Monday, February 21, 2005

Stranger than fiction

Alan thought that I should retell the story that Ted was asking about below. Frank, I'm sorry but you're wrong. It's true, however strange it is. I told the story at Wiscon last year and I got the feeling that no one believed me. About a year and a half ago, a co-worker was down south somewhere, I think it was Belize, for a family vacation. One of her daughters scraped her leg on coral while she was snokeling. When they got back to the U.S. the scrape had gotten infected so she was treated with antibiotics and the scrape seemed to get better. A little while later, her daughter complained about pain in her leg after a soccer practice. When they pulled the sock down, her leg was swollen and red, so they took her right into the doctor again. The doctor referred them to an orthopedic surgeon. I think they thought the infection had gotten into the bone. The surgeon recommended immediate surgery. After he was done, my co-worker said that he came out with a little tray. He said that he had never seen anything like it and showed my co-worker and her husband a small fish. The fish was about three inches long and an inch and a half wide and was just plain tan colored. The doctor said that he thought she must have gotten some eggs in the scrape from the coral and the fish just grew in her leg. The doctor said he would probably get a good journal article out of it but I don't know if its been published, yet. I think he kept the fish with that in mind. My co-worker's daughter who is a teenager was understandably mortified and didn't want anyone to know about it. I'm hoping it will become just a great story for her to tell someday. It is amazingly similar to a Rosario Ferre story with a shrimp. I copied the story for my co-worker to give to her daughter. She didn't understand why I was giving it her but she took it and said, "But this isn't fiction, it really happened."

My take on the whole thing from discussions with a few microbiologists is this. In college cell biology, we were taught that we first developed in the ocean bathed in salt water. When we first left the ocean we had to find a way to take it with us. and so the ocean is now inside us. The egg found a friendly environment to develop and it must have been able to draw nourishment from its surroundings. When her body couldn't get rid of it, it probably tried to set up some kind of barrier around it. I was told that that happens with some types of parasites.

3 Comments:

Blogger Elad said...

cool story, kristin.

off-topic: got a link for you and alan. about a seemingly cool radio station in your city. check it:

http://pitchforkmedia.com/features/weekly/05-02-21-minnesota-becomes-eclectic.shtml

8:20 AM  
Blogger Ted said...

I think Frank Wu's objection was that the human body's immune system should have mounted an attack against the fish egg. Ordinary parasites have evolved mechanisms to fool the immune system, but one wouldn't expect a fish egg to have the same mechanism.

If you can find out the surgeon's name, maybe we can keep an eye out for the eventual appearance of a journal article about this incident.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Ted - I remember her speaking of at least two bad bouts with infection, there may have been one more. Every time, the anti-biotics beat it down. I don't think even the doctor knew how it could have survived. The next time I talk to her, I'll ask for the surgeon's name and hospital. She decided to leave her job part-time here to spend more time with her children last summer, so I've only talked to her on the phone a couple times since then. I'll let you know what I find out.

Elad - Alan and I have been listening to is off and on. It definitely plays an eclectic mix. It's been hit and miss but it's definitely one of both of our pre-programmed channels now.

8:24 PM  

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