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
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
“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
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.”
young woman is recovering nicely in the hospital’s surgical
“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."