A young Hispanic man came in telling the nurse he had fallen and been poked in the buttock four days before. He was worried the wound might now be infected.
When I reviewed the story with him, he corroborated the nurse’s note, adding nothing else. Though I speak Spanish fluently, I didn’t have the vocabulary to understand just what it was he landed on. I decided it probably didn’t really matter.
At my instruction, he pulled down his pants and rolled over. He showed me a puncture wound on his left buttock. It was healing nicely and showed no signs of infection.
As I went to reassure him there was no infection, a little something prompted me to wonder if there might be something else going on. I asked him if he thought it possible that a piece of whatever he landed on might have broken off inside him. He answered affirmatively and I sent him off for an x-ray of the area. I had the idea there might be a small chip of metal under his skin causing him some discomfort.
A few minutes later, the x-ray technician called me in to have a look at the x-ray. She was as amazed as I was to see the outline of a metal bar almost an inch in diameter that looked like a round file. One end was right under the skin where he had the wound. The other end disappeared off the film heading towards his pelvis.
We called him back to x-ray where more films showed the metal went clear up into his pelvis. The other end of the file was sitting right in the middle of his bladder!
When I went to show him the x-rays and explain my plan to get it out, I asked him if he had been having any blood in his urine to which he sheepishly admitted.
I called the urologist to our assistance. They took him to the operating room and put him to sleep. They passed a scope into his bladder and took pictures, which he later shared with me. They showed the file coming up out of the floor of his bladder like an empty flagpole. He then cut into the patient’s buttock, grabbed the file with some pliers and, with some effort, pulled it out. The scope was then reinserted to make sure no repair was needed. He was kept in the hospital for a couple of days and left, good as new.
When I see things like this, I frequently ask myself, “What if…?”
He landed on this huge bar with such force it went up through his skin, the muscle of his buttock and the floor of the pelvis before it broke off. It entered the pelvis just off the midline. Had it passed through the center, it could have destroyed many important midline structures. The base of the penis with its blood supply and nerves important for erectile function, the urethra where the urine passes from the bladder to the penis, the prostate, and the rectum were all at great risk in an injury like this. He might have suffered some injury that could have caused him a lot of trouble for the rest of his life. Instead, he was just fine. I wonder how much he appreciates what good luck accompanied the bad luck that caused his injury that day.