April, 2001

April 1, 2001
Many Victorians went to unusual lengths to negate the possibility of being buried alive. Miss Frances Power Cobb's last request stated the following: 'To perform on my body the operation of completely and thoroughly severing the arteries of the neck and windpipe, nearly severing the head altogether, so as to make any revival in the grave absolutely impossible.' And just in case the bereaved relatives chose to ignore her instructions: 'If this operation be not performed, and its completion witnessed by one or other of my executors, and testified by the same, I pronounce all bequests in this will to be null and void." (Death: A History Of Man's Obsessions and Fears)

April 3, 2001
Primarily striking children, the diphtheria epidemic that began in 1735 raged throughout New England for five years. In some towns the deadly disease killed 80 percent of the children under ten years of age. ( The Pessimist's Guide To History)

April 11, 2001
What sounds like science fiction (or an urban legend) was all too real for Dawn Becerra, who found a parasitic worm lodged in her brain after eating a pork taco while vacationing in Mexico. Doctors at Arizona's Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale believe the taco contained Taenia solium, a parasite that is surprisingly common in Latin American countries, and is often transmitted by eating undercooked pork. Becerra said the snack made her ill for three weeks. And soon after, she began suffering seizures. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic discovered Becerra had neurocysticercosis — a lesion in her brain, caused by the parasitic worm. Last November, she was told that if she wanted to live a normal, seizure-free life, she would need surgery. As an egg, the worm attached itself to the intestinal wall, and eventually moved into her blood stream and to her brain, said Dr. Joseph Sirven, who operated on Becerra. Once in the brain, the worm causes little harm until it eventually dies and decays, thereby inflaming surrounding tissue. "It's after the worm dies that the body reacts to something foreign," Sirven explained. "The thought of a worm being in your brain is very strange, very difficult to deal with," she said. But the thought of brain surgery wasn't easy to deal with, either. "All of a sudden, I realized they were going to cut open my brain, and take a worm out of my brain" she said. "That realization was devastating." She underwent the six-hour procedure last week — awake the entire time, and using only acupuncture and a mild anesthesia to deal with the pain. Doctors said they needed her conscious because the procedure would take them into an extremely sensitive area of the brain — and would have to talk to her during the operation to help keep track of what they were doing. Eventually, they found the decayed worm and removed it — without doing any long-term damage to their patient. "She was very lucky because she had only one cyst," said Sirven. "She should be in good shape now." Becerra is recovering quickly, and doctors say she won't need a check up for six months. ( ABC News, donated by Bruce Townley)

April 16, 2001
Death by disembowelment sounds like a medieval torture. But over the last few years, it's happened to several Australian children. The culprit was an innocent-looking moulded skimmer box at the side of a fiberglass swimming pool. To a small child, a pool's skimmer box looks like a potty or seat. But if a child sits down on it, the immense suction of the pool's filter pump forms an instant seal between the child's bottom and the edge of the skimmer box resulting in horrific, and sometimes fatal, injuries. A seven-year-old girl who was using a motel swimming pool at Bomaderry, near Nowra, received serious internal injuries and was taken to hospital after part of her bowel was sucked out by the pool cleaner.(Australian Ministry Of Fair Trading Website, donated by Lynne Rutledge)

April 17, 2001
An American has been charged with aggravated manslaughter after allegedly shooting his housemate with cigarette butts and paper towels. The alleged prank happened at a party in New Jersey hosted by Anthony Saduk Junior, 29, and Wesley Geisinger, 31. Police say Mr Geisinger died after Saduk fired a rifle filled with cigarette butts and paper towel wadding. A post-mortem examination showed three cigarette butts penetrated his rib cage directly above his heart. Police say Saduk is also charged with two counts of aggravated assault in connection with another incident at the party. (Ananova.Com, donated by Bruce Townley)

April 28, 2001
A banker who set fire to a colleague’s grass skirt at a Christmas party, burning him to death and badly injuring a woman, was today jailed for two years. Matthew Schofield, 27, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Gareth MacFadyen, 24, after setting his grass skirt ablaze at an office party last year at which workers were dressed in Hawaiian costume. Appearing at Wellington High Court in New Zealand, Schofield also pleaded guilty to injuring 29-year-old Angela Offwood, who was badly burned . Ms Offwood has since undergone six operations and has needed 800 staples to secure skin grafts. Mr MacFadyen and Ms Offwood were in a cubicle in the men’s toilets when Schofield set fire to Mr MacFadyen’s skirt by reaching under the door with a cigarette lighter. An earlier hearing was told Schofield was in "celebratory mood" after setting fire to his colleague. "I’ve lit his skirt," he announced to partygoers. Moments later, Mr MacFadyen staggered from the toilets charred and blackened, his head described as "glowing like a cigarette" . He died three days later after suffering 90 per cent burns. Earlier in the evening, Schofield had set fire to Mr MacFadyen’s grass skirt which briefly caught fire before being patted out . ( The Edinburgh Evening News Online, donated by Stephen O'Rourke)