Undergoing surgery can be one of the most life changing events and for the most part, it can change things for the better. Since the birth of medical procedures, our understanding of surgery and all things associated has come on leaps and bounds and now, trained professionals are well equipped to take on any task. What happens, though, when there are no doctors to hand and you need urgent help? While you might not want to take matters into your own hands, history has served up many examples of cases like this, with people miraculously surviving against the odds. Cases of self-surgery are not as rare as you would think and by performing on themselves, these people saved their own lives.
- Deborah Sampson
As one of the first women who entered the army, Deborah Sampson was already an incredible historical figure. Entering the forces under the guise of a young man named Timothy, she was enlisted into battle, and later hit in the legs by two musket balls. Rather than waiting to bleed out, Sampson is reported to have cut into her own leg in order to remove the worst of the damage, dislodging the small ball. Although she succeeded with one of the injuries, the other was lodged too deep in her thigh. Later on, her real discovery was unearthed and Sampson received an honorable discharge for her services and bravery.
- Douglas Goodale
What do you do when you receive a serious injury and there is nobody around to help you? Such was the case for Douglas Goodale, a commercial fisherman who lost his arm. While out on a particularly dangerous trip, Goodale got his sleeve caught on a drum winch as it pulled up a rope. With his arm and hand too mangled to save, Goodale set to work on removing the limb before he could get to a hospital. Using a knife, the fisherman cut his arm off at the elbow before steering his ship to shore. While his arm couldn’t be saved, he didn’t think twice about returning to the seas, continuing his job on the boat.
- Jerri Nielsen
It is often the most extreme environments that lead people to take matters into their own hands, prolonging their own lives in the process. Take Jerri Nielsen. An ER doctor, Nielsen was serving a period of time on a South Pole medical station, in which time there was little to no sunlight. During this time, she discovered a lump on her breast and rather than waiting to see what happened, she performed two biopsies on herself to remove it. After sending the lump back to be tested, Nielsen discovered that it was indeed cancerous and by removing it herself, she put a medical plan into action. While she did eventually lose her battle with cancer, she continues to be remembered for her bravery.
- Aron Ralston
One of the most famous cases of self surgery, Aron Ralston’s actions have been immortalized thanks to Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours. A skilled hiker, Ralston lost his footing while out in a Utah canyon, finding himself lodged between two rocks. After having tried to dislodge his arm, Ralston realized that the only way to escape was to cut it off in order to break free. Having been trapped for almost a week, Ralston broke the bone against a boulder and set to work using his multi-tool knife. Thanks to his actions, Ralston’s life was saved and he lived to tell the tale.