A 24-year-old woman who spent two days last week trying to find someone who would believe she had accidentally swallowed her 20- centimeter-long toothbrush, finally got doctors’ attention at the Carmel Medical Center in Haifa, where physicians took her complaint seriously and pulled out the instrument.

The young woman, Bat- El – who worked in special education after completing her army service and now takes care of the elderly at an institution – finished work a few days ago and went home, where she brushed her teeth. Because of the angle at which she bent over to swallow water from the faucet while holding the brush near her mouth, the piece of plastic and nylon bristles suddenly slipped into her mouth and went down her esophagus into her stomach.

“At first I got very scared and tried to vomit it out,” she told staffers at a hospital near her home, where she went with her brother and a friend. “But it got stuck in my stomach.”

The emergency room doctors sent her for an X-ray – but they couldn’t make anything out. A surgeon examined her and also came up with a blank.

“I begged them to do more tests,” she recalled. “Apparently they thought I was dreaming or not normal, and they sent me home.”

The next day, when her stomach pains did not go away, she went to Carmel Medical Center. “I thought that maybe there somebody would believe me and help me.”

The emergency room team performed an X-ray and an ultrasound – but even there, the toothbrush did not appear. Only after they sent Bat-El for an extremely sophisticated computerized tomography (CT) scan did the toothbrush show up.

“When we saw the 20- cm.-long toothbrush, we were afraid that this was a case for the operating theater,” said Dr. Uri Segol, head of the hospital’s gastroenterology institute.

Segol had removed batteries, razor blades, dental bridges and whole sets of false teeth from people’s stomachs, but this was the first time he had encountered a toothbrush lying horizontally inside a patient’s stomach.

While he thought the chances of pulling it out with a diagnostic endoscope were very small, the doctor thought it might just be possible to avoid general anesthesia and surgery. With a lot of patience, Segol managed to inch the green-white-and-orange object out of her stomach, up her esophagus, into her throat and out of her mouth with no harm to either Bat-El or the brush.

The hospital staff gave him a standing ovation.

“We used standard equipment for a very unusual purpose, and I’m happy we succeeded,” Segol said. “The lesson from this story is for doctors to pay attention and listen to their patients.”

The grateful young woman is recovering nicely in the hospital’s surgical department.

“I am very angry at the other doctors who didn’t believe me and refused to send me for more tests,” she said. “We are human beings who want help when they suffer pain. The Carmel doctors paid attention and saved me, and for that I am very grateful."

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