A ten-year-old girl from Salem, Oregon had become the talk of Salem Memorial Hospital after doctors discovered she had been secretly swallowing rocks for at least six months. Connie Holland started spitting up pebbles on Thursday night, July 24, 1958 and was taken to the hospital where X-rays revealed that her stomach and intestines were lined with over 200 smooth little rocks.
“They’ve never seen anything like it at the hospital,” said Connie’s mother, Mrs. Patrick Holland.
Fortunately, surgery was not necessary. Around four dozen rocks were removed using a stomach pump and other tools, and doctors planned to take out the rest gradually. Despite her unusual condition, hospital attendants said that Connie was in “fine shape” and, according to her mother, “having a wonderful time, everyone making such a fuss over her.”
However, doctors also discovered that Connie had a minor case of pneumonia, which may have actually saved her life. As her mother explained, “If she hadn’t become nauseated Thursday, apparently from the pneumonia, and been taken to the hospital, doctors said the rocks might have punctured her intestines.”
Connie was released from the hospital and returned to their 1840 Ferry St. SE home on Sunday, July 27, 1958. As you would expect, her parents were relieved that doctors could remove most of the stones from her alimentary canal and hoped the remainder would be eliminated naturally.
Mrs. Holland explained that she had received permission to take Connie home from the hospital because she believed that her daughter would be more comfortable there in the hot weather. However, Connie was scheduled to report for further X-rays one week later.
Although she posed for a picture in the July 28, 1958 edition of the Statesman Journal pretending to eat a bowl of crushed rock, Connie claimed to have sworn off eating rocks. The blonde-haired girl quickly added that she had lost interest in them and would not do it again.
When asked why she ate the rocks, Connie responded, “I don’t know why I ate those rocks. At the time, they tasted really good.” She explained that she sucked on the stones for a while before swallowing them.
According to her mother, some individuals jokingly referred to Connie as “Gravel Gertie.”
On August 8, it was reported that Connie received a box of agates from a Detroit collector named Chick Miller. But they weren’t real. Instead, Miller sent Connie a box of candy rocks that were far easier to digest. Miller, an amateur agate collector, and a Detroit orchestra leader, read about Connie’s rock-swallowing experience and wanted to send her a replacement for her lost collection. In his letter to her, Miller wrote, “I thought she might rather have a mouthful of our Michigan agates in preference to some of Oregon’s common gravel variety.” Not having Connie’s address, Miller sent the box to the care of the Chief of Police, Salem, Ore., requesting that he forward the box to her. Connie said she would keep the candy rocks as a reminder of her experience.