5 Horrifying Real Medical Situations That Sound Made Up
Illness can appear out of the blue and turn your life upside-down, like a Zooey Deschanel character in a rom-com. But as much as you'd like to try to mentally gird yourself for any medical disaster, it's not so easy when you're stricken by something David Cronenberg jotted down in a notebook after a particularly intense nightmare. Just look at what happened in these cases.
A Man Gets A Brain Scan And Finds Out That Most Of His Brain Is Missing
Imagine your left leg has been feeling kind of weak lately. You've had a similar problem before, and the doctors fixed you right up then. Why is this time any different? You head on down to the hospital, they do a brain scan, and they find the problem: Your brain's missing. Well, most of it.
As reported in The Lancet, that's exactly what happened to a 44-year-old French civil servant who had been living a completely normal life until the day he found out he was a Simpsons plot. He was married with two kids, and while his IQ was below average, it wasn't in the range of someone with a mental disability. He was also, as you might have gathered by now, not as dead as you'd expect someone without most of their brain to be (that is to say, fully dead).
It turned out that as a kid, the man had been diagnosed with hydrocephalus, which meant that his brain had a buildup of excess fluid. The fluid had been drained, but it was now back with a vengeance, having taken up most of the space where his cerebral cortex should have been. Only a thin layer of brain tissue remained. But because the displacement happened over the course of several years, experts believe his brain tissue either adapted to take on new functions or had been compressed into that thin layer. Note, however, that when the fluid was drained again, his brain didn't magically spring back into place. But hey, the leg thing was fixed, so there's a win.
A Guy Gets A Root Canal And Loses The Ability To Create New Memories
In 2005, William sat down in a dentist's chair for a root canal, and that's the last thing he can remember. No, seriously. Somehow, the procedure robbed him of the ability to create new memories, meaning that every day, he has to relearn that his children are no longer kids, he's no longer in the army, and that "reality TV host > leader of the free world" is now a viable career trajectory.
Instead of going the Memento body tattoo route, William simply has a file on his phone with information about everything that happened since the inexplicable incident. Huh. Bet Mark Memento wishes he'd thought of that.
Doctors initially thought that the anesthetic might have led to a brain hemorrhage, but they found no signs of injury. It's not anterograde amnesia (the Memento condition) either, since people suffering from that can still learn new skills, and William can't. If that phone he's carrying isn't an old Nokia brick, he probably uses most of his 90 minutes of working memory figuring out how to use it.
The most likely explanation is that he can no longer create the proteins necessary for rebuilding the synapses that store memories, a process that takes about 90 minutes. In other words, William's printing press (the hippocampus) is intact, but it ran out of ink. Of course, none of this explains how poking around a guy's teeth rewired his brain. Well, aside from the fact that the Universe is a place of arbitrary terror, of course.
A Young Woman Sweats Blood When She's Stressed
When an Italian woman complained that she'd started sweating blood, doctors were understandably skeptical. But after extensive testing, they had to concede that yes, this woman is almost certainly suffering some sort of curse.
OK, they didn't conclude "Curses are real, and lady, you got all of 'em." But she wasn't faking it. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the woman started experiencing episodes of bleeding from her face and hands out of the blue, despite no cuts, lesions, or satanic spells (that she knew of). The episodes happen more often when she's stressed, which would be 24/7 for us if we knew our pristine white linen suits could be ruined at any time.
Doctors diagnosed her with "hematohidrosis," which literally means "sweating blood," and ... that's about all they know. It's not even an accurate name, since the bleeding has been observed in parts of the body where sweat glands are absent. They do at least know that she's not alone. A 12-year-old girl in India has the same problem, although she's been successfully treated with atropine sulfate (a drug typically used to combat irritable bowel syndrome).
In this woman's case, they put her on medication to regulate her blood pressure and heart rate, and it helped, but she isn't cured yet. So basically, her life is still a horror movie, but without the fun "burning all your enemies with psychic fire" part.
A Tattoo Procedure Leaves A Man With A Permanent Boner
Getting a tattoo carries certain inherent risks (like having the Chinese symbols for "I love ice skating" permanently emblazoned on your skin). As one 21-year-old Iranian man found out, such risks multiply when you forego the precise equipment available at modern inking establishments and opt instead for a "traditional" technique. Oh, and also it doesn't help when the tattoo is on your penis.
According to a report published in The Journal Of Sexual Medicine, the man paid to get the phrase "Good luck on your journeys" needled onto his wang, and got a "permanent semi-erection" as a freebie. Turns out that "traditional" method pierced too deep and wound up giving him something called a "nonischemic priapism." And if you think that sounds bad, you should probably avoid following that link to learn all about the ensuing draining and shunting.
When the attempts to redirect the blood flow in his manhood didn't work, the man refused further treatment, claiming it wasn't that big of a deal (as in, it didn't hurt, and he could still have sex). He was also said not to regret the dong tattoo. Yet another first in the history of science.
A Boy's Blood Produces Poison, And His Death Puts His Mother In Jail For Murder ... Until The Same Thing Happens To His Brother
In 1989, Patricia Stallings took her three-month-old son Ryan to the hospital due to persistent vomiting and breathing troubles. Eventually, they told her what was wrong with him: her. Ryan's blood contained ethylene glycol, the active ingredient in antifreeze, and doctors and authorities were convinced that Patricia had poisoned him. The day after the boy died, Patricia was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. After all, who else could have put the poison in Ryan's system? There's no Antifreeze Fairy, as far as we know.
Plot twist: He did it himself. Or his body did, anyway.
While Patricia was in jail, she discovered she was pregnant with a second child, David, who was whisked off to foster care as soon as he was born. That's when he began showing the exact same symptoms his brother had. Turns out both children suffered from an extraordinarily rare and dangerous genetic condition known as methylmalonic acidemia, which is easily mistaken for ethylene glycol poisoning. It's the worst mutant ability ever (after Gambit's).
Luckily, David was successfully treated, and Patricia was exonerated. So remember, if you suspect your spouse is slowly killing you by putting antifreeze in your coffee every morning, there is a slight chance it's not that. (It's probably that, though. You know what you did.)
E. Reid Ross is the author of Canadabis: The Canadian Weed Reader, which is in stores now and available on Amazon or direct from Simon & Schuster. Laura H likes chocolate milk and taking long naps in bed. Follow her on Twitter.
That blood-sweat effect could probably be recreated with a little bit of fake blood this Halloween.
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For more terrifying tales from the medical world, check out 23 Horrifying Diseases You Won't Believe Existed and 5 Creepy Diseases You Won't Believe Are Medically Possible.
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