6 Insane DIY Surgeries You Won't Believe Actually Worked
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.
Cordless Drill Brain Surgery
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.
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.
Do it Yourself Appendectomy
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.
Solo Caesarean Section
A caesarean section is, to put it bluntly, an operation where they cut the mother open to take the baby out. Until the arrival of modern tools and hygiene, it was a notoriously dangerous procedure. Although it has been practiced since the ancient Roman times, the first record of a mother actually surviving it is from the 16th century. Even most advanced medical equipment hasn't made the C-section safe -- it is estimated to be three times more dangerous than normal birth, even with the most modern tools and equipment.
So what chance would an untrained woman have, stuck in the middle of nowhere with no means of communication, no equipment whatsoever and a baby that just won't come out? Such was the situation Ines Ramirez Perez, a peasant woman living in the mountains of rural Mexico, found herself facing in 2000. Now, when we say rural, we mean rural: the closest midwife was 50 miles away. Perez had no phone. In fact, the whole sparsely-populated village only had one phone, which from her point of view, could have been on the moon.
Yeah, I suppose you can use it. It's a local call, right?
The only person that could help her out of this mess was her husband, who had helped her with all the previous births. Oh, he was sitting in a cantina somewhere, drinking his ass off? Never mind. Twelve hours of near-incapacitating pain pass. Still no baby, or husband for that matter. Perez knew she had to do something.
Remember that warning we gave you?
At midnight, instead of curling up and giving in to the welcoming darkness that offered refuge from the mind-numbing pain, Perez grabbed a sturdy kitchen knife, had three shots of what was probably tequila and set to work.
She started sawing her belly open in a C-section fashion, despite having no medical training whatsoever. It took her three attempts to get to the uterus, and the wound she ended up inflicting on herself was almost twice as large as a normal C-section incision. All this, and we cannot stress this enough, using a random kitchen knife she had probably been using to chop up ingredients for the dinner stew a few hours earlier.
After what she estimates was about an hour, Perez finally excavated a healthy baby boy. After cutting the umbilical cord, she finally realized what the hell she had done -- and fainted. For just a couple of minutes, though. She had no time to black out. After waking up, her wounds still open, she proceeded to wrap the newborn up in a sweater and send her son to get help.
When we factor in the unsanitary conditions, blood loss, shock and, well, common sense, the ensuing rescue party that arrived a few hours later should've found a very dead woman in a pool of her own blood. Instead, they found Perez (with her wound still open, remember) and the newborn both very much alive and conscious. She survived the following eight-hour car trip to hospital -- because at that point there was probably nothing short of a point blank nuclear missile that could hurt her anymore -- and made a full recovery.
But her baby always smells like onions. Probably should have washed the knife first.
Perez's case caused quite a stir in the scientific community, as well as the news media. At least one study have been published on the case, the abstract of which basically reads out as "What the hell? Seriously, what the hell?" Perez herself attributes the whole thing to God, and sagely advises against other people following her example as if she genuinely thinks she's at the risk of becoming a trendsetter.
Cutting Out Your Own Kidney Stone
Lithonomy, or surgical kidney stone removal, tends to get a bit too close to a man's private parts for comfort. No one knew this better than blacksmith Jan de Doot, who had gone under the knife in the past. Due to these experiences had also reached a decision: He was going to have nothing to do with that ever again. It might have been because the surgeons in his town were incompetent, or because he had a crippling fear of knives. Our money, however, is on the fact that it was 1651, and the medical profession was still at the "daily dose of mercury" stage.
So naturally, karma being the bitch it is, de Doot the lithonomophobic soon developed a brand new kidney stone. This one was at least as big as the previous ones, and way the hell too large to pass naturally. There was simply no way around it: Jan was facing another surgery. Only this time, you know, screw doctors. De Doot was gonna do that shit himself.
"Nah, just take five, doc, I got this.
So one day, de Doot sent his wife to the fish market, grabbed the surgical knife he'd secretly made (being a smith and all) and set to work.
We honestly don't know how to put this next part delicately. We say again: If you are even the least bit squeamish, turn back now.
So, first, he cut his taint open. Then, he basically jumped up and down until the wound ripped long and deep enough for the stone, lodged in his bladder, to pass through. That's when the problems started. See, kidney stones tend to be no bigger than tiny pebbles. De Doot's was a bit larger than average:
So, yeah, it was basically the size of a large egg. De Doot had figured it'd basically just drop out of the wound, but being the size it was the stone didn't fit through.
So Jan patched himself up and, tail between his legs, scurried off to the lithonomist's.
Ha, just kidding! He totally stuck his hand in and ripped the stone out until, to quote an old medical text, "it finally popped out of hiding with an explosive noise and tearing of the bladder." After that, he calmly sent for someone to patch him up.
Yeah, we don't blame you, buddy.
He performed all this by himself, assisted only by his brother who participated by holding de Doot's scrotum aside (an act that automatically wins you Brother of the Century). Sources vary on what happened after that, mainly due to chroniclers being too busy cringing and holding their crotch with both hands. But whether de Doot perished due to complications of the operation or went on to live a long, fulfilling life, his legacy continues to give the finger to modern medicine.
Damn, that story isn't No. 1 on the list? What the hell could be more unsettling than that?
Self-Serve Sex Change
Oh come on. Surely no one ... we mean, out of the thousands of medical procedures out there, the one we'd least think people are performing voluntarily on themselves is cock lopping.
Boy, are we going to be proven wrong.
The thing with gender reassignment operations is they are lengthy, challenging processes that feature a lot of waiting and analyzing due to the irreversibility of the process and all the psychological issues involved -- not to mention the impressive wad of cash that is needed for the hormone treatments and the actual operation. To hell with all that!
You have 17 minutes to get me a vagina, or I'll take matters into my own hands.
Which brings us to Roland Mery, a former soldier who had secretly suffered from gender issues throughout his life, but couldn't afford to have the work done by the pros. So one day, at 61-years of age, Mery took his homemade surgery kit, gulped down a couple of painkillers he happened to have lying around and locked himself in the bathroom. There, he proceeded to perform genital correction surgery on himself, losing two pints of blood in the process before staggering out of the bathroom, pale and bleeding, to announce his wife that he's finally "done it," and (presumably) "please please please call an ambulance because my crotch is bleeding profusely."
"Honey, we need to talk ..."
Yes, we said wife. Did we mention she had been home all along, calmly watching TV in the living room while Mery was grafting himself a brand new crotch? And Mery had forgotten to mention to her that he'd be much happier as a she?
Insanely, not only did Mery survive -- he succeeded. Not to the point of being a fully physically functional female, of course, but enough for the doctors to basically just patch the wound up, take a look at what was done, and say: "Yeah, that's pretty much how we would've done it too."
Impressive work. You look more feminine already.
Even the wife didn't mind much, after the initial shock -- turns out, they had been through so much during their marriage that a minor thing like a husband turning into a wife during a bathroom break was not such a big deal after all. And that, friends, is a goddamned marriage.
For more medical horrors, check out 8 Terrifying Instruments Old-Time Doctors Used on Your Junk and The 7 Most Pointlessly Horrifying Plastic Surgery Procedures.