During the 6th Soviet Antarctic Expedition at Novolazarevskaya Station, the only doctor in the house suddenly became the patient
when Dr. Leonid Rogozov realized his appendix was going to burst unless he did the unthinkable: OPERATE ON HIMSELF
The date: on April 30, 1961
His assistant: a mechanic.
Length of operation: Two hours.
How he did it: He positioned himself so that he could see his own body using a mirror when doing the surgery. But as he notes, that meant he was seeing things on the wrong side.
He made a 12 cm incision through which he found the appendix.
He published a short note about this in the Soviet Antarctic Expedition Information Bulletin, no. 37, pp. 42-44, 1962.
I did not sleep at all last night. It hurts like the devil! A snowstorm whipping through my soul, wailing like a hundred jackals. Still no obvious symptoms that perforation is imminent, but an oppressive feeling of foreboding hangs over me … This is it … I have to think through the only possible way out: to operate on myself … It’s almost impossible … but I can’t just fold my arms and give up.
I worked without gloves. It was hard to see. The mirror helps, but it also hinders — after all, it’s showing things backwards. I work mainly by touch. The bleeding is quite heavy, but I take my time — I try to work surely. Opening the peritoneum, I injured the blind gut and had to sew it up. Suddenly it flashed through my mind: there are more injuries here and I didn’t notice them … I grow weaker and weaker, my head starts to spin. Every 4-5 minutes I rest for 20-25 seconds. Finally, here it is, the cursed appendage! With horror I notice the dark stain at its base. That means just a day longer and it would have burst and …
At the worst moment of removing the appendix I flagged: my heart seized up and noticeably slowed; my hands felt like rubber. Well, I thought, it’s going to end badly. And all that was left was removing the appendix … And then I realised that, basically, I was already saved.
Two weeks later, he was back on duty.