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Penguins aren't much help with surgery.
January 13, 2010 7:19 AM   Subscribe


 
Also.
posted by dmd at 7:23 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I worked without gloves. It was hard to see. The mirror helps, but it also hinders—after all, it’s showing things backwards." As a layman I find it absolutely astonishing that he could successfully operate on himself - but I have no idea what the risks were.
posted by patricio at 7:29 AM on January 13, 2010


Wow.

When he mentioned the mirror I cringed, knowing how hard such a thing must be working in reverse. (He also did it by feel?!) But then when he explicitly mentioned the reversal I realized he probably could have done it frontwards with two mirrors. If he'd been thinking clearly during the first diagnosis he would have had time (and concentration) to rig that up rather than spending that time pretending to be fine.
posted by DU at 7:32 AM on January 13, 2010


I'm reading an Antarctica guidebook right now - everything comes across as dessicated and bloodless there (including the paragraph about this operation) but the book doesn't have those photos. Yow.
posted by ChuqD at 7:36 AM on January 13, 2010


Wasn't this the same thing that happened in House? The one with Mira Sorvino?
posted by Eideteker at 7:38 AM on January 13, 2010


Dr. Stephen Maturin removed a bullet from his own abdomen and you don't see him bragging about it.
posted by nestor_makhno at 7:38 AM on January 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's the concern he shows to his colleagues/friends that got to me. He suffered in silence so as not to upset the others. Before the surgery, he comments "My poor assistants!" before going on to talk about his own fear of the impeding operation. Nerves of steel.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:40 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


At least he didn't need to shave himself or the universe may have exploded.
posted by DU at 7:41 AM on January 13, 2010


That is seriously badass. I once cut myself badly and looking at the wound wasn't sure if I was going to cry or vomit. Then I went to the hospital. I got seven stitches.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:56 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dang! I thought it was tough when I gave myself 3 stitches when I cut my hand. Ice is NOT as anaesthetic as I might've hoped, and either skin is way tough, or regular sewing needles are much duller than I would've thought. But groping through my own innards? this patient aint gonna make it....
posted by Redhush at 8:16 AM on January 13, 2010


Goddamn, those pictures are the most hardcore thing I've seen in months.
posted by Baron Kriminel at 8:45 AM on January 13, 2010


This explains my cousin's recent accident so nicely. He's worked down at McMurdo base in Antarctica for several seasons in the past. Last week he ground up his fingertip in the router (wood kind, not telecom) and got sent to the ER. My aunt informed us he called his employees from the gurney in the waiting room and told them he'd see them the next day. She laughed. I mean, for god's sake, they had to cut out his nail bed and wrap what was left of the finger over it.

He left for work the next day at 7 a.m.

(Either there's something in our Swedish blood that makes us unable to take time off for injury -- I did much the same thing when I shattered my elbow and ended up going straight from the ER to a work event -- or we're just stubborn. Maybe both. Add in the "need to be self-sufficient" thing in Antarctica and it's even worse...)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:52 AM on January 13, 2010


Penguins aren't much help with surgery.

I dunno, these guys are pretty badass.
posted by hypersloth at 8:57 AM on January 13, 2010


Somewhat similar was the WWII appendectomy aboard the USS Seadragon^ -- a submarine -- performed by a pharmacist's mate aged 23. Because they had no muscular retractors, they improvised using bent spoons from the galley.
posted by dhartung at 8:57 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow. That guy had balls.

I am in awe.
posted by Solomon at 9:01 AM on January 13, 2010


A true comrade indeed, trying his best to keep his illness quiet for the sake of the crews morale and mission. Pretty awesome stuff in its own right.

Self-surgery? Could you imagine? I'd personally be out from shock after slicing a blade through my gut.
posted by deacon_blues at 9:05 AM on January 13, 2010


Wow. That guy had balls.

No, the mirror thing didn't make it that difficult, and he still has them. Besides, they're quite far away from the appendix location..
posted by DreamerFi at 9:13 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Badass, definitely. But how about giving yourself a cesarian with just a butcher knife and two cups of mescal?
posted by gottabefunky at 9:17 AM on January 13, 2010 [10 favorites]


As a layman I find it absolutely astonishing that he could successfully operate on himself - but I have no idea what the risks were.

Plenty -- mostly bleeding out and dying from infection afterwards. Compare to the risk of not operating on himself -- almost certain death from peritonitis. There are cases of acute appendicitis resolving without treatment, and there are cases where the patient survived the rupture of the appendix and subsequent infection, but these are very rare.

When there's a 10% chance of dying of the surgery, and a 95%+ chance of dying without it, it's an easy call to make. When the choice is "suck it up or die", one would hope one would suck it up.

At least, I hope I would. I also would rather not find out.
posted by eriko at 9:24 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I guess this thoroughly trumps Rambo in First Blood, then.
posted by metaxa at 9:31 AM on January 13, 2010


I had an emergency appendectomy less than a month ago. By the time my wife got me to the ER, I was pretty much incoherent due to the pain. Then it took nearly two weeks after the surgery before I was able to really focus and concentrate enough to work again. But this guy not only does his own surgery, he's back at work a few days later. Every time I think to myself that I might be some kind of tough guy, I get reminded of how much of a weakling I really am.
posted by ralan at 9:37 AM on January 13, 2010


It's totally astounding what people can do when they have no other options. I imagine that if this guy had hospital access, there's no way he would have been able to muster up the strength to do the operation himself - but knowing that there was no other way - g-ddamn, the will towards self-preservation makes people capable of totally, totally astounding things.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:44 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's nothing. You should see how many emails i get in a day.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:48 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


In Soviet Russia, doctor operates on himself!
posted by gottabefunky at 9:49 AM on January 13, 2010 [20 favorites]


Badass, definitely. But how about giving yourself a cesarian with just a butcher knife and two cups of mescal?

I would probably favorite this comment if I could click the links (which I could do if I hadn't fainted from just imagining this).
posted by DU at 9:50 AM on January 13, 2010


That reminds me of this.
(A first person epistolary narrative of a woman experiencing and surviving a full mastectomy without anaesthesia in 1811. It is REALLY VERY GRAPHIC for all of it just being words.)
posted by kalessin at 10:03 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dr. Jerri Nielsen diagnosed herself with breast cancer while at the South Pole and performed a biopsy on herself.
posted by atrazine at 10:03 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


@ralan, I wouldn't be so hard on myself if I were you. Those of us who have heard the excellent Radiolab episode on the placebo effect know that context is enormously important to our perception of pain, and that's it's not necessarily related to our own psychological/physiological makeup.
posted by e.e. coli at 10:15 AM on January 13, 2010


I have no idea what the risks were.

I'd guess we all know exactly what the risks were, patricio.

God, what a man. Arctic explorers are made of tougher stuff than I am.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:17 AM on January 13, 2010


putting your own hand into your own abdomen to remove one of your own organs..... um.... /speechless/
posted by sundri at 10:18 AM on January 13, 2010


And, remembering the doctor in atrazine's post, what a woman.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:19 AM on January 13, 2010


I read that thinking "Christ, that man must have balls like a watermelon".

Then I read he died in 2000, and I felt depressed that he'd not lived so long.

Then I checked and saw he did this in 1961, with all the knowledge, tools and drugs that 1961 involved.

Then I tried to think of a fruit bigger than a watermelon...
posted by twine42 at 10:20 AM on January 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


Also.
posted by Ratio at 10:22 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Don't tell the Republicans, or we'll all have to do our own appendectomies.
posted by Xoebe at 11:03 AM on January 13, 2010 [10 favorites]


Physician, heal thy... hey!
posted by pracowity at 11:19 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


This would be incredible enough today, but to think this took place 50 years ago...unreal.
posted by Telpethoron at 11:21 AM on January 13, 2010


This thread is like the Medical Necessity round of the BME Pain Olympics.
posted by mosk at 11:22 AM on January 13, 2010


Wasn't this the same thing that happened in House? The one with Mira Sorvino?

The House episode did involve a doctor cut off in arctic conditions, but her problems were caused by fat emboli from an untreated broken toe. That episode ("Frozen") was inspired by the real-life case of Jerri Nielsen.
posted by lholladay at 11:23 AM on January 13, 2010


Which I see was linked by dmd at the top. Nice.
posted by lholladay at 11:35 AM on January 13, 2010


I endorse your classification of this post as MEDICINE ANTARCTICA BADASS.
posted by Mister_A at 11:55 AM on January 13, 2010


Did I ever tell you about the time I performed an appendectomy with a rusty sardine can? And once I was caught short without instrument one and removed a uterine tumor with my teeth. That was in the Upper Effendi, and besides…'
posted by TomMelee at 12:38 PM on January 13, 2010


Much respect. This guy is going (posthumously) on my save-the-world dream team along with Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger and Jim Lovell.
posted by nowoutside at 12:43 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was impressed after my (doctor) mom died when we found a little diary in her neat upright meticulous hand, recounting every moment of her delivery of me. Clearly, that was nothing. The subjects of this post and thread make my jaw drop.
posted by bearwife at 1:32 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


At the worst moment of removing the appendix I flagged: my heart seized up and noticeably slowed; my hands felt like rubber.

Sounds like someone tickled their vagus nerve a little. The history of physicians working on themselves is pretty extensive; Karl "Coca" Koller and other surgeons routinely performed nerve blocks on themselves (including spinal and epidural anesthesia) once local anesthetics were discovered. I have mentioned it before but the story is worth repeating that Werner Forssmann performed the first cardiac catheterization on himself as a surgery resident; he was fired for disobeying his professor's orders not to try it, but winning the Nobel Prize probably made up for that. I remember the Seadragon story from grade school (I even remember Mrs. Hayes, the teacher, asking if anyone knew the difference between an anesthetist and an anesthesiologist). But this guy takes the cake. The next time I have to deal with some surgeon who thinks he's a badass, I'll trot this story out. I will also bring it up the next time I am in the third hour of a supposedly routine appenedectomy: "You know, that Russian surgeon only took an hour and 45 minutes to do an appy on himself!" I am sure this will endear me to my surgical colleagues.

Great story; thanks for posting it.
posted by TedW at 1:40 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


30 April:

"18.30. I’ve never felt so awful in my entire life. The building is shaking like a small toy in the storm. The guys have found out. They keep coming by to calm me down. And I’m upset with myself—I’ve spoiled everyone’s holiday. Tomorrow is May Day."
[emphasis mine]

what
posted by Errant at 2:07 PM on January 13, 2010


Badass, definitely. But how about giving yourself a cesarian with just a butcher knife and two cups of mescal?

I'll be impressed when they do it with a shark.
posted by Evilspork at 2:25 PM on January 13, 2010


I am sure this will endear me to my surgical colleagues.

Yes, you go and taunt the man with the nice sharp scalpel. Did you ever wonder why the word "scalp" is in scalpel?
posted by eriko at 5:27 PM on January 13, 2010


Holy fuck.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:40 PM on January 13, 2010


My favorite part is the disclosure statement by the author:

Competing interest: VR is a son of Leonid Rogozov.
posted by Maias at 6:08 PM on January 13, 2010


Yes, you go and taunt the man with the nice sharp scalpel. Did you ever wonder why the word "scalp" is in scalpel?

I'll put a syringe full of ketamine (3 mg/kg more or less) against anything a surgeon can bring on. A little midazolam is nice but not necessary; in the profession it is known as an anestadart.

I totally missed the disclosure; good job Maias. Now I need to find out if my dad did anything incredible; perhaps he pulled his own teeth or something.
posted by TedW at 6:37 PM on January 13, 2010


"Suddenly it flashed through my mind: there are more injuries here and I didn’t notice them"

Don't you hate it when that happens? Like, I was in a car accident yesterday, went straight through the windshield. Had to open up my brain to stop the pressure, and WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT... fucking GLASS everywhere. So now I have to clear out all this glass before I can really dig in. Such a bitch.

"At the worst moment of removing the appendix I flagged: my heart seized up and noticeably slowed; my hands felt like rubber."

I believe this is what the native Kalaallit people of Greenland call "FUCKING HARD CORE."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:35 AM on January 14, 2010


I got a bit lightheaded just reading that. Yikes.
posted by Harry at 7:34 AM on January 14, 2010


Oh, this wheelbarrow? That's for my giant balls. Yeah, it's a little inconvenient sometimes, but they let me do stuff like perform surgery on myself.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:04 AM on January 14, 2010


Utterly inspiring. wow. Amazing what people can do.
posted by nickyskye at 12:21 PM on January 14, 2010


totally awesome - thank you
posted by jammy at 3:42 PM on January 15, 2010


I thought this was some sort of joke when I saw the title.

This dude got his "HARDCORE" card punched for life. I couldn't even finish the article. I read as far as the first picture and my head started to spin.

I aspire to a "Don't roll over and die" philosophy... BUT THIS GUY CUT HIS OWN FUCKING GUTS OPEN AND TOOK OUT THE BROKEN PIECE!

I suddenly feel like a shit for thinking "Man, the climber who cut off his own arm with a dull knife was impressive up until 10 minutes ago..."

How douchbaggy is that?

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:14 PM on January 17, 2010


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