Quirky Stories


Hi all, this is Lynne Marshall, and I don’t know about you, but I’m always drawn to the weird and seemingly impossible stories floating around about medicine out there.

As you can tell by this book cover, some bizarre things have happened in emergency rooms. This picture of the woman who swallowed a toothbrush reminded me of a few odd cases I’ve encountered working as an RN over my career. Besides doing many years as a hospital bedside nurse, I was also a Bronchoscopy nurse, and later worked in the Gastroenterology department.

The oddest memory I have from bedside nursing was once taking care of a patient who’d been run over by a tractor. He had a gaping hole the size of a football in his abdomen, and we worked to fill it in by process of granulation, little by little each day. I had to see it to believe it, and he lived to tell about his run-in with that tractor!

As a bronchoscopy nurse, we had our share of foreign bodies making their way into the patients’ lungs.  Once a dentist called for emergency help when the dental crown he was carefully placing in the patient’s mouth got inhaled.  The x-ray revealed the beautiful white cap wedged inside the mainstem bronchus, and with our handy-dandy bronchoscope and forceps, I assisted as the doctor removed it.

There was also the time the older gentleman was putting up a new light fixture in his ceiling.  With screw and nut held between his lips, he stood on the ladder, first taking the screw preparing to test the fit, but when he lost his balance, he inhaled the nut.  You guessed it, another object lodged in the bronchial tree.

Perhaps the oddest of all, and in keeping with the toothbrush swallowing, was the time I was called into the ER to assist my on-call gastroenterologist doc with a case.  The older lady was well taken care of by her husband.  Each morning he gave her the little cup of pills to swallow. This particular morning, she’d complained about a headache, so he included a pain pill in its neat little foil packet. Per her routine, the lady read the morning paper, grabbed the cup of pills, tossed them back into her mouth and washed them down with a gulp of water. Except, something didn’t feel right, she’d forgotten to remove the pain pill from the foil packet! Amazingly, she’d swallowed it whole. I assisted my GI doctor as he used the endoscope and forceps to remove the foil packet from halfway down her esophagus where the sharp edges definitely left scratch marks on their way down and all the way back up. Turns out that morning, her headache was the least of her problems.

What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever experienced in medicine?


Lynne Marshall loves to write about nurses for Mills & Boon, Harlequin Special Edition, and The Wild Rose Press.  Watch for her July Medical Romance Dr. Tall, Dark, and…Dangerous in both UK and US.  Courting His Favorite Nurse, March 2012, Special Edition US, May 2012 UK Cherish line.  An Indiscretion e-book only, The Wild Rose Press, now available.



  1. Lynne, I find odd medical cases fascinating too! And it never ceases to amaze me, the way that the body can adapt to injury. I remember seeing on television, the case of a youth who’d been impaled in the head by something (I can’t remember what exactly) – anyway, a large chunk of skull and brain had to be removed but he survived and seemed to be quite able to function in every respect once he’d healed. And yet, an apparently less catastrophic head injury can lead to on-going debility.
    I’m trying to think of a specific case that I came across in the laboratory – and I know there have been some oddities that have crossed our benches – but I can’t bring many to mind this morning! We did have a specimen jar arrive with a chubby larvae that had apparently been living in a boil on a traveller’s leg. Ugh!

  2. Dear blog readers – I wanted to let you know that I am on the road and today is a plane day and I won’t have access to Internet shortly. So – please know that when I arrive home I will read each comment and reply – most likely late today or tomorrow. I am looking forward to some funny, weird, amazing or terrifying stories. 🙂

    Until then, make it a great one!

  3. Eeek! A toothbrush! Not sure that I can match any of your unusual items, Lynne – but there is the time-honoured tradition of swallowing the silver sixpence from the Christmas Pudding. I did hear of a family who were given a Christmas Pudding one year, and some time later when the giver enquired who had found the gold sovereign she’d put into the pudding, were forced to admit that the whole pudding had proven too much for the family to eat, and that the dog had finished off the left-overs. (The sovereign was never found…)

    Travel home safely, Lynne!

    1. Hi Annie – I have now arrived home safely. Thanks for your well wishes. Funny story about the Christmas pudding!
      I guess I didn’t need to worry about not being around to respond the comments, eh? 🙂

  4. Lynne, my mind is pretty blank. I only have the usual suspects like the toilet brush and the beer bottle stuck up a rectum….. Both men insisted they had “fallen” on them…..

    1. Oh Fiona, that reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where his friends father falls on a small statue made of corkscrew pasta. Not a pretty image.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Hi Lynne! I’ve seen some interesting x-rays- some of which were definitely x-rated! I worked on a vascular ward once with sorry old folk with gangrenous extremeties- I helped an old gent sit up in bed, made him comfortable- then found his toes rolling loose in the sheets…

  6. Most interesting ‘digested’ things – we had a patient many years ago who had a compulsion to eat things. When x-rayed we found, amongst many other objects, the missing (mercury/glass) thermometer, the oxygen cylinder tap/winder, several safety pins, and a few ordinary objects like cutlery, pens, a watch etc. The x-rays were very interesting! 😉 Ewww – to Louisa’s post! Toe jam indeedy…

    1. Oh, Clare – how bizarre. I presume you worked the mental ward?
      Our dog used to eat dirt, and i assumed it was because he was missing something in his diet, but safety pins and oxygen cynlinders? And, oh, hey, can’t mercury cause big trouble for a body?

      Wow- thanks so much for coming by and commenting.

  7. Wow ~ This has been most entertaining . Since I’m not in the medical profession the only odd thing I can tell you about happened to me as a young girl. We had been jumping in the grainery and a piece of wheat got in my ear without me knowing about it. About a week later I was getting awful earaches. The doctor dug out a sprouting wheat seed.

    1. Wow – Kaelee – that is amazing. We;ve heard tales of bugs (earwigs) getting into ears, or the occasional pea, but the thought of wheat sprouting is wild!

      I’ve heard other sprouting stories but some seemed too far fetched – like the guy who inhaled a tiny seed and it sprouted into a tiny flower in his lung. I think that’s an old wives tale. It does make more sense with the ear, though. You poor thing! What a relief to get that out of there. Puts new meaning to “The wheat is high as an elephants eye” (maybe it was corn)

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

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