Reporter Cari Nierenberg followed the story of the Swallowed Pen. And she found that the Bic still works 25 years later
The British Medical Journal reports a case of a 76- year-old British woman sent to a GI specialist because of weight loss and diarrhea.
She was diagnosed with severe diverticulitis, a condition that’s common in older people in which small pouches bulge out from the colon.
But as doctors did a scan of her belly they noticed “A linear foreign body in the stomach.”
When asked about it, the 76 year old remembered accidentally swallowing a black felt-tip pen 25 years earlier.
They say dentures and toothpicks are two of the most common items that adults accidentally swallow. Gross!
According to her gastroenterologist Dr. Oliver Waters, she was standing on her stairs using an uncapped pen to poke a spot on her tonsil. She was also holding a hand mirror to guide the pen to the exact spot. Somehow, while doing this, she lost her balance and stumbled. The fall managed to push the pen down her throat. It glided down her gullet and found a home in her tummy. Ouch!
She told her husband and her doctor what had happened, but they were skeptical of the story.
X-rays done at the time were normal and found no trace of the pen. Today, more than two decades later, a new scan hit pay dirt: The pen.
Although the woman’s current digestive problems had nothing to do with the marker she had unintentionally downed, doctors decided to remove it anyway.
Their rationale was a case in the medical literature of a child accidentally swallowing a ball-point pen that bore a hole in his bowel.
Incredibly, the pen had stayed in her stomach for 25 years without causing any significant damage to her GI tract, Waters says.
After bathing in stomach acid for a two-and-a-half decades, the pen was corroded and the plastic was flaky, but, amazingly, the pen still had usable ink and could write!
Occasionally it may be worth believing the patient’s account however unlikely it may be,