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10 People Who Had Things Living Inside Them

by Simon Griffin
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Everyone has heard urban legends about people who have gone swimming in rivers or lakes, only to find out weeks later that they had swallowed an egg, and now have a fully grown snake or something living inside them. Of course, these stories are ridiculous. Most animals would be completely incapable of living inside a human. But, as unlikely as it is, there are exceptions to this rule, some more shocking than you can imagine.

10 Ron Svedan


By the summer of 2010, Ron Svedan had had emphysema for several months, was coughing a lot, and felt a lot less energetic than usual. While many people might just assume that these kind of things are inevitable for a 75-year-old man to experience, Svedan was worried that he had a tumor in his lung. On a particularly bad day, he was taken to hospital and X-rayed after his wife called the emergency services. The X-rays revealed a growth in his left lung, which had also collapsed. It took an agonizing 10 days for Ron’s results to come back from the lab, but when they did, they showed that Ron did not have cancer.

Far from a tumor, the growth inside him was actually a small pea plant. Doctors speculate that the pea had been accidentally inhaled and the lung had proved an ideally warm, humid atmosphere in which to sprout. The plant was surgically removed, and Ron was fine. He was not turned off peas at all by this experience, eating them in his first meal after the surgery.

9 Anil Barela


Anil Barela is a boy from Madya Pradesh, India. One day last year, when he was 12, he began to have trouble breathing after he had been playing in a river with some friends. So he sought medical attention, and a relatively short and simple surgery fixed his breathing problem. The source of his troubles turned out to be a 8.9-centimeter (3.5 in) fish that had ended up in his lung. Apparently, the “game” he was playing with his friends was swallowing live fish, a popular pastime among the local children.

Anil had decided to put the fish in his mouth and inhale, rather than simply swallow the thing like a normal child. The suction pulled the fish directly into his lung. He was fine after the surgery, and the fish was still alive when the surgeons found it, although it died shortly afterward.

8 Aaron Dallas


Aaron Dallas was just a regular tourist on a trip to Belize in the summer of 2007. The vacation went well overall, seemingly passing without incident. I say “seemingly” because, upon returning to the US, Aaron noticed that he had several bumps on his scalp. Doctors initially blamed insect bites or shingles, right up until they noticed the bumps were moving. The cause? Five maggots living in his scalp. If he touched the bumps, he could literally feel them moving around, but up until his doctor identified the maggots, he had thought it was just blood rushing around. More horrific still, he could even hear them inside his head. The maggots were removed, and now we can all rest easier knowing that this will probably never happen again.

Except for 27-year-old Rochelle Harris who, upon returning to England from Peru, began suffering from headaches, soreness in her face, and aural discharge caused by a number of maggots in her ear. Rochelle then had to spend the next few hours listening to the maggots moving around, while doctors unsuccessfully tried to drown them out with olive oil. In the end, eight live maggots were removed surgically.

7 Unnamed Men


In 2010, an unnamed 59-year-old chef went to a hospital in Sichuan, China, after experiencing pains in his abdomen, severe anal bleeding, and other unpleasant problems. His puzzled doctors opted to perform exploratory surgery, probably expecting to find something along the lines of a tumor or a damaged organ. Well, they did find that the man’s small intestines were damaged—by the eel they found inside him. At first it seemed that the eel had somehow made its way in through a meal he had eaten the day before, but the real cause soon came to light: He had been out drinking with friends and passed out, at which point they decided to play the age-old practical joke of inserting a live eel into his anus. The man passed away 10 days later.

Another man in China decided to try this for himself, after he allegedly saw it happen in porn. He admitted himself to hospital and underwent surgery, where the 50-centimeter (20 in) eel was removed after having chewed through the man’s colon. This man survived to face animal cruelty charges.

A third man in China had an eel swim into his bladder (via the worst route imaginable) during a spa treatment that involves eels eating off dead skin to bring the healthier, lower layers to the top. This man saw the 15-centimeter (six-inch) eel on its way in, but it proved too slippery to grab and had to be removed later.

6 A 14-Year-Old Boy


A 14-year-old boy in India went to the hospital after experiencing pain, and difficulty going to the bathroom, despite having no history of urological issues. Various tests were run, and the doctors were eventually able to pinpoint the source of his distress: There was a tiny fish living inside the boy’s bladder. They tried a few different ways to get the fish out, and eventually had to use a ureteroscope (which is exactly as awful as it sounds, gentlemen). But what really makes this story is the little boy’s excuse as to how the fish ended up there: He was in the middle of cleaning his fish tank when he needed to go to the bathroom. Naturally, he held on to the fish while he was relieving himself (as you do), and it then slipped out of his hand and jumped up the first place it saw (as fish do). As if the whole experience wasn’t embarrassing enough, the boy’s ordeal, since it is so unique, is now used as a case study.

5 Artyom Sidorkin


Artyom Sidorkin, from Russia, began experiencing chest pains and coughing up blood in 2009. Of course, these sorts of symptoms would be enough to frighten the crap out of anyone, so he visited his doctor to get things checked out, and was given an X-ray to see if he had cancer. The tests seemed to show that he did, so he was sent off for an operation on his lung. I’ve previously written about how negligence or confusion among medical staff has resulted in the unnecessary removal of body parts, so Artyom should be grateful that his doctor decided to take a closer look at the growth before slicing up the majority of one of Artyom’s lungs. As it turned out, the mass detected by the X-ray was not a tumor (bet you didn’t see that one coming), but was in fact the first sprouting of a fir tree. It was only five centimeters (two inches) tall, but was touching some of his capillaries, which explained the extreme pain that he had been feeling. The plant was removed, and he made a full recovery.

4John Matthews


John Matthews was having some trouble with the vision in his left eye. As well as it becoming increasingly blurred, there were two dark spots constantly in sight. He described it as like looking through a muddy lens. Naturally concerned he was losing his vision, John visited the doctor. At first, Dr. James Folk couldn’t find the problem, but after examining close-ups of John’s eye, he realized that there was a microscopic worm living there. Not much is known about the worm, as there have only been 15 known cases like this, but what is known isn’t very pleasant. The worm is ingested one way or another, and then begins to make its way from the stomach through the person’s tissue, moving all the way up to their eye or brain. It then survives by feeding on the person’s retina. Despite his vision being blurred, he could see the worm swimming around in his eye. Dr. Folk managed to kill the worm using a laser, and John is now doing exercises to restore his sight, although it is unlikely to ever recover fully.

3 Mrs. Lee

On August 8, 2012, Mrs. Lee checked into the Changsha Central Hospital of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery (catchy name) complaining that her ear was itchy. Instead of laughing her out of the hospital, Dr. Liu Sheng took a look inside the woman’s ear and made what is likely to be the most exciting discovery of his career as an ear doctor: Mrs. Lee had a spider in her ear canal. And not one of those minuscule, nondescript spiders. This little tyke had four eyes, was covered in hair, and had barbs that the doctors feared it would dig into the woman’s ear if disturbed. They estimated that the spider had crawled into her ear for shelter as she slept, five days earlier. To get it out, they filled her ear with saline solution, which successfully drove the spider away.

2 Rosemary Alvarez And Anthony Franz


Rosemary Alvarez was just 37 when an MRI scan showed a serious and difficult-to-remove tumor in her brain. Alvarez had admitted herself to a hospital in Phoenix after experiencing some pretty worrying symptoms, such as trouble balancing, swallowing, and numbness. There was no alternative but to attempt a risky operation. It was at this point that her doctor made a discovery that would no doubt stick with him for the rest of his days.

The good news was that Rosemary was not suffering from a tumor. The not-so-good news was that she had a live tapeworm in her brain. Although horrifying, this was actually better than having a tumor. The tapeworm was easier to remove and meant she wouldn’t have to worry about cancer.

But there was still the question of how the worm got in there in the first place, and the answer is pretty disgusting. At some point, Rosemary must have eaten food tainted by the feces of a person who had the pork tapeworm. Over 20 percent of California neurology offices have seen cases like this one. If that won’t make you wash your hands, I don’t know what will.

1 A 63-Year-Old Woman


Last year, a woman in South Korea (who has not been named for reasons that will become obvious) was eating squid, specifically, “Todarodes pacificus“. As she was eating the partially boiled creature, she felt a stinging sensation and spat it out. But she continued to feel what she described as a “foreign body sensation” in her gums, cheek, and tongue. It turns out that while she was eating, the sperm sack of the squid burst and she was “inseminated” (at least as much as a woman’s mouth can be inseminated by a squid). When she was examined by doctors, they removed “12 small, white spindle-shaped, bug-like organisms.” And cases like these are not nearly as rare as they should be. While there have only been a few similar reports in Japan, even just one incident is far too much squid-mouth insemination for (anyone’s) comfort.

Simon is a 22-year-old university graduate who likes to adhere to Irish stereotypes, such as drinking and loving the potato. You can follow him on Twitter, or like his extremely long tongue on Facebook to see if he can break the world record.

fact checked by Jamie Frater