The Surgeon Who Removed His Own Appendix

Russian surgeon Leonid Rogozov was part of a Soviet Antarctic expedition to set up the Novolazarevskaya Station in 1961. As the polar winter rolled in, 27-year-old Rogozov started to feel tired, weak and nauseous. Later, a strong pain developed down the right side of his abdomen. Being a surgeon, he had no difficulty in diagnosis his condition as an acute appendicitis. It was a condition he had operated on many times, and under normal conditions it’s a routine operation. Unfortunately, he was in the middle of a polar wasteland and was the only doctor. It had taken the team 36 days by sea to reach the Antarctic, and the ship wouldn’t be back for another year. Flying was impossible because of the snow and blizzards, and it was then that Rogozov realized that he was in grave danger. Knowing his appendix could burst and kill him, he had to open his own abdomen and take his appendix out. He didn’t even know if it was humanly possible. Rogozov worked out a detailed plan for how the operation would unfold and assigned his colleagues specific roles and tasks. He nominated two main assistants to hand him instruments, position the lamp, and hold a mirror so he could see what he was doing. The station director was also in the room, in case one of the others became faint. A general anesthetic was out of the question, but he was able to administer a local anesthetic to his abdominal wall. However, once he had cut through, removing the appendix would have to be done without further pain relief in order to keep his head as clear as possible. Finally making his way to the appendix, he felt his hands turn to rubber. He thought he was about to fail, but he didn’t. After nearly two hours, he had completed the operation, right down to the last stitch. Rogozov returned to his normal duties just two weeks later.