Our bodies have a number of naturally-occurring orifices, the purposes of which you’ve probably already discovered on your own. But sometimes—through misadventure, poor judgment, or sheer happenstance—these cavities can provide entry for foreign objects, whether inanimate or other living beings. Their extraction can prompt embarrassment and possibly an entry in a medical journal, like the guy who thought he had lung cancer but discovered it was a just a toy traffic cone that had lodged in his lung after he aspirated it by accident 40 years previously.
Traffic Cone Guy is but one example. Check out other instances of people who have had to have some awkward conversations with emergency room physicians.
1. A LIVE EEL // RECTUM
In January 2004, the medical journal Surgery published the details of a very eventful day at Kwong Wah Hospital in Hong Kong. A 50-year-old man had been admitted for stomach pains, and an x-ray showed the outline of a 20-inch eel, which the man admitted he had inserted into his rectum to relieve his constipation. It’s unknown how he thought the eel would have resolved his issue, but it certainly complicated matters. The eel was alive and found biting into his splenic flexure when he was opened up for surgery. A perforation in one of the walls of his rectum necessitated a colostomy. Notably, this was not the only case of a man presenting with rectal eel issues. In 2012, New Zealand's Auckland City Hospital confirmed that a man had been admitted for the same problem.
2. 40 POCKET KNIVES // STOMACH
Pica is a term used to describe the need to eat the inedible: coins, metal parts, and other non-nutritious objects. Surgeons at Amritsar Corporate Hospital in India were able to experience this phenomenon first-hand in 2016, when a 42-year-old police officer was admitted for stomach pains. Gas? Taco Bell? Nothing so mundane. He had swallowed exactly 40 pocket knives, most seven inches in length. Some were folded shut, while others were open and causing internal bleeding. The man said he had swallowed them whole over the past two months. All were successfully removed from his stomach. He described his compulsion as an “impulse” but swore he would not repeat the practice.
3. A COCKROACH // EAR
Hendrik Helmer of Darwin, Australia—one of the few patients brave enough to attach his name to this kind of story—told ABC Radio Darwin in 2014 that he awoke in the middle of the night with a sharp pain in his ear. Suspecting an insect had crawled in and “hoping it wasn’t a poisonous spider,” Helmer tried vacuuming the pest out of his canal before going to Royal Darwin Hospital. As a doctor poured olive oil in his ear to try and drive the creature out, Helmer reported his pain intensifying. Finally, the doctor used forceps and retrieved a cockroach measuring nearly one inch in length. Aside from some lingering issues with balance and jaw pain, Helmer was fine. (The cockroach was not. It had expired.)
4. A NAIL // BRAIN
The fateful day began like any other for Chicago resident Dante Autullo, who was busy remodeling his residence before being sidelined by headaches and nausea. As it turns out, he had accidentally shot himself in the head with a nail gun the day prior and failed to notice it, believing the nail had just missed his head. The spiked projectile was lodged in his brain for 36 hours before being removed, apparently without any ill effect.
5. A LEGO TIRE // NOSE
Someday, we’ll marvel at how we allowed children free access to their nostrils without equipping them with some kind of fine mesh safety guard. Until then, we’ll continue to come across stories like that of 6-year-old Salt Lake City boy Isaak Lasson, who rammed a LEGO vehicle tire up his nose at the age of three and began having chronic sinus problems. Upon questioning, Lasson would only admit he had “put some spaghetti up there” at one time. A pediatrician uncovered the tire, which was covered in fungus, and removed it. The theory was that Lasson had managed to fold the tire so it fit in his nostril.
6. A PEA PLANT // LUNG
In 2010, a 75-year-old Cape Cod man named Ron Sveden was relieved to find out the chest discomfort he had been experiencing was not due to lung cancer as doctors suspected, but a pea plant attempting to grow in his lung. Sveden had apparently aspirated a pea seed, which began to spout. (It didn’t grow very much, as pea plants need sunlight.) After being treated, Sveden was served a meal in the hospital with a side of peas. "I laughed to myself and ate them," he told a Boston TV reporter.
7. A SODA BOTTLE // RECTUM
Every year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issues a very serious and professional list of things that have been found stuck up patients’ butts and other orifices, from peanut butter jars to remote controls. In 2009, the Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology detailed one such case, this one of a man who visited a local hospital after failing to retrieve a soda bottle he had inserted into his rectum. Initial attempts to retrieve it were unsuccessful, as mucus made the surface too slippery to grasp. Instead, doctors lightly sedated the man and asked him to bear down as though he were having a bowel movement. Once the bottle was partially out, they were able to grab it with forceps. The paper went on to note that broomsticks and axe handles had previously been reported in the literature; the patient was advised to seek counseling for his “perversion disorder” to “prevent recurrences.”
8. A PLASTIC WENDY’S FORK // LUNG
Eating your food as though you were vying for sustenance in a pack of wolves can have consequences, but none more absurd than the North Carolina man who suffered from chronic coughing and fatigue for two years before doctors discovered he had a piece of a fast food fork stuck in his lung. John Manley, 50, sought medical attention in 2009 for the symptoms: a pulmonologist at Duke University who scoped Manley’s lung spotted a plastic part with the word “hamburgers” embossed on it, typical of Wendy's "old-fashioned hamburgers" slogan. The object was removed and Manley’s symptoms resolved.
All images courtesy of iStock.