From the blatantly bizarre and degenerate to the awe-inspiring, some of us go to extremes in our quest to break world records. Unfortunately, not all records are of the variety that we aspire to. The individuals on this list are all holders of tragic and sordid records that can only be gained through deplorable bad luck, foolhardiness, or simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
10. Longest Survival with an External Heart
Christopher Wall was born in 1975 with a very rare birth defect called ectopia cordis, which causes the fetus’s heart to form outside the chest cavity while in utero. The condition has a very high fatality rate, with most patients not living longer than 48 hours. After his birth, doctors couldn’t position his heart back inside the chest cavity, so they stretched his skin to cover it instead. During the next few months, Christopher surprised everyone with his will to stay alive. During the first 15 months of his life, he underwent 15 surgeries to insert his heart back into his chest. Against all odds, the surgeries were a success, making him the longest-surviving victim of his condition.
9. Surviving the Fastest Car Crash in History
Donald Campbell was a career record breaker and adrenaline junkie. He broke 8 world records for speed on water, as well as on land. In September 1960, he was in his legendary car, Bluebird, trying to set a new land speed record. During this epic event, while travelling at 360 MPH, he lost control of the car, which flipped over and crashed. At 360 MPH, mind you. Luckily, because he was securely strapped into the cockpit, his injuries consisted only of cuts, bruises and a hairline skull fracture that was described as “not serious,” and he was able to return home after only two weeks in the hospital.
(Editor’s note: The Guinness World Record website has been updated since the date this article was originally published, and this entry is no longer the fastest car crash with a survivor.)
8. Living the Longest with a Bullet in the Head
William Lawlis Pace was only 8 years old in 1917, when his brother accidentally shot him in the head with their father’s .22. The injury left him blind in one eye and deaf in his one ear. According to his son, doctors never wanted to operate, fearing that he wouldn’t survive the surgery. Carrying the bullet in his skull for 94 years, William still led a very normal life. He played sports at school, married, and had children. After he retired, he even traveled the world. People who sustain these types of head-trauma normally get life-threatening seizures or post-traumatic epilepsy during later life, but William was lucky enough to escape them.
7. Most Burns Suffered by a Survivor
Tony Yarijanian, an Armenian immigrant, owned several businesses in Los Angeles. Arriving at his tanning salon to do some cleaning one Sunday morning in February 2004, he didn’t realize the liquid he saw everywhere came from a gas leak. Switching on a dryer, he triggered a massive explosion which left over 90% of his body covered in 3rd degree burns. He also sustained damage to his lungs due to smoke inhalation, and his chance for survival was next-to-none. Tony was in a coma for several months, during which time he had several blood transfusions and surgeries.
6. Longest Time Spent in a Coma
Edwarda O’Bara was a diabetic teenager who fell deathly ill in 1970. She slipped into a diabetic coma and never woke up. Her mother and sister stayed by her side always, caring for her as best they could. Edwarda even became a celebrity, as thousands would flock to her door every year to bring gifts and pay their respects to this long-lasting coma survivor. Many believed she had holy powers, thanks to some claims that cancer patients would walk in, see her, and suddenly be cancer-free.
However, that tale of survival ended on November 21, 2012, when Edwarda passed away at age 59, 42 years after she lost consciousness. It is the longest time anybody has ever spent in a coma.
5. Owner of the World’s Longest Tapeworm
People normally pick up tapeworm eggs when they eat or drink contaminated food and water. They also flourish in sand or soil, and can easily be ingested if a person forgets to wash their hands after a gardening session. Tapeworms usually only grow up to 15 feet in length, although they can fill the whole intestine if they aren’t discovered early. That’s pretty much what happened on September 5, 1991, when a 37-foot-long tapeworm was removed from the unfortunate gut of one Sally Mae Wallace. The worm was removed via her mouth, while she was awake, in what witnesses describe as the most disgusting magic act in history.
4. Longest Time Spent Without Food
Taking a road less traveled, James Scott took the Gosainkund route while trekking in the Nepalese Himalayas in December 1991. Getting trapped by snow and severe cold weather, James got completely lost. He had no lighter and no food except for two chocolate bars, one extra pair of pants, socks and a sleeping bag. For 43 days after, he survived on nothing but snowballs and one caterpillar. His survival defies all explanation, but it has been credited to him being fit, young, mentally disciplined, and a Senior Year med student who knew how to properly manage his physiological needs until his nightmare finally ended.
3. Most Heart Attacks Suffered
In December 2005, a non-smoker and teetotaller suffered 32 heart attacks in 20 minutes. Leslie Hackwell woke up early that morning with a sharp pain in his chest. He had two heart attacks, but was stabilized after doctors defibrillated him. After he was given an anti-clotting drug, the heart attack barrage began. Leslie had to be resuscitated after every attack, so much so that he suffered burn wounds to his chest. His doctor explained that the anti-clotting drug had caused his artery to open and close, causing his heart to beat out of rhythm. It took him several months to recover.
2. Heaviest Kidney Stone
It has been said that the only pain that compares to childbirth is a kidney stone obstruction. Both men and women suffer from kidney stones, but men make out 80% of the patients doctors see yearly. Formed by the kidneys from various minerals in the urine, they most commonly resemble crystals, but can also look like small pebbles. Or baseballs, which was the case with the heaviest kidney stone ever removed. It belonged to a man named Wazir Muhammand of Sindh, Pakistan. The rock removed from his body measured 9.2 inches, and weighed in at 21.87 ounces.
1. First Full Face Transplant
On March 20, 2010, the world’s first full face transplant was performed at the Vall d’Hebron Hospital in Barcelona. The young man, whose identity was kept a secret at first, lost his face five years prior in a shooting accident. The 24 hour-long operation took two years to plan, and was performed by a team of 30 Spanish doctors. After his several-month hospital stay, his first name was made public, and Oscar appeared at a few press conferences to show off his new face, complete with new jaws, cheeks, muscles, teeth, chin, skin and nose.