The Man With the Lung Garden

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A strange medical case from Brewster, Mass., has our attention here at Fox News this week. Back in May, a 75-year-old smoker with known emphysema developed bad coughing spells and fatigue, and was admitted on Memorial Day to Cape Cod Hospital with apparent pneumonia and a collapsed lung.

The dark spot on his lung was biopsied, and was thankfully negative for cancer. A bronchoscopy (where a tube is threaded directly into the lung) revealed a pea which had sprouted into a plant, puncturing the soft lung and causing it to collapse. (it was reinflated with the help of a chest tube).

Obviously, the poor man had inhaled the pea (aspiration) during a meal, but how could it possibly have sprouted without any sunlight or other source of UV light?

The answer is a happy mixture of moist spongy lung tissue and an unhappy immune impairment, common in heavy smokers. Keep in mind that smokers and patients with emphysema regularly sprout fungal infections, which are very similar to plants. They grow gardens of bacteria. This is possible because the moist fetid lung of a patient with COPD lacks many of the strong immuno-chemicals that prevent infection or in this case suppress the sprouting of a pea.

A note to all smokers out there - this may be yet another lesson in why you should quit smoking, but the chance of this happening to you remains extremely low. Last year there was a reported case of a Russian surgeon finding a tiny growing fig tree in someone's lung, but I promise you that this is far from a common event.

As for the pea plant patient, he is recovering, though I am betting that he has switched to bigger food.

Dr. Marc Siegel is an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. He is a FOX News medical contributor and writes a health column for the LA Times, where he examines TV and movies for medical accuracy. Dr. Siegel is the author of a new ebook: Swine Flu; the New Pandemic. Dr. Siegel is also the author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear"and "Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic."Read more at