Last February, Josh Anderson's 1995 Halloween costume came back to haunt him.
The story, which has now entered the annals of medical history, was just presented at the annual conference of the American College of Chest Physicians in Salt Lake City.
The case, presented by Dr. Antonio Salud II of the University of Utah Medical Center, begins as a standard medical mystery.
Anderson showed up at the U.'s pulmonary clinic in February complaining of a persistent cough. In fact, the cough had been hanging around since he contracted pneumonia in 2000. If he bent over to tie his shoe, he'd feel like he had something caught in his throat. And he was always clearing his throat.
Salud took Anderson's medical history, ruling out cystic fibrosis and smoking and a punctured lung. Then the doctor asked if Anderson had ever inhaled anything.
Well, actually, yes.
In October, 1995, when he was 16 and living in Albuquerque, N.M., Anderson was playing a video game with a buddy and was trying out part of his Halloween costume: a pair of plastic, glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth. "I got excited or something and inhaled," Anderson recalls.
Immediately, he felt a bit short of breath, so his friend drove him to the emergency room, where an X-ray seemed to show no evidence of a tooth in his lungs.
"You probably just swallowed it," they told him in the ER.
In his talk, titled "Bite of the Vampire: Bronchiectasis with Long-Term Foreign Body Aspiration," Salud detailed his own diagnosis: an X-ray and follow-up CT scan revealed thickening of the airways and something "very, very white, suggestive of a foreign body" in the lungs. A bronchoscopy produced a mass of granulated tissue surrounding a perfectly intact vampire tooth, about as long as a thumbnail.
It's mostly children who aspirate foreign objects, says Salud. According to a 1999 study in Belgium, reported in the journal CHEST, the second year of life is the most aspiration-prone, with peanuts far and away the biggest culprit. But the sixth decade is also problematic, according to the study. "Dental surgery accidents" caused more of the aspirations in the adults studied, although "garden peas" are also often to blame, at least in Belgium.
Anderson, who now lives in Pleasant Grove, says he doesn't know what he's going to be for Halloween this year. "Definitely not a vampire," he says.But he does work at the University of Utah's Parkway Health Center in Orem as a phlebotomist. Drawing blood.