(Summer 2003, England) I am a key Intensive Care staff member in
Buckinghamshire. One summer day a patient was brought in, sirens
screaming. The 38-year-old was obviously the victim of an explosion, with
shrapnel wounds and gunpowder burns on his face and abdomen. His thigh and
groin had also sustained serious injury, although his testicles were
We removed a three-inch section of twisted pipe from his abdomen, repaired
his large intestine, and sealed ruptured vessels to control bleeding.
After five hours of surgery, the patient was admitted to ICU on a
ventilator and blood and plasma expanders.
The police thought he might be a terrorist whose bomb had detonated
prematurely, and they placed a media restriction on him. Due to the
restriction, the full details never appeared in the press, but the story
started to emerge when we spoke to the man's brother-in-law.
The victim was not a terrorist at all, but an unemployed van driver.
During a family get-together, he took his 13-year-old nephew down to his
brother-in-law's garden shed for a fishing lesson. To catch fish at the
local quarry, he planned to teach the boy a technique he had pioneered in
his youth: tossing homemade explosives into the lake and collecting the
stunned fish that floated to the surface.
This clever fisherman cut a section of 5-cm scaffolding pipe and hammered
one end closed. Then he packed it with a pad of cotton, rammed home with a
smaller section of steel pipe. On top of this he poured a substantial
amount of gunpowder taken from bootleg Chinese aerial fireworks, which are
illegal in the UK. His plan was to place another cotton pad on top of the
gunpowder, and seal the whole bundle with a plug of wood.
Considerable hammering and noise was required to get a "tight wad." As it
was Sunday, the brother-in-law was worried that the neighbours would
complain about the noise. Twice, he asked his relative to cease and
desist, and finally took his son and proceeded back toward the house.
Meanwhile, this Darwin candidate continued to ram home the pipe's contents
while holding the device between his legs for stability. As the gentleman
explained to me some weeks later, "My big mistake was when I used the steel
pipe to pack the tube, instead of the end of the wooden hammer-handle."
Indeed. The brother-in-law and his son were 30 feet from the shed when a
spark ignited the gunpowder.
The pipe bomb shot the wooden plug into his eye orbit, whilst the body of
the pipe unwrapped like a cardboard tube, and launched itself into the
gentleman's abdomen. The blunt lateral force stopped the pipe from
ejecting from his body, but the impact lacerated his bowels, while the
shock force and shrapnel caused massive haemorrhaging.
The candidate lost a major part of his thigh, but the upward force of the
explosion protected his testicles from injury, so his genes were not lost
to humanity. He survived the incident, and has therefore not quite
fulfilled the full Darwin Award criteria, although the facial disfigurement
may yet ensure that his genes are not propagated.
One comment made the Trauma team's day. The surgeon displayed a 3 inch
metal fragment from the man's abdomen and announced to all and sundry,
"Who's going to contact the Darwin Awards, then?" All four doctors, three
nurses and and two technicians cracked up laughing. Medical humour!
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Submitted by: Ches Whistler