Monday, 17 May 2010

Bosom (or bowel) serpents

Snake in a Woman's Stomach
New York Times, July 10th 1864

The Lock-port Journal tells the following horrible story: A woman living in Mercer, C.W., the wife of Mr. WM. EVERS, has for four years past been afflicted with a singular difficulty in her stomach. Her complaint has until within a short time past, baffled the skill of physicians. The complaint commenced about four years since, with a tickling and uneasy sensation about the pit of the stomach. The same sensation has continued to increase in severity from that time. A few months since it became the incontrovertible opinion of the most skillful physicians, that the increasing difficulty has been the growth of a snake in the stomach. It has grown so large now that it distends the stomach so as to produce a bunch upon the outside as large as a quart bowl. Upon pressing this bunch with the hand, the reptile recoils and produces great distress in the stomach. When fish or meat is being cooked in the room, if the snake is not satisfied with food, it rises up in the throat producing strangulation. When desiring food it manifests it by rising up in the throat. Physicians can see no way in which the snake can be removed without certain death to the woman. Mrs. EVERS is about 35 years of age. She is, of course, feeble in health now, but is around the house.

From the New York Times online archive

Chef dies after feeling eel
The Sun, 30th April 2010

A CHEF has died after an EEL was put up his bum.

Shocked doctors in Sichuan, China, found the sea creature in the 59-year-old man's rectum after his death, it has been reported.

The 50cm long Asian swamp eel was allegedly inserted into the unnamed man's bottom, after he passed out drunk, by pals playing a prank on him.

Medics said the eel had devoured his bowels.

From the Sun website, 30th April 2010.
There is also a report on the case in Chinese from the China News Agency, 28th April 2010.

Several commentators on the Chinese case have also referred to the short report on "Traumatic rectal perforation by an eel" by Siu Fai Lo et al. of the Department of Surgery at Kwong Wah Hospital (Kowloon, Hong Kong), which appeared in the scholarly journal Surgery in 2004 (135:1, 110-111):


A 50-year-old man was seen at the Accident and Emergency Department because of abdominal pain. Physical examination revealed peritonitis. A shadow of an eel was noticed on the abdominal radiograph (Fig 1). On further questioning, the patient admitted an eel was inserted into the rectum in an attempt to relieve constipation. Emergency laparotomy found a 50 cm-long eel biting the splenic flexure of the colon (Fig 2), and a 3-cm perforation was found over the anterior wall of the rectum (Figs 3 and 4). The rectum was divided at the site of perforation, and the proximal end was brought out as colostomy. The postoperative course was uneventful. The patient was discharged home on day 7. [...]

Further evidence that the poetic motif of the internal serpent remains a potent one in popular culture: