Mary Piñeta was like any other Filipina housekeeper. She went to work on time, was respectful to her coworkers and never called in sick even when she was feeling a little under the weather. At 25 years old, and newly married, she was hoping to start having kids soon. Together, she and her Pinoy husband, housekeeper Manuel Piñeta, had purchased a house in the suburbs and were preparing it to move in someday. All looked sunny till the one day Mary had a little trouble walking.
At 5 feet, 9 inches tall, Mary was of average height, but at nearly 200 pounds, she even thought she could stand to lose a few. Manuel didn’t mind the love handles, though. He thought it meant there was more of her to love. She’d been having back problems because of her weight but one day, when she woke up, the pain was just unbearable. Her husband called in sick for her and, just before he went to work, dropped her off at the Emergency Room at St. Luke’s Hospital.
In the ER, they couldn’t find why Mary was having such uncontrollable pain so they decided to admit her for closer studies. That’s when things went from bad to bizarre. Within two days of being admitted, Mary started having grayish blisters form all over her body – her back, torso, arms, legs and neck. The only place on her body where there were no blisters was the top of her head.
The doctors saw no reason for the blisters’ sudden appearance. Manuel was just as distressed by it as Mary. They weren’t painful but they were large, totaling about 40 to 45. Within the next few days they grew from being coin sized to the size of baseballs.
“Get these things off me!” she said to her doctors on several occasions.
“We’re trying,” they’d promise.
And they really were. Every blister-reducing cream they tried didn’t work. Pills didn’t seem to help. Not even sunlamps brought in especially to her room did the trick. It probably didn’t matter because a few weeks later, it happened.
Mary was watching TV in bed in her room when she started feeling a ticklish sensation from one of the large blisters, now looking like water pods, on her abdomen. Pulling her nightgown to one side, she stared at the pod. It was jiggling to and fro almost as if it would slide off her. Just then a small appendage jutted forth from the pod. Sticking out further, it writhed as if it was looking for something. Seconds later more appendages jutted from the pod. All total there were eight of them, all grayish pink and all moving independently of each other.
Mary screamed for the nurse who came in charging in moments later.
“What’s going on?” Mary asked.
“My God!” the startled nurse exclaimed. “Does it hurt?”
“No,” Mary answered, “just get it off me.”
“Look!” the nurse said, pointing to Mary’s right leg.
One of the pods there had also erupted and eight tentacles also burst forth.
“Aiiee!” Mary gasped.
“I’ll go get the doctor,” the nurse explained.
By the time the nurse had returned with a doctor, more of Mary’s blisters had sprouted tentacles. In fact, it soon looked as if every single water pod would grow them.
“This is unusual,” the doctor said scratching his chin. “We need a specialist.”
Several minutes later, the room was crowded with doctors and technicians from all over the hospital. One of the doctors prodded one of the tentacles with a pencil. Instinctively, the tentacle wrapped itself around the pencil, wrenched it away from the doctor, and threw it across the room. Everyone jumped back with amazement.
Poor Mary was beyond flabbergasted. She remembered how all of this started with a simple backache and now she had tentacles sprouting out of water pods all over her body. The doctors knew their hands were tied. This was truly an amazing sight, nothing like they had ever seen before. Over the next few days they thought about surgically removing all the pods. Manuel agreed to it but was also concerned when they said his wife might not survive the water and blood loss. Eventually, the doctors weren’t sure themselves so they just let the pods be for now.
Mary gained more and more weight as she stayed in the hospital. The tentacles not only slowly absorbed the water from each pod but also fed off the nutrients in Mary’s blood steam like a parasite. It made her hungry so she hate often. Within a month she’d ballooned up to around 600 pounds. The tentacles seemed like they couldn’t be sated, drinking the water like it was the most precious thing on earth.
The doctors developed a way to keep the water pods filled. As it turned out, Mary’s internal anatomy was also changed. When she drank lots of water they went right into each pod by a special conduit. The doctors attached a feeding port to Mary’s abdomen where the nurses could go in and add gallons of water to refill the pods. They also gave Mary a urinary catheter because the tentacles excreted a lot and would often saturate the bed. Now, the urinary bag gets filled up about every 2 hours and that’s when it gets emptied.
Taking care of the urinary catheter was a chore in and of itself, but when it came to cleaning stool, that was a nightmare for the nurses. Technicians had erected an aluminum trapeze across Mary’s bed. This aided in her mobility. At liberty she can reach up, hold on to the trapeze, and twist her ever-growing body from left to right. This helped with her cleaning and gave the tentacles on her butt and back of her thighs some reprieve from being slept on all the time.
Bedpans were not beneficial to Mary. Their round but hard edges caused the water pods to break. When the first one did, it saturated the bed with serosanguinous drainage. The doctors noticed the tentacles were, indeed, attached to the skin via a translucent port through the pod. The tentacles would then lay dormant until a new pod formed around their base in about two and a half days.
The cost of Mary’s hospitalization weighed heavily on Manuel’s mind. The bills were starting to pile up. The few donations he’d received from his churched helped but not enough to make a serious dent in the hospital bills. Feeling his back against a wall, he came up with an idea to rob the First National Bank. He’d been there before and they had no security guard. Thinking it’d be a breeze, he enlisted his cousin Ramón to help him. Ramón was unemployed at the time, and even though he didn’t like the idea, went ahead with the plan.
One morning, Manuel and Ramón, dressed head to foot in black military garb, stormed into First National with rifles drawn. People screamed but none were allowed to exit. Manuel gave a teller a note and an empty satchel. Trembling, the teller read the note then proceeded to fill the bag up with notes from each register.
A few minutes later, police cars started swarming around the bank. Ramón panicked but Manuel told him to hold his ground and it’ll all be over soon.
“Get out with your hands over your heads!” the cops bellowed over a megaphone.
Manuel grabbed the satchel of money then signaled for Ramón to follow him out of the bank. Once again the police ordered the robbers to stop and put up their hands.
“We’ll be on the freeway soon,” Manuel said to Ramón as they edged closer to their car.
Ramón, still in a panic, thought one of the rifle-toting offers was about to fire, so he fired first. The bullet missed but now it was open season on the two of them. Bullets started flying everywhere. Holes started filling up the bodies of nearby cars and the walls and buildings of windows. Panicked citizens ducked for cover. A helicopter overhead kept watch on the proceedings. It didn’t take long; however as minutes later, Ramón and Manuel were both shot dead where they stood.
News of the shootout flooded the airwaves as well as the internet. Within the next few days, the public came to realize that Manuel was trying to get money to pay for his wife’s unusual medical condition. Because of privacy acts, the general public wasn’t allowed to photograph or interview Mary. One clever tabloid reporter, however, was able to sneak through, perhaps disguised as a health worker, and took a few photos of Mary. The next day, some of the photos appeared in the tabloid and on the internet.
An outpouring of grief ensued. Within days the hospital started getting donations to help Mary’s unusual condition which the doctor’s have to label as Piñeta Syndrome. People still weren’t allowed to visit because of privacy acts, but the donations kept coming in anyway, at least for a while.
Mary, herself, wasn’t doing that well. News of her husband weighed heavily on her mind. The tentacles gave her no peace. She now easily weighed about 1000 pounds while the pods added another 200 pounds or so of weight to her body. Even though she had a team of doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists, she found that living with the condition was just too much to bear. Eventually, she stopped eating. Her doctors became worried but she said she didn’t care. She was just tired of the circus she’d become.
When the water in the pods went low, the tentacles had an annoying practice of slapping her body till the pods were refilled. Usually, Mary would call for the nurse when they started throwing their tantrums. Lately, though, she simply tolerated the slaps and tried to put the little squirts out of her mind.
Mary didn’t have to worry about killing herself because she’d developed congestive heart failure which prevented her, and her tentacles, from waking up one morning. She was buried next to her husband after an autopsy was done a few days later. The doctors never did find a reason for the squid-like tentacles or the water-filled pods. Whatever the secret was, it was buried with her. Scientists would study her for months and years but none could unearth any reason for their grave appearance.