When Lee Gardner rushed to hospital after vomiting blood and suffering debilitating stomach cramps he feared the worst.
But doctors in Barnsley were left stunned when they discovered a nine-inch fork in the man’s stomach and incredibly it had been there for more than a decade.
The baffled medics were even more confused when they found the piece of cutlery as Mr Gardner, 40, admitted he had completely forgotten swallowing it.
A decade ago doctors had said that the whole fork would pass through his system naturally, so he assumed that it had gone.
But in fact it was still completely intact and sitting at the bottom of his tummy.
He has now made a full recovery.
‘I had been vomiting blood, and when they were looking inside me with the camera the doctor said: “Are you sure you’ve not swallowed anything?”,’ he said.
‘I said no but when he said: “Are you sure, I can see prongs of what appears to be a fork?” – I remembered accidentally swallowing one years and years ago.
‘I couldn’t believe it. I have never had any problems with my stomach, except once a couple of years ago I remember thinking I felt like something had lodged when I bent over awkwardly.
‘But the advice when I swallowed it from the doctor was that it would just pass through my system and as that was so many years before I really didn’t think it could be the fork.’
Mr Gardner remembered messing about with a plastic fork in his mouth years earlier – when he gagged and accidentally swallowed it.
Doctors at Barnsley Hospital used a camera to look inside his stomach for a cause when they stumbled across the ‘mystery’ object.
Images showed the fork head was resting in Lee’s stomach with the handle protruding into his small bowel.
Its prongs, called tines, had pressed on the stomach lining causing an ulcer that led to the bleeding.
Consultant general surgeon, Hanis Shiwani, was asked to take a look by his baffled colleagues.
He decided it would be too dangerous to try to extract the fork without surgery and carried out a 45-minute operation to cut open his stomach.
He said: ‘The fork was impacting on the stomach wall, causing an ulcer which was bleeding. I had to remove that part of the stomach and I was glad when it wasn’t cancerous.
‘Technically it was not a challenging operation but it was exciting because it is not something we have ever done before.
‘We know that coins, nails, pins and batteries are common things people swallow but not a nine-inch fork. I jokingly said that we should contact the Guinness Book of World Records.’
Mr Shiwani said Lee was fortunate the fork had not damaged his gullet on the way into his stomach.
‘If it had been a metal fork, or had got stuck in the gullet it would have caused more damage earlier.’
He said Lee, could have suffered a perforated stomach, potentially leading to a fatal infection, if the fork had not been removed.
But Lee, who was discharged from hospital this week, is expected to make a full recovery.
The consultant, who has worked at Barnsley Hospital for ten years, said he had never known a foreign object to last so long inside a person.
‘If something does get lodged, then normally a patient would become ill almost immediately. This is why Lee’s case is so uncharacteristic.
‘The plastic had been exposed to stomach acid for ten years but apart from it being black, there was no damage. It didn’t melt it down or anything which is remarkable.’