The operation was a success, but unfortunately Dave McCann’s patient is still dead.
McCann isn’t worried about being sued for malpractice, although being put under a curse has crossed the Spokane surgical equipment dealer’s mind.
With good reason. The guy McCann ventilated with a pneumatic drill the other day is a 2,600-year-old Egyptian mummy named Usermontu.
“When I got done with the procedure I had mummy dust all over me,” says McCann, 43, now back from a bizarre adventure at the Egyptian Museum in San Jose, Calif.
McCann hopes nothing happens like Boris Karloff’s shambling portrayal in the movie classic, “The Mummy.”
“It wasn’t my idea,” he says. “If old Usermontu goes after anybody it should be the person who came up with this.”
To find the responsible parties, we must journey back in time to last summer.
It was then that X-rays revealed a 4-inch, metal corkscrew holding Usermontu’s left leg together. The metal was meticulously inserted into the bones and offers a rare glimpse of Egyptian burial methods.
Usermontu is no stranger to science. He once gave up a tooth for DNA research, but this is far bigger.
Discovery of such an orthopedic device inside a mummy is unprecedented. Brigham Young University professor Wilfred Griggs, who led the research team, wanted a closer look.
Trouble is, you can’t just ask a plumber to go rooting around on fragile, flaky mummy flesh.
For that you need an expert and a $35,000 bone scalpel called a Midas Rex.
Griggs contacted the Midas Rex makers, who recommended McCann.
The owner of Northwest Surgical is trained on all the instruments he sells. He once peeled the shell off a raw egg with the Midas Rex.
“I came back to my office to find this message on my desk: ‘Professor wants you to operate on a mummy.’ I thought, ‘Cool. Offers like this only come around once.”’
A latter-day Indiana Jones, McCann threw on his leather bomber jacket and set off on a quest rich with antiquity.
Usermontu is believed to have been an Egyptian priest who died about 600 B.C.
For centuries the mummy slept in silence. Now the poor thing can’t keep out of the limelight.
He became a celebrity shortly after a 1971 Nieman Marcus catalog offered a couple of genuine Egyptian sarcophagi as a Christmas gift for the person who has everything.
Egyptian Museum officials in San Jose bought the ancient coffins for about $12,000, not knowing they’d find Usermontu resting in one.
A scandal erupted when the museum put Usermontu on display in an unwrapped state. Artful Egyptian undertakers, it seems, embalmed male corpses so they would enter the afterlife with an erection.
The sight of such unbridled mummy manliness drew so many complaints from shocked visitors that Usermontu was nicknamed the “Famous Phallus.”
The mummy was rewrapped and behaved himself until routine X-rays spotted the metal.
Using the Midas Rex, McCann on Thursday slowly made his way into the 5-foot-tall mummy’s leg bone. Particles of the pin were chipped off to be analyzed sometime next week.
Professor Griggs believes the pin was probably installed after Usermontu’s death.
Egyptians tried to keep a body whole, believing the dead enter the afterlife in whatever state they depart the land of the living.
As for McCann, he’s enjoying new-found fame as “the only guy to ever drill into a mummy.” In fact, this surgeon can’t wait for his next dead patient.
“What’s life,” McCann asks, “but the ability to go out and collect stories and then retell them?”
He laughs and pauses a second to add, “And this is one helluva story.”