(Photo Credit: “The Man Who Cut Out His Own Appendix.”)
In 1961 a group of 12 Russian men were sent on an expedition to Antarctica. Their mission was to build a new base there (Lentati). One of the men on their team was a 27 year old named Leonid Rogozov. He had begun feeling nauseous and noticed localized pain in his abdomen. Mr. Rogozov worked as a medical professional and had his own practice back home. As a result of his training, he managed to diagnose himself with an acute appendicitis in no time (Lentati). An appendicitis is one of the most common abdominal emergencies that occur, and it has a tendency to affect men at a slightly higher percentage than women (J. Simpson). An appendicitis occurs when the appendix of a person becomes inflamed and fills with pus. Once the appendix bursts, the infection leaks out into the body and can cause serious and often life threatening complications. Typically an operation is ordered between 1 to 3 days of a diagnosis in order to prevent ruptures.
Rogozov found himself in a sticky situation; he was the only trained medical professional on the expedition. On one hand, he could operate on himself, or he could cross his arms and try to wait it out. The group’s ship would not be back for them for another year and flying out of Antarctica was nearly impossible due to the blizzards (Lentati). He finally decided that he needed to operate in order to attempt to save his own life. Rogozov trained a meteorologist and a driver how to inject him with adrenaline if he were to pass out, and they assisted him with his tools the entire surgery (Basilio). Of course, a general anesthetic was not possible since he had to remain focused. Instead, he gave himself a local anesthetic that would numb his abdominal wall, but not the appendix (Lentati). With great bravery he began the operation. After 30 to 40 minutes, he needed to stop at 5 minute intervals to rest. He admitted later that there were times during the operation that he was certain he would fail. Leonid Rogozov did not fail though and after 2 hours of surgery, was resting in his bed. After 2 weeks of bed rest, he was able to return back to work and was, once again, a healthy and active man (Basilio). In his diary he wrote this about the operation, “Finally here it is, the cursed appendage! With horror I notice the dark stain at its base. That means just a day longer and it would have burst…” (Lentati). Complications led to the men being stuck in the frozen wasteland for 2 years. After they arrived back in Russia, Leonid Rogozov was deemed a national hero for his bravery and skill. To this day he is remembered as one of the first individuals to ever operate on themselves and survive to tell the tale. He lived to have a successful career and family life. He passed away in 2000 at the age of 66 from lung cancer.
(If that didn’t make you thankful to not be in Antarctica with an appendicitis, then I don’t know what will!)
Until Next Time:
- Basilio, Paul. “On this day in medical history: Self-surgery in Antarctica.” MDLinx. 26 April, 2018. Accessed 7 January, 2019. https://www.mdlinx.com/internal-medicine/article/1633.
- J. Simpson. “Acute Appendicitis.” NCBI. 9 September, 2006. Accessed 7 January, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1562475/.
- Lentati, Sara. “The Man Who Cut Out His Own Appendix.” BBC News. 5 May, 2015. Accessed 7 January, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-32481442.