So you weren't lucky enough to go out in a hot-air-balloon disaster this year? Grisly dismemberment is a decent consolation! Here's our roll call of the Best Near Deaths:

Sword swallowing. Fire swallowing. What's next, snake swallowing? If you're 23-year-old Matt Wilkinson of Portland, Oregon, the answer is "yessssssssss!" After polishing off a six-pack at a barbecue, Wilkinson, a self-described "snake collector," stuck a 20-inch rattlesnake into his mouth to impress an ex-girlfriend. The rattler bit his tongue, which became so swollen that medics couldn't insert a breathing tube down his throat—so they bored a hole in it instead! After his recovery, Wilkinson was reluctant to talk about his near-death by asphyxiation.

Ever get that sinking feeling in your stomach? You can bet it's not as bad as the sensation of having your small intestine sucked out through your bottom! Just ask the 6-year-old who survived accidental disembowelment after sitting on a wading-pool drain at a Minneapolis country club earlier this year. Her insides were recovered from the pool filter and replaced via emergency surgery.

Commuting around the South End might be a headache, but at least it's not a killer! Last month, Tanya Rider, an employee of the Bellevue Fred Meyer, was on her way home when her Honda Element tumbled into a ravine off State Route 169. She was trapped in the same position for eight excruciating days before rescue teams were able to locate her. As of early October, Tanya was still recovering from kidney failure and severe dehydration at Harborview, and her husband Tom was still planning on buying her a brand-new, GPS-equipped Element!