once in a while for medical reasons. The finger though, that's art. We challenge anyone to take body art to a higher level.

BME: How did you pull this one off?

DAVE: First we removed the centre joint of my finger, along with the skin and just over an inch of overhanging tendon. Then we split Ryan's finger at the end of the first joint. It was relatively easy to insert the extra joint, especially since we had so much extra tendon to play with. The amazing thing is that Ryan actually has feeling in the end of that finger now -- the nerves were compatible!

BME: Dave, why are you wearing a bandaid over your stubby finger?

DAVE: When we put my finger tip back on, minus the middle joint, we didn't have enough tendon to work with so I don't actually have very much mobility in it. I tend to bang it a lot. We're actually going to remove it altogether and remove the bone right down to the wrist. That will let us shift the little finger over without much apparent scarring giving us a very realistic three fingered hand.

BME: Can I ask what the two of you do for a living? I assume you don't have regular jobs.

DAVE: We make a great living in the traditional world. I'm not going to say the name of our company, but to suffice it to say that we're the sixth largest producer of adult entertainment software in North America. The Ferrari Dino 246 that Ryan is leaning on right now is a $50,000 car. That may not seem like a lot of money, but we paid it off in one day. Not all "freaks" are punk kids.

BME: I know you don't really like talking about this that much, but... why?

RYAN: First and foremost, we consider ourselves artists. A lot of our friends and associates who have similar interests have a more fetish oriented body modification attitude about it -- while we respect that point of view, it's not what we're about.

BME: Any regrets?

DAVE: I guess I'm the one that should answer that one. No. Not at all. We share everything. I don't feel that I've given anything up. I'm not sure if anyone who's not an identical twin can really understand the strange bond that's going on here. I've never had a phantom limb pain. It really feels like it's all still a part of me.

BME: What modifications does the future hold for you two?

DAVE: We've got some genital work planned that's pretty exciting. As soon as it happens we'll be sure to update BME readers with some photos.

Credits go to BMEzine.com for the interview and original photos.

Now, after reading this and subsequently recovering from a small bout of queasiness, I got to thinking. These guys have had to keep a high level of secrecy surrounding these surgical procedures, due to the dubious ethical and legal aspects of the situation. But is this right? Should they not be allowed to do whatever they want to their bodies, so long as it does not affect anyone else? As far as I can see, this is a "victimless crime", the only people it affects in any way (with the exception, of course, of universal mild nausea), are themselves.

Taking the argument the other way, the situation looks even crazier — if one form of body modification is illegal, shouldn't they all be? Ear piercing, tattooing, body piercing? These forms of body modification are now almost universally socially accepted, but go back in time a little, and it was a different story. I remember the first time I went home with my nose pierced, my mum seriously freaked out.

So the question I open to you, dear Shoutwirians, is this: Where do we draw the line? How far is too far? Should stitching your twin brother's arm onto your chest be legal if you both give informed consent; or should a haircut get you and/or your hairdresser slung in prison? Fire away.


Elizabeth December 8, 2008 at 6:46 PM  

That article was an april fools joke. so it didn't really happen. but if you want to stretch your minds an consider the hypothetical situation go for it.

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