In 1961 a Soviet general practitioner had to perform surgery on himself!
This incredible story happened during the 6th Soviet Antarctic expedition. The 27-year-old Leonid Rogozov was the only doctor in the team of 15 researchers. On April 29, 1961 Leonid suddenly felt sick. Being an experienced doctor, the man diagnosed acutely inflamed appendix.
Several years before the event, in 1953, Leonid was admitted to the Leningrad Pediatric Medical Institute (now Saint Petersburg). After graduating in 1959 as a general practitioner, he started clinical training to specialize in surgery. In September 1960, at the age of 26, he interrupted his training and joined the above-mentioned expedition.
Since Leonid was the sole doctor at the Novolazarevskaya Station and the weather was non-flying, he made a brave decision to carry out appendectomy himself.
On the 30th of April he wrote in his diary:
"I seem to have appendicitis. I don't tell anybody about it and even smile. Why should I scare my friends? They can't help me anyway. […] I still don't have clear symptoms that an operation is inevitable, but I'm filled with apprehension… I have to think about the only possible way out – to operate on myself… This is nearly impossible, but I can't give up!"
By the evening, Leonid's condition became worse and it was decided to perform a procedure as soon as possible. The doctor chose three assistants: the meteorologist Alexander Artemyev, the mechanic Zinovy Teplinsky and the chief of the station Vladislav Gerbovich. The first had to pass the necessary surgical instruments, the second had to hold a lamp and a mirror so that Leonid could see the areas not directly visible. The third assistant was present in the room just in case: he was to substitute any of the other two if they lost consciousness.
The doctor decided to operate without gloves because he had to do almost everything by touch. Lying on a bed, he used a solution of 0.5% novocaine for local anesthesia and then made a 10–12 cm incision of the abdominal wall.
"I didn't let myself think about anything but the procedure… If I had fainted Alexander would have given me a special injection… My poor assistants! I looked at them the last moment before we started: they were almost as pale as their white gowns. I was afraid too. After the novocaine injection I managed to concentrate on the operation and didn't notice anything else."
"The hardest thing was to find and remove the inflamed appendix even with the help of a mirror. I did almost everything by touch. I got weaker every minute and had to make 25-second pauses to have a rest. Finally, I found it! The last stage was the most difficult: my heart started beating slowly, my hands didn't obey me though the only thing left to do was to remove the appendix."
After 1 hour and 45 minutes, the operation was complete. Five days later body temperature returned to normal. The stitches were removed seven days after the operation.
This case of self-surgery became very famous. People all over the world were impressed by the man's courage. Later this year (1961) Leonid Rogozov was awarded Order of the Red Banner of Labor.
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