If you think you've seen it all, you're wrong.
That's because you're not Momen Wahidi, a lung specialist at Duke, who was as surprised as anyone by the big piece of a plastic utensil he fished out of the lung of John Manley, a 50-year-old plagued by a bad cough and shortness of breath.
Just take a look at the picture Wahidi snapped inside the main airway leading to Manley's left lung recently. Tilt your head to the left and squint, and you might be able to read the upside-down letters A, M and maybe even the B.
A fragment of a Wendy's utensil lodged in John Manley's lung.
A fragment of a Wendy's utensil lodged in John Manley's lung. Duke Medicine
"We saw this white body, and we didn't know what it was made of," Wahidi told us. "It appeared flat, we cleaned it with saline and we're seeing letters." An assistant watching along yelled out "hamburger" as the letters appeared on a video screen, solving one part of the mystery and raising another: How did a Wendy's utensil get stuck in Manley's bronchial tube?
Manley isn't exactly sure. "I can't put my finger on it," he told us this afternoon. Manley, who's in the home-improvement business, used to eat at Wendy's quite a bit and can't recall choking or having any particular problem during his many meals there. "It's fast food," he said. "You grab your food, you eat it fast and you leave."
He started feeling sick about a year and a half ago. "I was turning blue and almost going into convulsions from choking and coughing," he said. Since the plastic piece was removed, he's feeling much better, though he still isn't up to par. He faces more surgery to repair damage to his esophagus from months of severe coughing spells.
Wahidi has pulled lots of stuff from people's throats and lungs, including nails, blueberries, popcorn, and even teeth. Little kids, with their roving hands, tiny airways and compulsions to put things in their mouths, are his more common customers for that kind of work. In any event, he said, "It's very unusual to see an object that tells you what it is."
Here's a clearer look at the plastic piece, after it was safely out of Manley's body.