Medicine: 7 of the strangest and most curious cases in its history – BBC News


The history of medicine can be as strange as it is fascinating.

BBC journalist Thomas Morris knows that.

In his book "The Mystery of Teeth That Exploded and Other Curiosities in the History of Medicine" (Penguin, 2018) reveals seven of the strangest cases in medical records.

Here we show a summary:

1. Teeth that blew up

200 years ago, a clergyman from Pennsylvania, United States (identified only as "the Reverend D.A.") began to suffer from excruciating toothache.

Of himself in agony, he did all he could to relieve the pain: running through the garden like an angry animal, banging his head on the ground and plunging his face into icy water.

Unfortunately, all these attempts were in vain.

The next morning the clergyman paced through his office, clenching his jaw, when suddenly "a loud bang, Like a shot, he broke the tooth into pieces., giving you immediate relief. "

Strangely, the blast of the priest's canine was the beginning of an epidemic of explosive teeth which would eventually be reported in a dental journal under the impressive title: "Teeth Explosion with an Audible Report".

Apparently a young woman's toothache ended spectacularly when her aching tooth erupted so violently that it nearly knocked her down, deafening her for several weeks.

What could have caused these dramatic explosions? Experts have proposed numerous theories, ranging from abrupt changes in temperature to the chemicals used in the first fillings.

None of these arguments, however, was particularly convincing, so the case of teeth that exploded not yet solved until the date.

2. The sailor swallows knives

In 1799, a 23-year-old American sailor named John Cummings landed to spend the night with his companions at the French port of Le Havre.

There, the group saw a magician entertaining a large audience pretending to swallow knives.

Later that night, Cummings, who was already very drunk, boasted that I could swallow knives "like Frenchmen". Encouraged by his friends, the reckless seaman set the knife in his mouth and swallowed it.

An old swallowtail.
The sailor saw a man who swallowed knives and had little clever idea to imitate him.

When a spectator asked how many knives he could swallow at the same time, Cummings replied,All the knives on board the ship!", before consuming three more.

It was an impressive feat, though it was idiotic. Although Cummings had not tried to swallow more knives for six years, in 1805 he wanted to show off at a party and repeated his performance in front of a group of sailors.

But it did not take long for Cummings to begin to suffer the negative effects of his heterodox "diet."

A terrible abdominal pain He returned to eating more and more difficult and began to starve.

Finally he died in 1809 after a long illness.

His doctors, who did not believe his story of having eaten knives, were initially confused until they dissected his body and were surprised to discover Corroded remains of more than 30 knives inside your stomach and intestines, one of which pierced his colon.

3. The healing of the pigeon pigeon

Nineteenth-century physicians used a wide range of strange remedies, but few were as foreign as that recommended by the German physician Karl Friedrich Canstatt.

The eminent specialist in childhood diseases gave the following recipe for treating seizures in childhood: "If a Keeps a pigeon's pigeon against the child's anus during the attack, the animal dies soon and the attack ceases with the same speed ".

In London, they laughed at this unusual treatment, but their advocates were convinced it worked.

It was an idea eccentric and, oddly enough, Dr. Canstatt was not the only doctor he believed worked.

When the director of St. Petersburg Children's Hospital, Dr. JF Weisse, was summoned to treat a child who was seriously ill one night in August 1850, he had little success with conventional medications.

Desperate, he asked his parents to pick up a pigeon. "After the bird was applied to the child's anus," he noted in a medical journal, "he gasped several times, closed his eyes periodically, then contracted his feet in a spasm and finally vomited."

The boy miraculously recovered, although the same can not be said about the pigeon: after refusing his food, he died a few hours later.

When the news about the "bargain bargain cure" arrived in London's medical journals, they caused a lot of laughter.

But Weisse ignored the insults and called for further investigations: "Experiments are needed with other birds," he wrote, apparently seriously.

4. The soldier who removed his own stone in the bladder

The colonel Claude Martin he was an eighteenth-century soldier who spent most of his life working for the British East India Company.

In addition to having a successful military career, he worked as a cartographer, architect, and administrator. It became India's richest European and also built (and flew) the country's first hot air balloon.

But what is less known about Martin is that he was the first person to perform – and go through – a medical procedure that would later be known as lithotripsy.

Instrument for performing a lithotripsy.
Half a century after Claude Martin operated himself, French surgeons created an instrument very similar to the one he invented to remove stones in the bladder.

When developed the symptoms of a bladder stoneIn 1782, Martin decided not to visit a doctor, realizing that an operation to remove it would be extremely painful.

Instead, the brave Frenchman took things into his own hands.

Martin designed a special instrument made with a knitting needle and a whale handle. So He inserted this homemade instrument into his own urethra and into his bladderand scraped the stone little by little.

In addition, the colonel repeated the horrible procedure up to 12 times a day for six months.

Surprisingly, it worked: By the end of this period, his symptoms had disappeared.

Fifty years later, something very similar to Martin's technique became a standard method for the treatment of bladder stones, thanks to the pioneering research of surgeons in Paris who apparently did not know what the colonel had done.

Martin was not only the first to carry out the procedurelater known as lithotripsy; It was also the first patient to undergo this operation.

5. The story of the miller

On August 15, 1737, a young man named Samuel Wood was working at one of the windmills of the Isle of Dogs in London.

Going for another sack of corn, he did not realize that there was a hanging rope.

When passing in front of one of the large wooden wheels, the rope was caught in one of the gears and before he knew what was happening, he flew through the air and fell abruptly to the ground.

When he stood up, Wood felt no pain except for a slight tingling in his right shoulder. And then he saw an unexpected object stuck in the steering wheel: an amputated arm

His arm!, he realized with horror.

The accident he had in the factory transformed Samuel Wood into a medical legend.

Showing admirable composure, she managed to descend a narrow staircase and then walked to the nearest house for help.

Losing a limb is not a trivial matter: Wood's injury was so drastic that the doctors who treated the young man feared a fatal outcome. But they were surprised to see that the arm had been cleaned up so cleanly that the life of his patient was not in danger.

Wood recovered from his accident in a matter of weeks and he became a kind of celebrityThe local taverns even sold pictures of the man who had survived when a windmill ripped off his arm.

In November 1737, three months after the accident, Samuel was brought before the Royal Society as a lively curiosity, with the arm amputated, now preserved in alcohol, which was also presented for examination by the assembled scientists.

6. Slugs in your stomach

In the summer of 1859, a 12-year-old London girl named Sarah Ann began to complain of nausea. His symptoms were not serious and his parents did not worry until one afternoon vomited a large garden slug, which was described as "alive and very active".

Sarah Ann then vomited seven more slugs, of various sizes, but all alive, and their parents decided that it was probably time to seek medical attention.

When asked if she had eaten something unusual, the girl told the doctor that He liked to eat the lettuces in the garden..

The girl's doctor's theory was that she ate the slugs involuntarily eating lettuce from her garden, but that was later refuted.

The doctor concluded that, unknowingly, he swallowed a family of young slugs that had grown to maturity in his stomach for several weeks.

He also noticed that Sarah Ann had only one hand, something he attributed to the fact that her mother was "scared by a hedgehog" during her pregnancy.

The story of the slugs seemed implausible and some experts suggested that the girl should be pretending, "Can the garden slug live on the human stomach?" he asked in a headline in the scientific journal. The Lancet.

JC Dalton, a professor of physiology in New York, decided to find out. He did an exhaustive series of experiments that involved wetting live slugs in the stomach acid to see what happened.

All creatures died within minutes and were completely digested several hours later, and the teacher reasonably concluded that it did not; slugs can not live in the human stomach.

So what was wrong with Sarah Ann? It seems likely that his illness was more mental than physical.

But whatever was afflicting her was certainly not a family of mollusks that lived in her stomach.

7. A burning discomfort

Halitosis, also known as bad breath, is an embarrassing and embarrassing condition, but is rarely dangerous.

In 1886, a man from Glasgow, whose name is unknown, who suffered from bad breath for about a month, developed a new disturbing symptom.

When he woke up in the middle of the night, he lit a match to look at his watch. When he tried to blow it, his breath caught fire, causing a tremendous explosion.

Man throwing fire from his mouth.
A doctor eventually discovered why some men's breathing was combustible.

His wife woke up immediately and found her husband spitting fire like a dyspeptic dragon.

The man's doctor had never heard of anything like it, and at first no one knew what could have caused this unusual phenomenon.

But then another Scottish doctor, James McNaught, found a patient so affected by fuel scratches that he had to quit for fear of burning his house.

When a tube passed inside the man's stomach, Dr. McNaught was able to analyze the contents. He discovered that a blockage in the intestine caused the contents of the man's stomach will be fermented, producing large amounts of flammable methane.

Although potentially dangerous, this state also served as a funny trick.

In the 1930s, a patient attempted to light a cigarette while playing a game of bridge, but he was impressed by the need to belch.

As one medical newspaper reported, "When in the company he tried to do it discreetly through the nose, leaving his companions electrified when he produced two flames that came out of his nostrils."

What could be more discreet than that?

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