An Incidental Finding of a Gastric Foreign Body 25 Years After Ingestion

My mom has this story she likes to tell that I’ve always believed is totally fiction. This isn’t out of the ordinary—my mom has lots of stories that are, um, exaggerated to say the least. There are the multiple times she has broken out of restraints at the doctor’s office and kicked some healthcare professional across the room (could be a nurse, could be a doctor. One time it was a security guard. Don’t know what a security guard was doing in a maternity ward…) There is the time she was flying on a military cargo plane and she had to put her feet up on the caskets of dead soldiers.  There was the time she was getting some gynecologic procedure done and it hurt so bad that she dug her fingernails into the marble slab she was sitting on (was she a hunk of cheese?) Anyway, let’s just say my mom knows how to spin a yarn.

So this particular story involves her swallowing a ring. (The “how” exactly of this is still a little fuzzy, which has always contributed to the incredulity of the story.) Said ring miraculously ended up in her toilet two years later. I’ve never believed this is possible. How could a ring be in your body for TWO years without causing a problem? How could it be in your body for TWO YEARS, period? Does my Subway sandwich take two years to travel through my colon? I can tell you with complete certainty that corn on the cob does not.

Needless to say, I’ve always believed that this was another of mom’s semi-fictional stories. But the other day, I ran across this in a medical journal (Yeah, I like to read medical journals. Sue me.)

An incidental finding of a gastric foreign body 25 years after ingestion

Let me set this up for you: A 76-year-old woman goes to the doctor because she’s having diarrhea and losing weight.  A scan of her abdomen reveals “a linear foreign body in the stomach.”

Here’s where it gets really good:

“On subsequent questioning, she recalled unintentionally swallowing a pen 25 years earlier.”

Whoa. And then this:

“While she was interrogating a spot on her tonsil with the pen she slipped, fell and swallowed the pen by mistake.”


“Her husband and general practitioner dismissed her story.”


“The consensus of opinion was that despite being there for 25 years without causing any problems, the pen should be removed.”

Must have had good insurance.

“The pen was still in working order (figure 2).”

Are you kidding me?!“

I am not sure what scientific benefit was realized by testing whether the pen was still in working order, but I do feel like this was a major missed opportunity.  “Hello”–Is that the best you can do, doc? Even a simple, “Oh crap” would have been more on target.