#3. Doctors Grow a New Jaw Bone on a Man's Back
A 56-year-old German man had lost his lower jaw due to a cancerous tumor, which sucks even more than you probably think. This had rendered him unable to eat solids, a true tragedy in the land of all things savory and greasy and chewy. After nine years of subsisting on soft food and soup, the man decided that enough is enough and told his doctors that he was sick of living like that, and would, in fact, rather not live at all.
"Why bother having a face if you can't stuff anything into it?"
This thinly concealed threat sent the doctors scrambling for a solution in a cartoon-like frenzy. Dr. Patrick Warnke considered removing bone from the man's leg and using that for a jaw, which is a common practice for reconstructive jaw surgery. However, this wasn't an option for this particular patient because of some other risks with doing that kind of surgery. Luckily, Warnke, who happened to be a stem cell researcher as well as a plastic surgeon, managed to improvise a backup plan: He'd just grow the man a brand new jawbone.On his back.
That probably tastes awful.
But ... Why?
By using 3-D computer models of the man's skull, doctors were able to create what they were looking for in a jaw. Once they had their ideal mouth mapped out, the fun began. Here's the German Chin Cake recipe for you enterprising home bakers:
Using the 3-D model, craft a mesh cage in the shape of what the patient's new mandible will look like.
Warnke, et al. Via Nature
Throw in sugar-cube-sized bone fragments from a cow.
Mix with a dash of bone marrow
Add juuuust a hint of stem cells, for taste.
Bake inside a dude's back for seven weeks to get around those pesky body rejection problems.
Remove and carefully attach to the remains of patient's original jaw and the muscle tissue around it so it fits perfectly.
And voila! Instant chin.
Warnke, et al. Via Nature
His face has great traction.
Attaching the jaw went off without a hitch and gave the patient a new lease on life. With a custom-built, personalized bottom half of a face, surgeons had no problem giving the man back a normal life and the right to pig out.
The procedure opened up doors for stem cell research and has allowed Dr. Warnke to move forward with his stem cell studies. Since then, he has developed new throats, urethras and other body parts for patients who need them. And while everyone may think whatever they like about his work and the rest of the whole stem cell thing, it's kind of hard to argue with a man eating his first solid meal in almost a decade, tears of joy in his eyes.
Patrick Warnke, via Discover
Not bad, stem cells and cow chunks.
(It was a bratwurst sandwich.)
#2. The Man With Two Hearts
Tyson Smith was in a bad way. His heart wasn't putting in the effort necessary for the whole "staying alive" thing to take place in the long haul. What's more, doctors had also found out that a transplant was out of the question because Tyson's lungs weren't cooperating -- a case of hypertension would have made the task of pumping blood into the lungs too difficult for a transplant heart that was new on the job.
"It's my first day on the job! Seriously, fuck you guys."
So, the doctors had one shitty heart (the one in Tyson's chest), one good heart (the one in a container) and two uncooperative lungs that weren't going to allow the switch. The puzzle was seemingly unsolvable.
So they looked at each other, shrugged and jammed both of the hearts into Tyson's chest.
UC San Diego
You can almost see the duct tape.
But ... Why?
What may seem like overkill was actually a pretty well thought out (if novel) procedure that in fact had a fairly decent-for-experimental-surgery 90 percent success rate. The bad news, though, is that said success rate was achieved on rats.
Still, turns out what worked for rodents worked well enough for Tyson, too. Take a look:
Yes, that's a human chest with two beating hearts, grafted into Tyson's chest in a procedure called heterotopic heart transplantation. He's now the proud owner of two individually beating hearts, both doing their part in what amounts to the only fairytale ending in the history of surgery: The old heart now had a buddy to help share its workload, while the lungs and the new heart learned to get along, since the old guy was still around to balance things out.
Everyone was a winner, no one more so than Tyson himself, who gained at least a precious extra decade to his life.
UC San Diego
Plus, he's closer to being a Space Marine than anyone else alive.
#1. The Tooth Eyeball
Let's say you've been blind for nine years. Then, one day, a doctor comes and offers you a chance to regain your sight. While you have heard some of the other tales on this list and therefore harbor some reasonable suspicion toward the medical profession, you must admit that blindness kind of sucks, what with the whole Ben Affleck Daredevil thing still giving the predicament a bad name. Also, the whole not-being-able-to-see thing is a bummer.
So you agree to sit through a couple of medical examinations and procedures. And then, one day, you open your eyes -- and right enough, you can see! Exhilarated at the thought of seeing your own face for the first time in years, you glance at the mirror ... and see this:
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! It's like someone shoved a piece of raw steak in your eye socket! And yet somehow, you can see it. In fact, you can see with it. What is this witchcraft?
Congratulations, you have just let Dr. Victor Perez remove a tooth from your mouth and implant it in your eye.
"It's barely noticeable! Also, coincidentally, I find your neck utterly compelling."
But ... Why?
The scenario described above happened in full to 60-year-old Sharron Thornton, who was the volunteer subject for Dr. Perez' hardcore optical dentistry in 2009.
The operation was a groundbreaking, difficult-as-hell medical procedure called modified osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis, a multistage process designed to help people whose corneas are so far gone they're beyond saving through ordinary surgical means.
"You can see, but you'll need to register with the state as a witch."
Turns out, eyes can be tricked into accepting certain other parts of the body as a part of them. The problem is, said body part needs to remain alive while in there, in order to avoid the scenario professionals like to call "Holy shit, you have a dead body part in your eye."
That's where teeth, which are used to cooperating with bone and ligament, come in. The idea of implanting a modified tooth into an eye to act as a camera has been around from the sixties, but a number of horrific complications, including the tooth dropping off from inside the eye, didn't do much for the popularity of the procedure until recent modifications made it rather more survivable.
They can have you healthy enough to star in a del Toro film within a month of surgery.
How the actual operation went down reads out like a strange, surgery-themed game of MadLibs. First, they extracted a canine. Then they filed it into a suitable shape, drilled a hole and placed a plastic lens in said hole. The lens-tooth was then implanted in her shoulder to heal, while the damaged part of her eye was removed and replaced with skin from inside her cheek.
By now, the eye was so confused that it assumed it's as normal as anything else that's been happening recently to have a tooth inside it. So they take out the tooth and stick it in the eye to act as a sort of camera lens that replaces the damaged eye tissue and also, incidentally, turns the whole eye into a red ball of horror that has a freaking camera lens sticking out.
But here's the thing: That whole clusterfuck works like a dream. After just a few hours of the bandages being off, Thornton was able to recognize faces. She is already able to read newspapers with a magnifying glass and is expected to get even better as she fully heals.
Yeah, sure, the eye may look like a horror movie prop, but who are we to argue with results? The woman got her vision back, for Pete's sake.
For more gutsy badassery, check out 7 People Who Cheated Death (Then Kicked It In The Balls) and 6 WWI Fighter Pilots Whose Balls Deserve Their Own Monument.