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Extreme situations sometimes lead to extreme actions. That is certainly the case with medical self-care. While almost all of us handle some of our health needs without the help of a doctor, here are 7 of the more extreme examples of what one can survive when needed, plus one medical procedure of dubious necessity.
This article leaves out any descriptions of acts of self-harm. And, as mentioned above, we absolutely, positively do not recommend that any reader attempt any of these procedures.
1. Breast biopsy.
Imagine you are a woman, a physician, posted for winter duty at an observation station in the Antarctic. Then imagine that you find a lump in your breast. That is exactly what happened to Dr. Jerri Len Nielsen, who was stationed at the Amundsen Scott South Pole Station, where she was the only doctor on post during the winter. Finding a lump in her breast, she conducted he own biopsy, in consultation with doctors in the United States by email during the procedure. Unfortunately, her testing supplies were out of date and she was not able to determine the nature of her tumor while still at the Pole, forcing her to wait for emergency evacuation months later. The diagnosis in fact was cancer, but after mastectomy and chemotherapy, and additional surgeries, she went into remission and a movie was made about her experience.
2. Removal of part of skull.
British scientific director and artist Amanda Feilding searched for years to find a physician willing to do a procedure called trepanning, the removal of part of the skull to relieve pressure on the brain, usually to prevent severe headaches. At the age of 27, Feilding decided to perform the procedure on herself, opening a tiny, circular hole in her skull with a drill she cooled down with water to keep from burning her brain. Even though she lost a lot of blood, she recovered from her surgery, and a film (shown to invitation-only audience) was made about her experience.
3. Surgical removal of a musket ball.
During America's Revolutionary War, Robert Shutfleff was a tall, handsome, soldier in the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment of the Continental Army. Shutleff was an effective soldier, but kept a very important secret. Shutleff was actually a woman named Deborah Sampson.
When Shutleff/Sampson was wounded in a battle near West Point, New York, she escaped from the field hospital so she would not be discovered to be a woman, removing a musket ball from her thigh with a pen knife and sewing needle. She recovered from her injury. The next time she was wounded, however, field doctors discovered that she was a woman, and she was discharged from the Continental Army.
4. Do-it-yourself hair transplants.
Dr. Robert Middleton had been a dashing military man in World War II, but by the late 1950's he was losing his hair. Setting up a family practice in Granger, Texas, Dr. Middleton heard of a then-new procedure called autologous hair transplantation, placement of hair from one part of the body to the scalp. Using pubic hairs rather than scalp hairs, Middleton moved hair from his nether regions to his very bald forehead, proudly offering patients a look through a magnifying glass to observe the progress of each "sprout."