Dr. Leonid Rogozov - Removed His Own Appendix

This is not a story about someone hacking off a limb to free himself from being pinned by a rock, although that was admirable. This is about a man who performed surgery on himself and then neatly stitched it back up when it was done and went on with his work.

This is Dr. Leonid Rogozov and he was the only doctor among a group of Russian men posted to the fledgling Novolazarevskaya Station in Antarctica. He had been trained as a general practitioner and was going to specialize in surgery but interrupted this training to join the 1960-1961 Antarctic expedition.

During his time there he became ill and by April 30 recognized the symptoms of acute appendicitis. The nearest Soviet station was a thousand miles away and none of the other stations belonging to other countries had airplanes. In any case, severe blizzard conditions prevented air travel.

With a possible ruptured appendix and almost certain death in his future, he realized he had no choice but to operate on himself to remove the appendix. This was a literal case of die or die trying.

With the assistance of a driver and the station meteorologist who held a mirror and handed him his instruments, he proceeded to perform an appendectomy on himself.

When he found the appendix he observed it already had a two by two centimetre perforation at its base. The surgery took two hours for him to complete and this includes taking regular short breaks to rest and refocus. Where refocus means being revived from unconsciousness. No, I'm kidding.

In his own words, recorded after the surgery because I guess he was too much of a weak-assed pussy to keep a log during the surgery:

I worked without gloves. It was hard to see. The mirror helps, but it also hinders -- after all, it's showing things backwards. I work mainly by touch. The bleeding is quite heavy, but I take my time -- I try to work surely. Opening the peritoneum, I injured the blind gut and had to sew it up. Suddenly it flashed through my mind: there are more injuries here and I didn't notice them ... I grow weaker and weaker, my head starts to spin. Every 4-5 minutes I rest for 20-25 seconds. 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 and ...
At the worst moment of removing the appendix I flagged: my heart seized up and noticeably slowed; my hands felt like rubber. Well, I thought, it's going to end badly. And all that was left was removing the appendix ... And then I realised [sic] that, basically, I was already saved.

Very shortly afterward the symptoms of appendicitis disappeared and his fever returned to normal. Stitches were removed a week later and he was back on duty within two weeks.

Dr. Rogozov went on to live a full and productive life as a doctor and died in 2000 of lung cancer.


Angie said...

This is amazing. I wonder, did it say if he numbed the area with a local? And who was taking the pictures? Could they not have helped hold his intestines or something?

Frimmy said...

All the articles I read it said nothing about anesthesia, which surprised me. Even with a local it would have only numbed the skin. He still would have felt every little movement around his guts. I had a friend from China who had intestinal surgery with only a local and when the doctor was messing around trying to find the perforation and moving her guts around she said it was the worst pain she ever felt and she was a mother.

He had assistants but they only handed him his implements and so on. From what I read they were completely hands off with the actual incision and operation. Both of them were almost on the verge of passing out several times during the surgery. Once during the operation Dr. Rogozov's intestines "gurgled" and they both almost fainted.

Tonya said...

I don't feel sorry for this man. No. I feel sorry for this man's children.

Dickie Rogozov: "Daddy, I don't want to go to school today. I'm too sick to sit in class."

Dr. Rogozov: "Oh, you're too sick are you? Did I ever tell you about the time I took out MY OWN FUCKING APPENDIX???"

Dickie Rogozov: "I'll go get my book bag."

Angie said...

Hahahahahah!!! Good point. Those kids were totally boned.

Unknown said...

I should post the pictures from the time I extracted a giant life-threatening booger from my own nose without anesthesia or Kleenex.

Frimmy said...

Taking out your own appendix is the ultimate one-upper.


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