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Last week, a Chinese man went to the hospital after experiencing severe chest pain and was shocked to learn that his discomfort was caused by the house keys he thought he had lost the night before after getting drunk with his friends.
On June 7th, a 26-year-old man, identified solely as Chang, from Guangdong, China, went out for drinks with his friends, to celebrate the end of another long work week. When he got home in the middle of the night, he searched for his keys, but couldn’t find them, so he called someone inside and asked them to let him. He was pretty drunk, so he didn’t give his lost keys a second thought, instead going straight to bed. The next morning, as the numbing effect of the alcohol started to wear off, Chang started experiencing a sharp pain in his chest, so he went to the local Dongguan Hospital to have it checked out.
When doctors performed an X-ray of his torso, they were shocked to see what looked like a key lodged in his esophagus. They asked him about it, and he admitted to losing his house keys the night before, but couldn’t offer any explanation as to how they wound up inside his body. According to Chinese news site Sohu, he was as surprised as the doctors when he saw the X-ray.
Staff at Dongguan Hospital analyzed the situation and decided that allowing the keys to pass through Chang’s digestive system and be eliminated naturally was too risky, as the hard object could tear his intestines or cause a life-threatening intestinal obstruction. At the same time, trying to pull it out using endoscopy equipment could rupture his esophagus. The third option was an emergency surgery.
Dr. Zhang Yuyu told reporters that they first tried removing the keys using a gastroscope, but encountered trouble when trying to pull the out through the narrowest section of Chang’s esophagus, near the throat. The key was too large and pulling too hard could have tore the esophagus, which would have had “unimaginable consequences”. So they aborted the procedure and reconsidered their options. To make matters worse, most of the hospital staff was off duty for a national holiday, but luckily an anesthesiologist and the hospital’s deputy director of the Department of Gastroenterology canceled their plans and came in to help with the emergency.
After the anesthesiologist administered Chang a drug that helped relax his muscles, a gastroenterologist was able to pull out the metal key and plastic access card from the man’s esophagus.
How Chang ended up swallowing his keys remains a mystery that will probably never be solved, as he hardly remembers anything from his alcohol-fueled night out.