A 35-year-old man was rushed to surgery after reporting severe abdominal pains. Doctors thought it was food poisoning, so imagine their surprise when they uncovered the real source of the patient's discomfort – 7 kilograms (15 pounds) of metal sitting in his stomach.
Dr Priyank Sharma, the lead surgeon on the case, told reporters he had never seen anything like it.
In total, the doctors removed 263 coins, 100 nails, and dozens of razor blades from the patient, who is a driver called Maksud Khan from the Indian state Madhya Pradesh. He's admitted to swallowing the coins given to him by customers.
Although this has yet to be confirmed, it could be that Khan was suffering from an eating disorder called pica, a name derived from the Latin word for magpie.
People with pica have a compulsion to eat non-edible, non-nutritive items. It can involve anything that's not traditionally thought of as food, though common examples include dirt (geophagia) and ice chips (pagophagia). The disorder is most commonly found in children, pregnant women, and people with an intellectual disability. Researchers have also found a link between pica and iron deficiency.
There is not yet a word to describe Khan's coin and nail cravings, but he's not the first to be hospitalized for ingesting metal. Monsieur Mangetout (Mr Eats All in English) was a French entertainer who impressed audiences by consuming large quantities of metal, glass, and rubber. During his lifetime, he's thought to have gorged on 9 tons of metal, including 18 bicycles, 15 supermarket trolleys, seven televisions, and a Cessna light aircraft.
Of course, there are huge health risks that come with ingesting items that aren't designed to be eaten. It can cause constipation, blockages in the digestive tract, dental damage, and in some cases (say, those with a penchant for lead-based paint chips) poisoning. Hard and sharp objects (like nails and razors) can cause internal tearing.
Recently, rates of the disorder have increased – pica-related hospitalizations have risen by 93 percent between 1999 and 2009. However, what is classified as pica varies depending on social and cultural norms. Today, someone who eats clay would be diagnosed with geophagia, but in the fifties, you could buy a clay-filled lunch bag at an Alabama bus stop. People living in the southern states would send clay to friends and family who moved north, where the practice was less common.
Luckily for Khan, who started snacking on metal objects after entering a depression, there should be no lasting damage to his internal organs.
As one doctor put it: "The operation was done in the nick of the time as some of the nails lodged had pierced his stomach, caused bleeding and resulting in loss of haemoglobin."
Khan has also promised to kick the habit for good.