Longest surgery: Feb. 4-8, 1951
SLICE OF HISTORY
When Gertrude Levandowski, a 58-year-old widow from Burnips, Michigan, enters a Chicago hospital to have an ovarian cyst removed, it's clear to doctors that they can't follow the usual procedure. Levandowski weighs more than 600 pounds and a large part of that weight is the cyst itself. It's so large that it's putting pressure on the woman's heart and the surgeons doubt that she'll survive if they try to cut out the massive growth.
So they begin to drain it. Over almost four days they suck fluid out of the cyst at a rate of 120 drops per minute until they've extracted about 200 pounds of liquid. Though it's shrunken considerably, the growth still weighs more than 150 pounds, but it's now small enough to remove through more conventional surgery.
Despite the trauma to her body, Levandowski recovers quickly and when she leaves the hospital, she has lost half her weight. A few months later, after surgery to remove another 50 pounds of excess flesh, she weighs under 300 pounds for the first time in decades.