Spend some time observing the comings and goings in an emergency room and it's likely you'll utter the words, "Now I've seen it all." But ER workers know the number of ways a person can get sick, injured or oddly incapacitated has virtually no limits.
The minute you think you've seen it all, a patient arrives with an insect infestation problem, a small antique lodged in a sensory organ or -- believe it or not -- a patient enters the waiting room that's not even human. And here's the real challenge: Once you pull your jaw off the floor, you've got to figure out how to treat every unusual malady.
What lies ahead is a small collection of peculiar medical problems and how health professionals on the scene handled them. Think you've heard everything? No, no you really haven't. And our first item on the list is going to have you searching for hidden treasure.
5: Buried Treasure Extraction
It takes time to produce a pearl. Calvin Wright understands that.
The 46-year-old Athens, Ga. man visited an emergency room in 2010 suffering from bronchitis. An ER nurse looked into his ear and knew that something was awry. Forty-one years prior to Wright's ER visit, when he was just 5 years old, his sister had forced pearls from a broken necklace into his ear. A doctor at the time claimed he'd gotten the pearls out. Turns out, he missed one. Four decades later a specialist was able to remove it.
Wright had long dealt with hearing problems. Whenever he spoke, he had difficulty hearing his own words. Of course it's obvious now that he wasn't partially deaf -- he was unknowingly carrying a piece of his mother's jewelry in his ear canal [source: Hartstein].
4: Nose Job
No one liked how the little Minneapolis boy looked in July of 2007. His nose was quite unsightly. But, more importantly, the young fella didn't like how it felt.
The child had been holding a fork in his hand as he got into a booth at a Chinese restaurant. He fell on the silver utensil, emerging from under the table with the prongs sticking up through his nostrils and out the top of his nose. ER staff told the boy's mother they'd never seen anything like it. The fork was cleanly removed, leaving nothing but three tiny red scabs on the smiling boy's face. His mother kept pre- and post-nose-job photos of her fortunate child to show him when he gets older. She also saved the fork [source: Mikkelson].
3: Insect Extermination
A Hollywood special effects team couldn't create something of the horrific nature that was seen in a northern California emergency room following a minor traffic accident. The patient -- a 75-year-old man -- was brought to the ER by police who were on the scene of the wreck. They couldn't help but notice that a 5-by-6-inch (15-by-17 cm) section of the man's skull was missing, exposing his brain, which was pinkish in color and crawling with maggots. What was more unusual is the man had not been injured in the accident but was, instead, suffering from a form of cancer, which had destroyed his scalp.
The bugs were gently removed and the man was given antibiotics. He refused the needed surgery and was taken to a nursing facility where he died three months later [source: Cheshier et al.].
2: Canine Casting
Pennsylvania paramedic Ralph Provance treats patients of the human variety. But when a desperate man walked into the ER of Mount Pleasant Hospital holding an injured dog, Provance's heart went out to the animal.
The whimpering dog clearly had a broken front leg. The fracture occurred when the dog's owner became entangled in his pup's leash and fell on him. Provance was able to immobilize the limb with a type of splint not unlike a cast.
"(We) really don't treat animals in the ER," he told WTAE Television, "but I had taken some training on K-9 medic and how to take care of K-9 dogs during tactical training, so I asked the medical director if it was OK if I splint the dog's leg."
After getting some much-needed TLC, the furry creature was taken to a nearby animal hospital [source: WTAE].
1: Toilet Seat Removal
Emergency workers treat victims of assault every day. In that sense, what happened in Elkton, Md. in the spring of 2011 was not that unusual. A 48-year-old Walmart shopper was the target of pranksters who, police say, committed second-degree assault. But there was nothing routine about it. The victim was not punched, kicked or stabbed -- he unwittingly sat on a bathroom toilet seat covered in Super Glue.
Authorities unbolted the toilet seat from the stool and transported it, along with the embarrassed man, to a hospital ER staff used acetone to undo the sticky situation. In addition, they did their best to preserve the victim's ego: Even during transport his face was covered to protect his identity from onlookers [source: Santaella].
If there's a common denominator with emergency room procedures it's this: ER staff has to be willing to adapt to the situation, no matter how bizarre.
Lots More Information
- Cunha, John P., DO. "Objects or Insects in Ear." MedicineNet.com. (June 30, 2011). http://www.medicinenet.com/objects_or_insects_in_ear/article.htm
- Hartstein, Larry. "Pearl Comes Out of Ear 41 Years Later." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Dec. 21, 2010. (June 30, 2011). http://www.ajc.com/news/pearl-comes-out-of-783144.html
- Mikkelson, Barbara and David. Snopes.com. "Fork Chops." July 2007 (June 29, 2011). http://www.snopes.com/photos/medical/forknose.asp
- PubMed.gov. "Posttraumatic human cerebral myiasis." May 2010 (June 30, 2011). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20920942
- Santaella, Tony. "Man Super Glued to Toilet at Wal-Mart." WLTX. April 7, 2011 (June 30, 2011). http://www.wltx.com/news/watercooler/article/131873/363/Man-Super-Glued-to-Toilet-at-Walmart-
- Terterov S., Taghva A., MacDougall M., Giannotta S. "Posttraumatic human cerebral myiasis." (June 30, 2011). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20920942
- WTAE. "Hospital ER Gets Unexpected 4-Legged Patient." June 4, 2011. (July 1, 2011). http://www.wtae.com/r/28128837/detail.html