141. Soviet Self Surgery

10 Jun

In a frontier Soviet Antarctic base, 1961 there was an incident, one Leonid Rogozov became ill with acute appendicitis, he needed an operation. Unfortunately the 12 men at the base were as remote as was possible at the time, and Leonid Rogozov was the only Physician. So to stay alive, he performed the operation on himself.

From March 1961 the polar winter had cut the base off completely from the outside world, in April Leonid Rogozov developed those symptoms. He knew what it was and tried to cope with it. The pain soon became unmanageable. There was the option of flying out, but then Antarctic blizzards quickly struck off that option. The pain was too much, he described it in his journal as :

A snowstorm whipping through my soul, wailing like a hundred jackals.

Then, April 1961 in the remote Antarctic base in the middle of a blizzard the 27-year-old went under the knife, his own. He worked without gloves and used a mirror to see inside. ‘The mirror helps but it also hinders — after all it’s showing everything backwards.’ He worked mainly by touch, feeling his way around. Over the course of the hour and 45 minutes he managed to accidentally cut open a different part, the blind gut and he had to sew it back up before seeking out his appendix.

He worked slowly but surely in 4-5 minute bursts followed by 25 second breaks to help him recover from the intense pain. He became light-headed and the men he assigned as assistants watched calm but confused throughout the whole procedure. Eventually he found the cursed appendix and noticed with horror the dark mark at its base, if he had left the operation another day it would have burst. He managed after a struggle to remove the appendix and then sew himself back up.

2 weeks later he was fully recovered and back on duty. He went on to live a full and healthy life, dying in 2000 at the age of 66. The act was both brave and in the interest of self-preservation. Also a big case for those who would say ‘If you need something done, do it yourself.’ Never has that saying been more appropriate.

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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Articles, Trivia


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