Tuesday, 16 October 2007

A Fish Out of Water and Other Nasty Thingies...

Now that I am a mature 30-something, I must confess to our two dear readers that I am a somewhat squeamish person. I pretend not to be, and anyone who shows weakness in the face of blood and guts is branded either a 'great poof' or a 'big girl's blouse' by me.

I am a shocking hypocrite...

As a child, I would poke, prod, slice and dice at anything. Nothing turned my stomach. My desire was to grow up and become a vet. So each morning, I would inspect the garden lawn to see what 'presents' Tibby, our savage cat, had left. If I was lucky, there would be the odd shrew, which I would gather up, lay out on the paving flags, and dissect using my mother's sharpest kitchen knives (unbeknownst to her, I hasten to add!). Each minute organ, tendril of tendon, length of ligament and morsel of muscle (did you like that alliteration? I'm impressed!) was of great fascination to me and I cross-referenced the bits with my mother's antique Family Medical (which warned that lunatics should be kept in on a full moon) and resolved that, one day, I would find a cure for all sorts of animal ailments.

In High School, ever determined to become a vet, I later encountered the much-feared Biology teacher, and that was the end of my veterinary career. He was so terrifying that I dropped Biol as soon as possible, and went on to pursue a career elsewhere. The teacher went on to serve at Her Majesty's Pleasure when he was caught for messing about with his young, male pupils...

Nowadays, though, out of some perverse instinct, despite my late-onset squeamishness, I try to tune in to rather gory documentaries. I sit, transfixed, watching pus, blood, entrails and all sorts spewing their way out of people's appendages and I get a strange 'freeze' which travels up the right side of my face, sets my teeth on edge, makes my left eye do queer things, and my stomach flips over. At that point, I have to grab a cushion, hide my eyes behind it and make vomiting noises so I don't hear the squelching on the telly.

For the last two weeks, I have watched Invasion of the Bodyscratchers. Dr Mike Leahy (a nutter if ever there was one) intentionally infects himself with all manner of nasties for the purposes of scientific research, and the voyeuristic public (including me) watch him suffer such indignities as being infiltrated by a tapeworm cyst, a Bott Fly, and being eaten alive by malarial mosquitoes (he had taken his prophylaxes, dear reader(s)).

How would you like one of these in your guts?
The tapeworm infiltration was incredible. He flew to Japan where he swallowed, whole, a tapeworm cyst. Upon his arrival in London, he then swallowed a pill camera so that the stages of the worm's development could be tracked. It was gross. At eight weeks, the worm had reached maturity, and the camera showed it squirming around inside his intestines, the lesions on the lining of the gut where it had latched on and eaten bits of him, and I felt quite poorly. At maturity, bits of the worm start to break off and are excreted in the stools ('shit' to you and me). These bits are motile and self-reproductive - he dug bits out of his poo, washed them off, and showed them squirming on his arm (urgh!). It was vitally important that he did not allow these bits to get into the public drainage system, as this could cause an infestation of epidemic proportions, so he had to poo into a seive and then dispose of the...erm...what's another word I can use now?...turds...safely.

It was at this stage that the worm's presence was making itself known and he wasn't feeling tickety boo any more. So, he got some hard-core laxatives from his doctor and drank the lot. (He'd heard of the bottom falling out of his world, but never the world falling out of his bottom...) His daft friend had also swallowed a tapeworm cyst but had decided to feed it a high carb diet to see if the worm thrived more on sugars. They expelled the worms into seives, rinsed off the detritus, and showed us what was left. It reminded me of ribbon noodles and quite put me off eating the prawn chow mein I had been saving. They laid out the worms, side by side against a measure, to compare whose was the biggest. Dr Mike's checked in at just under 2 metres. His mate's, which had been fed the high-carb diet, was shorter, but much thicker. Ergo, a high carb diet really does make you fat and stunts your growth!

Now, I could carry on and describe all the infestations he encountered, such as the Bott fly which had to be cut out of his leg last night, and looked to all intents and purposes like an enormous boil, until the 'pus' started wriggling around; or the Kissing Beetle, which kills more South Americans than AIDS due to the Chagas parasite it carries, which enters the body via the bite when the bug decides to poo in the wound, just for good measure. The parasite lies dormant in the body for a while until it gets bored and then irreversibly shuts down every organ in the body.

But, the one which really got to me was the candiru fish...

This vicious little blighter is found in the Amazon River, and is able to swim upstream. It has evil-looking barbs which it can splay out and latch onto soft flesh, meaning it is difficult to extract. Oh, and did I mention that it likes blood? So, if it can swim upstream, it likes to dig into soft flesh, and lives on blood, how can it get into a human? Take a deep breath...If you take a leak in the Amazon River, make sure you are holding protection in front of your genitals. Simple as that. I watched a surgeon, via fibre optic camera, entering the urethra of a very unfortunate fisherman, to extract this fish, using surgical tongs, from the chap's todger. It seems the pain of the fish up there was infinitely worse than the extraction procedure. If I was given to fainting, I would have fainted at this point.

So, next time you are bitten by mozzies, or get a wasp sting, don't start moaning, and wailing that you're itchy or sore. Spare a thought for that poor Amazonian fisherman who, when he went to spend a penny, got way more than he bargained for...

23 comments:

thewishfulwriter said...

agnes, i adore you, but at this very moment, i want to kick your butt.

i gleefully popped over to your blog, anxious to read what I was sure would be a hysterical post.

Instead, the first few paragraphs made me throw up in my mouth and now I feel as though I need to lie down, lest I yak all over my computer.

you owe me.

ligaments, blood, worms....

sheesh...

:)

Linda and her Surroundings said...

How disgusting, to say the least. I watched some "living art" show called Autopsy and it made me vomit. Whilst I can watch dreary hospital documentaries on people having graphic operations, anything that has the slightest hint of worms, germs and vile parasites makes me want to spew. The human body is a big magnet for the most grotesque internal activities. Oh, just the thought of it makes my gut churn.

Agnes Mildew said...

Heather: "You big girl's blouse"!!! This is what's known as education, my dear. Just think, you could have been in the Amazon this time next year, desperate for a pee, and unwittingly gone without a care in the world. Now you will think twice about peeing al fresco!

Linda: It is pretty disgusting, isn't it? But I do find it eerily fascinating. What's so awful is the stuff they tell you about which lives on a healthy body!!

Emmy said...

This post was so gross, yet I had to keep reading, nice work :)

Matt Chingduvé said...

I just hope that this blog entry serves as a reminder to the public to NOT swallow tapeworms, or have a slash where fish can get up your willy or moo-moo.

It's not worth the risk, friends!!! :)

Agnes Mildew said...

Emmy: Grossness makes for quite compelling reading from time to time, doesn't it?! Glad you ploughed on to the bitter end!

Matt: As you know, this blog is all about education. I do hope our two dear readers feel suitably protected now, next time they head off to trek the Amazon.

Linda and her Surroundings said...

I had to come back and read it again. Just to make sure I did not miss any bits.

Hope said...

You know I have always thought that Americans have a market cornered on the disgusting, though I have to admit at least the show maintained a focus on the educational albeit aforementioned disgusting...here they just give someone money or their 15 minutes of fame for it...leave it to the Brits to elevate this kind of behavior!! ha...like Emmy it was like watching a train wreakc...i ...couldn't..turn...my...head...away! lol you crack me up.

deathsweep said...

Am I ever grateful for this post! The last time I swallowed a tapeworm cyst I had no clue how to get rid of it when it had matured but I now know!

DS

alcoment said...

Ok, that was gross, but, as is your aim, I do feel adequately educated and will now remember not to swallow a tape worm or go for a wee in an Amazon river!

Oh, and yes, I did like the alliteration!

Stealth said...

I now HAVE to see this show! AND, meet this guy....

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Yeah Agnes, I'm with Heather. I got through the first few paragraphs and couldn't go on reading. Sorry, I'm THAT squeamish ;-)

Fish

Keli said...

First, I was not impressed, by your three, rapid-fire alliteratives in a row - I was downright envious! Also, I had to read this post with one eye closed because I am of the squeamish variety.
Very fascinating, detailed account of this mad doctor. I felt like I was right there, alongside Mike. When the world fell out of his bottom, I had to check my sweater to make sure it was, shall we say, intact.

Agnes Mildew said...

Hope: We have a lot of strange projects like this which is Science dressed up in weirdness. Most people who present the programmes are very intelligent and highly qualified, but obviously total social outcasts. I did, to my surprise, though, notice a wedding ring on Dr Mike's finger (I have a radar for these things, being single). Unless he married his tapeworm...

DS: See? You will always leave this blog feeling as though you have been back to school - patronised, jaded and vowing never to return...

Alcoment: You are always such a good student of mine - go to the foot of the class!

Stealth: It was launched on the Sky satellite channel. Whether this crosses to the US I don't know, but I would imagine that it has been brought out on DVD, so head to Amazon (not the River, for God's sake!)

Fish: And you, a Yorkshire lass - you big daffodil!

Keli: Ah, you get a 'thing' with your eye, too, do you? Amazing how strange things happen to one's eyes, isn't it? The world fell out of my bottom yesterday, and I shall have the dubious pleasure of recounting the day to you later on this evening...watch this space!

Olga, the Traveling Bra said...

ACK! Great (but gross) post! But weirdest part(for me?)is my Ex husbands name is...Mike Leahy.
I shit you not.

Agnes Mildew said...

Olga: You have managed to find Cheshire on your travels, eh? How can you be in two places at once...I thought you were heading over to Vegas with Stealth?! It must be the double D cup giving you this double personality!
Very strange that your ex's name is Mike Leahy...did he have any odd personal habits, such as having a penchant for all things parasitic?

fishwithoutbicycle said...

I love it that you called me a big daffodil, it made me laugh out loud, although wouldn't I be Welsh if I were a daffodil ;-)

footiam said...

Nice post.

Agnes Mildew said...

Fish: No, there is no racism when it comes to Agnes's insults. They apply whether you are from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland or the Republic of Yorkshire.

Footiam: Welcome to the blog and thanks for dropping by.

Amel's Realm said...

Oh dear...this is such an...informative post!

About the tape worms...YIKES!!! Crazy people indeed! Tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk...

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Agnes Mildew said...

Amel: Yes, he is a very crazy doctor indeed - rather him than me!

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