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If it was that easy to die, as portrayed in Hollywood movies and TV shows, I would truly fear for the survival of the human race.
We’ve seen many TV shows and movies where people die almost instantly from gunshots, as if the bullet itself is the cause of death. We’ve also seen a number of people fall down a flight of stairs and die instantly, or in more sinister plots – people have their head twisted a little to the side and die instantly. Even more surprising is the number of people being smothered to death by a fluffy pillow.
I feel that we have to set the record straight, since a lot of people derive their knowledge of the human anatomy from movies and TV shows. The human body is extremely resilient and there are countless cases of people that not only survived horrendous accidents or attacks, but even lead a relatively normal life with a bullet or even a metal rod lodged inside their head!
So here’s a list of the most popular misconceptions Hollywood has about the human anatomy, and what really happens in these cases.
A man that was shot in the face, near his nose – the bullet came out from the back of his head, he survived, and plastic surgeons have been able to fix most of his disfigured face.
Check out the Video of 5 Hollywood Myths About Human Anatomy
Myth 1 – Bullets cause death
Right of the bat, I’d like to disclose that most deaths in this case are caused by the loss of blood. Bullets cause puncture wounds and unless they destroy a large portion of the brain, all they do is create a hole from which blood simply leaks out.
An average person weighing at about 180 lbs, has about 1.5 gallons or 5.5 liters of blood. A bullet wound creates a hole that slowly leaks blood from all the capillaries around it, which may take up to 1-2 hours to cause enough blood loss for death. If that hole happens to puncture a vein, it will leak a bit faster, and may cause death in about 20-30 minutes or so, and if it punctures a main artery, it may cause death in about 4-8 minutes.
So in most cases, a bullet wound, especially one that is not literally spraying out, is manageable with pressure bandages, or a tourniquet at worst. One of the important things to figure out is if the bullet is still lodged inside the body or not (if there’s an exit wound). This is important since the bullet itself may function as a “cork” and should be left in there until reaching a medical facility, in order to minimise blood loss.
Myth 2 – Being stabbed or shot is clean and tidy
Since we’ve already mentioned that a person needs to leak out almost 3 liters of blood in order to risk death, this tends to be extremely messy. Field hospitals in combat zones are sometimes covered in so much blood that the nurses have to constantly wash the floors so the staff doesn’t slip and fall during a critical moment.
Myth 3 – Violently twisting the head to the side causes instant death
If this was true, we (as a species) would be at risk every time we look quickly to the left or right. In fact, our neck is very resilient and can twist much farther than we’re able to using our neck muscles – some people who are extremely flexible can turn their necks almost 180 degrees! It takes incredible force to twist a head so far as to detach the vertebrates and sever the spinal cord. This is the reason that the military, for example, teaches the blood choke as opposed to a neck twist of sort.
Myth 4 – Falling down a flight of stairs will cause instant death
Bear Grylls, one of my favorite survival experts, fell not down a flight of stairs, but from an airplane (!!!) in one of his exercises as an SAS operative in 1996. Both his main parashoot and his backup were tangled and did not open – he plummeted into the ground, bounced a little and broke most of his back. He survived the fall, but the doctors told him that he will never walk again. Relentless as he is, not only did he recuperate from his injuries, 18 months later he climbed to the summit of mount Everest! And there are countless similar stories of people surviving and even thriving after taking a great fall.
Myth 5 – Being smothered with a pillow will cause death
Being smothered with a pillow, fluffy or otherwise, will do pretty much nothing, as the pillow itself is fluffy and allows some airflow for breathing. This has been popularized as a “killing method” back at the golden age of cinema so not to give any “good” ideas for people to use at home. On top of that, the person being “smothered” usually has the ability to use both their arms and legs to escape quite easily, since the person holding the pillow puts all their weight forward, so a small nudge with the pelvis, using the legs, will fling them over the victim’s head.
Which Hollywood myth do YOU find the most misleading and why?
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