BOOK REVIEW: Doctor describes metal illness, bizarre ailments


The Woman Who Swallowed a Toothbrush

Rob Myers, M.D.

  • Doctor describes metal illness, bizarre ailments

In some unspecified year in an unnamed city, a disheveled man was admitted to an unidentified hospital, complaining of abdominal pain and asking that his stomach be emptied.

During an examination in the emergency room, he was found to have a swollen abdomen. “The vagrant had multiple hard masses,” wrote Dr. Rob Myers.

The man objected to having an x-ray taken of his stomach, insisting, “I jes’ want them things outta my belly.”

The ER physician “was prepared to have the psychiatry service deal with the problem” but first wanted to explain the enlarged abdomen. Despite the derelict’s hostility, an x-ray was obtained.

When the doctor slipped the

films into the viewing box, he was “stunned by what he saw,” Myers writes: “an enormous mass of metallic objects…”

Minutes later the transient collapsed, and after 45 minutes of CPR, he was declared dead.

An autopsy discovered 97 objects in his stomach and intestines, including pliers, a small hammer, a zipper, at least three pens, wires, chain links, a pair of wire-rimmed glasses, $1.43 in coins, safety pins, nails, seven keys, a pair of nail clippers, a wristwatch, and a small belt buckle.

The cause of death was determined to be a perforation of the man’s small intestine, “the result of a sharpened Swiss Army knife, the price tag still dangling from a small metal circle at one end.”

This case of a man suffering from mental illness is one of 51 bizarre medical cases Dr. Myers describes in The Woman Who Swallowed a Toothbrush (ECW Press, 294 pages; Apple iBook, $11.99; Amazon Kindle book, $10.99; Barnes & $13.49; eBay $20.22; paperback, $14.61).

“Whereas 99.9% of medicine is predictable, this book is a sample of the other 0.1%,” the author writes. It’s a medical version of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Other cases include:

  • the obese man whose stomach literally burst. “Excessive ingestion of food and drink was more than his stomach could handle.”
  • the Iranian soldier who survived with a bullet lodged in the left ventricle of his heart after he was shot in the chest by an Iraqi.
  • an Ecuadoran drug “mule” whose stomach contained 178 cocaine-filled condoms, 45 of which ruptured, causing her death.
  • a woman whose potassium level soared to a life-threatening level because she drank five liters of orange juice daily for three months. (Reporter’s note: My mother collapsed in 1992 and was rushed to the hospital in Stillwater, where tests revealed she had a potassium deficiency. At that time a dozen potassium-rich bananas lay uneaten in her kitchen.)
  • a young airline stewardess whose complaint of frequent abdominal cramps and other issues was traced to her chewing up to 60 sticks of sugarless gum each day for seven years.
  • the young man plagued by gender identity issues who castrated himself with a kitchen knife he brought to the hospital.
  • the woman who received numerous insect bites on her scalp during a trip to Jamaica that later resulted in a surgeon removing 44 larvae from her head.
  • the young single man who, after months of nagging stomach discomfort, was rushed to a hospital where surgery revealed that a toothpick he had inadvertently swallowed eroded through his intestines and perforated a major artery.
  • the divorcée whose silicone breast implant ruptured into the space around her lungs.
  • the bulimic woman who swallowed a toothbrush while attempting to induce vomiting after binging on ice cream.
  • the teenaged girl whose desire to lose weight prompted her to eat rolled-up wads of toilet paper.
  • the 66-year-old Russian woman whose sneeze caused her eyes to literally pop out of their sockets.
  • the woman whose chest pain was traced to a sewing needle embedded in the outer lining of her heart; she impaled herself on it when she fell asleep on the couch while sewing a button on her son’s baseball uniform.
  • the jockey who urinated “like a racehorse” after he ingested “a huge dose” of Lasix, a diuretic, prior to a race in order “to lighten himself…”
  • the dentist addicted to inhaling nitrous oxide.
  • the young man who severed his left hand and right foot, and jammed a steak knife in his left eye, after he “heard a voice from the Bible” commanding him to pluck out an offending eye lest he be cast into Hell. High on drugs “he decided that the more body parts he could divest himself of, the purer he would become,” Myers writes.
  • the electrician who, to kick the smoking habit, chewed electrical cable every day and consequently was hospitalized with lead poisoning.
  • the ER physician who sustained a massive heart attack while undergoing his quinquennial certification for renewal of his cardiopulmonary resuscitation license.
  • “A famous abdominal x-ray shows an unopened umbrella,” Myers reports. “It was removed surgically for fear of inadvertently tripping the mechanism.

The author vows that the medical cases in his book “are based on fact, not fiction.”