6 Insane Last Resort Surgeries That Actually Worked

truther January 5, 2012 0

By (Cracked)

Modern medical science is a far cry from the “Eh, let’s just chop it off” approach of yesteryear. But even with today’s resources, situations arise where normal medical practices just won’t get the job done.

That’s when it’s time to think outside the box. The following are surgeries that prove that even the smartest of doctors can have crazy ideas. But is an idea really that crazy if it works?

Yes. Yes, it is.


#6. Little Girl’s Hand Is Saved by Grafting It to Her Leg

Let us tell you the story of 9-year-old Ming Li, a little Chinese girl who was walking to school one morning when suddenly, disaster struck her. Sorry, did we say “disaster?” We meant a freaking tractor.

“Sure, you can drive these things sober. But why would you?”

The accident not only severed her hand, but also damaged her arm so badly that doctors could not reattach her hand until it healed. Since body parts tend to go bad pretty quickly when they’re no longer attached to you (you can’t keep them on ice forever), doctors had to act fast or the girl would go through her life sans hand.

So, they attached that shit to her leg.

This is the most confusing mummy costume we have ever seen.

But … Why?

The hand just needed to be attached to her body; it didn’t necessarily need to be attached in the same spot. So, by grafting the hand temporarily to the girl’s foot, the doctors were able to provide the circulation needed to keep her hand alive. The hand, attached to the circulatory system of the calf, stayed there for three months while Ming’s arm healed enough to allow for a successful transplant back to where it belonged.

“Three months was also just enough time to recover from the wicked drunk required to do the first surgery.”

And here’s the thing: The hand was apparently good to go the second the arm healed. This means that technically, Ming was lying around with a fully operational hand attached to her calf. We don’t know if the hand was operational enough to, say, do crosswords or scratch her foot without her having to get up, but since the details of the procedure are rather scarce, we’re choosing to believe that she spent the bulk of the healing period by flipping the most creative bird in history to everyone who came to gawk at her.

Doctors are confident that after a few more operations, Ming’s hand will be almost fully operational. Throw in a couple of plastic surgeries to get rid of the scarring and you have one badass little girl who could have never been in an accident at all, if it wasn’t for a hell of a story she can now impress her friends with.

Orange News
Pictured: Bragging rights. All the bragging rights.

#5. The Man With a Toe for a Thumb

If you have a job as a paver, your livelihood relies on your hands being strong and proficient. James Byrne of Ireland never had a problem with fulfilling those requirements. As a plant operator, athlete and dedicated father, Byrne had everything a guy with two thumbs would ever need. That is, until the day he was fiddling around with a buzz saw and accidentally chopped off one of those thumbs.

“My wedding ring was stuck and it seemed like the simplest solution.”

Now, obviously, James was upset. Without a thumb, his left hand was limited to not much more than drumming on his desk and the occasional high-four. Doctors tried like hell to reattach the severed digit, but it was so badly damaged that the blood just wasn’t flowing into it. That’s a disaster in most cases — every tool and utensil you use requires a thumb. A human without an opposable thumb is basically just a big, hairless bear.

So, they sewed a toe on there instead. Problem solved!

As it happens, close counts in horseshoes and experimental surgery.

But … Why?

After all the unsuccessful attempts to get the thumb working, Dr. Umraz Khan knew it was time to get crazy. But what else can you do? After all, it’s not exactly like you have a third thumb on your body somewhere that you can just graft onto your hand.

Actually … you do. Look at your feet. See how similar your big toe is to a thumb? Byrne’s doctors just cut that shit off his left foot and sewed it right to his hand.

The operation was a success and Byrne expects to be back at work in a couple of months.

He’s already tired of explaining it to people.

While he’ll never be able to run like he used to without his big toe, James says the good outweighs the bad. Without his thumb, he would not have been able to pick up a brick, hold a pen or do so many of the things we all take for granted. But doctors say that after some therapy, he will adapt to his new toe-thumb and be ready to get back to work. Also, on the plus side, doctors will work to make the toe look more like a thumb so James isn’t walking around like some kind of mutant club-thumbed buffoon.

BBC News
Our best instruments predict a pun within 50 feet of these images.

#4. Man Grows New Fingertip on His Stomach

Wang Yongjun was a furniture builder in China whose attention was momentarily diverted from the electrical saw he was working with. He promptly earned a severely mutilated finger for his troubles, because that’s what happens when you let your guard down around spinning blades.

It’s like someone designed a weapon specifically to fight absent-minded people.

Normally, severing a whole finger isn’t the end of the world — you can put the freshly emancipated digit in ice and the doctors will sew it back on, hand you a lollipop and shove you out the door. However, Wang’s entire fingertip had been pretty much pulverized — muscle, skin, everything. All that remained was bone, so there was no way to get the blood circulation (which is essential for the healing process) going again. There was nothing much for the doctors to do short of amputation, which again would’ve been a shitty deal for a guy who works with his hands.

That is, until Dr. Xuesong Huang wandered along, saw the situation and said, “Hey, guys, I know just what to do.

Then, he took Wang to the operating room and grafted his finger to the skin of his stomach like some sad, masturbatory mini-human centipede.

Orange News
Stare at this picture for 10 minutes every day to get rid of your gag reflex forever.

But… Why?

It’s called biomedical engineering, which is basically the application of time-honored “Well, connecting this bit with this one should work” engineering processes to medical science. You might recognize the discipline as the favorite pastime of doctors Frankenstein and Moreau, not to mention every other mad scientist throughout history.

In this particular case, the idea was that grafting the remains of the finger to the soft tissues and, more importantly, the circulatory system of the stomach should kick-start the healing process, and new muscle and skin would grow on the damaged parts of the finger. And the disgusting, disgusting skin sausage that ensued indeed did the trick — a tendril of new tissue started growing around Wang’s finger, which at the time of writing looks set to be completely healed even if it is no doubt going to give the man all manner of “sausage fingers” related nicknames.

Dr. Huang has received praise for his work, especially since this sort of cultivation process is usually done in a vat. Still, we can’t help thinking that since Huang apparently felt like he had to pull off some weird movie medicine stunt, he could just have taken the Bruce Campbell route to appendage removal and replaced the finger with a miniature chainsaw. Come on, the man’s even a carpenter! It was right there!

University of Toledo
Dr. Xuesong Huang, winner of this year’s Henry Tandey award for “Greatest Missed Opportunity.”

#3. Doctors Grow a New Jaw Bone on a Man’s Back

A 56-year-old German man had lost his lower jaw due to a cancerous tumor, which sucks even more than you probably think. This had rendered him unable to eat solids, a true tragedy in the land of all things savory and greasy and chewy. After nine years of subsisting on soft food and soup, the man decided that enough is enough and told his doctors that he was sick of living like that, and would, in fact, rather not live at all.

“Why bother having a face if you can’t stuff anything into it?”

This thinly concealed threat sent the doctors scrambling for a solution in a cartoon-like frenzy. Dr. Patrick Warnke considered removing bone from the man’s leg and using that for a jaw, which is a common practice for reconstructive jaw surgery. However, this wasn’t an option for this particular patient because of some other risks with doing that kind of surgery. Luckily, Warnke, who happened to be a stem cell researcher as well as a plastic surgeon, managed to improvise a backup plan: He’d just grow the man a brand new jawbone.

On his back.

BBC News
That probably tastes awful.

But … Why?

By using 3-D computer models of the man’s skull, doctors were able to create what they were looking for in a jaw. Once they had their ideal mouth mapped out, the fun began. Here’s the German Chin Cake recipe for you enterprising home bakers:

Using the 3-D model, craft a mesh cage in the shape of what the patient’s new mandible will look like.

Warnke, et al. Via Nature

Throw in sugar-cube-sized bone fragments from a cow.

Mix with a dash of bone marrow

Add juuuust a hint of stem cells, for taste.

Bake inside a dude’s back for seven weeks to get around those pesky body rejection problems.

Remove and carefully attach to the remains of patient’s original jaw and the muscle tissue around it so it fits perfectly.

And voila! Instant chin.

Warnke, et al. Via Nature
His face has great traction.

Attaching the jaw went off without a hitch and gave the patient a new lease on life. With a custom-built, personalized bottom half of a face, surgeons had no problem giving the man back a normal life and the right to pig out.

The procedure opened up doors for stem cell research and has allowed Dr. Warnke to move forward with his stem cell studies. Since then, he has developed new throats, urethras and other body parts for patients who need them. And while everyone may think whatever they like about his work and the rest of the whole stem cell thing, it’s kind of hard to argue with a man eating his first solid meal in almost a decade, tears of joy in his eyes.

Patrick Warnke, via Discover
Not bad, stem cells and cow chunks.

(It was a bratwurst sandwich.)

#2. The Man With Two Hearts

Tyson Smith was in a bad way. His heart wasn’t putting in the effort necessary for the whole “staying alive” thing to take place in the long haul. What’s more, doctors had also found out that a transplant was out of the question because Tyson’s lungs weren’t cooperating — a case of hypertension would have made the task of pumping blood into the lungs too difficult for a transplant heart that was new on the job.

“It’s my first day on the job! Seriously, fuck you guys.”

So, the doctors had one shitty heart (the one in Tyson’s chest), one good heart (the one in a container) and two uncooperative lungs that weren’t going to allow the switch. The puzzle was seemingly unsolvable.

So they looked at each other, shrugged and jammed both of the hearts into Tyson’s chest.

UC San Diego
You can almost see the duct tape.

But … Why?

What may seem like overkill was actually a pretty well thought out (if novel) procedure that in fact had a fairly decent-for-experimental-surgery 90 percent success rate. The bad news, though, is that said success rate was achieved on rats.

Still, turns out what worked for rodents worked well enough for Tyson, too. Take a look:

Yes, that’s a human chest with two beating hearts, grafted into Tyson’s chest in a procedure called heterotopic heart transplantation. He’s now the proud owner of two individually beating hearts, both doing their part in what amounts to the only fairytale ending in the history of surgery: The old heart now had a buddy to help share its workload, while the lungs and the new heart learned to get along, since the old guy was still around to balance things out.

Everyone was a winner, no one more so than Tyson himself, who gained at least a precious extra decade to his life.

UC San Diego
Plus, he’s closer to being a Space Marine than anyone else alive.

#1. The Tooth Eyeball

Let’s say you’ve been blind for nine years. Then, one day, a doctor comes and offers you a chance to regain your sight. While you have heard some of the other tales on this list and therefore harbor some reasonable suspicion toward the medical profession, you must admit that blindness kind of sucks, what with the whole Ben Affleck Daredevil thing still giving the predicament a bad name. Also, the whole not-being-able-to-see thing is a bummer.

So you agree to sit through a couple of medical examinations and procedures. And then, one day, you open your eyes — and right enough, you can see! Exhilarated at the thought of seeing your own face for the first time in years, you glance at the mirror … and see this:


AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! It’s like someone shoved a piece of raw steak in your eye socket! And yet somehow, you can see it. In fact, you can see with it. What is this witchcraft?

Congratulations, you have just let Dr. Victor Perez remove a tooth from your mouth and implant it in your eye.

“It’s barely noticeable! Also, coincidentally, I find your neck utterly compelling.”

But … Why?

The scenario described above happened in full to 60-year-old Sharron Thornton, who was the volunteer subject for Dr. Perez’ hardcore optical dentistry in 2009.

The operation was a groundbreaking, difficult-as-hell medical procedure called modified osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis, a multistage process designed to help people whose corneas are so far gone they’re beyond saving through ordinary surgical means.

“You can see, but you’ll need to register with the state as a witch.”

Turns out, eyes can be tricked into accepting certain other parts of the body as a part of them. The problem is, said body part needs to remain alive while in there, in order to avoid the scenario professionals like to call “Holy shit, you have a dead body part in your eye.”

That’s where teeth, which are used to cooperating with bone and ligament, come in. The idea of implanting a modified tooth into an eye to act as a camera has been around from the sixties, but a number of horrific complications, including the tooth dropping off from inside the eye, didn’t do much for the popularity of the procedure until recent modifications made it rather more survivable.

They can have you healthy enough to star in a del Toro film within a month of surgery.

How the actual operation went down reads out like a strange, surgery-themed game of MadLibs. First, they extracted a canine. Then they filed it into a suitable shape, drilled a hole and placed a plastic lens in said hole. The lens-tooth was then implanted in her shoulder to heal, while the damaged part of her eye was removed and replaced with skin from inside her cheek.

By now, the eye was so confused that it assumed it’s as normal as anything else that’s been happening recently to have a tooth inside it. So they take out the tooth and stick it in the eye to act as a sort of camera lens that replaces the damaged eye tissue and also, incidentally, turns the whole eye into a red ball of horror that has a freaking camera lens sticking out.


But here’s the thing: That whole clusterfuck works like a dream. After just a few hours of the bandages being off, Thornton was able to recognize faces. She is already able to read newspapers with a magnifying glass and is expected to get even better as she fully heals.

Yeah, sure, the eye may look like a horror movie prop, but who are we to argue with results? The woman got her vision back, for Pete’s sake.

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