Spanish man who survived being shot in the head woke up to find he could now see the world backwards

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A soldier was able to see the world ‘backwards’ after being shot in the back of the head during battle.

The man — known only as ‘Patient M’ — was injured while fighting on the Valencian front during the brutal Spanish Civil War in May 1938. 

Found lying on the floor, the wounded soldier was transported to hospital where he somehow survived without needing any operations or special care.

But, upon regaining consciousness two weeks after the blast, doctors noticed that his sensations were off-kilter. 

He discovered he saw the world both upside down and backwards. 

Tests revealed the missile had partially destroyed the outer back layers of patient M's brain on the left-hand side. Photograph A depicts the entrance and exit of the bullet to the back of the head. The numbers in diagram B correspond to the lacerated areas of the brain, where the bullet punctured the brain

Tests revealed the missile had partially destroyed the outer back layers of patient M’s brain on the left-hand side. Photograph A depicts the entrance and exit of the bullet to the back of the head. The numbers in diagram B correspond to the lacerated areas of the brain, where the bullet punctured the brain

As the doctor who treated him described in his book — published in two volumes between 1945-1950 — Patient M found it strange, for example, that he saw men working upside down on a scaffold.

He could also read letters and numbers printed normally and back-to-front, without his brain being able to see any difference between the two. 

Thorough details of the fascinating case have now been shared in a medical journal. 

It was published by Isabel Gonzalo, who met Patient M during his trips to their family home to see her father, who originally treated him. 

The patient’s identity has never been shared. The Spanish-language daily newspaper, El Pais, claimed he was born in a village in the province of Ciudad Real. 

It is believed Patient M, a soldier fighting for the Republican army, was shot by an enemy Francoist soldier.

The conflict began in July 1936, when a group of right-wing officers attempted to overthrow the left-wing Popular Front government in a military coup. 

It resulted in a three-year battle between the republicans, who were loyal to the Popular Front, and nationalists, resulting in the nation being torn apart and Francisco Franco claiming a 36-year long dictatorship until his death in 1975. 

In August 1938 'Patient M' was admitted to the Godella Military Health Hospital in Valencia, where Justo Gonzalo Rodriguez Leal (pictured) worked as a war doctor

In August 1938 ‘Patient M’ was admitted to the Godella Military Health Hospital in Valencia, where Justo Gonzalo Rodriguez Leal (pictured) worked as a war doctor

The soldier was initially taken to the Provincial Hospital of Valencia, where he was kept for around three months.

In August 1938, he was admitted to the military-controlled Godella Military Health Hospital in Valencia, where neurologist Justo Gonzalo Rodriguez Leal worked as a war doctor.

Tests at the time showed the missile had partially destroyed the outer back layers of Patient M’s brain on the left-hand side. 

As well as the other symptoms, Dr Gonzalo also discovered Patient M saw objects in triplicate — triple vision of a single object — and experienced colour blindness.

His sensory function was also impacted, with his hearing and sense of touch  inverted. 

Writing in the journal Neurologia, neuropsychologist Alberto Garcia Molina and Dr Gonzalo’s daughter Isabel said: ‘Surprisingly, the patient manages his daily life without difficulties.’ 

Isabel, a physicist and professor emeritus at the Complutense University of Madrid, uncovered hundreds of documents and photos relating to Patient M in her father’s archives. 

Based on clinical observations of the soldier throughout the 1940s, Dr Gonzalo had developed new hypotheses on brain dynamics. 

He proposed the effects of brain damage depended both on its size and position of the injury. 

Therefore, brain damage does not destroy one specific function of the brain, it impacts the balance of the functions — a theory new for its time, now widely established. 

Dr Gonzalo identified three syndromes: central (where multiple senses are disrupted), paracentral (where the effects of disruption to multiple senses is not evenly distributed), and marginal (where only specific senses are affected).  

‘Patient M helps lay the foundations of Justo Gonzalo’s unique theory of brain dynamics,’ the scientists wrote. 

Patient M continued visiting Dr Gonzalo until the doctor’s death in 1986. 



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