A Massachusetts man was rushed to hospital with a collapsed lung came home with an unusual diagnosis.
The 75-year-old Ron Sveden, a retired teacher, discovered that a growth in his lung was not a tumor but a pea plant.
Ron had spent years running a retail fish market and smokehouse, had seen his already-frail health begin to falter further in prior months. He had been battling emphysema, one of a group of diseases called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, when his condition deteriorated.
“Everything seemed to be going downhill,” said Ron. “I seemed to be tired a lot more. I didn’t want to do too much. My appetite was diminishing.”
He had been short of breath for several months when he took a turn for the worse. His wife Nancy called 911 and he was rushed to hospital where doctors took x-rays and found that his left lung had collapsed and showing a grainy spot.
He had been coughing a lot and feeling listless and was steeling himself for a cancer diagnosis when the reports revealed the growth in his lung. He had not felt anything growing in his chest, only that he was coughing a lot.
His doctors decided their only option was to go inside and see for themselves. “There was a lot of inflammation there and I thought, OK, there’s a tumor at the bottom of this,” said the surgeon.
But the more they probed at the encrusted mass, the clearer it became that it was no tumor. “It was pretty grungy, but it looked like a pea. I sent it to the pathologist. They said it was a vegetable.” Doctors believe that Ron ate the pea at some point, but it “went down the wrong way”.
The moist and warm conditions in the lung were just right for it to sprout and grow. The plant was about half an inch long when it was removed by a thoracic surgeon. Ron didn’t know what might have happened if the pea had gone to full term.
Feeding a scope down Ron’s throat, Dr. Jeff Spillane scraped away at an encrusted mass and discovered the pea sprouting. He said he must have inhaled a pea that took root in his lung. His health improved after the pea was removed.
Pulmonologist Len Horovitz explained, “That can definitely happen. This did not surprise me. You can inhale a seed of a plant or sprouting plant and it can cause bronchial obstruction. I’ve pulled food out of people’s lungs before.”
Reports said that Ron spent 10 days in the hospital with all his complaints before a lung biopsy showed what was really going on. It took just a few days after the operation to remove the pea sprout before he was feeling good again.
As a joke, the hospital staff included peas in his first meal after the operation. Ron laughed and ate them. He continues to keep his positive outlook on life after his unbelievable ordeal.
His case follows that of Artyom Sidorkin, a Russian who was found to have a five centimetre fir tree growing in his lungs in 2009. Just like Ron’s, the medics had assumed the 28-year-old had cancer.