Each year, certain news stories stand out from the rest. From mysterious diseases to strange happenings, a handful of unfortunate people are singled out to be named in a series of bizarre tales. These cases are entirely out of the ordinary, leading us to believe that, at least in the medical field, nothing is absolutely impossible.
10 A Puzzling Seizure
In 2008, a 25-year-old German man was on a ski trip with a friend when he became trapped by an avalanche and knocked unconscious. On top of a broken hip and ruptured spleen, the incident left him with small muscle spasms that plagued him whenever he moved.
In part, this was caused by the oxygen deprivation he had experienced beneath the snow. But an avalanche is not easy to survive, and he was a lucky survivor. Soon, he was on the road to recovery.
But the story didn’t end there. Several weeks later, he made a startling discovery. Whenever he tried to solve sudoku puzzles, seizures would develop in his left arm. Strangely, they immediately disappeared when he stopped solving the puzzles.
After doctors scanned his brain, they found that the seizures were triggered by strenuous activity in the right central parietal cortex, a part of the brain that deals with processing visuospatial information. Whenever the man’s 3-D imagination was activated, such as by imagining three-dimensional numbers while solving sudoku, the seizures would result.
The reason? While buried beneath the snow, he suffered from hypoxia, a condition where the brain and tissue do not get enough oxygen. This led to the death of the inhibitory fibers in his brain, which resulted in overactivation in the cortex whenever he used it.
The good news was that physical therapy was able to lessen the muscle spasms, improving his quality of life. The bad news was that the man had no choice but to give up sudoku, his favorite pastime.
9 Teeth In The Brain
A four-month-old child was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. Doctors first became concerned when his head grew faster than normal, and scans concluded that there was a mass in his brain. But strangely, the scans also showed something else—something small, bony, and very, very odd. After it was removed during surgery, the tumor was revealed to contain—you guessed it—several fully grown teeth!
As strange as the condition was, it already had a name: craniopharyngioma. However, this was the first time that teeth had actually been found in one.
While this case was one of a kind, teeth in other growths have definitely been heard of. Teratomas, a different kind of tumor, are capable of forming bone, hair, teeth, and horrifyingly, whole fingers and limbs. Reportedly, one woman had a lump containing a head, eye, and organs, while bones were found in another.
Although it can be terrifying to imagine body parts growing from a tumor, it isn’t all that hard to explain. Tumors are masses of uncontrollably dividing cells. Somewhere along the line, those cells do things they aren’t supposed to, such as recreate a bloody, partially formed human. While not all teratomas resemble props from a horror movie, they are still fascinating to behold and study.
8 Potato Contraceptive
In 2014, a young woman from Colombia was hospitalized after experiencing intense abdominal pains. The cause? It was nothing more alarming than a potato. For two weeks, it had grown roots inside her vagina after she placed it there as a contraceptive. Luckily, she was successfully treated.
At first, this story may seem comical, maybe even unbelievable. It isn’t every day that nurses find roots growing out of vaginas, and anyone can see that a simple root vegetable isn’t going to prevent a pregnancy.
But there is a darker, much sadder part to the story. The woman’s own mother told her to do it—not as a joke or cruel prank but as genuine advice. People from less developed countries aren’t privileged with a good education.
Despite the fact that there are laws requiring sex education in Latin American schools, they are rarely implemented. Due to this lack of knowledge, young people in South America and elsewhere engage in unsafe sex practices.
This furthers the spread of disease, sexual abuse, unwanted pregnancies, millions of unwanted children, and generations of ignorance. Potato contraceptives are just one of the milder effects of this education gap.
7 Death From Peppers
Ghost peppers are one of the hottest in the world, so hot that they can be used to make grenades and even guns that cause temporary blindness. They are off the charts on the hotness scale, zeroing in on over one million Scoville heat units. And yet, we still can’t help but eat them.
In 2016, one man from California learned the hard way why this pepper was named the way it was. Challenged to a contest, he was able to devour a hamburger topped with a ghost pepper puree. (Keep in mind that a single seed can cause a horrific burning sensation that lasts up to a whopping half hour).
After drinking six glasses of water, the man couldn’t stop vomiting and was rushed to the emergency room with severe chest and stomach pain. All that retching resulted in a collapsed lung and a 2.5-centimeter (1-in) hole torn in his esophagus.
Death from a pepper isn’t very heroic, but a torn esophagus is downright gruesome. Without treatment, death from infection is a certain outcome. Fortunately, the man was hospitalized for 23 days and sent home with a gastric tube. It’s safe to assume that he’ll keep a wide berth around peppers from now on.
6 A Different Kind Of Pregnancy
Although Daljinder Kaur had been trying to have a child for years, the path had been fraught with difficulties. For someone who longed to be a mother, it was a heartbreaking reality. But this wasn’t the 20th century. Instead, it was 2013, during an age where science can make anything happen.
One of these advancements was in vitro fertilization. The eggs are collected from ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. Then the fertilized eggs are implanted into the uterus.
This method is used to combat infertility or other complications that make the process difficult. Although Kaur was frail and the fertilization took three tries to be successful, she was finally able to conceive her first child after two years: a healthy baby boy.
At the present age, this may not seem so strange. After all, in vitro fertilization isn’t the only method used to help couples become parents. But Daljinder Kaur isn’t your typical mother: She is 70 years old. Her husband is 79 years old, and they have been married for 46 years.
In fact, she may be the oldest person ever to give birth. Breakthroughs in medicine and medical procedures have helped more and more people in unprecedented ways. Who knows what they’ll bring in the far future?
5 The Author Who Couldn’t Read
On July 31, 2001, Howard Engel woke up and began to read the morning newspaper. Or tried to. As he described it:
[It] looked the way it always did. [ . . . ] The only difference was that I could no longer read what they said. The letters, I could tell, were the familiar 26 I had grown up with. Only now, when I brought them into focus, they looked like Cyrillic one moment and Korean the next.
He could still read clocks and think and see clearly. But whenever he tried to read a book, the words would become undecipherable. It turned out to be the result of a stroke in the visual part of the brain.
Losing the ability to read would be debilitating for many, but Engel had it worse. He made his living by writing detective novels. He did realize that he could still write as perfectly and as soundly as before. But if he tried to read back what he had written, it was like reading foreign text. Numbers also muddled him but to a lesser extent.
This disorder is known as alexia sine agraphia. “Alexia” is the loss of the ability to read, while “sine agraphia” means that the person still has the ability to write. Even after immediately writing a word, those affected are still unable to retain what it means. This shows that there is a breakdown in communication between certain areas in the brain.
Although Engel never quite recovered, he was able to compensate by learning a new way to read words. It wasn’t easy. The process was long and frustrating, but he was eventually able to decipher certain words and get better over time.
He even managed to go back to writing and publishing more books. It seemed that he had transformed into his alter ego, the detective Benny Cooperman, and set out to solve his own mystery.
4 Green Skin
“Green with envy” is a common phrase, but you wouldn’t want to be stuck with this man’s condition. In China in 2013, He Yong mysteriously turned a shade of green and was checked into a hospital. What caused his skin to develop such a sickly hue? Was it some kind of dye? A vitamin deficiency? The result of a radioactive accident that had morphed him into some kind of mutant?
Actually, it was from something much milder—snails.
It turned out that He Yong had been devouring a plate of snails every day. More specifically, it was the parasites within the snails that were causing his skin and even the whites of his eyes to turn green. The parasites were liver flukes, which blocked the flow of bile from his liver.
Luckily, he was successfully treated, although he’ll be sure to properly cook his food before eating it.
3 Botched Surgery
In 2005, 59-year-old Rita Talbert checked in for her thyroid surgery in Virginia. However, when she woke up a week later, she was in pain and could barely recognize herself in the mirror. Her flesh appeared to have melted away, and her mouth, chin, and nose were horrifically disfigured.
It turned out that she had accidentally suffered second- and third-degree burns during her operation. The idea of it sounds bizarre. After all, hospitals are supposed to be the safest places in which you could end up, and the operating room should have been monitored by constant surveillance. And how does someone spontaneously combust during a surgery?
Actually, this type of surgical accident is far more common than you might think. Surgical fires happen to 550–650 patients a year, and 20–30 of them suffer painful, mutilating burns.
But how exactly does it happen?
Surgeons and anesthesiologists use instruments that have heat, oxygen, and fuel, which are the ideal tools to start a fire. A lapse in communication between the surgeon and assistants could result in this potentially fatal mistake.
2 Frostbite From Air Dusters
Huffing, or inhaling the fumes from aerosols to get high, is a dangerous act that is commonly seen in teenagers. It kills 22 percent of those who try it for the first time, whether through sudden cardiac arrest, car accidents, or suffocation.
But it affects adults, too. In 2015, a 40-year-old man was rushed to the hospital with frostbite after huffing three cans of air duster in four hours. His airways were blocked by severe swelling, and his neck also turned red and swelled with oozing blisters.
Air dusters are common household products that are used to clean electronics. It is believed that the compressed air and a compound called 1,1-Difluoroethane caused the frostbite and swelling.
Although the man was able to get better with the help of hospital treatment, others aren’t so lucky. Around 22.9 million Americans have experimented with inhalants. This includes children as young as 12 years old.
1 Blindness From Cell Phones
Blindness is caused by many factors. But for two women in the United Kingdom, they became temporarily blind from something totally unexpected: their smartphones.
One of the women had trouble seeing out of one of her eyes. She had been viewing her phone while lying on her bed in a dark room. It happened multiple times a week for a year. One eye was unaffected. The other would only be able to see faint outlines of objects, although it would return to normal the following day.
The other woman would be unable to see out of one eye when she got out of bed in the morning, although it went away after 15 minutes. This occurred for six months.
The cases are linked in one way. Both of these women used their cell phones for several minutes before sleeping while lying down on their beds. While it seems alarming, the temporary blindness may have a simple cause.
Doctors hypothesized that one of their eyes had been unknowingly blocked by their pillow, leaving the other eye to view their phone. As a result, one became adjusted to the dark while the other became adjusted to the light. When the phone was turned off, the light-adapted eye struggled to adapt to the sudden darkness, leading to the feeling of being blind.