He Ate WHAT?

Fortean Times online Aug 2010

Earlier this month a Massachusetts man was shocked to find a pea plant growing in one of his lungs. Sometimes, however, when strange objects are found lodged in a patient’s insides it comes as less of a surprise. Here’s our list of the ten weirdest objects that people have intentionally eaten.

In 2007, an 18-year-old Chicago teenager suffering from trichophagia – the compulsion to eat one’s own hair – was admitted to hospital complaining of abdominal pains and vomiting. She was found to have a hairball weighing a whopping 4.5kg blocking her entire stomach.

Eating 10 magnets and 20 steel balls caused an American girl to suffer such extreme injuries that Indiana doctors compared them to “gunshots” or “stab-like holes.” Eight-year-old Haley Lents said she had eaten the objects – parts from a toy called Magnetix – because they “looked like candy.” She was given emergency surgery, and was deemed lucky to be alive by doctors.

“He likes eating coins”, explained a French surgeon at Cholet General Hospital, after treating a 62-year-old patient who, in 2002, was found to have swallowed 350 coins, an assortment of necklaces and several needles. The ingested mass, weighing 5.5kg (the equivalent of a bowling ball), was so heavy that it had pushed the man’s stomach between his hips. The man suffered from pica, a word derived from the Latin for magpie to describe a compulsion to eat unusual objects.

When cleaning her house one day in 2003, a 32-year-old Israeli woman was unlucky enough to have a cockroach leap into her open mouth. Things only got worse, however, when the metal fork she was using to try and scoop the creature out slipped from her fingers and almost choked her to death. Though surgeons managed to successfully remove the cutlery, the cockroach was believed to have been naturally digested and thus irretrievable.

When 52-year-old Margaret Daalman was admitted to Sittard hospital in the late-1970s with abdominal pains, Dutch surgeons were astonished to discover 78 pieces of cutlery packed in her stomach. X-rays showed the assortment of spoons and forks had collected into a bundle; each piece had to be extracted individually. The woman told doctors: “I don’t know why but I felt an urge to eat the silverware – I could not help myself.” She always, however, abstained from knives.

In a desperate bid to escape, one potty prisoner tore the wire mesh off his cell wall and tried to hide the pieces by – gulp – swallowing them. According to a report by the prison’s forensic expert, his plan was foiled when this gave him such severe stomach cramps that he was admitted to hospital, where doctors discovered his bizarre eating habits. In another case, in Central Prison, Raleigh, N.C., there was something of a craze among inmates for ingesting odd items – including bed springs and batteries – in the hope that they’d be granted sick leave .

Following a quarrel with her boyfriend in 2006, a girl from Foshan, China, swallowed more than 20 cobblestones in a fit of anger. Thinking that they would pass through her body naturally, she became alarmed when they not only remained within her stomach, but felt as if they were constantly knocking against each other. In extreme pain, she logged on to the online forum of a local hospital and was advised to seek immediate medical attention.

Engagement ring
When 28-year-old Simon Hooper saw a £1,750 engagement ring he wanted for his long-term girlfriend but couldn’t afford, he swallowed it whilst the jeweller’s back was turned. Dorchester police were unable to fathom the location of the ring until they ran a metal detector over his stomach. He was placed in a cell until nature – despite Hooper’s determined efforts to the contrary – took its course three days later.

Smokey Quartz crystal
As reported on her mother’s blog (which covers primarily sewing and quilt-making) in 2006, an American girl was given a small smokey quartz crystal – a free gift from a magazine – by a friend; when the mother told her to “put it somewhere safe”, she ate it. The crystal was successfully ejected and thoroughly cleaned.

Door key
So determined was one Bournemouth student to stay at a particularly enjoyable party that he ate the door key to his own lodgings. After having had a “fair bit” to drink and being urged by his friends to go home, 18-year-old Chris Foster swallowed the two-inch Yale key to his room in protest. It re-emerged 31 hours later, allowing its owner to dodge the £20 fee his landlord would have charged for a replacement.

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