From leaking brains to strange diets – 2020's weirdest and wackiest medical cases

Josh Dutton
·News Reporter
·4-min read

The year 2020 was full of bizarre medical cases with some stranger than fiction.

While Covid-19 made headlines around the globe a woman in her 40s gained attention when her brain leaked during a coronavirus test.

She underwent testing in March before presenting to doctors with symptoms including “metallic taste, headache, neck stiffness, and photophobia”.

Dr Jarrett Walsh from the University of Iowa Hospital told the AFP the woman had undergone two swabs.

He said she had undergone the swab ahead of an elective hernia surgery but noticed clear fluid coming out of one side of her nose.

"She had been swabbed previously for another procedure, same side, no problems at all. She feels like maybe the second swab was not using the best technique, and that the entry was a little bit high," he said.

A CT scan from 2017 shows a woman's brain.
A CT scan shows a gap in the area closing around the brain near the woman's nasal cavity. Source: JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery

Man’s heart attack while helping son with homework

Spare a thought for Mr Liu, 45, a resident of Shenzen in China’s southeast, who suffered a heart attack while studying with his son in Year 3.

His son didn’t know the answer to a question and Mr Liu grew frustrated and began feeling pain in his chest.

The next day, after he was hospitalised, he began foaming at the mouth.

A schoolboy does his homework in his room in Rennes, western France.
A man had a heart attack after he became frustrated while doing homework with his son. Source: Getty Images (file pic)

Melbourne woman’s rare illness

A Melbourne woman complained of headaches and what doctors found was a parasitic disease rarely found in Australia.

The 25-year-old had never been out of the country either.

Doctors found a lesion in her brain.

Elderly man dies from plant soil

An 82-year-old man died after contracting an infection from plant soil.

In a rare case, the man suffered a nervous system infection and had trouble speaking and experienced weakness on his right side.

The man had previously been diagnosed with lymphoma, but had been in remission for more than 10 years.

Man dies after eating too much liquorice

A 54-year-old man from the US city of Boston died after doctors said he ate too much liquorice.

Doctors noted he had a “poor diet” and ate several packets of lollies on a daily basis.

He had also recently stopped eating fruit-flavoured lollies and swapped over to liquorice.

A chest radiograph is pictured next to a picture of a heart.
A radiograph of the man's chest and a look at his heart with a pulmonary-artery catheter inserted. Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Brain-eating amoeba kills swimmer

An Indian man died just six days after going for a swim in an indoor pool from a brain-eating amoeba.

A lumbar puncture was performed before he died and cerebrospinal fluid was collected.

Doctors found Naegleria fowleri, also known as brain-eating amoeba.

He was given medication but died five days later.

Queensland boy’s ‘hot tub lung’

A Queensland boy, 17, was hospitalised after he grew ill from sitting in a room next to the family’s indoor pool while recovering from an unrelated surgery.

Doctors found low amounts of oxygen in his blood.

Water from the home was examined and a bacteria was found.

He was diagnosed with hot tub lung.

Unusual cause of boy’s chest pain

A teenager complained of chest pains for three days before doctors eventually found the culprit in his heart.

Doctors believed he had perimyocarditis – when there’s an inflammation of the sac around the heart.

They also performed a CT scan and found something in the right ventricle of his heart. Ventricles collect and expel blood.

A CT scan of a heart can be seen with a sewing pin lodged inside.
A sewing pin can be seen lodged in the boy's heart. Source: Elsevier/ The Journal of Emergency Medicine

Man mistakes motor fluid for energy drink

A 54-year-old man complained of seizures and an “altered mental state”.

He told doctors he drank about 350ml of NOS Octane Booster Racing Formula which contains methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl or MMT.

He had mistakenly drunk the wrong thing and believed the motor fluid he had purchased was the energy drink NOS High Performance.

Doctors wrote his case highlights the importance of carefully reading labels.

Man nearly dies stepping out of hot shower

A man, 34, nearly died after stepping out of the shower.

He went into anaphylaxis.

After being hospitalised he was diagnosed with cold urticaria can have severe or mild reactions.

It’s a skin reaction to cold exposure which can lead to the patient getting welts and hives.

People with the condition normally rely on medication or avoiding cold conditions – particularly when wet.

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