Sunday, February 24, 2008
Needle in a... banana?
A man came into the ER reporting he had bitten into a banana and found a hypodermic needle in it. We thought at first, "Yeah, right. Who is this kook?" But he turned out to be a normal, white collar guy and his story was legitimate. He had brought in the banana and the needle. (20g for all you medical folk). He said he had bought 4 bananas at a large supermarket outlet on Sunday. He had one on Monday, one on Tuesday, and when he bit into his "Wednesday" banana he felt something hard and spit out a large bore needle minus the plastic part. On closer inspection of the banana skin he found a puncture mark. Understandably, he was upset. We did all the medical things necessary for him and notified the police. The poor guy had been watching too much CSI because he asked me to "dust the needle for prints" and to "test the needle for all toxic substances including cyanide and arsenic." I had to explain to him that the hospital does not have a crime lab and that the police were going to have to take care of any "testing". We also notified LA County Health Department and asked them to send someone to the grocery store to notify them and possibly pull the bananas from the shelf. How typical of Los Angeles to actually have this happen and also typical for the police department to not be very impressed. Imagine what LAPD sees every day. I'm sure a needle in a banana was not high on their list of priorities. I know that sounds crass but it is reality.
Now before you throw away all the bananas in your house and boycott Chiquita, I googled "hypodermic needle in banana" and found an article from the Oxford Journal of Experimental Botany (you don't subscribe to this?) that reported hypodermic needles are used to test "the gaseous atmosphere in the intercellular spaces of bananas". So, you see, there could be a perfectly acceptable explanation. I'm really trying to convince myself of this because the alternate explanation is too horrid to comprehend.