The mirror man, a man who travels through Cambodia helping amputees with phantom limb pain through mirror therapy
One of the few Khmer words Stephen Sumner knows is chhue. It means ‘pain’, and it’s something Cambodian people know a lot about from their three-decade-long civil war. Stephen, 53, is a brawny Canadian with an ebullient, even boisterous, manner. This is his third time here in as many years. He rides around on a longtail bicycle with a stack of lightweight mirrors behind the saddle, going to villages, hospitals and physical rehabilitation centres looking for people who have lost their limbs.
In front of Stephen on an upturned pail sits Ven Phath, a soft-spoken, middle-aged father of five. His left trouser leg is rolled up to reveal a stump below the knee, the result of stepping on a mine in 1983. A plasticky prosthetic leg lies beside him.
Ven Phath still experiences pain in his missing foot, and Stephen is showing him how to position a mirror against the inside of his left leg, so the reflection of the right makes it look like both are still intact. “Look. Move. Imagine,” Stephen instructs through an interpreter.
After a couple of minutes of watching his virtual left foot moving, as if revving an imaginary accelerator, Ven Phath smiles and looks up. He says he feels better already. “Tell him,” Stephen says to the interpreter, “if you do this twice a day, ten minutes per session, for five weeks, then chhub chhue.” Pain stop.