The ubiquity of text messaging hasn't done much for this generation's literary aspirations, but, as two British surgeons recently proved, it can be extremely valuable to the medical profession.

David Nott was volunteering with the humanitarian organization in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo last month when he was called on to help a 16-year-old boy. The shooting victim had just six inches of the severed arm remaining and the wound was dangerously infected. Nott knew he had to perform a rare forequarter amputation -- removing the collarbone and shoulder blade -- in order to save the teenager's life.

The only problem was that Nott had never performed the operation before. So he did what all of us do when faced with a tricky situation in a strange place -- he texted a friend.

Specifically, he got in touch with colleague Meirion Thomas, who had experience with the procedure. "I texted him and he texted back step by step instructions on how to do it," explains Nott. "He would have died without it so I took a deep breath and followed [them] to the letter."

Despite only having a pint of spare blood to work with, and rudimentary equipment, the operation was a success and the boy has apparently recovered well from his ordeal, meaning the last message probably ended with a smiley emoticon.

Check out some more incredible rescues in the gallery below.

Amazing Rescues

    Jesús García Corona was a Mexican railroad engineer who was killed trying to keep a train loaded with dynamite from exploding near Nacozari de García, Sonora, in 1907. García drove the train at full-steam six kilometers out of the town before the dynamite exploded, killing him and 12 other railwaymen and bystanders, but sparing the population of the mining town.

    lajornada

    Prinsendam Rescue A fire broke out on the Dutch cruise vessel Prinsendam off Ketchikan, Alaska on 4 October 1980. The Prinsendam was 130 miles from the nearest airstrip. The cruise ship's captain ordered the ship abandoned and the passengers, many elderly, left the ship in the lifeboats. Coast Guard and Canadian helicopters and the cutters Boutwell, Mellon, and Woodrush responded in concert with other vessels in the area. The passenger vessel later capsized and sank. The rescue is particularly important because of the distance traveled by the rescuers, the coordination of independent organizations and the fact that all 520 passengers and crew and crew were rescued without loss of life or serious injury.

    AP

    Coast Guard's Hurricane Katrina effort Search and rescue operations alone saved 24,135 lives from imminent danger, usually off the roofs of the victims' homes as flood waters lapped at their feet. Coast Guardsmen "evacuated to safety" 9,409 patients from local hospitals. In total, 33,545 souls were saved. Seventy-six Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary aircraft took part in the rescues. They flew 1,817 sorties with a total flight time of 4,291.3 hours in the air. The air crews saved 12,535. A total of 42 cutters and 131 small boats also participated, with their crews rescuing 21,200. Over 5,000 Coast Guardsmen served in Katrina operations.

    Eric Gay, AP

    36-hour distress call pays off and saves ships passengers ...

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/rescue/peopleevents/pandeAMEX90.html

    hamradio.arc.nasa.gov

    Man saves climber left for dead on Everest ...

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/273360_climber09.html

    Binod Joshi, AP

    During WWII, US airmen protected by Yugoslavian peasants for 66 days before they could be airlifted.

    http://www.courierpress.com/news/2008/sep/01/soldier-recounts-wwii-rescue/

    AP

    Dolphins rescue whales ...

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23588063/

    WSPA / AP

    Columbian military dupes Farc rebels and rescues 15 hostages ...

    http://warandhealth.com/colombian-hostage-rescue-could-of-been-discovered-by-a-single-internet-search/

    Colombian Army / AP

    Man saves convulsing man from being run over by subway train ...

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/03/nyregion/03life.html

    NBC / AP

    Firefighters rescue a man from the edge of Niagara Falls ...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=386a4-Ch7Nw

    youtube.com