The steeply rising cost of health care in this country means that, at times, corners must be cut. Sometimes you'll find yourself with a generic prescription instead of a name brand. Other times, you might even self diagnose on Web MD. That's probably accurate enough, right?
But then you have those few brave souls who looked at all of the above and said, "Also who needs a fancy 'surgeon' or 'hospital' when it's time to go under the knife? Just improvise that shit!"
Crazy? Yes. And almost certain death. Which is why it's all the more amazing that it worked in these cases.
Brain surgery is one of the few things in life that you really, really don't want to use that discount coupon on. But sometimes you just have to make do with what you have. And sometimes what you have hails from Home Depot ... and has been bought with said discount coupon.
"Leaves? No, I'm going to remove my liver!"
Just ask Henry Marsh, a British neurosurgeon who travels to Eastern Europe on a regular basis, and just gravitates naturally towards potential brain surgery the way Batman gravitates towards criminals. One day, he found himself in a familiar, brain surgeony situation -- a woman with a tumor that would kill her if not removed -- only sans the equipment, since at the time, the Ukraine wasn't too hot on state-of-the-art medical gear, and were going through more of a state-of-the-tool-shed phase.
We'd imagine this is the worst case scenario that flashes through a doctor's minds when someone shouts, "is there a doctor in the building?" For Marsh, it just meant he had to improvise with what he had. He drilled through the woman's skull and removed the tumor using only some local anesthetics and a $65 Bosch cordless drill he happened to have with him for some reason. When the battery went flat, he dug in with his hands.
I am forced to use the greatest surgical instrument of all: insanity!
All the while talking soothingly to the patient who, in case you're not familiar with how local anesthesia works, was fully goddamn conscious throughout the operation. Apparently, Ukrainian women are hardcore.
Obviously we wouldn't be telling you this story if the patient then just fell over dead. That wouldn't be brain surgery, that would just be a crazy person committing cranial drillocide. No, Doc Marsh successfully removed the tumor, the patient lived and the operation was a success. Using the same tools you'd use to build a birdhouse.
Some people would ride those kinds of chops throughout their professional career. Henry Marsh, on the other hand, took cordless drill surgery up as a hobby and to this day, travels to Ukraine twice a year for some sweet Bosch-to-brain action, training local surgeons to do the same as he goes. It's still better to do it with the professional-grade medical equipment, but in parts of the world where doctors can't pay 30 grand for a medical-grade bone drill, and patients probably consider biting down on a towel during open heart surgery a sign of weakness, you get by with what you have. And who are we to argue with the results?
Paediatrician Malcolm Coulthard of Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary was facing a terrible problem: His patient, a baby named Millie, just a few weeks old, had been born with gastroschisis -- a fun little condition in which the bowels of a person develop outside the body. And that wasn't even the problem -- surgery took care of that.
However, complications from said surgery had caused little Millie's kidneys to fail. Now, normally this wouldn't be a problem for a well-equipped hospital -- dialysis machines (which extract, cleanse and replace the patient's blood) are pretty standard equipment, after all. But here's the kicker: Millie was way too tiny for any of the hospital's machines, even those specifically meant for small children.
In other words, the equipment necessary for saving Millie's life didn't exist. Her life was draining away fast. There were no options left, nothing that could be done. Well, nothing normal men could do, anyway.
Via The Northern Echo
Plan C involved Lego. And it would have worked, too.
Coulthard excused himself and, some time later, returned with a strange looking, lumpy thing that looked like a battered parking meter that someone had equipped with a sticker that said DIALYSIS:
The smaller sticker below that read "HONESTLY, GUYS" has since been removed.
The mother was understandably nervous about hooking Millie up to the contraption, which she described as looking like a clumsy DiY thing, made of metal, with splotches of dried paint on the side. And a DIY project it was. Coulthard, assisted by kidney head nurse Jean Crosier, had quickly MacGyvered up a mini dialysis machine for Millie ... in his garage. From scratch. Using what parts they happened to have quick access to. In a matter of hours.
And that little machine damn well saved little Millie's life. She recovered completely and is living a normal life thanks to the DiY prowess of Coulthard and Crosier, who have received international praise and awards for this unbelievable achievement.
May the awards never stop coming, Doc.
And the machine, cobbled together from scrap iron and spare parts, held together with chewing gum and hope? Why, it worked so well the hospital is still using it.
When we say "Do it Yourself" appendectomy, we mean it -- the patient and the surgeon were the same guy.
Surgeon Leonid Rogozov was a decorated Soviet hero, awarded with the Order of the Red Banner of Labour and all the toppings. But the reason for his status was peculiar: an inflamed peritoneum. Or rather, how he decided to deal with one in 1961.
Not quite. But you're on the right track.
At the time, he was stationed at the asshole of the world that is Novolazarevskaya Station, in the Antarctic. Dr. Rogozov (who also served as the station's driver and meteorologist) developed a nasty peritonitis -- which in layman's terms meant he got a high fever; a crippling, nauseating stomach ache and an acute case of "gonna die real soon if someone doesn't do something pretty freakin' chop chop."
Now, while the most common answer to the age old question "What happens if the team medic goes down?" is "Everyone's screwed, that's what," Rogozov was determined to find a better solution. Namely, one that would let him live. Rogozov knew evacuation was not an option because of the constant snowstorms. He also knew no other member on his team could doctor worth damn. So, as a desperation move, he decided to cut himself open.
"Is everyone ready? Oh right, IT'S JUST ME, YOU WORTHLESS ASSHOLES."
Feverish and nauseous, he proceeded to perform the appendectomy on himself. He could also only have localized anaesthesia, similar to what you might receive at the dentist, in order to be able to operate accurately. Or rather, as accurately as someone with a fever, acute pain and incessant bouts of vomiting can do anything.
Somehow, though, he managed to keep a steady hand and a calm demeanor. Other members of the expedition were present, watching in silent horror as their doctor cut away at his own intestines for two hours, finally managing to remove the appendix, sew himself up and presumably give a long, hard look at everyone present that meant: From now on, you do your own fucking weather reports.
He then drove off towards the horizon and punched the sunset.
NOTE: THE STORIES GET STEADILY MORE TERRIFYING FROM HERE. THE REST OF THIS IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.