1. That time a hiker survived for 24 days on a mountainside in Japan by “hibernating”.
Mitsutaka Uchikoshi was hiking with friends on Mount Rokkō in western Japan in October 2006 when he decided to walk back down the mountain alone, instead of taking a cable car with the others.
He slipped in a stream and fell, breaking his pelvis. He was found 24 days later by a passing hiker. His body temperature had fallen to 22ºC and he’d suffered blood loss and organ failure.
He was taken to hospital, and amazingly made a full recovery. The BBC reported at the time that a doctor who treated him said that “he fell into a hypothermic state at a very early stage, which is similar to hibernation.”
“I lay down … in a grassy area, which felt good in the sunshine, and eventually I fell asleep,” Uchikoshi said of his accident when he spoke at a news conference after his recovery. “That’s the last thing I remember.”
2. That time a woman with no vagina got pregnant after giving someone a blow job.
This story starts with a knife fight involving a woman, her new boyfriend, and her ex. During the fight she got stabbed in the stomach, and was taken to hospital. Nothing else seemed to be wrong at that point, so once she’d recovered from the operation, she was sent home.
But about nine months later, the woman was admitted to hospital again with abdominal pain. After some prodding and testing the doctors figured out what was going on – she was pregnant.
There are two other things you should know at this point: The first is that the patient didn’t have a vagina, which is why her being pregnant was such a surprise. The second is that she’d given her new boyfriend a blow job immediately before the knife fight had started.
A paper detailing the incident, which was published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1988, concludes that “a plausible explanation for this pregnancy is that spermatozoa gained access to the reproductive organs via the injured gastrointestinal tract.”
“The fact that the son resembled the father excludes an even more miraculous conception,” adds the author.
And never fear, the story has a happy ending. The author writes: “The young mother, her family, and the likely father adapted themselves rapidly to the new situation and some cattle changed hands to prove that there were no hard feelings.”
3. That time someone got a plastic bottle cap lodged inside their knee and didn’t notice.
A 16-year-old boy got into an accident on his motorbike, injuring his pelvis and both legs badly. He was taken to hospital where doctors treated his injuries. After a lot of physiotherapy, he fully recovered and was moving about again three months after his accident.
But six months later, something strange happened – his knee kept locking.
He went back to the hospital and his doctor decided to have a look inside his knee using a kind of keyhole surgery. To everyone’s surprise, the doctor found a plastic bottle cap – 1cm wide – inside the boy’s knee.
It seems that it hadn’t shown up during his hospital stay because he’d only had a bog-standard X-ray and a CT scan.
An MRI scan at the time of his accident would have been able to pick up the plastic bottle cap, but nobody had suspected that there was any plastic lodged inside his knee in the first place, so they didn’t request the scan. His doctors wrote about the case study in BioMed Central’s Cases Journal.
Once the bottle cap was removed, his knee stopped locking.
4. That time a skier survived being trapped under ice in freezing cold water for 80 minutes.
In 1999 Anna Bågenholm was out skiiing with friends outside the town of Narvik in Norway, when she fell headfirst into a frozen-over stream running down the mountain. Thick ice covered the water, and Bågenholm fell through a hole in it. She ended up with most of her body, except for her feet and skis, trapped in the freezing water under the ice.
Her friends tried to get her free but couldn’t. Luckily, she managed to find an air pocket under the ice and stayed conscious for 40 minutes before becoming still.
By the time emergency services retrieved her, 80 minutes after the accident, her body temperature had dropped to 13.7°C – lower than any body temperature someone had survived before in medical history – and she had no pulse.
She was taken by helicopter to Tromso University Hospital. Doctors attached her to a heart-lung bypass machine, taking the cold blood out of her body, heating it up, and putting it back in, to bring her body temperature back up to normal. Eventually, three hours after it had stopped, her heart began beating again.
It was 12 days until she regained consciousness, and four months in rehabilitation before she was able to leave hospital. Six years after her accident, she was well enough to ski again.
A paper in medical journal The Lancet details Bågenholm’s rescue and recovery, saying “this potential outcome should be borne in mind for all such victims”. A paper in the journal Resuscitation says that, since 1999, nine out of 24 patients who also suffered hypothermic cardiac arrest have survived, and concluded that “nobody is dead until they’re warm and dead.”
5. That time a man got seizures whenever he did certain kinds of mental arithmetic.
A 1982 paper in the Annals of Neurology details the curious case of an English-Canadian patient who got seizures when he did mental arithmetic.
He first started getting seizures when he was 12 years old, and found they typically came while he was playing card games – at least once when he was calculating a score – and when he was doing crosswords, as well as general mental maths. What makes it even weirder is that not just any kind of maths triggered the seizures: Multiplication and division did, but addition and subtraction generally did not.
The authors of the paper write: “Tasks involving multiplication, division, and manipulation of spatial information were significantly associated with discharges, but few, if any, discharges appeared when addition and subtraction tasks of equivalent difficulty were performed.”
Twenty years earlier doctors had coined the term epilepsia arithmetices to describe a form of epilepsy where mental arithmetic causes seizures in another patient – but only a handful of patients have ever been found to have it.
6. That time a lung transplant recipient got her donor’s peanut allergy.
A paper in the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation details the case of a 42-year-old woman who underwent a lung transplant, but got more than she had bargained for from the donor. The surgery went well, and all appeared fine – until she ate a peanut butter cookie at a transplant support group meeting seven months after her surgery, and went into anaphylactic shock.
Luckily, she survived. She then realised that she’d had three previous allergic reactions since her transplant – to a chocolate bar containing peanuts, a peanut butter sandwich, and a peanut cracker. At the time she hadn’t attributed her symptoms to the food because she’d never had a problem eating peanuts before.
She was referred for allergy testing and, to nobody’s surprise, tested positive for a peanut allergy.
It turned out that the 12-year-old who’d donated the lungs had had a peanut allergy, and had actually died from an anaphylactic shock. As well as the donor’s lungs, the woman had got their allergy.
According to the authors of the paper, such a case had been seen before in a liver transplant, but never in lungs. And while they offer some possible reasons why the allergy got transferred, they say that “it is very difficult to ascertain the exact mechanism by which allergy was transferred in our patient.”
7. That time 45 men were allergic to their own semen.
Scientists first described “postorgasmic illness syndrome” (POIS) in 2002. Its symptoms include fatigue, a fever, a blocked nose, burning eyes, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and “a flu‐like state” that comes on about half an hour after ejaculation.
But at the time nobody quite knew why some people experienced these symptoms.
A paper published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine documents the case of 45 men in the Netherlands who had POIS, and how the doctors worked out what was causing it.
The men were all referred to specialists at the Department of Neurosexology at Haga Hospital in the Hague. There, some of them underwent what’s known as a skin prick test, where their skin is pricked by a needle containing a small amount of the suspected allergen – in this case, their own (diluted) semen.
Almost 90% of those tested had a positive allergy test, meaning that, yup, they were allergic to their own semen. While that study on its own is not enough to say it’s that allergy that was causing the men’s symptoms, the authors suggest it could well be the case. A follow-up paper adds even more evidence.
In the follow-up paper, two men who had POIS were given what doctors thought might be a potential treatment for it – multiple injections with their own semen. It seemed to work.