From time to time, there are medical cases or physical phenomena that baffle physicians when they come across them. Sometimes, it’s something perfectly normal but few people are aware of what the reasons for it are, and other times, the rarity creates confusion about how it can be handled.
We’re now going to look at a handful of cases to see what they were and their resolution.
Unable to Eat Normally for Five Years
Mackenzie Hild at just 19 years old had a problem with eating. Rather than having to watch her diet as so many fellow Harvard students would routinely do, she was unable to eat food normally because it would cause her enormous pain. The pain was so bad that hospital staff set up a feeding tube to supply the nutrients her body needed to stay alive. Still, her slight 5-foot, 3-inch frame dropped to as low as 75 pounds during a five-year ordeal, where doctors were baffled with what was causing her eating problems.
A chance meeting up in the Sierras between her parents and a doctor whose focus was in unusual medical cases led to a breakthrough. Over a period, Hild’s case was examined and eventually her new doctors came up with median arcuate ligament syndrome, known as MALS for short, as the cause. It is a rare condition. MALS is created when a ligament goes over the diaphragm, then across the aorta, and results in the celiac artery being crushed, which cuts off blood flow to the stomach and vital organs. An operation later, and Hild was able to eat without pain and life could finally get back to normal again.
Kids’ Mamelons Teeth
As a child, the process of growing teeth, when they shoot out gradually through the gums, is a painful one. We get two sets of teeth eventually, so we go through the process twice over. The idea of being rewarded by the Tooth Fairy when we lose a tooth is all part of natural teeth development and gives a child a small reward for enduring the painful process.
To help each tooth punch through the gum line and come out inside the mouth, the mamelons teeth come with jagged edges along the bottom. These little ridges act a little like the teeth of a saw to push through the fleshy gums. Parents are often confused about what these jagged edges are for and what they mean for the future of their children’s teeth. They need not worry though because they fall away over time having done their job. In a worst-case scenario, a minor operation cuts them off the bottom of each new tooth to create a smoother appearance. Mystery solved.
When Swallowing Become Impossible
When Nick Metcalf discovered one evening that he had lost the ability to swallow, it seemed like something out of an Outer Limits TV episode. When you cannot swallow, how can you survive? From there, numerous esophageal tests came back negative and it was a mystery what was causing the problem. The diet of peanut butter and not much else was no way to live. Even a rare treat like pizza was impossible to consume.
Thankfully, it was the Center for Esophageal Diseases at the University of Chicago who came to Nick’s rescue. Their early diagnosis of achalasia, which is so rare that only one person in every 100,000 people has it, was a life saver. Achalasia affects the squeezing of the esophagus and the sphincter below the esophagus before reaching the stomach, which together helps suck food down to the stomach for digestion. Both had stopped working correctly. A Heller myotomy procedure was ordered which addressed the issue and made it possible to consume food and liquids normally again.
Rare medical cases are a challenge for doctors who see the same types of problems often but get stumped by rare cases. Fortunately, some doctors like the challenge and specialize in such cases, which provides a resolution to patients who’ve been suffering and misdiagnosed for years.