Whether it’s getting a scrape on the knee from a rough game of football (soccer, if you prefer) or rolling your ankle in heels, we’ve all experienced these small injuries occasionally and have bounced back from them. However, there are cases where seemingly small incidents have spiraled out of control, resulting in unbelievable consequences such as being trapped in a coma for months, requiring multiple skin grafts, or even death.
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10 Heather Harbottle: Paper Cut Ends with a Skin Graft
This 49-year-old mother had a close brush with death in 2020 when she contracted a flesh-eating bug through an uncovered paper-cut wound. She never expected such a small inconvenience to develop into necrotizing fasciitis—a disease that destroys the skin, muscle, and surrounding soft tissues. It first started on her left hand, where the paper cut was found, and rapidly traveled to her armpits and heart. Consequently, she was quickly driven to the hospital and luckily missed a near amputation of her arm as the doctors opted to give her a skin graft instead.
9 Michael Berger: Another Paper Cut Turns Septic
Another terrifying instance where the relatively minor paper cut led to much more ominous complications is when 46-year-old Michael Berger from New Jersey fell into a three-week medically-induced coma as a result of sepsis. This is a toxic response to an infection that is likely to lead to organ failure. This response was triggered by the cut on his finger that had become infected and spread across his entire body. Doctors had given him a 50% chance of survival rate. Fortunately, he was placed in the hospital’s nationally recognized Sepsis Program. As a result of that, he is still with us today.
8 Bobby Leach: Orange Peel Causes Gangrene
This next takes us all the way back to 1926. Bobby Leach was touring in New Zealand, and his relatively relaxing trip was cut short when he fatally slipped on an orange peel and injured his leg. Although he quickly brushed off this injury, his leg soon became infected, and the infection turned into gangrene. Due to the lack of advanced hospital treatment at that time, amputation was the only solution to his problem. However, he would never recover from his injuries and died shortly afterward. Even more bizarre, Leach was only the second person to travel down Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel, yet it was a simple fruit skin that led to his demise!
7 Callum Jones: Sprained Ankle Causes Fatal Blood Clot
In October 2021, 27-year-old Callum Jones was peacefully walking his dog when he sprained his ankle by slipping on a wooden bridge. As his pain began to worsen, he was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a fractured ankle. He had his foot placed in a protective plastic boot and was given a pair of crutches. When he went back for a follow-up appointment, he was told he had badly-sprained ligaments and tendons.
Just two days later, he found it hard to breathe normally and had aching pains in his shoulders and chest. He spoke with his local doctor over a telephone call and was only diagnosed with pleuritis—a condition that affects the lungs and causes chest pains. Soon, Jones collapsed inside of his house and was immediately rushed to a hospital, where he died of pulmonary embolism, which was a blocked blood vessel in his lungs. This was a direct result of the immobility caused by the damage to the ligament.
6 Alex Braes: Broken Toenail Causes a “Skin-Eating Disease”
This 18-year-old teenager from New South Wales woke up one night with excruciating pains in his knees. Alex Braes was rushed to the hospital by his father, but doctors assumed his pains were due to sporting injuries and advised him to come back the next morning for an ultrasound scan. However, when the pair arrived at 8 am, there were no doctors available to check the results of the procedure, and none of his vitals were examined.
After Braes returned home, his knees had become unbearably painful, so he called triple zero (the same as 911 in America). Unfortunately, there were no ambulances available, so his father had to drive him to the hospital again. When he arrived, he was taken into the building in a wheelchair, and he only appeared semi-conscious and was unable to talk coherently. Doctors then discovered that he had necrotizing fasciitis—the deadly “skin-eating” disease previously mentioned. This was caused by a broken toenail and proved fatal for this young teenager. Although Alex Braes was rushed to Sydney hospital by helicopter, he would sadly die of cardiac arrest the following day.
5 Harry Houdini: The Few Blows That Killed the Famous Stunt Performer
As one of the most famous and revered magicians and escape artists of the 20th century, Houdini was no stranger to escaping risky situations. However, at the age of 52, Houdini would perform for one last time on stage before dying of two hard blows to his stomach. Twelve days before his death on October 31, 1926, Houdini spoke to a group of students. He boasted about the strength of his abdominal muscles and mentioned that they could withstand hard punches. One of the curious students decided to test this theory and, by doing so, suddenly threw three or four hard punches at Houdini’s stomach.
Despite not having sufficient time to prepare for these blows, Houdini shrugged the pain off and even went on stage to give his last performance. Unbeknownst to Houdini, the punches actually ruptured his appendix. But at that time, he felt no majorly concerning symptoms besides stomach cramps and discomfort. Only when he fell ill and feverish on the train to Detroit did he realize something was seriously wrong. He was quickly hospitalized, and doctors operated on him… but to no avail. The burst appendix had poisoned his body, and he soon died.
4 Keith Clarke: Stubbed Toe Led to Organ Failure
Although we’ve all annoyingly stubbed our toe on an inconspicuous object, it proved fatal for 59-year-old father-of-two Keith Clarke. He went swimming in a simulated coral reef pool while on holiday in Florida. Clumps of rocks were placed all around the pool, and they had living coral implanted inside them. Clarke accidentally stubbed his toe on one of the pieces and thought nothing more of it until three days later when he collapsed in an airport on his way back to Manchester. He was immediately rushed to Central Florida Regional Hospital and was diagnosed with septic shock and organ failure. On July 2, he was flown back to England in an air ambulance, and doctors were forced to amputate his legs below the knee, but it was already too late. Clarke would die of multiple organ failure caused by a bloodstream infection just eight weeks after he stubbed his toe.
3 Brittanie Cecil: Flying Hockey Puck Proves Fatal
On March 16, 2002, Brittanie Cecil attended an NHL hockey match as her father bought tickets to them for her as an early birthday present. However, this trip would prove to be fatal as one of the players struck a routine slap shot that resulted in the puck being deflected off an opponent’s stick. It flew into the lower bowl seats of the ice rink and struck Cecil in the head, just above the nose. She was taken to the hospital, and during that time, she appeared conscious and seemed to recover the next day.
A CT scan that was performed on her, however, failed to pick up a torn vertebral artery which resulted in clotting and swelling of the brain. Forty-eight hours later, Cecil would die on March 18—only two days before she was to turn 14. As a result of this shocking and tragic death, safety netting was placed around the NHL arena, and Cecil currently remains the only fan fatality in NHL history.
2 Jasmine Beever: Hairball in Stomach Ends in Death
In 2017, 16-year-old student Jasmine Beever collapsed at her college and was sent home to rest. When large and mysterious red blotches appeared on her skin, she was rushed to the hospital, and doctors soon had to fight to keep her alive. Although they managed to resuscitate her for 15 minutes, Beever would sadly die that evening.
The cause of her death was found to be an infection caused by a hairball lodged in her stomach. A post-mortem examination revealed she had contracted peritonitis—an inflammation of the thin layer of tissue on the abdomen. For years, Beever had been chewing on her hair, which was likely a sign of “Rapunzel syndrome.” As a result, a large hairball had been unable to pass through her body and had accumulated inside her stomach.
1 Sam Ballard: Slug Swallowed Ends Up Causing Paralysis
In 2010, Sam Ballard, a 19-year-old from Sydney, Australia, was drinking over at a friend’s house when a slug began crawling over the concrete patio. A group of his friends all dared him to pick up the slug and eat it, and he did so. No one could have expected this seemingly harmless albeit gross action would turn out with a lethal end.
Despite this, Ballard initially felt fine. However, a few days after consuming the slug, he began to fall ill, felt extremely weak, and had severe pains in both of his legs. Although multiple sclerosis was first suspected to be the cause, due to his father having been diagnosed with it already, doctors informed him and his family that it was a rat lungworm disease that had been passed on to him from the infected slug. This disease was in the form of a parasite, and when it reached the brain, it would cause inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Despite most cases of rat lungworm infection being mild and treatable, Ballard’s proved to have no cure. Soon after his diagnosis, Ballard fell into a coma and remained there for 420 days. He woke up paralyzed and was fed through a tube as he could not move without extensive effort. After suffering eight years of this debilitating condition, Sam Ballard passed away in 2018 due to medical complications.