Every day, new advances in medicine bring us closer to a Utopian future in which doctors can cure everything with some kind of non-invasive device, as well as quickly and safely splice ape hands onto a human body. That's the dream. But until we finally reach that beautiful finish line, surgeons have had to figure out some pretty, uh, "creative" procedures to keep the ol' meatsacks swingin'.
NSFW Warning: This article contains many images of body parts in places you would never want those body parts to be in.
Dugan Smith was on his way to becoming a star player until life gave the hopeful ten-year-old a nasty slide tackle in the form of osteosarcoma, a rare and spiteful bone cancer, near his femur. To Dugan's horror, the doctors informed him they'd have to take his leg to prevent the cancer from spreading. But like good neighbors, they promised they were only borrowing it.
In 2008, after enduring weeks of awful chemotherapy, Dugan met with his savior, Dr. Joel Mayerson, a cancer expert from Ohio State University. Knowing how much Dugan loved baseball, Dr. Mayerson proposed a martian-like surgery called a Van Nes rotationplasty, which could not only save his life, but also his dream. The procedure involves amputating the entire leg, cutting out the upper part housing the cancer, and then reattaching the lower half to the hip. Oh, and to make that mental image even more topsy-turvy, the leg also rotates 180 degrees, with the foot pointing at your butt, just to make it look even more like you got worked on by a very incompetent Igor.
Ohio State Medical Center
But nothing would be further from the truth, because this amazing procedure allowed Dugan's heel to be jury-rigged into a knee on which to place a lower leg prosthetic, giving him a whole lot more mobility and support than any full-length prosthetic leg ever could. Today, an adult Dugan is completely cancer free, plays both baseball and basketball, and like a true champ, wants to dedicate his life to designing better prosthetics to help others like him keep knocking it out of the park.
When professional singer Alama Kante was diagnosed with an enlarged thyroid gland, an affliction that can lead to throat cancer, she figured that at the very least, her career was over. Even if the preventive surgery was a success, it would almost certainly mess up her vocal cords. But anesthesiologist Giles Dhonneur (or a lunatic who knocked him unconscious and stole his lab coat) had an eccentric idea: Why not have Kante remain awake for the surgery so they could check if her vocal cords still worked?
All she needed to do was withstand inhuman amounts of pain while also continuing to sing throughout the procedure. Here's a video of Kante singing with her throat being operated on. And if you want to skip straight past that, we promise we won't describe it in too much detail in the next paragraph.
Throughout the gruesome experience, Kante was only sedated locally, with the hypnotist convincing her that the pain she was feeling was that of childbirth, and that she could stay in control by singing her troubles away. Surprisingly, this worked like a charm, and even though she did feel pain at one point, Alama recalled it all as but a faraway dream.
Kante later made a complete recovery, and Dr. Dhonneur had the honor of being the first ever raving madman to remove a tumor while using hypnosis. Medical experts around the world are now studying this procedure in the hopes of minimizing the damage of invasive surgery -- and to finally give parents of magicians a reason to be proud of their sons' careers.
In 2015, a Chinese factory worker named Zhou had his hand sliced clean off his body. Well, maybe "clean" isn't the right word, because when they rushed him to the hospital, the doctors confirmed his arm's tissue was too damaged to reattach the hand. A disastrous turn, as the hand needed to be plugged into some working blood vessels to keep from dying. Fortunately, a surgical team led by the fantastically named Dr. Tang Juyu had previously found a way to keep severed limbs alive by attaching them to another part of the body, like the belly. And before Zhou could say "Haha, you're not serious about attaching my hand to my belly, right?" they attached it to his leg.
While it looks a bit like he accidentally ripped through his legs when putting them on the morning, the creepy procedure is 100% safe and highly effective. After the calf was done "babysitting" (though being "hand-pregnant" feels more accurate), Dr. Tang managed to reattach it to Zhou's healed arm, and after barely a month's worth of recovery, he was again able to move his fingers. And all he lost in the process was the ability to scratch his feet without having to bend over.
Seven-year-old Heather McNamara contracted a vicious stomach cancer that seemed impervious to the normal treatments. Her prognosis was dire until she met Dr. Tomoaki Kato, a radical surgeon who figured that if he couldn't get to the cancer inside her, he'd simply take out the whole shebang until it had nowhere left to hide.
With the cancer having wrapped itself around many of Heather's organs, traditional surgery was deemed both dangerous and pointless. But Kato was willing to perform highly experimental auto-transplant surgery, so called because you take an organ out, only to then transplant back into the very same body. In between that switcheroo, they would operate on the organs ex-vivo, removing the massive tumor before jamming the good stuff back in there.
To make Heather completely cancer-free, Dr. Kato had to remove six organs (the stomach, liver, spleen, pancreas, and large and small intestines), which took an exhausting 23 hours of nonstop surgery. If that sounds impossible to survive, you're underestimating Heather, who managed to pull through despite some of her organs being too far gone to re-implant and her stomach having to be replaced by a bag made from her intestinal tissue. She not only survived, but thrived. In February 2019 she celebrated the ten-year-anniversary of being cancer-free, and she continues to raise money to help others affected by cancer.
In 2012, Jamie Hilton, former Miss Idaho, went salmon fishing in Hell's Canyon. But while she was reeling in a big one, she fell off a pier and headfirst into a pile of boulders. By the time she was helicoptered to a hospital, her brain had swollen so badly that it was pressing against her skull. And because our stupid heads don't just grow comically large bumps like in cartoons, doctors had to perform a hemicraniectomy, removing 25% of the skull to prevent her brain from crushing itself. All they had to do then was wait for the swelling to go down. In the meantime, the needed to find a good space to put a quart of skull -- and they figured there was no better place than Hilton's own body.
In order to keep the "bone flap" nourished, sterile, and safe from bone thieves, surgeons stored the piece of skull between Hilton's skin and her abdominal muscles.
There, the unplanned skull-baby remained for 42 days, until her brain had finally reduced down to appropriate "whole skull" levels, at which point it was reattached to the rest of the ol' headbox with titanium plates and screws. Let's see those mean boulders try to make a dent in that.
When Bethan Simpson was in her fifth month of pregnancy, her fetus was diagnosed with spina bifida, a hole in her back which would probably result in paralysis. She and her husband decided to undergo "fetal repair" (the first ever one in the UK), a surgery that would open the womb to temporarily "birth" Baby Simpson in order to sew up the tiny gap in her spine. After that, the hole in Simpson's tummy was closed to await the kid's second coming.
While the grueling surgery was the couple's only hope, doctors warned them that it may not solve anything, and that their encore baby could still be born paralyzed. But four months later, Elouise Simpson was born "literally kicking and screaming -- and peeing all over the place." Which according to her very happy mother meant "she ticked all the boxes." Sounds like a normal baby, alright.
Christian Markle is dedicating this one to Ju.
For more, check out What Your Doctor Wants To Tell You, But Can't (From A Medical Physician):
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