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And They Walked Away: The Stories of 5 Strange Injuries

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Take any high school psychology course and you'll hear the story of Phineas Gage, a man whose skull was pierced by a tamping iron while working on the railroad in 1848. He survived the ordeal, but his personality and his life were changed forever by his unusual injury. Here are the stories of five other people whose lives were altered by strange injuries—but, like Gage, at least they lived to tell the tale.

1. The Importance of Saying "Bless You"

It was a typical evening for Britain's Victoria Kenny when she and her husband settled in on the couch to watch a little television in April 2007. Just as their favorite show started, Victoria's nose began to tingle and she reeled back to sneeze. Moments later, she couldn't move.

When Victoria sneezed, the force of her back muscles contracting ruptured one of the discs that acts as a cushion between each vertebrae. Her sciatic nerve was trapped between the bones, creating such intense pain, she couldn't stand, sit, or even move her arms and legs. After three surgeries, the best doctors could do was keep her comfortable with a daily morphine dosage that was so high it caused her to have hallucinations. Bed-ridden in anguish for two years, Victoria had to close the business she owned, became horribly depressed, and even contemplated suicide.

Then, in April 2009, Victoria was referred to Spineworks, a private specialty clinic, to see if they might be able to help. The surgeons there permanently attached a small, plastic cage around the affected vertebrae, placed a tiny spring between the bones to replace the ruptured disc, and held the whole thing in place with titanium rods and bolts. Although it sounds restrictive, Victoria reported the pain was gone immediately. In fact, she was out of the hospital the next day, and was walking around a week later. However, she admits to being terrified of sneezing now, preferring to pinch her nose whenever she feels one coming on.

2. More Than a Mouthful

Chad Ettmueller was hungry. And when Chad was hungry, he often went to Which Wich, his favorite sub sandwich shop in Cumming, Georgia. He normally orders the chain's "Wicked" sandwich, stacked high with turkey, ham, roast beef, pepperoni, and bacon, as well as three cheeses of your choosing. It's a mouthful as it is, but Chad hadn't eaten anything that day, so he ordered double meat, too. When he went to take his first bite, he opened wide and prepared to chomp down. But his jaw wouldn't move—it was stuck open.

His kids started to laugh, thinking he was playing around, but he couldn't join in the revelry even if he tried. Embarrassed, he went outside to the parking lot and tried moving his jaw around, and even resorted to punching himself to knock it back into place. When that wasn't successful, he headed for the emergency room. The doctors tried to cure his diagnosed "double dislocation of the mandible," but still nothing worked. After 14 hours with his mouth open, they had no choice but to surgically reset his jaw.

This is the part where Chad sues Which Wich and wins a crazy multi-million dollar settlement, right? Not this time. Chad's pride was bruised, but he wasn't going to get all litigious. "It wasn't the sandwich's fault," he said, "it was my genetics." The chain offered Chad as many milkshakes as he wanted while he was recovering and is planning on renaming the Wicked sandwich to honor him and his predicament. They're taking votes on their website to decide if the sandwich should be renamed the "Double Dislocator," the "Lock-Jaw," or the "Jaw Wrecker."

Even though Chad survived his injury, his friend Paul avenged him like a true pal should, by eating the rest of the sandwich later. Afterwards he said "it had to die." What a guy!

Here's a video of Chad talking about his jaw-breaking meal:

3. Talk About Getting Screwed

It's common safety protocol on a construction site to toss away the tool you're using if you start to fall off a ladder. It makes sense, because nobody wants to land on their own hammer or saw. Unfortunately, this method doesn't always work as planned.

Ron Hunt was drilling over his head while standing on a ladder during a construction project. The boring wasn't going too smoothly, so he really had to put his weight into it. But doing so tipped his 6' ladder off balance and he began to fall. Instinctively, he tossed the drill, including its 18" long, 1.5" diameter drill bit, to the ground. However, he didn't toss it far enough away, and he landed on it—with his face. The bit had punctured his right eye and exited out the back of his skull, in a manner one co-worker described as, something out of a horror movie. Amazingly, he was still conscious when paramedics arrived on the scene and sent Hunt via helicopter to Washoe Medical Center in Reno, Nevada.

There, doctors had the difficult task of figuring out how to remove the drill bit from Hunt's head. They considered cutting into his head and pulling it out from the side, though this would obviously be an invasive process. Instead, someone hit upon the bright idea of just unscrewing it—and it worked! Amazingly, the bit had not punctured Hunt's brain, but had simply pushed it aside when it entered through the ocular cavity, saving him from serious brain damage or death. So it was just a matter of slowly twisting the bit—by hand—until it popped right out of his skull.

Hunt's luck stopped there, though, as his right eye was destroyed and he needed more surgery to insert metal plates in his head to hold his fractured skull together. And Hunt was uninsured, leaving him with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. At least he walked away with an amazing story and the startling x-rays to prove it.

4. Music, Jesus, and Chainsaws

This one's pretty gruesome.

Forthman Murff was a lifelong lumberjack who claimed he was personally responsible for cutting down 1,900 acres of timber. In May of 1984, at the age of 74, Murff was cutting down a tree by himself near his home in Gattman, Mississippi, when a branch fell from 80 feet up and hit him in the shoulder. The blow knocked him into a 10-foot ditch. Soon another branch fell and broke his left leg and foot. Murff was briefly knocked unconscious and when he woke up, he could hear and feel his still-running chainsaw burrowing straight across his neck. The saw had torn through his windpipe, esophagus and jugular veins, meaning his head was held on by the spine, carotid arteries and the skin on the back of his neck. It's safe to say that most people would have simply died right there. But Murff decided the best course of action was to stand up. "I saw a stream of blood about the size of my little finger. It wasn't coming in spurts, so I thought I might have a chance."

Now standing on a broken leg and foot, blood began to pour into his lungs. Somehow, Murff had the will and forethought to periodically bend down and let the blood drain from the gash in his neck to keep himself from drowning. Stopping occasionally to drain his lungs, he hobbled to his truck 150 feet away, then drove a half-mile to a neighbor's house. A friend took Murff to a small-town hospital 17 miles away, but doctors quickly realized they couldn't handle such a severe trauma case. So they stabilized Murff as best they could before transferring him—by ambulance—to a larger hospital 30 miles away. Once there, he was immediately rushed into surgery to, quite literally, reattach his head.

Miraculously, Murff survived and lived a perfectly normal life, dying in 2003 at the ripe old age of 92. Even after the accident, he still cut down the occasional tree. When interviewed about the accident in 1994, Murff said he planned to live out the rest of his days concentrating on the three things he loved most: music, Jesus Christ, and chainsaws. You have to wonder if maybe he should have just stuck with those first two.

5. Video Games Really Are Bad For You

To cleanse the images of chainsaws and drill bits out of your mind, here's a fun but strange injury to wrap things up.

Growing up, my friends and I suffered from "Nintendo Thumb," a painful affliction of the opposable digits caused by playing too many hours of The Legend of Zelda or Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! Thankfully, the worst effect our "injury" ever had was the occasional cramp in our writing hand during an Algebra test. For one major league pitcher, though, his video game injury almost cost him the chance to play in the World Series.

Joel Zumaya of the Detroit Tigers has one mean fastball. Apparently his fingers are fast, too, because in 2006, he was shredding virtual guitar strings so hard playing Guitar Hero that he strained his wrist, putting him on the disabled list. His injury came just as the Tigers and Oakland A's were set to square off in the American League Championship Series, leaving the Tigers without his 100 MPH heater. Lucky for Zumaya, the Tigers trounced the A's in four straight games before moving on to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Zumaya's wrist had healed enough for him to pitch two weeks later in Game 4 of the Series, though the Tigers lost 5-4. Might things have been different if Zumaya hadn't been living out this rock n' roll fantasies during his free time?

While most players can rest assured their strange injuries will one day be forgotten, Zumaya's injury will live on forever thanks to the makers of Guitar Hero. When Guitar Hero II was released for the Xbox 360 in April 2007, pretend musicians were met with a brief disclaimer in the game's credits: "No pitchers were harmed in the making of this game. Except for one. Joel Zumaya. He had it coming."

Wanna read more about people hurting themselves in strange ways? Check out Ethan's 19 Unusual Sports Injuries.
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Do you guys have any memorable injury stories? Tell us about them in the comments below!

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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