A California man had a tapeworm removed from his brain after learning he had less than an hour to live.
According to the Napa Valley Register, 26-year-old Luis Ortiz began experiencing headaches in late August, but they got much worse when he visited his parents in his hometown of Napa the following month.
One day in early September, the California State University, Sacramento student became disoriented and started to vomit at his mother's house.
Ortiz was taken to Queen of the Valley Medical Center, where he fell into a coma.
Doctors placed a drain into his brain to decrease the pressure and conducted a series of tests.
Ortiz woke up to find out tapeworm larvae made a home in his brain, resulting in a cyst preventing some neural chambers from receiving water.
Dr. Soren Singel, who performed surgery on Ortiz, compared the blockage to a "cork in a bottle."
Had Ortiz endured another 30 minutes of the tapeworm, the neurosurgeon told Napa Valley Register,
He would have been dead.
Describing the life-saving surgery, Dr. Singel said,
We made a hole in skull bone over the eyebrow and drove the camera into the center of the brain and fished out the cyst and the worm. The worm was still wiggling when we pulled it out.
The cyst was revealed to be approximately one-third of an inch while the worm inside it was just one-sixteenth of an inch long.
Dr. Singel believes Ortiz ate something containing tapeworm eggs, which then traveled from his intestine to his brain.
He said several California patients got tapeworms after eating pork in Mexico and South and Central America, largely due to the lack of proper food inspection in those regions.
Ortiz visited Mexico many years ago, but the worms could very well have been living inside him since then.
After the surgery, Ortiz began taking medication to kill any other tapeworms and must now perform daily exercises to regain his full memory.
Unable to drive or get a job, Ortiz was also forced to drop out of school and find a new home for his dog. He will eventually be able to move back to school and complete his senior year, BBC reports.
CDC data states about 1,000 people per year are hospitalized for tapeworm larvae in the brain. Dr. Singel said in most cases, the worm dies in the patient's brain.