You sometimes hear about people amputating their own leg or arm in an emergency. That makes me wonder. Has a surgeon ever performed surgery on himself?
-- Lois, San Diego
Sez the American Medical Association, there are more than a dozen documented cases in the last 150 years. Emergency appendectomies seem to be the most popular. One less well documented tale has a professional cutter removing his appendix while stuck in traffic in Beirut on the way to the hospital. The champion, though, is the fully authentic story of the Pennsylvania sawbones who apparently didn't like getting those outrageous surgeon's bills. He amputated his own finger, removed his own appendix, and repaired his own inguinal hernia. The first heart catheterization was done by the inventor on himself before inflicting it on a patient. This involved running a tube through a vein in his arm into a chamber of his heart. He lived to tell about it and collect a Nobel prize. We civilians have a more checkered history. My favorite is the woman who got so mad at the calluses on her feet that she tried removing them with a shotgun. She admitted the idea came to her after drinking a quart of vodka and lots of beer, which also made anesthesia unnecessary.