Pent-Up Indigestion

This week one of the classic medical reports found its way onto the blogisphere. At first sight it might take a lot of swallowing, but nevertheless it has a happy ending. The report comes from Dr. Waters and his team from the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital Foundation trust and is available in the British Medical journal case reports (1,2).

We start the saga with a 76-year old lady with what is referred to as a “blameless medical history”. After a while I gave up struggling to understand that description unless it meant a non-smoker and non-drinker. It did mention an exception which was “well controlled depression”, so my understanding of “blameless” might be at odds with the description. To date, I haven’t asked my insurance provider in case I find that I’m to blame for all sorts of things.

Anyway, this lady had lost weight and had stomach problems so had the pleasure of a colonoscopy, which showed the usual diverticula that can be seen as a decorative feature with many people of that age.

Well of course, the sleuths were on the trail and got out the CT scanner. Excitement mounted when a pen showed up in her stomach. This is not the usual repository for pens and an enquiry followed. Apparently, 25 years ago when examining her tonsils and using a felt tip as a tongue depressor, our lady slipped and swallowed the pen.

 At the time, no one believed her and sent her home with the homily that this too will pass. But no, at 25 years it was decided that it was time to act. After all there was a report that a ballpoint pen had penetrated the duodenum of another pen swallower. We should note that this was reported to be a felt tip pen.

Well, the end of the story is happy. The staff at the Royal Devon & Exeter, rolled up their sleeves and retrieved the pen which had been swimming around in stomach acid and enzymes for the past 25 years. But wait, there’s more! The pen still writes. The first word it inscribed on emergence was “HELLO.”

We look forward to this being a brand-winning claim for some felt-tip pens in the future.


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