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Self-Surgery
aka: Self Stitching
YEOW!!!

"I need a pen knife, some dental floss, a sewing needle, and a fifth of whiskey. Stat!"
Sam Winchester, Supernatural, "Changing Channels"

A character for one reason or another can't go to a hospital, or even get another character to help, so he treats his own injuries. An oft-seen version of this trope (to establish the Bad Ass credentials of a character) involves sewing the injury up, with or without the use of anaesthetic. He may also Heal It With Fire.

May involve We Have to Get the Bullet Out (but Suck Out the Poison will be pretty tricky if it's anywhere above the knee/elbow) or Life or Limb Decision. If the character isn't medically trained, it's probably an example of Worst Aid. If he is, it's a particularly extreme example of One of Our Own. In a common variant, the character isn't alone, but is the only one with the skills and/or knowledge to perform surgery, so he is forced to instruct other characters on how to do it.

Also an example of Adult Fear; it's a reasonably common nightmare. This scene is also a good chance to show that a character Feels No Pain.

Compare After-Action Patchup, when someone else does the first aid and Meatgrinder Surgery, which covers the general case of treatment with limited skills and resources. Contrast Afraid of Needles.

See also Pulling Himself Together, for a character who can meld body parts back together without medical intervention.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Jack once performed a full surgery on his own abdomen, while being circled by hungry dingos. Black Jack also talked a quack doctor through performing surgery on him, which the quack had never done before; soon after, the quack declared his intention to go to medical school for real. Another time finds him performing surgery on his leg instead of letting another doctor amputate it.
  • Heero Yuy fixes his own broken leg in Gundam Wing. This is because said leg was dislocated after a big fall, and he relocated it by himself. This is technically possible but extremely painful, but because Heero's The Stoic at that point of the story, he didn't bat an eye and, rather unrealistically, was able to walk fine afterwards.
  • Though perhaps different, Franky of One Piece completely rebuilt himself as a cyborg after suffering tremendous injury from being hit by a sea train. He did this with his own hands, without any assistance, and was thus only able to modify everything but his back, which he couldn't reach or see to work on.
  • This is basically Faust XIII's shtick in Shaman King. He keeps himself all hopped up on morphine so he can freely modify his own body whenever the need arises.
  • In Naruto, Kakashi's ten-chapter absence from the Shinobi World War was spent sewing himself up after having been impaled through the abdomen.
  • Franken Fran: After getting almost completely decapitated in one chapter, Fran still managed to muster up the determination and strength to perform an operation on herself, and stitched her head back together. She did feel all woozy afterwards, but that is pretty darn impressive.

    Comic Books 
  • During a battle between Lobo and his daughter they slash each other up so badly their regenerative powers can't keep up, so they take a break to stitch themselves up.
  • The Ultimate Pyro is covered with scars due to cauterizing his wounds whenever he gets shot during one of his mutant protest.
  • Hush from Batman can perform surgery on himself, including plastic surgery to make himself look like others as he did in the comics and Batman: Arkham City.
  • Bob has his character stitch his own wounds in Knights of the Dinner Table. After being awarded experience points for exercising his first aid skill, Bob decides to rip out the stitches and sew them again.

    Film - Animated 

    Film - Live Action 
  • The hitman in Angels and Demons treats a gunshot wound in the back of a van, while monologuing to a victim he's got trussed up in a sack.
  • The Bourne Ultimatum opens with Bourne breaking into a pharmacy to fix up the injuries sustained in the climax of the previous installment.
  • Cast Away features a scene where Chuck has to extract a bothersome tooth. Using an ice skate. Yeah.
  • Lampshaded and subverted in The Dark Knight when Alfred finds Bruce stitching up a dog bite on his arm and remarks, "Whenever you stitch yourself up, you do make a bloody mess," before taking over.
  • The title villain in Dr. Giggles is shot in the leg at one point, and not only does the surgical work to remove the bullet and stitch up the wound himself, but he does it as if he had a full medical staff, down to requesting (and handing himself) various tools to work with. Of course, this was less him being Bad Ass and more him being bat-shit insane.
  • The crazy psychiatrist in The Front Page is last seen rolling away on a gurney demanding a scalpel and a ceiling mounted mirror so he can operate on himself; he being the only doctor he trusted.
  • The Fugitive (1993). After he reaches the hospital, Richard Kimble sews up the wound he received in the bus crash. Justified because he's a doctor.
  • Near the end of Death Proof, Stuntman Mike pours liquor on a wound to prevent infection. Subverted in that he was cringing the whole time.
  • I'm Gonna Git You Sucka has a parody of the above Rambo scene when Jack Spade digs a splinter out of his finger.
  • In Legion, the archangel Michael sews stitches into his back after cutting off his own wings. It's his second scene in the movie, as if they wanted to establish right away that he's a badass.
  • Played for laughs in Leonard Part 6 as Bill Cosby's character removes a bullet from his own shoulder.
  • Chigurh does this in No Country for Old Men, as if he wasn't Badass (and scary) enough. He torches a car so he can steal the antibiotics he needs from a chemist shop unobserved. Moss has to patch himself up as well, but his attempt is considerably more amateur.
  • The antagonist in Pan's Labyrinth sews his forcefully extended smile shut on camera.
  • Predator 2. The Predator applying hot coals to the stump of its amputated hand to cauterize the wound.
  • Professional Killer Leon returns to his apartment and is seen patching himself up in the shower, showing that he had been injured carrying out one of his hits.
  • Prometheus: The now-infamous scene of Shaw's self-administered emergency surgery. The tense buildup to the eventual cutting of the stomach and removal of the thing she "births" is bad enough, but it gets even worse when it bursts out of its sac in the Medpod's claw inches from her face and starts trying to attack her midway through the surgery.
  • Rambo sews up his wounds in the first movie, and in Rambo III digs shrapnel out of his side and then cauterizes the wound with burning gunpowder.
  • Dalton in Road House sews his wounds from the opening scene, to establish how Bad Ass he is. The Agony Booth's recap humorously captioned this with "Warning: Do not try to be this much of a badass at home."
  • Wade, The Medic from The Squad in Saving Private Ryan, gets hit by enemy fire a little more than halfway through the movie. He tries guiding the others through some things, until he comes to realize that his case is hopeless. At which point he just tells them to give him lots of morphine.
  • In Saw, the Big Bad often requires his "students" to perform grievous injuries to themselves to pass his trials. More often than not, they are given appropiate surgical equipment for the task. One scene in the first movie involves a surgeon chopping his foot off with a bonesaw in order to escape. Interestingly, the man in question is actually a trained surgeon, one of the only such people in the series.
  • Played with in Silent Running when the protagonist reprograms a robot to perform surgery on his badly injured leg.
  • The Terminator can do this as he Feels No Pain. He's an android with a meat suit - so it doesn't really affect him when he takes his own injured eye out.
  • In The Wolverine, Wolverine inserts his hand into his chest to remove a bug that's killing his healing factor.

    Literature 
  • In the Aubrey-Maturin novel HMS Surprise, Dr. Stephen Maturin performs surgery to remove a bullet from his own ribs after being wounded in a duel (also seen in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World after Maturin gets shot accidentally).
  • Miss Gard of The Dresden Files series once stuffed a portion of her own intestines back into her body and used Super Glue to seal the wound. Probably made easier by being a Valkyrie, but still damn impressive.
  • Eve Dallas does this after being injured by a random criminal in one In Death book. Her captain later calls in an actual medic to look at the wound, much to her displeasure.
  • M'k'n'zy of Calhoun does this in the very first book of Star Trek: New Frontier. He closes his own facial wound. With a laser welder. The scar is one of his defining facial features as The Captain.
  • Stephen King had a grisly short story about a doctor who survives some kind of wreck and winds up on a flyspeck island in the middle of the ocean. Eventually the good doctor has to turn cannibal on himself, cutting off certain parts, eating them, then taking care so that the area around the sacrificed part wouldn't get infected or anything. At the very end of the story the doctor, who is a surgeon and has been taking very good care of his hands the whole time, finally gets desperate enough to start looking at them... (Apparently when King first had this idea, he ran into a local doctor he knew at the supermarket and asked about whether the idea was at all feasible in real life. The doctor gave him a very odd look before replying that yes, it was theoretically possible).
  • Igors in Discworld do surgery on themselves all the time. Subverted, in a way, in that they don't actually feel any pain while doing this, so it's never an ordeal unless they have difficulty keeping the mirror steady. Even the visible scars are an affectation - they're perfectly capable of stitching seamlessly.
  • In the Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures, the Doctor pops his own dislocated shoulder back in. It's not that he's alone, but he probably figured it's better to do it himself than to make Fitz feel guilty for hurting him.note 
  • In Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus novel The Mark of Athena, Annabeth has to set her own broken ankle.

    Live Action TV 
  • A variation on Firefly: Simon did not do the surgery on himself, but he did talk Zoe through the whole process while she removed a bullet and dressed the wound. Once she was finished, Simon declared his intent to immediately pass out.
    • In another, Mal winds up alone on the ship after being shot and must give himself stitches and an adrenaline shot.
  • Possibly subverted on LOST. Jack insists on being awake so he can talk Juliet through performing an appendectomy on him, but after she begins they decide to knock him out as he's in too much pain.
    • A notable aversion occurs in the pilot. Jack is ready to stitch up a cut he sustained but it is on his side and he can't reach it properly. This prompts a Meet Cute moment with Kate when he asks her to stitch it up for him.
  • This seems to be the only kind of medical attention the boys of Supernatural ever receive.
    Sam: I need a pen knife, some dental floss, a sewing needle, and a fifth of whiskey. Stat!
  • Happens semi-regularly on House. Perhaps one of the most unpleasant examples came when House discovered he had several small tumours in his leg, and was forced to cut his leg open to remove them.
  • Played for Laughs in "Smile Time" when Angel gets mauled by a werewolf after being turned into a puppet, but can't stitch himself up due to his puppet hands.
  • Ace Rimmer operates on his own broken arm in his first appearance in Red Dwarf.
  • In Nip/Tuck there is a scene where Christian tries to do a plastic surgery on his own nose.
  • Grimm: In "Island of Dreams", a Wessen who had a chunk bitten out of his leg during a robbery gone wrong stitches up the wound himself.
  • Shows up on Discovery Health series from time to time, like the guy on Bizarre ER who tried to stitch himself up with his wife's needle and thread.
  • Happens twice in Cardiac Arrest, once in a car crash and once with a doctor directing his own emergency treatment.
  • Mark Sloane makes his debut on Grey's Anatomy like this, immediately establishing everything you need to know about him:
    Christina: To turn me on?
    Christina: No, not really.
    George: Yes, you can!!
  • On Law & Order: SVU, Dr. Warner is shot in the chest by a grief-deranged mother, and must instruct Olivia in how to insert a chest tube so her lung won't collapse.

    Music 
  • Capitol Steps' "Suture Yourself":
    You can suture yourself at home,
    Suture yourself in front of your family.
    We'll do it for just a song.
    Who cares if maybe we get it wrong?

    Tabletop Games 
  • When a young Victor Mordenheim of Ravenloft was bitten on the ear by one of his father's hunting dogs, he amputated the ripped lobe himself. His stoicism in doing so convinced his father that the boy was serious about his ambition to become a surgeon.
  • Wraith of Sentinels Of The Multiverse has Suture Self, which allows Wraith to heal 3 HP.

    Video Games 
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Part of the gameplay is that, rather than just eating Rations to heal, you have to perform first aid on yourself to recover from most injuries. That includes digging out bullets and arrows with your knife, sewing up wounds, and the like.
  • Robinson's Requiem, also known as 'the masochist game'. Basically a 'survive on an empty planet' game, one of the main challenges is that you have to perform realistic first aid on yourself - sewing up and dressing wounds, making splints, and - if necessary - performing amputations.
  • In Persona 4 it never happens for real, but Naoto's Shadow expresses a desire to carry out a sex change operation on her(self). Representing her insecurity from being patronized by the police.
  • In Evil Genius, One of the henchmen you can recruit, Ethan Asia, was performing surgery on a Papa New Guinean tribesman, when his patient suffered a fatal heart attack while Ethan simultaneously suffered pancreatic failure. Seeing no other options, Ethan transplanted his patient's pancreas into his own body.
  • Clementine has to do this in the first episode of The Walking Dead Season 2, disinfecting and suturing her own arm up to help heal a dog bite.
  • D 20 Modern Neverwinter Nights includes the surgery kit, an item which allows to heal another character. Using it on yourself doesn't bring any specific bonus or malus to the action.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • The SCP Foundation has SCP-542, a stitched-together Frankensteinian Herr Doktor type who routinely did this in order to replace his organs as they failed before he was taken into the care of the foundation.
  • Happens twice in the Dark Cut Meat Grinder Surgery series of flash games.
    • In the second game, you're operating on a patient on a American Civil War battlefield, when there's an explosion and you wake up to find a giant piece of shrapnel through your leg pinning you to the ground. You then have to amputate your own leg to survive (...with whiskey and a hacksaw).
    • In the third game, you're operating on patients via a virtual interface in the future, and eventually end up having to cut off your own arm instead to save yourself from being taken over and controlled by the AI helping you when it turns rogue, since the AI keeps you from removing the interface any other way.
  • In Interlude 23 of Worm, Tattletale is forced to perform a self-tracheotomy when Perdition attacks her.
    • And two chapters later, Bonesaw performs several procedures on herself to hide the fact that she didn't go into cryogenic sleep with the rest of the Slaughterhouse Nine.
  • Survival of the Fittest version 4: Helen Wilson, being familiar with medical symptoms, starts to realize that she has the symptoms of a Ruptured Appendix and attempts surgery on herself to remove it. She succeeds, but stops just short of the escape boats before bleeding to death.

    Western Animation 
  • Moral Orel: Dr. Chosenberg tries to sew his own Jesus-looking chest wound because everyone else thinks it's a miracle and won't touch it.
  • Starscream of Transformers Prime is seen almost doing this with a T-Cog he havested from a dead clone of himself so he can transform again. Understandably, when something else comes up, he's perfectly happy for the excuse to put it off.
  • Played for Laughs in Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The evil doctor Doctor Weird tells his assistant "Gentlemen! I have decided to lose weight...manually!" And he promptly pulls out a chainsaw and begins cutting away at his fat.
    • Other instances include: removing his head, twice, once on his own and once via his assistant Steve; injecting himself with gallons of BBQ sauce and only realizing it's a bad idea about a second and a half before he explodes; doing something that turned himself into a giant head that spat laser beams; and various other things that can't even be explained as being done "For SCIENCE!"
  • The Simpsons: In "Rednecks and Broomsticks", Doctor Hibbert and his nurse go blind during an operation, leaving Hans Moleman to operate on himself.
  • In Superman: Doomsday clone Superman uses his laser vision on himself to remove Luthor's kryptonite fragment from his brain in the mirror of a beauty salon full of shocked onlookers, one of whom faints at the sight.

    Real Life 

  • With some ice and a razor blade, it's quite easy to remove skin tags—a procedure that costs around $80 at a dermatologist.
  • Professional chefs regularly keep superglue in their knife kits just in case they give themselves a serious knife wound while working. And by serious, we're talking "cut to the bone" serious. Anything less and its "slap a blue bandaid on it and move on".
  • In 1921, Evan O'Neill Kane of Kane, Penn., wanted to prove that ether—the primary general anesthetic at the time—was being used far too often when less-dangerous local anesthetics could be substituted. As his test case, the good doctor used himself, removing his own appendix using only local anesthetic by propping himself up on the operating table with a mirror over his abdomen. With three other doctors in the operating room as backup, Kane made the large incision needed to remove the appendix and his assistants sutured him up. (This was before new techniques allowed doctors to make small 'Band-Aid'-size incisions for appendix removal). The doctor recovered nicely.
    • In 1932, at age 70, Dr. Kane performed an even more complicated surgery on himself to repair an inguinal hernia. Because of the close proximity to the femoral artery, it was a particularly delicate operation—Kane performed it in just under two hours. Reportedly, he was relaxed and joking even as he sutured within millimeters of the important blood vessels.
    • In 1944 Jock Mc Laren, an Australian prisoner of war who had escaped to the Philippines, removed his own appendix in four and a half hours while deep in the jungle, with only a couple natives for help.
  • In 1961, Dr. Leonid Rogozov performed a self-appendectomy at a Soviet research station in Antarctica, as he was the only physician there. His appearance in Badass of the Week attests to the impressiveness of the act.
  • In 1998, Dr. Jerri Nielsen, the only doctor at a South Pole scientific station, discovered she had breast cancer and had to operate on herself to extract tissue samples for testing. A similar story was later used in an episode of House.
  • The Other Wiki page on Self-surgery has a number of media examples.
  • The top four entries of this article.
  • Any veterinarian who treats cats is bound to resort to this sooner or later.
  • The joke exam that says "Under your desk you will find a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a scalpel. Now take out your own appendix."

Psycho PsychologistDoctor IndexShot to the Heart
Self-Mutilation DemonstrationInjury TropesShare the Male Pain
Self Induced Allergic ReactionIndexitisSequential Symptom Syndrome
Resting RecoveryHealing and Curing TropesThat Old Time Prescription
Room Full of CrazyMedical HorrorStrapped to an Operating Table
Little Miss BadassImageSource/Live-Action FilmsProject Moonbase
Self-Sacrifice SchemeAdded Alliterative AppealSemantic Superpower

alternative title(s): Self Stitching
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