The Shocking Time A Surgeon Found A Fir Tree Inside A Patient's Lungs

Sometimes when a surgeon cuts a patient open, they know exactly what to expect. Imaging technologies like X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans are able to give doctors a wealth of information about their patients, information which can precisely diagnose conditions from aneurysms to tumors before the surgeon gets so much as a peek inside their patient's body.

But medical technology isn't perfect, and even the most skilled surgeons sometimes find themselves taken aback by what they find. From tumors with hair and teeth to mummified fetuses, there's no limit to the mysteries that the human body can contain. Or the different types of organisms. Because as it turns out, it's not just tapeworms and parasites humans have to worry about. According to a 2009 report about a Russian surgeon and his patient, the human body can actually host trees — the little seedlings of which can sprout and grow in a person's lungs (via the Daily Mail).

The surgeon thought he was removing a tumor

The surgery in question was scheduled after a troubling scan. The patient, Artyom Sidorkin, was 28 years old at the time and experiencing worrying symptoms including significant chest pain, according to the Daily Mail. Sidorkin was also regularly coughing up blood. The symptoms made the doctors think of cancer, a diagnosis that they felt was confirmed after an X-ray showed a mass in Sidorkin's lung. Vladimir Kamashev, one of Sidorkin's doctors, said of the diagnosis, "We were 100% sure ... I had seen hundreds before, so we decided on surgery" (via the Daily Mail).

But things got more complicated during the surgery. The mass, which was almost two inches long, was removed successfully, and when they took it to biopsy they found something unbelievable. It wasn't a cancerous mass at all; it was a tiny fir tree (via Discover Magazine).

"I thought I was hallucinating," Dr. Kamashev said of the experience (via Daily Mail). "I blinked three times as I was sure I was seeing things."

How trees can grow inside a person's body

So what gives? How could a tree grow inside a person's body? The Russian doctors who removed the fir theorized that the patient had inhaled a seed which had then grown into a sapling, per the Daily Mail. It was the plant's growth, and its pointy little needles sticking into the patient's lung tissue, which caused the worrisome symptoms, including coughing up blood.

But other scientific experts are more doubtful. As ABC News reports, horticulturalists have said the story was likely a hoax, since a plant is unlikely to be able to grow without any sunlight and still end up a perfectly average, green specimen. And as scientists pointed out in CHEST Journal, if seeds could grow in lungs, you'd expect there to be a lot of examples of commonly aspirated seeds, including watermelon seeds, sprouting in people's bodies. In summary: "Trees do not grow in humans," they say.

But if it is true, it would be quite a story, especially for the poor patient. In an interview with the Daily Mail, he reportedly said that he didn't feel anything growing inside him. But, overall, he was just "so relieved it's not cancer."