An Indian woman thought she was just having a weird headache, one accompanied by itchiness on top of the usual pain. When she went to the hospital, the cause of her headache was revealed to be a live cockroach that had made its home in her skull.
A report from CNN looked at this bizarre case, where the 42-year-old female patient checked in at Stanley Medical College in Chennai, India, complaining of a severe headache and difficulty breathing. As a doctor ran an endoscopy on the woman to determine where the pain was coming from, that was when he had discovered the legs of what appeared to be a small creature in her brain.
M.N. Shankar, Stanley Medical College head of Ear, Nose, and Throat Department, told CNN that he and his colleagues weren’t sure what the creature was at first.
“We didn’t know what it was. We didn’t know whether it was a wasp, or some other insect. Slowly, we had to pull it out.”
— Doug Criss (@CNNDoug) February 8, 2017
The above video from CNN‘s Doug Criss looks at how doctors had removed the live cockroach from the woman’s skull.
After the insect had been spotted, doctors used suction machines and forceps to remove the cockroach in a procedure that took about 45 minutes. It measured about an inch in length and was still living at the time it was found. The Stanley Medical College doctors believe the cockroach was living in the patient’s body for approximately half a day before it was found. Upon its removal, the woman’s breathing had “immediately” gone back to normal.
“The cockroach had burrowed into the roof of the nose, almost near the skull base, which is the dividing point between the brain and the nose,” related Shankar. “It was quite unusual.”
— N3T BUSINESS (@NET____Business) February 9, 2017
All in all, the Indian woman had most likely cheated death by undergoing the “unusual” operation. According to Shankar, the cockroach may have died if it wasn’t removed from the patient’s skull, and had that happened, that would have caused a potentially fatal infection if it spread through the rest of her body.
While CNN did not identify her by name, the New Indian Express wrote that the patient is named Selvi, a resident of Injambakkam who is currently employed as a domestic worker – no last name was given in the New Indian Express report. Selvi had also told the story of what had happened and what prompted her to seek medical assistance.
“I could not explain the feeling but I was sure it was some insect. There was a tingling, crawling sensation. Whenever it moved, it gave me a burning sensation in my eyes. I spent the entire night in discomfort, sitting up and waiting for dawn to go to Stanley hospital after getting the reference of a doctor from my employer.”
CNN quoted some Stanley Medical Center physicians, who said that they have had experience removing worms and flies from human patients, but never live cockroaches entering a person’s skull through their noses. But in an interview with Live Science, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center emergency medicine physician Richard Nelson said that he’s witnessed “at least a dozen” cases of cockroaches crawling into people’s ears.
The Curious Case of Cockroach Magnetization. https://t.co/h31ZQ488zp
— Jennifer Ouellette (@JenLucPiquant) February 9, 2017
“I’ve never actually seen (cockroaches crawling up people’s noses),” said Nelson, who was not involved in the Indian case. “I would imagine it’s not very common. (But) it makes sense that it could happen.”
Nelson added some insights on why such incidents are so rare, opining that it may be easier for people to wake up if they notice insects, live cockroaches included, in their noses.
“Maybe if it goes up the nose, you would start coughing or sneezing and expel the insect, whereas you can’t do that in your ear.”