1961: When Leonid Rogozov, a member of the Soviet team at the Novolazarevskaya base in Antarctica, fell ill with nausea, a high temperature and abdominal pains, the diagnosis was straightforward: acute appendicitis. Evacuation by sea or air, in the middle of the polar winter, was out of the question; Rogozov would have to be operated on at the base. And since Rogozov was the team doctor, that meant he would have to operate on himself.
After his comrades had rigged up an operating theatre, Rogozov assigned them tasks during the operation: one to hand him surgical instruments, a second to hold a mirror and a third to be on standby in case one of the others keeled over.
Rogozov made an incision in his abdomen and then, working mainly by feel (he had decided not to wear gloves), reached in and located the appendix. Sweat ran down his face. Half an hour into the operation, he felt weak and his head started to spin. He took a break, and then began again. In just under two hours the operation was completed – the severely diseased organ was removed and the wound sewed up.
Next day he felt “moderately poor” but better; in five days his temperature was back to normal; two weeks later he resumed work.
Source: BMJ, 19 December 2009