Medical Mindbogglers

ART BY: Ollie Stephens

Content Warning: Medical Procedures, Needles, Drugs and Gore

A collection of some of the wackiest and most disturbing medical cases I have ever come across. 

The Interdepartmental IUD

It seems this sneaky little bugger wasn’t quite satisfied in the home it was given. Over the course of 10 years, an IUD (Intrauterine Contraceptive Device) punctured through a woman’s uterus and “eroded” through to her bladder. Bladder stones developed on the IUD, measuring to over a centimetre, and the woman began to have blood in her urine. It is very rare for an IUD to perforate the uterus, with the event occurring in 1 in 1000 people who get an IUD, and it is even more rare for it to perforate the uterus. Thankfully doctors were able to pulverise the bladder stone and remove the IUD. 

Dancing the Night(s) Away

In 1512, Europe experienced the last recorded “dancing plague”. At least 10 of these creepy, inexplicable mass hysteria events had been noted in Europe before this particular event. It started in July with a woman in Strasbourg,  who started dancing in the street and simply did not stop. Days later she was still dancing, seemingly unable to control her own body. At least 100 more people started to dance with her, also unable to stop. Eyewitness accounts state that the dancing victims seemed to be terrified, begging those watching on helplessly to make them stop dancing. Halls and stages were set up, with musicians hired to play all day and all night. Many people danced themselves to death. By September of that same year, the number of dancing victims grew to 400, when suddenly the dancers seemed so exhausted they could no longer continue and simply stopped. Many theories about the causes of this phenomenon have been proposed, all as unlikely as the other; from psychotropic substances to heretical cults, spirit possession, famine and disease, and trance-like states. 

A Heart of Stone

A 56-year-old man underwent a kyphoplasty, a procedure in which a special type of cement is injected into the vertebra to repair a vertebral compression fracture. Not long after undergoing the procedure, he began experiencing chest pain and difficulty breathing. It turns out that a rare side effect of this procedure is cement leaking from the bone and into the bloodstream, causing a blockage. In this patient’s case, the cement leaked into his veins, where it hardened and travelled to his heart, causing a tear. Health professionals repaired the tear and removed the cement. 

Squabbling Sisters Shatter Sinuses

A 29-year-old Taiwanese woman got in a fight with her sister, who attacked her with chopsticks whilst at the dinner table. She went to the hospital with nothing other than a few small cuts under her eye and on her nose. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, and nothing was revealed by an X-ray. However, one week later she noticed a small grey object in her nose whilst looking in the mirror. Returning to the hospital, and after further investigation, a CT scan revealed two small pieces of chopstick 3-5 cm in length penetrating the nasal septum and lodged in the sinuses. Surgery was required to remove the pieces. 

BB Blockage

A fifteen-year old experiencing nasal congestion and a reduced sense of smell went to a doctor, concerned about his symptoms. He was given a nasal spray and an antihistamine. A year later he returned to the doctor describing a “pungent, foul odour” that filled the room when he blew his nose. A CT scan revealed a 9mm spherical object lodged in his nasal cavity, which was later removed with surgery. Turns out this mysterious object was in fact a metallic BB pellet. His family revealed that the teen had been shot in the nose with the pellet when he was 8 or 9 years old, however never experienced any symptoms, so no medical treatment was ever sought. This stowaway pellet was able to stay hidden for so long because the boy’s new tissue had grown over it. The pellet caused a drainage blockage, leading to a build-up of debris, mucus, and bacteria, eventuating in the foul smell he experienced, which thankfully disappeared after surgery. 

At One With Nature

A 30-year-old man with bipolar disorder and an opioid dependency was looking for ways to self-treat his symptoms. He decided to create a “shroom tea” by boiling down magic mushrooms and injecting them. He quickly developed nausea, yellow skin, and began vomiting blood. His family rushed him to hospital where tests revealed several of his organs were failing, including his liver and kidneys. Blood tests also confirmed mushroom fungus was growing in his blood, causing infection. Antibiotics and antifungals were administered, and the man was put on a ventilator for respiratory failure. After 3 weeks, the man was well enough to leave the hospital. 

Exploding Enamel

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, toothaches were so awful that people were driven to an animal-like rabidness. This kind of tooth pain is reported to be about 100 times worse than the kind of pain a common toothache would cause today. A particularly bad case of this was experienced by a Reverend in Springfield in 1817, which caused him to behave like an “enraged animal”; biting a fence post to relieve the agony and banging his head against the ground. His wife reportedly heard a loud gunshot-like crack one morning, and shortly after her husband walked in and claimed that his tooth pain had been cured. How was he miraculously cured? His tooth exploded and sent calcium fragments flying across the room! Several other cases of this miraculous combustion are also on record. Whilst the tooth exploding relieved the pain, the explosion itself was not always harmless. In 1871 a woman who had the same experience was knocked off her feet by the blast, causing temporary deafness. However, exploding teeth incidents seemed to cease in the 1920s. It is speculated that the tooth pain and subsequent explosion were caused by the material they used to repair fillings with at the time, which contained a mixture of metal. These metals trapped hydrogen gas in the cavity, which built up until the pressure grew too great.

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