The Strange Survival Story Of Phineas Gage: Part One

  • Have you ever heard the strange survival story of Phineas Gage?

This is an oldie but a goodie and a strange survival story. It’s a marvel of medical science, the shattered skull of Phineas Gage.

This case shows evidence of a truly traumatic injury. Gage had two sections of his skull missing, cracks from the lesions and damage behind left eye socket and in his cheekbone.

His accident and injuries were nothing that a person could typically survive, but he did. After the accident, Gage was a completely different person. This case taught us things about how the human brain works. It shows the relationship between who we are, as in our personality, and our brain.

It happened on September 13th, 1848 in Vermont. There was rapid railroad expansion in America and in Vermont, work had begun on the Rutland Burlington Railway.

It was Gage’s job to prep explosives with a metal tamping iron, to compress gun powder into drill holes. One day while working, he turns his head to speak to some men behind him which brought his head directly above the hole. The gunpowder got sparked from a rock and detonated.

It shot the tamping rod right up and into his skull. Can you believe this is a strange survival story? 

The rod went up behind his left eye and through his head. It then landed 25 yards away. Gage was thrown to the ground and initially his arms and legs spasmed, however, after a few minutes he was sitting up and talking.

They took him back to his hotel and a doctor, Edward H. Williams.

Gage began throwing up and his brain tissue was falling out of his head. Doctor John Harlow, a local doctor, could put one finger in the top of Gage’s skull and a second one finger through the hole in his cheek and his two fingers could touch in the middle. 

That’s some hole.

Harlow removed a part of his brain as Gage went in and out of consciousness.

There was fungal growth on Gage’s brain tissue and his family prepared a coffin because he was not expected to survive. His doctor used silver nitrate to try to halt the infection and crazy enough, it worked. After a few days Gage began to recover.

He returned to work. He should have been dead. Talk about a strange survival story.

Fast forward to 2012, when neuroimaging experts recreated his brain. This showed the hole is neat considering how the iron bar out.

Gage had an interesting instrument he used at work, as it was a custom tampering iron weighing over 13 pounds. It also tapers to a narrow point at one end.

The tiny point on his tampering iron was able to push his brain and skull smoothly out of the way. This is what left the smaller, smoother hole and less smash damage.

Isn’t this crazy cool story and everything it taught us, amazing? For the rest of the story, follow the link and read The Strange Survival Story Of Phineas Gage: Part Two.