Documentary series about eye-watering medical cases in A&E, including a couple who nearly died from bubonic plague and an enthusiast whose hand was shredded by his model plane.
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# Emergency! #
With mind boggling medical mishaps...
..and the quirkiest of casualties.
My boyfriend dropped a turnip on my foot.
Bizarre ER is back.
# So come on. #
And for the first time we've camped out in, not one, but two British hospitals...
Northampton General and Bradford Royal Infirmary.
To bring you the curious cases that are all in a day's work for the stoic staff.
Can you see your pound coin there.
But which have to be seen to be believed.
Plus we've scoured the planet for the people who, thanks to amazing medics,
have survived the most extraordinary accidents and emergencies known to man.
Nobody believes they're going to get the Black Death.
So scrub up, sit back and enjoy the sometimes silly,
often odd, but never dull world of Bizarre ER.
Well, all I can say is thank heavens for the NHS.
Coming up tonight...
we meet the lady with lips like lilos.
I'll just grow a hump and a club foot and just call me Igor. Ha-ha.
One man's high flying hobby nearly cost him his hand.
And a medieval menace makes a comeback in modern day Manhattan.
I just could not believe that we had the Plague.
But first we're heading to Northampton General
where slack-jawed student Holly Thompson
has arrived at A&E completely unable to close her gaping gob.
As Holly can't really talk right now, probably best we tell you how she got here.
Holly was at college enjoying a particularly riveting lesson of Government and Politics.
Uninspired by the political ponderings, Holly opened wide for a yawn.
Her massive mouth manoeuvre caused her jaw to dislocate,
leaving her unable to close her cakehole.
Literally speechless, Holly frantically nudged her classmate.
Try as she might she couldn't help Holly shut her mouth
and the pair had no choice but to interrupt the lesson.
After a quick visit to the school nurse,
who also failed to help our heroine,
it was decided that Holly and her jangling jaw should head to A&E.
My name's Ejiro, I'm one of the doctors.
Obviously I can see your mouth's stuck open.
Has it happened to you before?
She said, "ahahaha ahahaha."
-So it has happened before.
-Yeah. Kind of, but not like this.
Holly's floppy chops might look funny but they're no laughing matter.
It can be quite serious because you can't eat, you can't really drink
and you get dehydrated, but again it's quite painful as well.
Fortunately, Dr Ejiro has a plan
that draws on the latest cutting edge technology.
She's going to stuff Holly's mouth with small splints that look a bit like lolly sticks.
It might seem bizarre but there's method in her madness.
I don't want it to hurt.
By keeping Holly's mouth wedged open with wood
the jaw muscles will get tired, unlock and allow the doctor to click her laughing gear back into place.
Feels funny? Yeah, it usually does...
Actually, I can get one more in...
Stay like that.
That's a jaw dropping 26 little lolly sticks holding Holly's mouth open.
All Holly has to do now is wait for the wooden sticks to work their magic.
# Cos they're tired of, tired of hanging around
# Yes, they're tired of, tired of hanging around
# Yes, they're tired of tired of... #
Time to see if jamming Holly full of lollies has done the job.
There's only two rules for this...
One is that you relax and two is that you don't bite me...that's it.
As Dr Ejiro manoeuvres the mouth, there's a chance Holly's gnashers will clamp down hard on her hand.
Relax, close your mouth.
That's it, bite down. Finished.
The doctor's digits are safe and Holly's jaw is back where it should be.
-Was it painful?
-No, it just aches a bit.
It will do because it's been out of joint for a little while.
I would avoid yawning too wide and anything like that because it's a bit unstable at the moment.
Now that Holly can close her cakehole, it's time to head home
and she's even got a souvenir of splints for the mantle.
Honestly, the things people will do to get out of double politics.
One of modern medicine's most perplexing mysteries is the yawn.
The average person will yawn a quarter of a million times
in their life, but no-one really knows why.
What we do know is that yawning and stretching at the same time
is known as pandiculation.
If you're yawning while watching this
it's because yawning is contagious.
We yawn in the womb as early as 11 weeks...
no surprise given the number of limited activities available to a foetus.
But that assumes yawning is caused by boredom, which may not be true.
Whilst some believe we yawn to stretch our lungs and make us
more alert, others think it's all about cooling down the brain.
Another theory is that yawning has a social function,
as its contagiousness helps communities to synchronise their sleep patterns.
Others think that yawning is an aggressive signal as observed in both baboons and goldfish.
Believe it or not some people also yawn when sexually aroused.
So next time your dinner date opens wide and lets out a groan,
bear in mind that you might be making them stiff
rather than boring them stiff.
Next we're heading to Bradford where theatre nurse Carole Brown
is proving that even the staff sometimes fall victim to an extraordinary emergency.
She's been sent down from surgery with a very peculiar protrusion.
Nurse Yasser Arafat (yes, really),
has the job of assessing Carole's colossal kisser.
-What's happened then?
-I woke up this morning, but it was only in this corner,
just slightly swollen, it's got bigger as the morning's progressed.
-You'd no swelling there last night?
-No, but last night I had a slight nick in the corner of my lip
and I went into a bit of a cleaning frenzy at home last night and I was using disinfectants,
so whether I've got something on my hands and I've touched my lip. That's all I can think of.
I'm growing a beak. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.
Luckily Yasser has a tried and tested method for curing bizarre beaks.
I think we'll give you an injection in your bottom lip to match it up, then you can go home!
Yeah, right! I'll look like Mick Jagger then.
Nip you with a bit of cleaner, once it's swollen up you can go home!
Despite the banter Yasser has a genuine concern.
Carol's trout pout is still growing and allergies can be deadly serious.
Yasser sends our lippy lady off to see Associate Specialist Dr Akhtar.
There are two types of reaction.
One is a localised allergic reaction but there's another type called anaphylactic reaction,
which is a generalised vaccine which is potentially a fatal reaction.
Dr Akhtar gives Carole a thorough check up.
He measures her heart rate,
listens to her breathing for any signs of spasms in the airway,
and finally checks for any swelling that might obstruct her throat.
-The good news is it's not an anaphylactic reaction.
The most important thing is we need to stop it getting worse
-and make sure it doesn't impinge on the airways.
Carole's handed a stack of steroids to push past her pout in the hope they'll reduce the swelling
before baring her bum for a bumper injection of antihistamine
to combat the allergic reaction.
Wow, that stings. Aarrgh.
Then it's just a waiting game to see how Carole reacts to the treatment.
Two hours later the supersize smackers haven't subsided
and Carole's considering a new career.
I'll just grow a hump and a club foot and just call me Igor. Ha-ha.
Dr Akhtar's back to see Igor - sorry, Carole,
although her massive mush shows no sign of deflating he's happy that her health's not at risk.
There's no sign of the airways being compromised, so I think it's safe for you to go home.
If at any stage you feel shortness of breath at all, please come back to us immediately.
-Thanks very much.
Carole puckers up and heads home, where we hope she'll be steering clear of the cleaning products.
Two weeks later and Carole's back where she belongs,
scrubbing up in the operating theatre.
But is that mask still hiding extra large lips?
Back to normal...yay.
Every hobby comes with its hazards, but you don't expect to forsake your fingers for your favourite pastime.
Unfortunately that's just what's happened to Don Smith.
Don's arrived at Northampton General A&E
with one of the goriest injuries in Bizarre ER's history.
If you're at all squeamish, look away now!
Model plane enthusiast Don was on an afternoon out
with his latest flying machine.
With a 60cc motor and 16 inch steel propellers,
his new not-so-dinky dive bomber was more powerful
and potentially devastating than your average chainsaw.
Right, chocks away.
Don fired her up with a sharp tug on the hand held pull chord
but the rotating rotor sucked up the string
pulling Don's hand into the spinning blades
and pulverising his paw.
With blood spurting from an artery and his mitt an almighty mess,
Don couldn't tell he was missing a digit.
-At least I'm not missing a digit.
-He wrapped his hand in a towel,
made an emergency landing in A&E and left his poor little pinkie behind.
Don't leave me!
It's hurting quite a lot now and it don't look very good.
The doctor gives Don a local anaesthetic,
and although the jabs are clearly painful,
our incredibly brave patient takes it all in his stride.
After no less than ten excruciating injections
and with his wound now dressed,
Don's family is on hand with some words of sympathy and support.
Can't you take up something less hassle, like?
The jokes might be keeping Don's spirits up,
but they're not doing much for his mangled mitt which needs urgent specialist care.
Unfortunately the plastic surgeon's at Northampton are unavailable.
The medical team have no option but to rush Don to the nearest hospital that does have surgeons on hand.
-We're going to move you to Leicester.
Every second counts in the dash to save Don's digits
and he's quickly whisked away to Leicester Royal Infirmary,
where a crack team of surgeons are on standby.
Join us later in the show when we find out if medics can save what's left of Don's fingers.
This series we've gone global to bring you the most bizarre accidents and emergencies on the planet.
On a break to the Big Apple, one couple's dream holiday
turned into a living nightmare when they contracted a deadly disease
that you might think had been consigned to the history books...
I had never seen a case, nor seriously entertained the possibility of a case.
I didn't think we were going to save this fellow. I thought he was doomed.
Nobody really believes they're going to get the Black Death.
Just after Hallowe'en 2002, married couple John Tull and Lucinda Marker
were enjoying a juicy holiday in the Big Apple.
We both love New York, we were out on the town having some drinks and martinis.
Go to the theatre, go to museums.
Eating in good restaurants. We were just having a blast.
After just two days, they awoke feeling strangely under the weather.
Totally exhausted. We had cramps, headaches, we were nauseated.
They put their raised temperatures down to a touch of 'flu
but then, resting in bed,
they discovered strange lumps in their groins.
There was a swelling, when I would get up to go the bathroom
I was limping and it started to get more and more painful.
The dream trip to New York was fast turning into a medieval nightmare.
They limped into a taxi to visit top travel medicine specialist Dr Ronald Primas.
He was shocked at John's terrible condition.
He laid right here on the floor, couldn't even walk any more.
His blood pressure was quite low, his pulse rate was very fast.
I know our temperatures were very high.
He was sweating profusely, he was beefy red.
-Don was 105.
-His shirt was soaked.
-Mine was 102 or 3.
-Lucinda was pretty flushed and red and very unwell.
Doctors don't scare easily, but when he examined Lucinda,
Dr Primas found something truly alarming.
Usually lymph nodes are about that big.
Her lymph node was about that big.
Dr Primas had never seen anything like it, except in a medical text book.
Lucinda had a classic plague bubo.
If the bubo explodes and all this pus and gunk comes out,
then it's highly contagious and can infect many, many people.
In the 14th Century, Bubonic Plague wiped out millions,
killing a third of the population of Europe.
It became known as the Black Death.
Plague doctors sealed themselves in 14th Century biohazard suits.
The long nose stuffed with fragrant herbs,
they tended the sick, the sick died.
Actually the first thing I thought was, "are they contagious?"
cos I don't want to get it.
I just could not believe that we really had the plague.
John and Lucinda sped off to hospital in a taxi, taking their killer germs on a tour of New York.
John became disorientated and was declining fast.
I was in the back seat of the cab, dying.
Arriving at the hospital caused panic.
We went into the desk and they went nuts...they went crazy.
Blood samples were taken to look for the cause of all this medieval mayhem.
The bacterium Yersinia pestis.
It turns out they brought it with them.
John and Lucinda live over 1,700 miles away from New York
on this five acre ranch in rural New Mexico
where they love to hike in the mountains.
The weekend before we went on the trip, we climbed a 12,000 foot peak.
The plague does survive here naturally on wood rats,
so on their walk they must have been bitten by a tiny plague-carrying blood-sucking flea.
At the Manhattan hospital this ancient disease met its modern enemy...
I believe I was getting better the moment I started receiving the antibiotics.
Bizarrely while Lucinda rallied, John continued his deathly downward spiral.
He had organ failure of most of his organs
and this easily could have killed him.
Doctors had to take drastic action.
They plunged John into an induced coma,
slowing his body to a near stop to halt the spread of the disease.
Despite this, John developed disseminated intravascular coagulation.
Where clumps of cells block blood flow, causing skin, muscle and bone to die.
His hands and feet turned purple.
And this ran from his feet up his legs to his groin.
Dr Perlman battled the infections with a complex cocktail of antibiotics.
His hands regained their warmth and their normal colour
and then their function, but his feet unfortunately did not.
Plague was now joined by his old partner in death...
Gangrene is the death of cells and tissue from a lack of blood flow.
John's feet became blackened and dead.
When they talk about Black Death, that's what this is referring to.
No longer able to fight infection John's feet were killing him.
Could they be saved, or would vascular surgeon Dr Mike Soleyn have to amputate them?
You didn't need a vascular surgeon to know that these feet were dead.
I'm not even sure you needed a doctor.
As Thanksgiving arrived doctors took the drastic decision to amputate John's feet.
It's just chopped straight through both legs.
Without the amputation he would have died.
They didn't even truly think that that would save him,
but they thought it was the one chance they had.
The gamble paid off. Amputation plus medication saved John's life.
He was still in a coma but his body was slowly starting to recover.
All told, his medically induced deep sleep lasted three months.
What happened to Thanksgiving?
What happened to Christmas?
What happened to New Year's Eve?
How can it be January 15th?
That really freaked me out.
John may have lost his feet but he hasn't lost his zest for life.
Many months of intense physiotherapy and hard work
mean John has his life back.
After a couple of years I could walk, I could drive,
I could fly airplanes...
I could do just about anything anybody else could do.
I'm not happy that his feet didn't get better,
but very happy that the rest of him did
and that he's been able to resume a functional and happy life.
We've survived one of the most terrifying diseases in the history of mankind.
I would say things are going pretty well.
I'm delighted with the outcome.
I believe that I'm one of the luckiest men on earth.
As for the plague,
it too is alive and well. Out there somewhere...waiting...
just patiently waiting.
Catching plague might not be something we worry about today,
but back in the Middle Ages it was one of many Medieval menaces
that might finish you off.
Alongside Black Death, Leprosy was rife
although it didn't make your bits and bobs drop off
it did however cause super scaley skin lesions
before attacking your nervous system over 20 years,
ultimately causing gangrene and death.
And then there was ergotism,
the olde worlde ailment that led to vomiting, gangrene,
mania and hallucinations.
It was caused by fungal poisoning of rye
which possibly makes it history's most prolific cereal killer.
A medieval medic was more likely to make you worse rather than better.
The mentally ill was prescribed a date with Dr Drill,
the theory being that boring holes in the skull
or trepanning as it was called,
would allow evil spirits to escape.
And if the hole in your head didn't help,
doctors were just as keen on the hole in your bottom.
Pumping potions up patient's using instruments called clysters.
No wonder most people preferred the more bizarre
but often less painful remedies of the day.
A touch deaf? I said a touch deaf?
Then mix the gall of a hare with the grease of a fox
and drop it down your lughole.
And those of you with a touch of gout
should boil a red haired dog in oil, add worms, marrow and herbs,
leave to simmer for 20 minutes and then rub the mixture in.
It may not cure you but the scalding sensation
should certainly take your mind off the gout.
Earlier in the show we met model plane enthusiast Don,
who came to Northampton General A&E
after one of his mini machines made a hash of his hand.
Eager to make a good fist of the damaged digits,
medics referred Don to a specialist team at Leicester Royal Infirmary,
headed by micro surgeon Chris Milner who's received Don's notes
and is ready to welcome the patient on board.
-How are you? Pleased to meet you.
I'm Chris Milner, one of the doctor in plastics here.
I want to have a quick look, see what we're dealing with.
-I don't know what's necessarily under there.
-It's not very nice.
Can you cross these two fingers for good luck?
Excellent, all right, that's really good. Relax.
And as if Don's day hasn't gone badly enough there's more gruelling news just in.
Instead of putting me to sleep they're going to put injections into my arms to make it dead
and then I'll be awake while it's being done.
Using ultrasound, the anaesthetist locates the nerves she needs to numb Don's arm,
and having already endured ten injections today,
Don's skewered with yet another needle.
While the following operation is an incredible sight, it's also pretty gruesome,
so this could be the moment for squeamish viewers to nip out for a chocolate finger.
Mr Milner begins by poking around in the palm slashed open by high speed propellers.
The task of stitching up these three nasty slashes is so devilishly detailed
that Mr Milner needs to wear special specs that magnify his vision
by three ½ times to mend muscle, nerve and tendon.
So we've got some forceps here. Their tips are very small,
and if you can make that out this is actually the thread that we use.
It's about the thickness of a human hair. You're quite lucky, actually,
the blades haven't gone down so deep as to cut the nerves.
With the palm patched up, attention turns to the decimated digits.
Mr Milner begins with the little finger.
Tidying the tendon and burning nerve endings.
If you don't do that,
then at this point of the tip of the amputated stump,
it will be extremely sensitive and tender.
As most of the finger is missing, all the surgeon can do
is sew the skin together to form a little stump.
And don't forget, throughout all this Don's still wide awake and even finding time to have a natter.
That one's just got a cut there and a cut there,
so that's just going to be a bit of suturing there.
While Don charms the staff,
Mr Milner moves on to repairing the ring finger.
He can't fix it fully and so first chops off the dangling tip.
I'm happy in my work,
very happy in my work.
To ensure Don has a neat round stump,
the bone needs to be clipped back before stitching can begin
and the tool used has a fittingly gruesome name...
it's a bone nibbler.
While surgeons nibble at his knuckles,
Don's still single handedly working the room.
With the ring finger all sewn up,
Mr Milner moves to the middle digit which has got off lightly.
After a quick clean and a stitch, it's on to the final finger.
The gnarled up nail's removed,
a silicon splint put in place and Mr Milner's work is done.
All that's left is for Don to get a look at the surgeon's truly remarkable handiwork.
Now then, these are the cuts in your hand
so they've all been cleaned and closed with stitches.
This is your little finger, this is your ring, you've got good function here...
that finger's just had the pulp closed on the surface
and you've got a nail bed repair on this finger.
Your thumb's gloriously untouched, and that's it.
It's a resounding thumbs up from Don.
-Thank you very much, everybody.
-See you later.
Good job done in a short time
and it feels good
and my finger's are straight, although there's a few missing...
# Put your hands up Put your hands up. #
It's two week's later and Don's checking in to his local doctor's surgery
where he'll find out how his hand is healing and have his stitches removed.
Practice nurse Emily Long undresses Don so he can get a good look at his healing hand.
Not looking too bad at all is it.
No. It feels really strange, like.
With the hand still swollen, removing this many stitches
is tricky and painful but our plucky pilot remains brave as ever.
It's really tender, that is.
Don seems to be getting to grips with his new condition,
as well as a new set of nicknames.
Most people who know me now call me fingers...
I expect to have a few names, I suppose, called now,
After a half hour of painstaking plucking all the stitches are out.
That's it, all finished.
Has Don's unfortunate run in with a rotor put him off his precious planes?
I suppose I should be in a little bit of difficulty
trying to hold the transmitter which is what flies the airplane, but I'll get used to it.
I'll work my way round it somehow.
-Thank you very much.
Come again if I get a kiss.
Don's cleared for take off and he's winging his way home...
just keep those paws away from the propellers in future, eh, Don.
Next time on Bizarre ER, medics reel in a curious catch of the day.
An eye popping injury arrives in casualty.
This is just so bizarre, really.
And we head down under for the amazing story of how one woman
was nearly crushed to death by a leaping dolphin.
If I didn't do the right thing, she would die.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Sheridan Smith narrates a series which follows the most extraordinary and fascinating A&E cases from two British hospitals, and recounts amazing tales of medical survival from around the world.
Featuring the American couple who nearly died from bubonic plague on a holiday to New York; a student who was struck dumb after she yawned so wide that she dislocated her jaw; and a model plane enthusiast whose hand was shredded by the propellers on one of his mini flying machines.
Plus, a staff member ends up with a super-sized pout after a bizarre allergic reaction.