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Surgeon stationed in Antarctica removes his own appendix (1961) (bmj.com)
78 points by hegemonicon on Jan 14, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 24 comments

Many years ago (early 90s?) I looked into a job in Antarctica. The job stipulated that you had to preventatively remove your appendix prior to your tour of duty to avoid exactly this situation. I believe they also wanted you to replace your dental fillings (replacing the metal with a composite substance) to avoid problems caused by the cold (I assume).

It was all rather irrelevant to me in the end since I discovered that at the time the British Antarctic Society did not accept women (I believe this has since changed).

I just want to point out that based on personal experience last week, preventative surgery to remove your appendix is no longer preformed.

They do have women now - I don't know what they remove as a precaution !

(Since 1996 they grudgingly allowed 2 women at the base - while releasing lots of PR about how go ahead they were for promoting women in this way!)

The peace corp require the same thing. I believe they also require you have your wisdom teeth taken out...

I guess prevention is the best defense!

There have been many cases of self-surgery under extreme circumstances. Coincidentally stumbled upon a list of 10 incredible ones. http://listverse.com/2008/12/09/top-10-incredible-self-surge...

Which I submitted a couple of days ago but it did not become noticed


That is crazy. I don't think I would have the stomach for that myself, but I guess being a surgeon already would help.

I remember a related story of and Aussie medic imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp successfully removing the appendix of a fellow prisoner with only a shard of broken glass.

Personally, I just hope I am never in a position like that.

In your glass shard story, I'm not sure what would be worse, being the doctor or being the patient. I don't want to be on either side!

The survival must have mostly been luck - what are the odds of not becoming horribly infected?

What did the surgeon use for sutures, anyway?

I can't remember if it was mentioned in all honesty. There's no real reason that the incision need get infected if they were very careful.

If I remember correctly the medic sterilized his instruments, himself and the patient with alcohol or some sort of solvent.

I have a friend who lived in the Yukon (north edge of Canada) for many years. He slashed his leg open with a knife accidentally while working one day, but he was a day or so away from medical care. He just cleaned it and then sutured himself up using a needle and dental floss. He eventually got to a hospital, the doctor told him he had done just fine!

When I was a kid in Wyoming, a couple of cowboys moved a few bulls past our house, onto mountain range. Bulls are slow when they're not upset, and they were having some fun with one of the bulls, jumping from their horses, onto the bull's back, and back again. (Probably held on to their saddles, just in case the bull took exception, they could pull themselves back on the horse)

Anyway, one of the bulls got tired of it, and gored the horse, spilling intestines out. Not sure how far they protruded, I wasn't there. The cowboys stuffed the intestines back into the horse, and used their pocket knives to poke little holes into the horses skin along the edge of the wound, and then pulled hair from the horses tail and threaded it through the holes, holding everything together.

My dad being the closest vet, our ranch is where they ended up. I can't remember if my dad saved the horse, but the cowboys sort of had a balanced day. Stupid in the morning, ingenious in the afternoon.

Sure, but an appendectomy implies that the appendix itself is inflamed and infected, right? Seems like it could easily spread to the blood. Not to mention working near the intestines, that are full of bacteria as it is. Sounds like sepsis city to me.

Then again, like you said, he could have just been pouring alcohol on the whole thing the entire time.

The article mentions that antibiotics were applied while the wound was open.

Removing the appendix I guess one could do with a broken glass ... but how did he closed the wound?

In 2003, hiker Aron Ralston amputated his own arm with a pocket knife after a boulder fell and pinned him down.


"Ines Ramírez Pérez is a peasant woman living in rural Mexico. She had no medical training, but nevertheless performed a successful Caesarean section on herself: both she and her baby survived"


I remember being seriously grossed out the first time I read that story. And, yep. It still grosses me out now!

That story still gives me the chills when he describes how he cuts into the dead flesh of his arm and the gases hiss out of the cut. Ew x 10.

This leads to a related question. Assuming you're in a situation where it's your best option, what's the best way to kill yourself without tools? I assume dying of dehydration / exposure is not particularly enjoyable, and a set of circumstances might exist where it would be better to get it over with...

(See below for the link to the guy that cut his arm off to avoid dying. I don't think I would be able to make it through the bone, so I would like to have this option filed away in case I need it some day :)

Bite off your tongue and you will bleed to death. Especially valuable advice if you're tied up.

Brings up memories of one of the best CGA games ever:


Sheer amazing. I wonder how his vitals would have compared to a regular appendectomy? Were his vitals concurrent with an appendectomy performed so late (literally the day before it would have burst), were they better because he was focused on the task at hand, or was his vitals worse? It's a shame we'll likely never know and there'll likely never be another auto-appendectomy performed.

Wasn't this posted here in 61?

Didn't Jack do that on Lost?

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