Tuesday, April 14, 2009

it grows within you

[UPDATE: If you've read the comments to this post, you've seen that this is likely a hoax. I'm beginning to incline toward that view myself.]

One of the greatest glories of the human condition is pregnancy. Granted, it doesn't feel all that glorious if you're a woman, what with all the bloat and vomiting and weird dietary urges. But gestation is still a marvel: a little life is growing within you, and the moment of birth is, as every parent I know attests, like stepping into a whole new realm of existence.

Perhaps as a result of our evolutionary wiring, we have a completely different view of anything other than a human being growing inside us. Whether it's a tapeworm, or a cancer, or hookworms, or an invasion of ascaris (picture not for the easily grossed-out, but this was an internet classic years ago, so you've probably seen it), we are wired to view such things as a horrifying violation.

The horror begins early. Many children worry about what might happen after they've eaten watermelon seeds: "Will I start growing a watermelon plant inside me?" Most parents respond with a laugh and a "No, of course not, dear." But this isn't to say that you can't grow plants inside your body, as my brother David demonstrated when he sent me a link that led to the following picture:

What you're looking at is a tiny fir tree extracted from a Russian man's lung. Here's what the article says:

A Russian man who had been feeling chest pain and coughing up blood got some stunning news from his doctors -- his symptoms were caused by a tiny fir tree growing in his lungs, Mosnews.com reports.

Doctors spotted a tumor on an X-ray and had expected to find a cancerous tumor when they conducted a biopsy on Artyom Sidorkin, 28, earlier this month. Instead, they found green needles embedded in the tissue.

"I blinked three times, and thought I was seeing things. Then I called the assistant to have a look," said Vladimir Kamashev, a doctor at the Udmurtian Cancer Center in Izhevsk in central Russia.

A 2-inch fir was removed from Sidorkin's lung.

"... I never felt like I had an alien object inside of me," the patient said. Doctors suggested he inhaled a small seed, and it started growing.

As Alan Grant says in the movie version of "Jurassic Park," "Life will find a way." Now that we all live in a post-"Alien" world, I imagine many of us, upon seeing the above photo, are having the same thoughts about chest-bursting aliens. Luckily for us, fir trees grow slowly. Luckily for Mr. Sidorkin, he lives in the era of modern medicine. Imagine if this had occurred two hundred years ago.



melancholy donut said...

ha. nice little internet story going around about that fir seedling. fakefakefakefakefake.

but tapeworms do gross me out. *shiver*

Kevin said...

I'm a sucker. And now I'm wondering whether David was pranking me.

Then again, I see that the story's veracity is still being debated.


melancholy donut said...

when seeds sprout into seedlings without light, the leaves dont look green (and though the quality is poor, i think i see tinges of green). also where are the roots? they should definitely be more conspicuous, about half the size of the whole plant. also, the body is too hot for any seedlings to sprout in and fir seedlings do not look like that. that looks like a bit of a branch. for an idea of a seedling look at this: http://tinyurl.com/cpyqj2 or http://tinyurl.com/cz7jbz . but it is true, i am not a fir expert. (i do grow lots of seedlings though.)

JW said...

I'll believe anything now that I've been made aware of the "Tree Man" Dede Koswara. On the other hand, it was somewhat emotionally difficult to learn about the troubles that he and his "circus" friends have to endure on a day to day basis.

Kevin said...

Dede aroused intense waves of both horror and pity when I saw him for the first time. I couldn't look away from those photos, and they freaked me out. No one deserves that sort of condition (OK, maybe some assholes do).


The Maximum Leader said...

Interesting that you warn us about the ascaris pic - but then just post the lung pic right out there. Hummm...

Kevin said...


I'm awesome that way. Was it Whitman who said, "I am large... I contain multitudes"? Ah, the fractured self-- a precursor of postmodernist thinking!