In A Nutshell
Huang Tijun, 92, of China, was given some awful news by medical professionals in 1948: The child she was pregnant with had died in her womb. Unable to afford the procedure necessary to remove the baby, she went on to carry it inside of her for more than half a century.
The Whole Bushel
Doctors say it’s a rare thing that 92-year-old Huang Tijun could be so healthy—and it’s not on account of her age that they’re so astounded. It’s because she carried a dead fetus in her womb for more than 50 years. When medics informed Huang in 1948 that her baby had died inside of her, she could do virtually nothing about it. The hospital wanted $150 to perform the removal surgery—money she didn’t have.
“It was a huge sum at the time—more than the whole family earned in several years—so I did nothing and ignored it,” she said.
Over 50 years later, she was receiving a scan subsequent to a stomach injury, when doctors noticed the fetus inside her, and diagnosed her with Lithopedion. The rare condition occurs “when pregnancy fails, and the fetus calcifies while still in the mother’s body.” Huang went on to deliver the calcified “stone baby” with the help of doctors, though it had already been deceased for many years.
It is believed that the decaying fetus turns to a stone-like state “as a way to protect the woman’s body from infection [due to] the decomposing tissue.”
Lithopedion occurs most frequently in areas where proper OB-GYN care isn’t easily accessible, as well as in cases like Huang’s, where medical expenses are an issue. And according to a 1996 report in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, there have only been 290 cases of the condition documented throughout the history of medical literature. The rare condition has been known to cause intestinal blockage, pelvic abscess, and problems with future pregnancies.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I discovered she had a baby in her belly,” said Dr. Liu Anbin, the physician who diagnosed Huang’s condition. “I’ve been a doctor for more than 40 years and it’s the first time I have seen something like this.”