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Lung full of Fir Trees and Bellyfull of Butterflies

By May 1, 2009One Comment

I recently read a newspaper article about a man named Artyom Sidorkin who two Sundays ago woke with terrible pain in his chest– a scratching, stabbing sensation just below his left nipple. Hours later, hacking clumps of blood and matter into a basin, his irate wife telephoned the local doc who suggested he be rushed to the hospital immediately.


Considering the symptoms :smoker, respiratory difficulty, vomiting blood, the doc correctly presumed it to be lung cancer.

There are, after all, no case studies or medical journals to assist one in diagnosing, let alone supposing, flora of and in the lung. Raising up Mr Sidorkins x- ray to the light, the elderly Doc set startled spectacles on a minute Christmas tree ,a jagged green star, nestled and nettled in the sanctuary of his patients lung.

It’s easy to imagine an absurd Gogol inspired conversation ensuing.The good doctor shuffling nervously on the spot, unable to look his anxious patient in the eye.

”˜Mr Sidorkin I think we are going to have to operate.

Sidorkin horrified, ”˜What is it good doctor?’

The doc’s voice rasping.

”˜If technology and my eyes do not deceive me, I would swear it to be a …..’

He cannot bring himself to say the word. Saying it makes it sound all the more proposterous, saying it brings four decades of measured and accurate diagnoisis into question.

”˜A what?’

”˜A tree’ he confirms, dislodging the prickly pine cone of a word from his throat, ”˜Of the coniferous variety, common to Izhevsk, in fact common to all of Russia. Although in my forty years of practise I have never once known one to take leaf and root in a man’s lung.”

”˜And how do you suppose kind doctor, how do you propose good doctor it got there?’

The doctor of course did not have the foggiest notion and neither did the multitude of specialists and colleagues he had visited for a second, third and forth opinion. It was only after taking scalpel to Sidorkin’s lung that he discovered that neither his sight or machinery were as defective as he had secretly hoped and that sure enough there wedged in his patients lung was a fir tree approximately five centimetres in length.

Mr Sidorkin survived the ordeal and I hope in the aftermath, had the grace and humour to plant that tree in his garden. A monument to good health, long life and ample oxygen. It is seldom that such metaphors take root in our reality. A tree in a lung is a rather apt and whimsical (perhaps not so for the hapless carrier) manifestation. A reminder that we are all really just organic lumps of roving matter good for growing things from hideous diseases to coniferous trees.

I have not couriered anything as miraculous or Creonenbergian. Although a while ago, while working in Zululand on a film set I returned home with a painful itch on my right arm. It was an itch that gradually swelled into a lump, a lump I later discovered was not a infected mosquito bite but rather the incubating bed for the eggs of a tropical mango fly. From this wound I hatched my very own pupa and watched one night in horror as it wriggled to freedom across my bed.

Perhaps in my old age I will call it a day by swallowing cup full’s of chrysalises. Sit back and let my wriggling belly erupt in a cloud of bloodied butterflies.

One Comment

  • I remember reading this story…and the remarkable picture of that little tree imbedded in his lung. Your story, especially the extraordinary ending, is fascinatingly horrid! Beautifully crafted: economical and impactful… I am so glad to have this access to your ‘notes’ hugz gisele

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