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Monday, September 20, 2010

“Car Door Handle in Lung 4 Years”

The title of this post was a headline I found while looking through microfilm Friday afternoon. It reads like something you’d see on the front page of a supermarket tabloid, but I didn’t find this one in the National Enquirer. This was in a 1943 issue of Ingalls News, the newspaper for Ingalls Shipyard. Paul Trehern, a cost clerk at the shipyard, unknowingly lived with a car-door handle in his right lung for nearly four years before he had it removed. How in the world does a door handle end up inside a person? And how does a person go on for that long without knowing it’s there?

Trehern, a Gulfport native, was riding his bicycle in 1939 when a car driven by a Florida tourist struck him, throwing him against the side of the vehicle. Trehern suffered an inch-and-a-half long wound on his right side and was rushed to the hospital with blood gushing from the injury. When he was thrown against the car, the door handle entered him, punctured his lung, and completely broke off from the car door. At the hospital, a doctor closed the wound with 23 stitches and took X-rays, but found no evidence any foreign object.

Trehern spent the next four years in pain. He was in so much pain, according to the article, that the only way he could sleep comfortably was by sitting in an upright position. Apparently, the pain wasn’t enough to keep him away from sports, though. A high school student at the time of the accident, Trehern was a member of the Gulfport High School boxing team, which is remarkable considering the unknown extent of his injury. Medical authorities of the day who were familiar with the case noted that a body blow in the right place would probably have killed Trehern instantly.

The car door handle was finally discovered during a medical exam at the state sanatorium in Magee, where it was removed by one of the state’s leading chest doctors. Trehern had to give up a rib in the process, but my guess is that he probably didn’t mind it that much.

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