Sunday, March 12, 2006

How I became a celebrity (Part V)

Dear reader

The story continues. Please read parts I - IV before this post. Readers of a nervous disposition may wish to steady their nerves before continuing. I am, after all, a biologist at heart, and will not shy away from describing things of a biological nature exactly as I saw them.


Part V 'A botfly in PNG????'

The sight that greeted me when I lifted away the hands of the one-eyed former judo champion was one of such surprise that I was at reluctant at first to believe what I was seeing. Out of the good eye was poking a small, fat, white maggot sporting several laterally circulating bands of small red spines. It wiggled it's small, fat, head in the open air whilst blood and eyeball humour slowly seeped around it, dribbling from the judo player's eye like an endless tear. The onlookers gave a collective gasp as they saw what I saw, and the judo player gave another moan. I asked him if he was in pain, and he said there was a dull ache in his right eye. He then asked me what was wrong, and why he couldn't see anything. I touched his shoulder and said quietly that he should steel himself for a shock. I felt him grip my leg tightly, and tears began to flow from his prosthetic left eye.

'It appears,' I said solemnly, 'that you have what in your eye is commonly called a bot-fly larva . The latin name.....give me a Dermatobia hominis. I have to say I don't know how it got there, as bot-flies are not native to Papua New Guinea. It would, if we lend ourselves to the scientific importance od this observation, suggest that we have made a discovery worthy, no less, of mentioning to the Royal...'

I got no further. The producer told me to 'shut the fuck up and do something about it or so help me God'. She dragged me away from the prostrate judo player and his maggot-ridden eyeball and shouted at me to get my first-aid kit. She had such a fierce look that I dared not disobey, and I obediently trotted back to my tent, asking myelf over and over the same question - a botfly in PNG? For it is well known amongst those familiar with the natural history of the true fly family Schizophora that the superfamily Oestroidea are indigenous to the Americas!

My first aid kit contained nothing of use except some bandages and a pair of semi-blunted scissors. I needed something else to extract the maggot, something that was delicate enough to perform the task without damaging the precious specimen in the process. Of course I had come equipped with just the thing - my dissection kit. Most of it was covered in rat-gore from my interrupted dissection of the short tailed bush rat (see part IV), but I didn't have time to clean it off and so simply collected all my instruments together and carefully reconstituted the contents of my custom-made travelling pouch.

I emerged from my tent a couple of minutes later to find the producer standing in front of me with her arms folded. She asked me what I had been doing for so long. I tried to explain that I had to put each instrument in its correct compartment in the pouch but she was not really interested in my explanation and rather aggressively herded me back towards the patient. On reaching him, I knelt down and unfolded the pouch. The onlookers gasped as I drew out a bloodied pair of tweezers. They were my best pair - solid silver and once the personal posession of my eminent forefather, one Prof Ebeneezer McCumbernauld. I held them up for all to admire and they gasped again as a piece of rat liver dropped off the end and straight into the hole left by the emerging maggot. 'Oops' I said quietly. (Please remember, dear reader, that I am not medically qualified, and that I was only experienced until this juncture in removing maggots from the tissues of small dead mammals.)

'I will now attempt to remove the botfly larva.' I announced. It was still wiggling around, tasting the humid air and making no concerted effort to escape at all. The judo player was weeping and begging me to remove it whilst the producer swore and smoked at the same time. Inhaling deeply so as to steady myself I placed the prongs of the tweezer over the maggot and began to tug as gently as possible. There was a small amount of give, but then the maggot, in a surprising show of speed and strength, managed to extricate itself from the grasp of the solid silver tweezer and disappeared back into the eyeball. 'Oops' I said quietly. The crowd gasped.

'Do not worry' I whispered. 'The larva must emerge as part of its natural life history. Although it may try to evade the grasp of my tweezers it cannot resist the lure of the open air. We just need to be patient.'

A generic botfly removal operation

'Use this Doc' said one of the crew. He had taken a scalpel from the pouch and was pointing it at me. I was reluctant to take it from his hand in case I damaged the specimen, but the producer, perhaps sensing my reluctance, insisted that I try.

Five minutes later, the maggot re-emerged. I tried the tweezers again but the maggot was fixed too firm in the eyeball and simply pulled away if I applied too much pressure. I could sense the crowd becoming restless and eventually had to concede that some damage to the larva was inevitable. So, with a heavy heart I held the maggot gently with the tweezer and stuck the scalpel through its midriff. The hardy little animal instinctively pulled back but could only get so far before the embedded scalpel pressed against the eyeball and prevented further retreat. Victory was at hand! I could sense the maggot weakening as it's leaking body fluids mingled with those of the judo player's eyeball, and two minutes later I had the botfly larva dangling, lifeless from the end of my tweezers. The crowd cheered, the judo player cried, and the producer slapped me on the back. 'Thank Christ for that... she cheered, smiling for the first time since the shoot. 'This is going to send the ratings rocketing. Did you get all that Chris?'

I turned around to see a tall man bending in my direction. He was holding a steady cam, which was currently pointed at my face. 'And......Cut!' shouted the producer.

Ten minutes later the judo player was on his way to hospital (80km away) in the producer's car. I was kept behind,at the producers insistence, to do a piece to camera . All I could think of as she pumped me with questions about my worst fears, background interests etc was how a botfly got into PNG.

So, dear reader, was this how I became a celebrity?

Nope. We still had a week to go and we were down to four celebs. What I didn't know then was what the producer had in store for yours truly. It was going to get a lot worse before it got better....

*********TO BE CONTINUED***************


hermione2001ie said...

You worry me...

Gorilla Bananas said...

That's an impressive photo, McCrumble, but we all know how the larva must have got there. It looks like a re-run of the bunny episode. You would have had no cause for complaint had they tarred and feathered you.

Dr Joseph McCrumble said...

The question of how the botfly got in there is not difficult to answer with hindsight, but remember that at the time I was under field conditions and in the mindframe that discoveries of this type were not impossible. Indeed, being in PNG they were quite likely!

Anonymous said...

Chilling as they are, the photos accompanying this item, at least, are real. They were taken from a July 2000 article appearing in the Archives of Ophthalmology (a journal published the American Medical Association) that describes and illustrates the removal of a human botfly larva from the eye of a 5-year-old by in Honduras by an Air Force mobile ophthalmic surgical team. As summarized by the article:

A 5-year-old boy with inferior orbital swelling and an erythematous mass arising from the inferior cul-de-sac of his right eye was seen by an Air Force Mobile Ophthalmic Surgical Team working in a rural area of the Republic of Honduras. The respiratory pore of a late-stage larva of the human botfly (Dermatobia hominis) was located in the anterior orbit. The larva was gently removed under general anesthesia through a small incision in the conjunctiva


Anonymous said...


Joseph McCrumble is a fraud!

Anonymous said...

see also

Dr Joseph McCrumble said...

Read the post very carefully and you will see that I labelled this photo as a 'generic botfly removal' This photo was taken from a website devoted to botflies, and was not taken by anyone I know.