My guess is that human beings have been jamming foreign objects so deep in various orifices that we require assistance throughout our history, but we didn’t have a Consumer Product Safety Commission’s database catalog them until recently. We also didn’t have writers like Barry Petchesky from Deadspin.com condense that database of emergency room (ER) visits to entertaining bullet points until more recently. For most of human history, we didn’t know the luxury of having skilled professionals trained in removing such things for much of human history, so we can only guess that the cavemen who experimented in this manner paid dearly for their curiosity. We can also guess that these incidents, coupled with the threat of predators and their dietary habits, are all reasons that the cavemen worshiped the elder members of their clan who lived to fifty. I think everyone and their kids listened to this people, because they wanted to know their formula to living to fifty.
1) Petchesky’s select version of an otherwise lengthy database begins with the people who stuck things so far in their ear that they needed to go to an emergency room to have it removed. If the person who “Was cleaning ear with Q-Tip, accidentally walked into wall, [and] pushed Q-tip into ear” was a caveman, I don’t think he would’ve been one of the few to live to fifty. Whatever the Q-Tip of his era was, he would’ve walked around with it in his ear for the rest of his life, and it probably would’ve led to an infection that brought him down. Either that or he and his buddies might have developed some form of surgery to remove it, and he probably would’ve died during that surgery or from its aftereffects.
2) The best “verbatim” quote in Petchesky’s summary, and he claims they are all quoted verbatim, is from an ER attendant who wrote, “Popcorn kernels in both ears, ‘feeds her ears because her ears are hungry’” in the ER report for the patient. The obvious question here is why would anyone use such a line to explain their situation? The less obvious and more humorous question is why would ER personnel write that into their report? How much grief did they have to deal with after writing it?
Anytime a person involved in the field of medicine writes such a report, their professional reputation is on the line. Attending physicians, insurance company agents, and fellow ER personnel read these reports, and I’m guessing that attempts at humor do not go over well. Years of training have shaped such reports in this manner, and all ER personnel know they could get fired by sprucing them up for entertainment purposes. It’s their job to stick to the facts when they write these reports, and their only defense to the interrogation sure to follow is, “That’s a direct quote.” We can also guess that the ER attendant asked the patient if they want to revise their characterization of the incident. “Are you sure this is what you want going into your final report? A number of people are going to see this, and they’re going ask both of us a lot of questions.”
3) Another thing that struck me throughout this report is how do people fit such things in their ear? I’ve never tested the capacity, or threshold of the orifice leading to my ear canal, but I’ve seen the toy mouse, and I have to imagine that getting it in so deep that they required a medical procedure to get it out required a great deal of time and effort on their part. They might also walk out of the ER saying something along the lines of, “I really need to find a hobby or something to fill up some of my free time.”
4) In the nose section of this report, we encounter some incidents that we can lay at the feet of human error. We don’t know why someone would put a rubber band up their nose, but we can guess it involved doing some kind of parlor trick. As for the butterfly, the cotton ball, and the paint, these are all unusual things to have near the nose, but they’re not freakish. My guess is Petchesky wanted to lay a relatively common foundation to build a rhythm for, “Sneezed and a computer key came out the right nostril, sneezed again and another one almost came out.”
Those of us who have viewed these lists for years now know that some people have a propensity for sticking unusual things up in their body. One thing to keep in mind throughout this list is not only did this person stick a computer key in their nose, but they stuck it so far up there that they needed someone schooled in medical procedures to retrieve it for them. Another thing we can speculate about, based on some of the items on this list, is that a greater percentage, if not all, of them didn’t go to the ER right away. They were probably so embarrassed by their action that they left it in there hoping that they might find a way to get it out themselves, or that it might work its way out in some more natural way. At some point, they realized that wasn’t going to happen, and they couldn’t live with the pain anymore. The way this person addressed their computer key sneezes, it sounds as if they are more accustomed to computer key sneezes than the rest of us are. The next logical question is, “How did they get in there?” Some ER attendants probably ask such questions, but some don’t. Those who don’t probably want to avoid pursuing the matter to avoid further embarrassing the patient.
5) Petchesky includes the “gum, gum wrapper, and gum in wrapper” incidents of things stuck up a nose as if they involved three separate incidents in emergency rooms throughout the country, but what if they weren’t. What if this prospective “America’s Got Talent” nominee managed to put all three in her nasal cavity in an attempt to outdo the friend who could tie a cherry stem in her mouth, but she was unable to extract the fruits of her labor?
6) The final one, listed under things stuck in nose is “piece of steak.” I file this one under simple human error too, because of the errors we all make while eating. We all make such mistakes, and they’re always a little surprising when they happen. How many full-grown adults, with decades of practice chewing on things, still bite their lip or the lining of their mouth when they eat? How many of us still attempt to speak while chewing in a manner that opens our epiglottis in a way that causes us to cough and choke. Most of us are able to hit our mouths with whatever we put on the end of a fork, but with the ratio of eating to incidents, what are the chances that someone could miss so badly that they end up putting a forkful in their nose on accident? They’re remote, perhaps infinitesimal, but they’re not impossible. Perhaps this person was so engaged in conversation, while eating, that they went a couple degrees too far north. I understand that this particular person put it so far up that they required medical assistance to get it out, but we don’t know what their conversation was about either.
7) The first item on the list of things stuck so far down the throat that it required medical assistance is banana. I know what happened here, because I’ve been that guy who was so habitually tardy that my job was on the line. I’ve woken up, while on probation, with so few minutes to spare that I dressed, grabbed my keys and my wallet and rushed out the door. I’ve been so late that I accomplished whatever rudimentary grooming I needed in the car, on the road to work, and I’m sure it showed. Buttoning a shirt eats away precious seconds on these mornings, so I don’t button until I’m halfway to work. I’ve even learned how to button with one hand while driving with the other. I don’t shower on these mornings, of course, so I have to follow the age old ‘spit on the hand and pat down whatever hair is sticking up’ on the road to work. In the midst of such mornings, we grab whatever quick food we can find and stick it in our mouth to shut the stomach up. For those of us who place ourselves in such circumstances, chewing is a luxury for those who have seconds on spare.
8) The next entry in the throat category is, “Throat lozenge still in blister pack.” How many of us have chewed on a lozenge at one point or another? We didn’t just swallow it. We chewed on it. I blame the manufacturer, because they package these lozenges in such pleasing colors that they look tasty. The first time this patient took a lozenge on his own, he chewed on it and consumed the foul liquid inside. When he informed the person next to them how awful the liquid tasted, the other person said, “You’re not supposed to chew on them. You’re supposed to swallow it whole.” This patient mistakenly conflated the word ‘whole’ to mean including the blister pack.
9) I’m guessing the person who swallowed the “mood ring” was depressed. I’m guessing that their lover dumped them, and that they believed in the mood ring’s suggestions to such a degree that when it suggested they should be happy, they internalized it to see if it could change their emotional interiority.
10) As for the items stuck in the male reproductive organ, we can only guess that the guy who stuck a pipe cleaner so far in so far that he required physical assistance to get it out, is a clean freak who never forgets to clean behind the ears. He probably uses a paper towel to open the doors of public restrooms. He probably soaps himself between the toes, and he has spent a lot of time searching for nooks and crannies that could become gross if left unattended, until he ended up in an emergency room.
11) The guy who had a straw reach an inextricable location in his reproductive system doesn’t understand the hoopla surrounding the anticipation portion involved in the act of love-making routine. Some find the moment before punctuation so exhilarating that they try to make it last for hours. This guy is one hundred and eighty degrees different. He and his lover tried to find a way to be more expedient.
12) We’ve all had lovers cheat on us, and we’ve all thought about the perfect way to exact our revenge. The guy who required medical assistance to remove six to seven BB pellets from his reproductive organ, decided that the next time he and his lover were involved, he was going to blow her head off.
13) The person who put a billiard ball in their rectum is a trick shot artist, and in the world of trick shot artists, there’s very little room for originality. Most trick shot artists are simply showing the world that they can duplicate the tricks Minnesota Fats and Willie Mosconi did fifty years ago. There is no room for originality in this world, because there is only so much one can do with ten balls and a pool table. This guy thought he was really onto something, but he failed miserably.
14) The poor patient who “sat down on the sofa and accidentally sat on a ball point pen,” only to have it lodge so far up his rectum that he required medical assistance is now suing the pen manufacturer. He doesn’t want any money. He is suing for one symbolic dollar to direct our attention to his primary goal of forcing the manufacturer to put a very specific warning on their package. His goal is an altruistic one, in that he doesn’t want others to have to suffer his (now very public) humiliation.
15) Amateur astronomer Gil Burkett’s excitement was understandable. He thought he was going to be famous. He thought he just discovered a new planet. He was so emotional that he couldn’t contain himself. He began jumping up and down, all over the place, screaming with joy. In his reckless and irrational exuberance, he landed on the “leg of a telescope”, and after he put some effort into extracting it, he realized it was so far in his rectum that he knew he would need medical assistance to retrieve it. If that wasn’t humiliating enough, Gil consulted four other amateur astronomy society websites, while waiting for the EMTs, and he found that a previous astronomer already named the planet.
16) The first time we introduce some intoxicants to our system, we will receive the greatest high we will ever experience with that particular intoxicant. Every drug effects our system differently, but from what I’ve read on the subject, that first high is almost impossible to reproduce for some of them. Most of us either don’t know that, or we don’t consider that when we attempt to reproduce that first experience. We fall prey to the notion that if we do more, it won’t just reproduce it, it might outdo it. Drug users refer to this pursuit as chasing the dragon.
Firsthand knowledge eventually teaches us that in the interactions between body and intoxicants, more is not always more. After we reach this depressing conclusion, we seek alternative routes to the great high. Some who enjoy intoxicants gain some education in their pursuit of a great high. They learn basic knowledge of nutrition, as they seek to replace what their drug of choice depletes, they learn about chemistry, and they learn a surprising amount about their biology. They learn, for example, that the various ways of taking their drug of choice orally allows the liver to distill some of its impurities. The liver does this to protect the body, of course, but some of those impurities can increase feelings of intoxication. By one way or another, we learn that taking an intoxicant through the rectum is a way to circumvent the liver. In their quest to utilize that alternative route, and achieve their greatest high ever one patient “pushed drugs up rectum using a lighter, was able to retrieve the drugs bag yet believe lighter got stuck.” Another person, “Took a soda bottle with Fireball whiskey via his rectum, stuck bottle in rectum and squeezed.”
17) We can also find some elements of this pursuit in those who use sexual toys. When users upgrade to larger toys or pursue greater depths, they seek to achieve the arousal they probably experienced the first time they experimented, or they try to outdo the last time. This is probably what happened when Neil stuck a “vibrator in rectum and tried to remove it with screwdriver and lacerated rectum; object in colon now.” He probably tried to outdo previous experiences with his toy, when he discovered the painful difference between far, farther, and too far.
18) Neil’s dilemma also brings to mind a nagging question I had reading through this list. I understand that no one would be on this report if they didn’t require medical assistance, but how much effort did they put into removing these items themselves? We’ve all met people who aren’t embarrassed easily, and they seemingly have no problem telling another person “they got a toothbrush stuck in their rectum after jumping on the bed.” If you’re sitting next to such a person in the waiting room, and you ask them why they’re here, these types provide far more information than you care to hear. “Aren’t you embarrassed?” you ask them. “Well, why are you here?” they’ll ask you in reply. No matter what you say in response, they will respond, “Aren’t you embarrassed?” They will tone their response with a whole lot of sarcasm to mock you and your original question. You could tell them that you fear you’re exhibiting early signs of the Ebola virus, and they would still respond in that sarcastic manner, to imply that the reasons the two of you are in there, are more similar than you ever considered.
Readers perusing such a list can’t help but place themselves in the shoes of the victims in such scenarios. It’s difficult to imagine us doing some of these things, of course, but if we did, what would we do? Most of us would be so embarrassed that we would do anything and we could think of to avoid the embarrassment of having to look people in the face, while telling them what we’ve done. We don’t know how much physical pain we would be willing to endure to avoid it, but we would probably test our threshold. We would likely consider that pain secondary to the painful embarrassment of telling another person what we did. We all know that doctors, nurses, and various other ER personnel probably see more in one month than most of us will see in a lifetime, but they’re people too, and in their off hours, they surely think this stuff is funny. They probably say something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, the job is incredibly stressful, long hours, and all that, but there are some moments. There are moments that make it all worth it. Just the other day, there was this one guy who …”
Neil and I probably share the “I don’t ever want to be that one guy who …” mentality. Neil probably said something similar to himself before reaching the point of desperation where a screwdriver appeared to be a reasonable solution. “This thing is coming out!” Neil probably said with visible determination.
How many hours of digging and painful scraping did Neil have to endure before finally realizing he was doing more harm than good, and we have to think of this in terms of hours, because the thought of leaving something as large as a vibrator in there for days is unimaginable and anything longer seems so impossible that its unfathomable. Would Neil be able to find a pain-free way to sit in his office chair, if some of it is sticking out, and we have to imagine that some of it is sticking out. Would he be able to find a way to deflect questions if this dilemma lasted for days? As cringe-worthy as these questions are, we also have to factor in all the scraping Neil did in his efforts to end this dilemma. How early on did the idea of removing it with a screwdriver hit Neil? If it was the first day, we have factor that into the equation. He may not have lacerated the walls of his rectum, for that probably didn’t happen until his embarrassment and the resultant frustrations got the best of him, but we do have to factor this into Neil’s dilemma.
One other question I have on this subject is, did the ER attendant have to inform Neil that the item in question reached his colon, or did Neil already suspect as much? Neil obviously knew the item was irretrievable, or he wouldn’t have lacerated his rectum, and he wouldn’t be in the ER, but was there a particular sensation he felt when it reached another level? Did it feel like the item reached a shelf beyond his reach?
19) The guy who put a “significant amount of string” so far into his rectum that he couldn’t get it out without assistance is another curiosity for me. Was this just another boring Tuesday for him, was he measuring his depth in Mark Twain fashion, or was he desperately constipated? If I were the ER attendant on staff, I think my curiosity might overwhelm professional discipline. Once we worked our way past the procedural Q&A’s, I would have to ask him why he stuck so much string up his rectum. The two of us could probably chalk “a little string” up to an embarrassing and perverse curiosity, but I would have to know what drove him to continue past those levels to one we both agreed was significant.
I also wonder about the process involved in the word ‘significant’ making it into the final report. If the ER personnel see as much as these reports suggest they do in one year, I’m guessing that superlatives to describe such incidents almost become passé over time. The words, “If you think that was as a lot, you should’ve seen what I saw last night” probably get passed around ER break rooms all the time. ER personnel probably grow so competitive in this unspoken manner, over time, that they become reticent to introduce adjectives like “a lot” when describing the amount of blood they saw, or the word “unusual” when describing a smell coming from some organ, because they know their peers will call them out on those adjectives. That peer pressure likely effects the manner in which they write reports over time. Thus, when they find some string, they simple write “some string” to provide a succinct description of what they’ve found. When they find “a lot” of string, they probably don’t have a personal or professional measurement to distinguish it from “some” string, but they know it when they see it. With that in mind, how much string do seasoned veterans of emergency rooms have to find in a rectum before they allow the words “a significant amount of string?” into the final report? Barry Petchesky’s list of reports the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s database does not provide clarity in this regard, but my guess is that the addition of the word significant is an indicator that we’re no longer talking about inches here but feet, and likely yards. If the ER patient declared that a significant amount string was in his rectum, we can guess that the ER attendant probably checked him. “I’ve witnessed a significant amount of string before, and trust me you likely don’t have that much in there. Why don’t we just write “a lot” for now, and we’ll address the verbiage later.” I don’t know how much editing goes on in the process, or how vital the terminology would be in such a case, but I’m guessing that most emergency rooms undergo a number of unofficial and professional series of checks that occur before a medical report ends up on an insurance agent’s desk. At this point, we can guess that the operating doctors and nurses have their say, based on their own individual experiences, before the description “a significant amount of string” ends up in the final report. If everyone agreed that it was a “significant amount of string”, we can also guess that in post op, some wisenheimer dropped some joke about magicians pulling handkerchiefs out of their pockets.