“The fish was turned from ‘breech’ to ‘vertex’ and successfully delivered…”


On Feb. 27, 1947, a Malay villager was drawing in his net in a rice field and inspecting his catch "whereupon a fish leaped out of the water into his mouth and disappeared down his throat."

So says a medical case report hoisted from the briny depths by Discover's Seriously, Science? blog.

When the villager's friends and family were unable to retrieve the fish, they decided to bring him to the hospital. The patient "was throwing himself about on the stretcher," but doctors could make out the tail of a fish protruding over the base of his tongue.

They then executed a delicate and breathtaking maneuver: They grasped the tail "in sponge-holding forceps" and slowly began to pull.

Alas, in the precise language of the case report, "Traction only resulted in the tail coming off, making matters worse than ever."

The fish's dorsal fin was "extended and firmly imbedded in the posterior pharyngeal wall," as if the villager had swallowed a large, barbed fish hook.

Doctors performed a tracheotomy. "By forcing an index finger down alongside the fish the fingernail could just reach the gil. Then by a process of “bipolarversion,” one finger inside and one outside the pharynx, the fish was “turned” from “breech” to “vertex” and successfully delivered."

Recovery was uneventful.

Think this is a once-in-a-lifetime event? See Discover to read otherwise.

(Thanks to MedPage Today's Morning Break for the link.)

-Paul Raeburn

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