The amazing story of Leonid Ivanovich Rogozov, the doctor who removed his own appendix during a Soviet expedition in Antarctica in 1960.
The ship Ob, with the sixth Soviet Antarctic expedition on board, sailed from Leningrad on November 5th, 1960 with the task to build a new Antarctic polar base inland at Schirmacher Oasis and overwinter there. After nine weeks the new base Novolazarevskaya was opened.
One of the expedition’s members was 27 year old Leningrad surgeon Leonid Ivanovich Rogozov. He had interrupted a promising career and left on the expedition shortly before he was due to defend his dissertation on new methods of operating on cancer of the esophagus. In the Antarctic, he was first and foremost the team’s doctor, although he also served as the meteorologist and the driver of their all-terrain vehicle.
After several weeks, Rogozov fell ill. He noticed symptoms of weakness, malaise, nausea, and, later, pain in the upper part of his abdomen, which shifted to the right lower quadrant. His body temperature rose to 37.5°C and Rogozov wrote in his diary:
It seems that I have appendicitis. I am keeping quiet about it, even smiling. Why frighten my friends? Who could be of help? A polar explorer’s only encounter with medicine is likely to have been in a dentist’s chair.
As a surgeon, Leonid Ivanovich Rogozov had no difficulty diagnosing acute appendicitis. In this situation, however, it was a cruel trick of fate. He knew that if he was to survive he had to undergo an operation.
But he was in the frontier conditions of a newly founded Antarctic colony on the brink of the polar night. Transportation was impossible. Flying was out of the question, because of the snowstorms. And there was one further problem: he was the only physician on the base.
Dr. Rogozov had some staff help him hold mirrors and retractors, but performed the entire surgery himself using just local anesthetic. After 45 minutes, Rogozov started to take short breaks because of general weakness and vertigo. Finally he removed the severely affected appendix and closed the wound. The operation itself lasted an hour and 45 minutes. He was back to work in two weeks.
Pictures Of Leonid Ivanovich Rogozov Performing The Operation
If you enjoyed reading about Leonid Ivanovich Rogozov, be sure to see our article on the most painful medical procedures of Medieval times!