Doctor Reacts to Mind-Blowing Medical Conditions
In this video, Mikhail Varshavski, DO — who goes by “Dr. Mike” on social media — takes a look at rare and extreme medical conditions.
Following is a partial transcript of the video (note that errors are possible):
Varshavski: Let’s get started.
Narrator: Deesa is a small agricultural town in Northwest India. Thirteen-year-old Shrea lives here with her extended family, but 18 months ago Shrea found herself at the center of a medical mystery.
Shrea’s mother: One evening she sat here and complained her ear was hurting. When I checked, I found an ant.
Varshavski: When I look inside my patient’s ears using an otoscope, I find unique things. A lot of times it’s pieces of cotton from using Q-tips, which I tell them not to put deep inside their ears. But there have been insect parts or even insects that I have seen inside people’s ears, so that’s not totally unusual.
Narrator: Shrea had been sleeping on the floor and in the summer ants are common.
Shrea: After that, more and more ants were appearing. It was painful and itchy.
Varshavski: Not only is it painful and itchy, but you’re going to hear the ants moving around in there. It can drive a person mad.
Narrator: MRI and CT scans were taken as Dr. Talsania searched for somewhere within the soft tissue or bone around Shrea’s ear where an ant may have laid eggs.
Varshavski: Like in the eustachian tube?
Narrator: But incredibly the scans showed nothing unusual. Then after nearly 8 months, just as suddenly as they first appeared, the ants vanished. In that time, about a thousand ants had been removed from Shrea’s ear.
Doctor: I don’t know why they aren’t coming anymore. When I read all the medical science books, no one knows why and how the ants entered her ears in the first place.
Varshavski: There must be some kind of hygiene issue where the ants were able to enter the ear and they sat in some sort of crevice behind a part of the ear, and were able to lay some eggs. When those eggs were hatching, the ants were coming up.
Narrator: The Da Silva family never misses an opportunity to get together. They’re excellent musicians and dancers, but it’s something in their genes that truly sets them apart.
Varshavski: Oh, polydactyly.
Narrator: Fourteen members of the Da Silva family have 6 fingers on each hand and 6 toes on each foot.
Varshavski: They must have some kind of gene that encodes for this.
Mother: Anna Carolina, she has 6. Jao, my son, has 6.
Narrator: Today the family is celebrating the arrival of a baby boy. His father, Alessandro, has 6 fingers.
Varshavski: It’s got to be some kind of dominant gene because it’s being passed onto, it seems like, every member of the family, so it’s some kind of an autosomal dominant gene.
Narrator: Like his older brother, he had a 50% chance of inheriting the 6-finger gene.
Doctor: Let’s count them. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Guilherme: Hey, my brother is going to have 6 fingers.
Varshavski: Gotta love the ultrasound probe.
Narrator: The Da Silva family’s hands are all fine and functional. They find 6 fingers can be an asset.
Guilherme: The coolest thing about having 6 fingers is being able to hold a lot of things at once.
Varshavski: Yeah. I can’t imagine that being a major detriment in any way, really. Maybe for things designed for people with 5 fingers like gloves, it might be complicated to find a set of gloves, so you might have to use mittens.
Narrator: Seventeen-year-old Workitu lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She looks like a typical teenager, but has spent much of her life hiding an unusually rare physical condition. Workitu was born with an extra set of arms and legs, limbs from a parasitic twin that died in her mother’s womb.
Varshavski: Okay. When they say parasitic twin, the reason they say it that way is it sounds like there is some kind of illness going on. But what’s in reality has happened is you had an underdeveloped or non-fully-developed twin happen inside your body, or on the outside of your body that didn’t have any organs, and essentially is surviving off of the energy and lifeblood of the single body.
Narrator: Workitu grew up thinking her body was normal, although her parents insisted she cover herself with long dresses. Workitu was 11 years old when she found out that her body was different during a school sports class.
Varshavski: That’s got to be difficult if you’re the only one in your class experiencing something like this. You’re going to feel like an outlier. You’re going to need support from your friends and family, and maybe even medical professionals.
Narrator: The CURE Hospital in Addis Ababa is Ethiopia’s leading children’s hospital. It specializes in treating common deformities like cleft palate, but doctors there had never taken on a case as complex as Workitu’s.
Varshavski: I mean, in many cases this is a surgical procedure that can be done and would probably help the individual significantly, if not for anything, the musculoskeletal support. Remember, carrying excess weight of limbs on your body is not comfortable for the biomechanics of walking, let alone standing.
Narrator: After 3 weeks of tests, the doctors decided they could operate. The limbs of the parasitic twin would be amputated. Surgery of this kind had never been attempted in Ethiopia.
Doctor: The only option that you have for treating this problem is surgery.
Varshavski: Yeah. It’s surgery with an amputation and then some kind of embolization of the arteries to prevent the person from bleeding out.
Doctor: We have to do as many imaging studies as we can to be able to document in our minds exactly what the anatomy is as close as possible.
Varshavski: That’s why a lot of times when patients request a CT scan, an MRI, we have to agree that the reason we’re doing these scans is for the purpose of getting surgery. Because in many instances, getting an MRI to get a diagnosis doesn’t help you in any way other than making a diagnosis for the surgeon.
Surgeon: We started first with the rudimentary arms because we thought that would be easier and actually that came off as easy as it possibly could have. Then we moved down to the lower part, which is where the pelvis was, where we were going to remove her legs, and this was a little bit more challenging.
Varshavski: I can imagine this being challenging because you’ve got to navigate the host or patient’s organs and circulatory system. Remember, her body has been feeding these limbs blood rich in oxygen so that there are these extra arteries that need to be severed. But you also need to make sure you’re not severing arteries that could be also contributing to her health.
Sometimes with patients that have what they are referring to as a parasitic twin, they can have one of these fully inside their body and sometimes we can’t even know if this is what’s known as a teratoma, which is a type of tumor that has all different types of cell lines in it, hair, fingernails, bones, etc., or is it truly a parasitic twin.
Mike Varshavski, DO, is a board-certified family physician and social media influencer with more than 10 million subscribers.