Man Who Got Hit With an Iron Rod Through His Head

Man Who Got Hit With an Iron Rod Through His Head


When we hear about incredible survival stories,
we are usually referring to people who got lost in the wild, such as the recent case
of the ultra runner who was hit by a sandstorm in the Sahara and survived for 10 days eating
lizards and scorpions and occasionally finding some liquid relief in the form of dew. Then there’s the guy who was swallowed by
a sperm whale and lived to tell the tale or people who have taken as many as 20 bullets
and survived. You might know that rapper 50 Cent took nine,
and it didn’t hold him back for long. Or what about the curious case of the Frenchman
who as we speak lives a functional life with 90 percent of his brain missing? Today we’ll talk about one of the greatest
survivors in history, in this episode of The Infographics Show, Phineas Gage – How Did
He Survive? Phineas Gage has been called “Neuroscience’s
Most Famous Patient,” but who was he before he became a miracle of science? Not too much is known about his early life,
only that he was born in New Hampshire, USA, in 1823 and had four siblings. It’s believed as a young man he was strong,
tall, and handsome. Notes found from one of his doctors when Gage
was 25 tell us he possessed “an iron will as well as an iron frame; a muscular system
unusually well-developed‍.” This might have been a reason why later he
would become a living legend. This strong and durable fellow started working
on the railroads in his twenties and soon became a blasting foreman. The railroads, of course, met with resistance
in the form of nature, and sometimes rocks needed to be blasted away. To do this, you packed them with explosives,
but the packing itself was a hard job. To do that, you usually bore a deep hole in
the rock and filled it with explosives. Once you had drilled the hole, you then put
in the dynamite, but to make sure you really destroyed the rock from inside out, you then
had to pack other materials (often clay or sand) firmly into the hole. To do this, the tool of choice was a tamping
iron, which is basically an iron rod. On the fateful day of September 13, 1848,
this was the job of Phineas Gage when working on destroying rocks near Cavendish in Vermont. As the story goes, Gage was looking behind
him where men were working. As he was about to speak, his tamping iron
hit the rock, causing a spark. The explosives went off, and that tamping
iron set off like a rocket in the direction of Gage’s head. The measurements of the tamping iron were
as follows: 1 1⁄4 inches (3.2 cm) in diameter, 3 feet 7 inches (1.1 m) long, and 13 1⁄4
pounds (6.0 kg) in weight. That’s about half the length of a javelin
and almost the weight of three crowbars. It’s not something you want plunged into
your face at high speed. The tamping iron went up through his jaw,
past his cheekbone, behind his left eye, through the left side of his brain, and out of the
top of his skull. It’s said it was travelling with such a
velocity that the tamping iron ended up some 80 feet (25 meters) away, now adorned with
blood and bits of brain. Talk about an extreme form of lobotomy. But this strapping young man seemed to take
the accident well, or should we say he took it on the chin well. While he did convulse, it’s said he soon
sat up and talked, and within 30 minutes with a bit of help, he made it to a chair. It was there where he met with a physician
called Edward H. Williams, who it’s said was subsequently given “one of the great
understatements of medical history.” That line was the injured man saying, “Doctor,
here is business enough for you.” The doctor later wrote, “The top of the
head appeared somewhat like an inverted funnel, as if some wedge-shaped body had passed from
below upward. Mr. Gage, during the time I was examining
this wound, was relating the manner in which he was injured to the bystanders. I did not believe Mr. Gage’s statement at
that time, but thought he was deceived.” He was telling the truth, and to the doctor’s
astonishment, he added a bit more. He said after the incident he had vomited,
but the strain of that vomiting had emitted bits of brain out of the top of his head. Gage’s wounds were cleaned. Some of his bones were reattached, while the
holes were left partially open to allow for drainage. But what about Gage’s mental state? Well, he was treated in the following months
by a Doctor John Martyn Harlow. Harlow first remarked on the patient’s state
the first few nights, writing, “Mind clear. Constant agitation of his legs, being alternately
retracted and extended like the shafts of a fulling mill. Says he ‘does not care to see his friends,
as he shall be at work in a few days.’” As for his personality, many changes would
happen as often happens to people who have suffered very serious brain trauma. The damage done, wrote the doctor, had seriously
affected Gage’s “intellectual faculties and animal propensities,” and at times he
wasn’t just very rude to his friends but on occasion he would utter “the grossest
profanity.” His mother said he couldn’t remember a few
things, but it wasn’t all that notable. Still, even though he could at times say the
most horrible things to a person’s face, it didn’t stop him from working. However, the railroad where he had previously
worked didn’t want him back despite him being a model foreman. So much for gratitude. The Smithsonian tells us that Gage, who became
blind in one eye, later did some stable work in New Hampshire but even traveled as far
as Chile to drive coaches. We guess horses were okay with being cursed
at. Nonetheless, the wound proved too much for
Gage, and at the age of 36 he died from seizures related to his injury. If anything good came of this, it is that
medical science gained valuable information as to how brain injuries can cause changes
in personality. Reports say that Gage’s friends said he
was no longer the same person, not even close. Once a man of mild and polite temperament,
he became an “ill-tempered, shiftless drunk.” Other medical reports talk about how childish
and animalistic he became but also that he was incredibly whimsical. One doctor wrote that Gage was, “impatient
of restraint or advice when it conflicts with his desires, at times pertinaciously obstinate,
yet capricious and vacillating, devising many plans of future operations, which are no sooner
arranged than they are abandoned in turn for others appearing more feasible.” If there is some vocabulary you don’t understand
in that, it basically means Gage’s opinions or plans could turn on a dime. We should add that some other sources suggest
that over time his behavior did improve, which gives some hope to people who have suffered
traumatic brain injury. Regardless, doctors learned that even with
a significant part of the brain gone someone could complete tasks and live a relatively
normal life. Okay, so Gage lost some of his inhibitions
and could be impulsive, but he knew how to drive a carriage and not crash it. Even today, the story of Gage is still important
when doctors discuss what role the frontal lobes play and how they are significant in
terms of our behavior and personality. Why he survived is up for debate, but it’s
thought that the fact he was already a very strong man played a part. Also important was the fact the object was
sharp and made a clean exit through his skull. This lessened the shock to the organ inside. He was also fortunate that the brain could
drain, and he suffered no dangerous infections. Another reason, wrote a doctor, was, “The
portion of the brain traversed was, for several reasons, the best fitted of any part of the
cerebral substance to sustain the injury.” In other words, if you’re gonna lose some
brain, lose that bit. He was lucky, though, for sure. According to a story in the Baltimore Sun
in 2018, about 20,000 Americans are shot in the head each year and die, which includes
suicide. We are told if you get a bullet in the head,
there is a 5 percent chance of survival, with only 3 percent of those people going on to
live a fully functional life. If you want to see that famous skull as well
as the iron rod that did the damage, you should visit the Warren Anatomical Museum on the
Harvard Medical School campus. Gage had given the bar to science, what he
called “my iron bar” but later demanded it back, saying it was his “constant companion.” After he died, science took it back again
along with Gage’s skull. So, what do you think of this story? Do you know someone else who survived something
equally atrocious? Let us know in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our other video
called Why 2019 will be a horrible year. Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time!

100 Replies to “Man Who Got Hit With an Iron Rod Through His Head”

  1. You know how in like those old fighting games when they would do their final move and it was like a brutal deadly one thats what happend to this guy and he survived
    it what a legend

  2. we going too ignore the fact that they put the call of duty ghost mask on the wall painting at 3:50?

  3. I read this in a book.
    I have 1% battery left so I will try to make it qui-.
    Edit a second later
    Wow the book did not have that much detail to say "He vomited bits of brain".

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