March 13, 2008 at 10:13 PM ET
By Diane Mapes
When I was a little kid and spent too long in the bathroom, someone would inevitably pound on the door asking if I’d fallen in. Perhaps they should have warned me that if I sat there too long, I might become stuck to the seat like that poor 35-year-old woman from Kansas.
According to news reports, Pam Babcock developed a phobia about leaving one of the bathrooms of the house she shared with boyfriend, Kory McFarren, so she took up residence in it, her boyfriend of 16 years bringing her meals, clothes, water, etc.
After two years, McFarren finally became concerned about his girlfriend’s behavior (she was conscious but starting to “act groggy”), so he called in authorities. Much to their shock, they discovered that the woman had actually become physically attached to the toilet seat.
“She was not glued. She was not tied. She was just physically stuck by her body,” Ness County Sheriff Bryan Whipple told reporters when the story broke. So stuck that they had to pry the seat off the base of the toilet with a crowbar and send it with her to the hospital where it was finally removed.
How could this happen?
“It’s analogous to a couple of things,” says Dr. Daniel Aires, director of the division of dermatology at the University of Kansas Hospital. “One of them would be a splinter. When someone gets a splinter in the skin, the skin grows around it. Another thing that’s similar is an earring or piece of large tribal jewelry, like you see people wearing now. The skin is very happy to grow around things – that’s a natural process.”
According to Sheriff Whipple, no one knows for sure how long Babcock had been sitting on the toilet before her skin became adhered to it, but he offered a rough guess.
“Our guess is probably three or four weeks,” he told msnbc.com. “She couldn’t even tell us how long she’d been actually seated. She really didn’t have any idea or concept of things like that. She was in terribly bad shape.”
Whipple said the woman, who he described as “very small, very petite,” appeared to have developed “bed sores” from sitting on the toilet seat for a prolonged amount of time and thought that her skin had become attached and grown around the seat as it tried to heal.
“Skin can heal and become accustomed to these situations very quickly,” said Aires, the dermatologist. “I’ve seen a case where someone became fused to a piece of white gauze bandage. The bandaged skin was injured and the skin grew into the gauze. And that took only about a week and a half.”