So you think little kids are the only ones who get stuff stuck in various orifices? You’d be surprised what ER doctors pull out of patients, and on a regular basis. And once these little out of place treasures are pulled from their hiding spots, the stories on how they got there are just as shocking as what was found. The following are just a few examples of those special little surprises…
- Suck it up.
You could almost say this vacationer was suckered into taking on an unwanted passenger while backpacking. After suffering from nosebleeds for over a month, all of which started on her trip, and examining her nose a bit more closely for the 100th time to see what could be causing her incessant condition, something was a bit different. This time, she identified a series of dark ridges inside her nostril, and they were moving! After regaining her composure, she rushed to the nearest emergency room where doctors removed a 3-inch leech using lidocaine, tweezers, and suction. So why didn’t she feel it? Some believe this patient was unaware of the leech’s presence due to the natural anesthetic leeches excreted in their saliva. I don’t know about you but I’ll take a marble any day.
- How tacky!
Early one quiet Sunday morning, a young lady rushes into the ER complaining of shortness of breath and a sharp pain in her right chest. During the chest x-ray, the usual workup for such a common complaint, the ER staff spotted a thumbtack, which was far from usual. When asked how in the world a thumbtack ended up inside her lungs, she recalled an activity of which we have all been guilty; holding a thumbtack in our teeth while hanging something on the wall. She went on to describe how her husband had playfully snuck up behind her and “goosed” her when she wasn’t expecting it. One sharp inhale later and, poof, the disappearing thumbtack. You can only be imaging the potential dangers of having a sharp object lodged in your airways. Getting it out was no easy feat, either. After several attempts at retrieval using video bronchoscopy, they ended up having to perform an incision directly over the lung and surgically remove it through her chest. The moral of the story: be careful when you want to hang that poster of your favorite boy band and keep the tacks on the table.
- You found what???
Nine months seems like a long time to carry a baby, but what if you carried one for your entire adult life? An 82-year-old woman went to the ER complaining of severe stomach pains, a somewhat routine ailment affecting millions every year. After careful examination, a full complement of lab work and a CT-scan of her abdomen, doctors determined her pain wasn’t due to either food poisoning or a run-of-the-mill stomachache. Instead, they found what is known as a “stone baby.” Technically termed a lithopedion, “stone babies” are thought to be the result of ectopic pregnancies, or a pregnancy inside the fallopian tubes, which were originally missed and never removed. Over time, the body attempts to isolate the “foreign body” through calcification, a normal biological reaction to anything our body decides is foreign. While she was uncertain of the original date this pregnancy occurred, based on her age, she could have been carrying around her “stone baby” for up to 60 years. To alleviate her pain, she did have surgery where the “stone baby” was removed without incident.
- Cough it up!
A young girl presented to her local ER complaining of stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and progressive weight loss over the previous few months. In medicine they always say, “when you hear hoof beats, think of a horse not a zebra.” In other words, common things are common. Not so for this patient. Instead, doctors discovered a 9-pound hair ball that had to be surgically removed through an foot long incision in her abdomen. Named after a Grimm’s brother fairy tale, “Rapunzel Syndrome” is an extremely rare condition comprised of two separate compulsive behaviors, first pulling out one’s hair, or trichotillomania, and then actually having the urge to eat it, trichophagia. So remember, when someone makes you want to pull out your hair, just don’t eat it!
- “I slipped…”
A discussion on foreign bodies wouldn’t be complete without the one orifice we all expect to hear about. Anything and everything has been removed from rectal cavities across the nation’s emergency rooms, but what is more shocking are the explanations as to how these various objects ended up there in the first place. From empty coffee cans and matchbox cars to champagne bottles and ringing cell phones, regardless what is found, the most common excuse for getting such misplaced items lodged in rectums typically begin with the words, “I slipped.” We often never know how it truly happened, or more importantly why it happened, the end result is always the same, what goes in must come out. And even though a little lube and a good pair of forceps can go a long way to the ER, it is not uncommon for these patients to require surgery and anesthesia to get to the bottom of things.