Tapeworm larvae lodged in a man's brain had to be surgically removed through a drilling a hole in the skull.
Though it may read like the script from a Hollywood B-movie, the story is all too real for Luis Ortiz of Napa, California. According to a napavalleyregister.com story, Ortiz was within a few minutes of death when he went to the hospital complaining of a headache that would not go away.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old college student attending Sacramento State, reports his headaches began back in August, but he just ignored them, not thinking much about it at the time. Then, while visiting friends and his parents in Napa, the headache pain got much worse.
He had been skateboarding on a hot day and thought the pain was due to the warm conditions, or that maybe he was getting a migraine headache. The pain continued to worsen, and upon arriving at his mother’s house, really intensified.
After he began to vomit and his mother noticed he has become disoriented, she took him to the emergency room at the Queen of the Valley Medical Center. There he slipped into a coma and his condition became even worse. Doctors did brain scans and a number of other tests, and eventually put a tube into his brain to drain fluids and relieve the pressure.
As he came out of the coma, his doctors explained there was a tapeworm larvae that had entered his body and made its way to his brain. It had formed a cyst in a brain chamber and was blocking the flow of water to the brain, “like a cork in a bottle”, causing the headaches.
The surgeons say they made a small hole in Ortiz’ skull near the eyebrow, and using a grasping tool and a camera, removed the cyst and the worm larvae. The worm was still wiggling when the surgeons removed it, according to his doctor.
After extracting the cyst and the worm, about one-third of an inch long, the doctors put Ortiz on medication to kill any others worms or larvae that may have been present in his body.
Tapeworms in the body are not uncommon. Infected pork can contain worms that take up residence in the body after being eaten, but Ortiz’ worm was not one of those. According to his doctor, he must have eaten a salad or some unwashed food that had been contaminated with tapeworm eggs. The larvae made its way from his intestine to the brain area.
Parasitic worms do not normally cause much damage to the human body. Ortiz’ doctor says that most of the time, should a larvae reach the brain area, it usually just dies there.
Ortiz is still having problems from the ordeal, being unable to go back to school or drive a car, and he is also having some memory issues. But he is optimistic about his recovery and says he is thankful the medical center was not too far from his mother’s house.
He said the doctors told him if he had come in an hour later, he wouldn’t be alive today.