Doctors Share Their Best “How Are You Even Alive Right Now?!” Stories

Mathew Burke

Humans do some crazy things and it is the job of doctors, along with other medical professionals, to keep them alive when they indulge themselves. It may not seem like these people want to stay alive, given many of their actions, but most people do want to keep on with this whole life thing, so lucky for them, there are doctors around who take their jobs pretty damn seriously.

Not all stories are crazy, however, as many times stuff just happens in life that is out of one’s control—heck, it’s even out of the doctor’s control sometimes! This leads many doctors and hospital staff to the bewildering question of: “How is this person still alive?!” A lot of doctors, and sometimes the patients themselves, took to Reddit to reveal their wildest stories of survival and they did not disappoint. It can be hard to shock doctors, but the people in these stories sure did take it to the extreme.

42. Don’t Worry, Grandma Saved The Paper Clippings

Well, this story has happened somewhere around the ‘70s to my uncle and even made it to the newspaper.

My uncle was driving on a scooter one afternoon on a country road when he was hit hard by a car from the back. He fell off the scooter, flew through the windshield of the car and came to a halt on the backseat.

The driver of the car stepped on the brake so that he flew from the backseat again through the windshield and ended up lying on the road. Except for some bruises, he was unharmed.

When the police came both my uncle and the driver of the car told the same story, which they didn’t believe. However my uncle had lost a shoe in the back of the car, so finally also the police started to believe them.

My grandma cut out the article from the newspaper and it is still in a frame in her living room.


41. Heck of a Drug

One time I had a patient who was walking in the street, got hit by a car, thrown into oncoming traffic, bounced off another car, and then got pinned under a third. Or so the EMS report said. He had a dislocated shoulder and a non-displaced femur fracture. He was on cocaine, which probably explained how he was able to scream at the trauma team to leave him alone.


40. Kicking Away From The Rocks

Not a doctor, but EMT. A very experienced rock climber fell about 100 feet after missing a clip. The area below the cliff was mostly boulders and a few pine trees.

Based on our dispatch information, we thought this was a body recovery call. When we got to him he was somehow alive and conscious. He had managed to kick himself away from the wall and fallen much of the way down through pine branches (slowing his fall), then managed to land flat on his back in a tiny patch of thick, soft soil between the boulders.

The ER’s final verdict? Bumps, bruises, and a single cracked rib.


39. ER Stories For The Ages

Not a doctor, but we got a patient in ER who had received eight gunshots to the torso, one in the head, and multiple to the arms and leg. It was a horrific case of her uncle deciding that if he couldn’t have her then nobody would. Yeah, it was really messed up. No long-term damage with the mental faculties, and overall she recovered, but it took months and multiple operations.

Second big one was a Marine who got ran over by a tank. It was the first time I placed an adult patient on high-frequency oscillation. Basically, instead of pressurized air being pushed into the lungs, we used vibrations to move oxygen and CO2 in and out of the lungs.

Third one was a guy whose wife tried to kill him by turning on a cement truck while he was in it cleaning it. Cement trucks have blades inside and rotate like a dryer. He had massive bands with hooks to hold his chest together and had to have his esophagus closed.


38. How Dare You Pronounce Me Dead

My dad is a physician. He tells a story about being on call overnight and monitoring a patient with a severe cardiac condition. In the middle of the night, the patient went into cardiac arrest and he pronounced him dead after they were unable to resuscitate him and he’d shown no vital signs for close to an hour.

Later on that night, he got a page indicating that there was a patient who had a bone to pick with him. He returned to the ward to find the “deceased” patient upright in bed, alert and fully lucid. He was joking about the fact that he had been pronounced dead earlier that night.

His return to health was remarkable, and possible only because his condition had involved the very gradual shunting of his pulmonary artery so that his body had slowly, over the course of months or years, become adapted to a low oxygen environment, allowing it to survive approximately an hour without any cardiac function.


37. Indestructible you say?

We have a homeless patient right now with active endocarditis, end-stage renal disease on dialysis, HIV, and a carcinoid tumor. Totally noncompliant with antibiotics even though he has a PICC line and shows up for dialysis once a week maximum. Never got chemo or surgery for cancer.

Constantly shows up to the ED looking for pain meds or in hypertensive emergency. After treatment he just walks out again.

Gomers don’t die.


36. Not The Best Way To Go About It

My friend’s father is an Orthopedic Surgeon and he told us a story that once a boyfriend and girlfriend came in because they tried an at-home abortion. By running her pelvis over with a car… The abortion worked but I hope they actually never reproduce.


35. Monthly Savior

We have a patient we see at our hospital monthly. A young guy in his early 20s, an absolute turd to take care off. He has diabetes and essentially refuses to take his insulin. He comes in every time with diabetic ketoacidosis, which is essentially your body going into a coma-like state due to your blood pH becoming acidotic and very elevated sugars.

The impressive part isn’t that he survives this, most people do. It’s that this is a recurring event every month and each time someone manages to find him/get him to the hospital. If he was ever alone when this occurred and no one found him in a timely fashion, he’d be toast. Been seeing him regularly at the hospital for the last 18 months I’ve been here.


34. Religious Refusal

Anesthesiologist here.

I once had a 20-something-year-old Jehovah’s Witness as a patient who kept bleeding and bleeding after childbirth. Because of her religion, she refused blood transfusions. After other measures failed, we finally took her to the operating room for an emergency hysterectomy that saved her life. In a pregnant woman, the normal hemoglobin (the protein in your blood that carries oxygen) count is between 9.5-15 g/dL. When we took her to the OR, her hemoglobin was 3.1 g/dL. In the ICU after, it was down to 2.6 g/dL.

I remember talking to her before going to the OR, and all she could do was lie flat in bed. If she did so much as lift her head, her heart rate would jump from about 130 to 180 and she started having chest pain. I also had to tell her A) that I didn’t know if she would live through the surgery, and B) that I wasn’t sure how much of an anesthetic I would be able to give her, so there was the possibility she might remember some of the procedure. Fortunately, she did survive and didn’t have any recall. If she wasn’t otherwise young and healthy, I’m sure she would have died.


33. Having A Hard Nugget Definitely Helps

Paramedic here. I ran a call on a guy that was ejected out of a late-‘80s Mustang. The guy said the car rolled two times before pitching him out of the driver’s side window. He said he landed on his head and the 7-inch scalp avulsion seemed to corroborate his story. The car was completely crushed and sitting on its top. The guy wanted to refuse treatment and transport. 15 on the GCS (Glasgow Coma Scale) but he never lost consciousness. I insisted though that he be seen at the ER. He rode the whole way texting people. When I told him that he shouldn’t be alive he said “Yeah, I got a hard nugget”


32. I’m Not Dead, Where’s My Food?!

I am a doctor! My moment to shine.

Patient was driving a motorbike. We were informed that dispatch had been sent to pick up a motorbike vs. logging truck accident, bike was behind the truck which had lost its load of logs at highway speeds. Trauma team is activated, we have called for blood.

Guy walked out of the ER after period of observation. When he saw the logging truck lose its load, he simply let go of his bike and fell off the back. Rolled a bit and got some bumps and bruises, but fine.

Second case off the top of my head was a 92-year-old lady with urosepsis, a bacterial infection in her blood from a urinary tract infection. Her initial gas had a pH of around 6.7, and a lactate of 12—that’s too acidic and too high for the non-medical peeps—young patients would have a hard time surviving that, let alone the very elderly. She was unconscious but had received one dose of Cipro, an antibiotic, by mouth from her family doctor before becoming altered.

Family agreed to a comfort (Do Not Resuscitate) level of care and said their goodbyes.

The next morning, the resident on call got pages asking if Mrs. Blahblahblah could eat—she was awake and hungry. Guess the dose of Cipro kicked in.


31. Surviving The Black Widow

My dad had a massive heart attack a few years ago. He proceeded to drive around for several hours disoriented and confused to where the hospital was. He went to a closed fire station and drove around the city for who knows how long.

He had a complete 100% blockage in his Left Anterior Descending Artery. They call it the Widow Maker. Blessed to still have my old man around to say the least.

Not a medical doctor but I am (almost) 1/8 of my way through optometry school.


30. Helmets Save Lives

I’m not a doctor but I was an EMS for a few years and one day we came upon an accident on the highway involving a motorcyclist and a minivan. Usually, that is not good at all… it’s always a mess.

We get there and find out he hit the minivan at 80 mph while it was stopped on the side of the road and flew through the back window, all the way through to the front and survived without a scratch on him. No broken bones, no AMS (altered mental status AKA blunt head trauma)… He even got himself out the van and asked if the people inside were okay. He was wearing a helmet and I think that saved his life.

Blew my mind.


29. Warm Him Up, Scotty

I did a medical rotation where my consultant was an endocrinologist. We had a young man with type 1 diabetes who would present almost weekly in diabetic ketoacidosis—actually a medical emergency as can cause coma and death—from not taking his insulin and just eating whatever he wanted. Always self-discharged once he felt better.

In my last week of the rotation, he came in after overdosing on IV opioids—he was found by his family after no one had any contact for about 24 hours.

His temperature was 24 degrees Celsius in the ambulance and the pH of his blood was 6.76 (7.35-7.45 is normal, less than about 6.8 is not generally compatible with living). The paramedics, who all knew him, genuinely thought this was it for him, as did all the ICU. But as the old saying goes, you’re not dead until you’re warm and dead. At cold temperatures, your metabolic rate can be slowed to the point where it appears you’re deceased; however, upon warming, your body resumes more normal metabolic function.

Warmed him up in the ICU, treated his DKA, and he survived. I rotated away to another hospital before he was discharged but he was out of ICU when I left—awake and interactive.


28. Asleep On The Tracks

Nurse here, but I have some good stories coming from a level 1 trauma center.

I had a pedestrian vs. train accident once. He was stumbling home drunk and passed out on the train tracks. He was hit straight by the front of the train, bounced to the side, got hung on the side of the train, and then dragged 100 yards while the train stopped. He wound up in a coma for a week and paralyzed from the waist down, but he lived with no major neurological deficits—other than the whole not able to move his legs thing.

Had a patient once with throat cancer and his tumor ate through his carotid artery. Due to the cancer and a previous surgery he had a fistula (a hole) in his neck. He and his wife were at home… he was dozing in the sunroom. Wife goes to the kitchen and comes back to see him covered in blood and bloody handprints on the glass door where he tried to open it and get help. He had perforated his carotid artery and the blood was pouring (spurting?) out of his fistula. This tiny little old lady pulled the drapes from the window, jumped on his neck, and pushed her life alert button. Somehow she held pressure enough to keep him from bleeding out, and we actually saved the man with very little neuro deficit. People perforate carotids in the ICU and don’t survive the run to surgery… and he survived until EMS got to him and got him to the hospital, all because his wife thought quick and was remarkably strong.


27. Can’t Kill Me!

I’ve been struck by three cars , worked in a coal mine until a shaft collapsed with my team in it, worked making fireworks until a stray spark detonated the “powder shack” I was walking out of, I’ve fallen off of roofs, and was even a passenger in a Jeep that flipped… my only excuse is that I must be too ugly to die.


26. The Real Spider-Man

Bit seven times by a brown recluse spider when I was five years old. Don’t even have scars. Doctor said by the third bite I should have been in convulsions. I just remember they itched a lot.


25. 300

My father in law went to the ER for some sort of pain and it was discovered that he had over 300 blood clots in his legs. Every single blood clot dissolved and he’s alive and well.


24. Is That You, 50?

I saw a guy who got shot nine times, three of which were in the neck. Nothing important got hit, so we just cleaned out the wounds, packed and covered them, and that was it.


23. Rolling of The Cliff To Life

10-year-old girl hiking in a remote area, fell down a 75 foot very steep hill, rolling the whole way down. Ultimately she rolled off a 10-foot cliff and landed on her back. And she had a sucker in her mouth.


22. Your Shots Can’t Stop My Voice

Not a doc, but I’m a paramedic. I had a patient shot six times in the chest with a 9mm at point blank range. Homie was still yelling at the other dude, now in custody, how he was gonna get outta the hospital and find him. I was pretty dumbfounded at how lucky this bastard was considering most people don’t yell after six shots in the chest.


21. Hospital Escape

Opioid addict who was found after several hours in a sewage canal. He was in his 50s, barely breathing, had a broken femur, but after naloxone, he miraculously recovered enough to actually try escaping the ER. He somehow walked to the entrance on a broken femur.

Also had a 45-year-old painter, who was hypertensive (high blood pressure), diabetic, and a heavy smoker of 30 years with a history of multiple heart attacks, two which were triple vessel. Was casually chain smoking in front of me as he explained his history.


20. You Kinda Need A Transplant, Like Right Now

Not so much a “how are you alive” but more of a “how did you not know?” Went in for a normal checkup to get my birth control renewed only to see my blood pressure was through the roof. Thought nothing of it. Found out my kidneys were functioning at 11%.

The only symptom I had that I thought was weird was my legs itched really bad (high phosphorus causes itching). My legs would itch so bad they’d bleed. Saw a dermatologist several times they had nothing except maybe I was allergic to something. But I had no rash or anything.

Turns out many other smaller things were issues. Feeling nauseous early in the morning. Migraines and stuff like that. They kept asking me “Do you feel tired all the time?” And I also had weird weight gain—water retention. And I was baffled.

I thought maybe they were wrong. Two weeks later it hit me like a ton of bricks. Go to the point where I would be starving. Make myself some food take one bite and get nauseous. Lost 15 pounds before I went on dialysis and had problems with that. Kidneys were functioning at 1-2% before I was lucky enough to get my kidney transplant.

Very hard to understand (and keep it together) when going from normal functioning 24-year-old to “You need a transplant ASAP.”


19. Driving Blind

I’m the office manager/technician/secretary/janitor/accountant/what have you—sole employee, woohoo—for an optometrist. Now, optometry isn’t crazy exciting, so this’ll be pretty tame compared to the other stuff posted.

Patient is a rather elderly Hispanic woman, presents with complaints with her near visual acuity and slight headaches. I take her in the back to refract her and take her IOP… weird. Can’t get a reading for the AR/K. So now comes the tonometer: right eye: 27. Uh-oh. Double check? 24. Hmmmm…. I check the left eye? 49. 49. I double check it, 48. This lady’s got full blown glaucoma. Doc gets her in the chair, turns out she’s got glaucoma from a leaking cataract in OS, and early diabetic retinopathy in both eyes. Her visual acuity is 20/400.

This lady can’t see.

The kicker? She drove herself 24 miles to our office.


How Are You Alive facts

18. Facebook Help

Not a doctor… Was a patient. Had five different specialist teams come and try and figure out what had happened.

One night I was at my friend’s house and my neck started feeling all crazy. We were drinking and I powered through it. At about 6 am, I woke up cold and just took the liberty of taking a bath to warm up.

Go home, still feel like crap… But I write that off to too much alcohol.

A day more goes by, I think I might have pneumonia. This was before I had insurance, so I figure that I can tough pneumonia out.

Then my neck and back start hurting. My symptoms are pretty close to bacterial meningitis, but not exactly right.

In a fever haze, I go on Facebook—not call a friend or do something reasonable—I put it on Facebook that I might need someone to take me to the hospital.

I tell them that I think I have pneumonia. They x-ray my lungs, I don’t. She runs me through the meningitis mobility tests. I don’t have meningitis.

She asks me about my medical history, I tell her I’ve only been to the hospital twice in my life. Once when I fell in a bonfire, the second when I broke my ankle.

She decides that I’m obviously messed up and runs an MRI on me—they cost a lot.

Turns out that I had a 7-inch (13 cm) abscess on the inside of my mediastinum. It had ruptured and was pouring pollutants into my body.

She came back and turned to the other nurse and said, “He has a 13cm abscess on his mediastinum.”

The other nurse responded with, “I didn’t know that that could happen.”

She says, “I didn’t either.”

If I had waited a day or two more, I’d most likely be dead.

Anyhow, I had five different medical specialist groups come in and run me through their diagnostics. Even had a class come through just to check me out. They never figured out what caused it or even what the infection was because it was so close to my heart. I just did daily infusions for three months and I believe that I’m okay now.


17. We Forgive For Not Being A Doctor, Because That’s Insane

Not doc story, a military sea story: I worked on Ejection Seats (job is called AME). There was a legend in my trade of a guy at Norfolk Naval Air Base that was working on a Martin Baker ejection seat that didn’t have a properly disarmed drogue gun. Since the drogue gun wasn’t properly disarmed, when he went through the timer checks the component fired. Unfortunately, his head was hovering above the large heavy piece of steel that fires from the drogue gun to pull the drogue chute out.

Apparently, it went through his chin and out of the top of his head. It cleanly pulled 20 feet of cord through his head, then the drogue chute. The chute went half way into his head then got stuck. It was so firmly planted in the 2″ diameter hole going through his grape that it stopped any bleeding. They cut him out of the cables and took him to the hospital for surgery. Other than the 2″ hole in his chin and the top of his head he was completely fine and was back to work two weeks later.


16. Broken Neck? No Problem

When I was a paramedic student I was doing placement in my home town which was a rural town of about 12,000 people, so there was a reasonably sized hospital. Around my former home, there were a lot of smaller communities ranging from 2,000 people down to a few hundred people.

We get called first thing in the morning to the hospital to come pick up a guy who came in overnight and take him to the airport for transport via plane to Melbourne.

He’s basically up in the hills, where there’s nothing but winding roads, wombats, and kangaroos, when he came off his motorcycle after attempting to dodge some of the local wildlife that clearly didn’t give a crap about looking both ways before crossing the road. He’s given himself a good old skittle down the road, picked himself up and dusted himself off and in true Aussie fashion decided, “Bit messed up, better go get someone to take a gander at this.”

He self presented to the local police station in a small town of about 1,500 people to say, “Yeah… screwed up a bit. Need some help mate,” at which point they’ve immediately called the ambos to come and collect him.

It’s a good two hour and change drive to the hospital where they X-ray him and discover a cervical spine (neck) fracture and refer him to the surgical unit in Melbourne. Not bad for a bloke that’s broken his neck and decided “Screw it, better rock around to the cop shop to get this sorted out.”


15. From Coding to Walking

Anesthesiologist here.

We had a fine young gentleman who was shot while diving away from a gang-related bullet. A single bullet hit is right subclavian vein, went through his right lung, right diaphragm, liver, many loops of bowel, hit both his left Iliac artery and vein, and lodged in his sacrum.

He coded (heart stopped, no blood pressure) in the emergency department, got an ED thoracotomy, internal cardiac massage, and got his heart restarted. 200+ units of blood product and 10 hours of emergency surgery later, he made it to the ICU.

Before that night, I had never seen someone survive after an ED thoracotomy and had never given someone that much blood. He walked out of the damn hospital…


14. Good Thing For That New Insurance

A year and a half ago, my dad got a new cardiologist because of insurance reasons and high blood pressure. He got standard new doctor tests and I think the doctor gave him an echocardiogram. He called my dad when he got the results and told him to get to the ER immediately, he had an aortic dissection.

My dad, not knowing what that was, charged his phone up, finished his episode of The Young and the Restless, and called car service. For the majority of people who don’t know what an aortic dissection is, it’s when there’s a tear in your aorta, which causes the blood leaving your heart to fill up the walls of the artery until it has an aneurysm and it bursts. Basically, if it bursts, you die. It’s what killed John Ritter.

Usually, when it tears, you feel pain in your chest, but in very few cases there’s no pain. My dad was one of the very few cases. The mortality rate once the aorta tears is 1-2% per hour for the first 48 hours, meaning 50% die within the first 2 days. When he got to the hospital, his aorta was three times the size of a healthy person, and the surgeon said that it was likely dissected for four days minimum, and if he waited a few more hours he would certainly be dead. After the surgery to replace his artery with an artificial one, which took eight hours and involved essentially (and intentionally) killing him three times, the surgeon told him he was a miracle case and he really shouldn’t be alive, as his aorta was past the size it ruptures 9 out of 10 times.

The kicker? When he called my aunt to tell her she was the emergency contact, he told her he was having minor surgery on his big toe, because he didn’t want anyone to worry. Nobody besides his girlfriend—she knew but had to fly back home so she couldn’t be the contact—knew until six hours into the surgery what it actually was.


13. It Hurts When You Walk Because Your Neck and Hip Are Broken

It’s a toss up between the guy who shot himself in the neck with a crossbow bolt and somehow missed his carotid arteries and jugular vein, or this old guy with dementia who fell down the stairs, broke his neck AND his hip, and was still walking around the ER screaming “WHY DOES IT HURT WHEN I WALK?!”


12. Can’t Stop The Drink

We had a local drunk who fell backwards off an overpass while taking a swig. He broke his neck and somehow lived. He left the hospital and one week later fell of a curb and broke his neck a second time in a second place. He continued to refuse to wear a collar or halo. Still out there drinking…


11. Drunk Teenager Survives Destruction

I’m a paramedic and several years ago, late at night, my unit responded to a single car accident out in the country. When we showed up there was a brand new Audi S4 sitting in the middle of the road after hitting a tree. The driver’s side of the car was completely intact, but the passenger side from the middle of the grill to the rear end was sheared completely off. It looked as if the car had been cut in half with a saw. We looked in the car and notice that it was in 6th gear and the speedometer was stuck at something 108 mph. And it only had 1,600 miles on it.

The driver was nowhere to be found. We looked in the ditches and the fields with no luck. The cops found the driver, a 19-year-old boy, about 30 minutes later, sleeping on his parents couch, drunk as a skunk. He had a lacerated liver but ended up being just fine.


10. Good Enough Shape To Not Die

One guy had a congenital heart defect that caused an arrhythmia. He didn’t know about it until much later when he started playing minor league hockey in the AHL. Turns out, the guy started passing out during practices and one time needed to head to the hospital as a result—apparently, cardiac arrest. Basically, he was going into something called “Torsades de Pointes.”

Anyway, he recovered from every incident without issue and he was finally seen by a cardiologist who referred him to a specialist cardiologist known as an electrophysiologist who would use a special procedure to fix his heart (hopefully) indefinitely.

The problem is, Torsades is incredibly scary, could kill the guy, and could strike at any moment. So he had to wear this thing called a “Life Vest” which will shock his heart if it goes into Torsades, likely saving his life.

Now, I’ve never been cardioverted (shocked) before. But, from what I’ve heard, from the very rare instance that it happens to someone who is conscious, it feels like getting kicked firmly in the chest. It hurts.

So this pack had a sort of dead man switch that you could press and hold. The device would say something like, “arrhythmia detected, issuing shock in 5-4-3…” and if you got your finger on that switch you could hold off the shock until you pass out (you know, from your heart inadequately pumping blood).

So this happens to this 20-something-year-old hockey player and he presses the button.

And he holds it.

And he walks five blocks to the hospital.

And by the time he gets to the ER, he’s in a normal rhythm. The ER staff think maybe he was mistaken, but they download the data from the pack and the guy was in, like, two solid minutes of Torsades before spontaneously converting. He was in such profoundly good cardiovascular health that, even though his heart was pumping maybe 5% of the usual volume at the time, he was giving enough oxygen to his brain to stay awake and moving.


9. Night Snowmobiling Isn’t The Best of Ideas

I was at a regional Level 1 trauma when I get called for a code. The team assembles and we get the initial report of a guy riding a snowmobile and hit a fence. So this guy is wheeled in and, at first, I think, “Oh, he’s intubated already.” On closer inspection, the tube isn’t coming out of his mouth, it’s coming out of his neck.

What actually happened was the guy decided to do some night snowmobiling. I didn’t know this was a thing. Anyway, he’s driving around property he doesn’t own and he happens to catch a wire fence that is exactly neck-level. The wire transects his trachea, the windpipe that we breathe through. Here’s where it gets “holy crap”: the large arteries that essentially rest next to the trachea were untouched. If they had been lacerated, he would have bled to death prior to EMS arriving. The one smart thing he did was travel with a buddy, who called 911.

They sent Aeromed to go pick the guy up. Even though he missed these arteries, he was still compromising his airway and aspirating a lot of blood. So, the paramedic on scene tried to intubate and made the split second decision to intubate through the opening in the trachea (I was able to personally confirm his view and he had nothing from above). When I asked the paramedic how he found his landmarks to do it, he said: “I just looked for the bubbles as my guide.” We reverted to a trach, made a primary closure, and the guy was awake the following day and in relatively good spirits.

That medic was so badass, I’ll never forget him. My girlfriend at the time made homemade doughnuts and we fried him a big plate. I stuck an ET tube through the hole and gave the treats to he and his friends for the save.


8. The Death Call Wakes Him From a Come

When I was in pharmacy school I did a clinical rotation in a hospital with an infectious disease doctor. One of his ICU patients was in a coma. He had severe trauma from a motorcycle accident. My doc was just one of the many doctors following him—in our case, it was because of sepsis from a perforated colon.

Things were not going well. He’d been in a coma for two weeks and showed no signs of coming out of it. The team of doctors (and me) sat with the family and discussed taking him off of life support. The family decided that it was the right decision. They said their goodbyes and I figured that was it.

But the next day I came in and he was still on my patient list. I went to the ICU, and there he was. Alive and actually awake.

Apparently, he woke up that evening after I left. And he actually started to get better pretty quickly. Less than a week later he was out of ICU and in a regular room. And the next week he was no longer my patient because his sepsis had cleared and he no longer needed to be followed by the infectious disease doctor.

It was pretty damn amazing.


7. Doesn’t Make Any Sense How She Survived

I was working as a helicopter retrieval doctor in Australia last year. Called at 2am to a car crash in the middle of nowhere. Patient was 150 kg (330lbs.) and 5-feet tall. So drunk you could smell the alcohol in her blood. Had been ejected from the front passenger seat of a car through the front windscreen. Wearing no seatbelt. Had lain undiscovered for three hours on the side of the road. The temperature that night was 2 degrees centigrade.

Her entire right scalp had been degloved. Blood pressure and oxygen saturation were unrecordable at all times on transfer due to shock, hypothermia, and body habitus. Carotid pulse only. GCS 3 (completely unconscious). Due to her ENORMOUS obesity any movement of her head from the position she happened to land in obstructed her airway. If she had landed in any other position she would have had no way to breathe and died. Two hour flight from nearest trauma center. Unable to intubate her without drugs due to muscle tone. Scariest RSI of my life. Gave her drugs to paralyze then intubate in the middle of a paddock, on ambulance stretcher, under lights, with patient placed in RAMP position. With best rewarming we could do in the helicopter core temperature was 29 centigrade on arrival in ER. We didn’t carry blood on the helicopter at that time. Survived and discharged neurologically intact.


6. Smoking a Tapeworm Out

This one dude had a stomach ache and thought it meant there was a tapeworm in his belly eating him alive, so he drank bleach AND ammonia trying to “smoke it out.”

5. That Patient That Stays With You

20-something-year-old male, motorcycle vs SUV; SUV won. We arrived on scene to a man face down in a pool of about a liter of blood. We were told he was wearing a helmet, but it was nowhere to be found. He was about 30 feet from his bike and there was a clear trail of blood to the bike because he wasn’t wearing leathers. We rolled him onto the board and that was the first beating heart I ever saw.

His road rash was so bad it eroded his chest wall and we were staring at his heart, a collapsed lung, his great vessels, and the branches of the brachial plexus. Amazingly, they were all intact. Of course, he had multiple injuries to his other extremities, mandible, zygomatic arches, etc. but we frankly didn’t care at the time.

We were on scene for no more than two minutes before we sped off to the trauma center. I remember transferring the patient to the chief of trauma surgery whose first words when the trauma pad was removed were “Holy [expletive]!” I thought for sure he died.

Fast forward two years when I was at my primary care physician’s office for a checkup after my medical school interview and saw a collection bin for a veteran’s wedding. Guess who? Yup, it was him. They had taken his left arm to reconstruct his chest since the nerves were shot, but he recovered.


4. Be Gentle With My Head

When I was in trauma surgery, got a notification about a man who was shot three times in the head. He comes in, literally one eye hanging out of the socket, blood everywhere, and he’s slumped forward. Apparently, he was shot once in the temple, exiting out his right eye socket, again in the nose, exiting from the roof of the mouth, and finally, in the cheek, exiting from the side of the head.

At this point, I’m thinking they just brought him in so we can pronounce him in the ER because he looked dead. I go to examine him, tilt his head back, and he says “Yoooo, be gentle!!!!” I jump back and scream like a little boy, as did everyone in the room. Literally, the bullets missed his brain in every single shot.


3. Be Careful Blowing Your Nose

Not a doctor. But this is what I have been asked repeatedly when I was in the hospital for my open heart surgery “How the hell are you still alive?”

Back story:

I was basically born with a congenital birth defect which has an extremely high mortality rate. Like 1 in 120,000,000 chance of it happening and about 95% to 99% chance of dying. Not only did I survive it for 20 years, I played lacrosse for four years. Now, the issue was that I was missing a major blood vessel on my heart that is required to pump blood. My body compensated in such an extreme way that the blood vessel on the right side of the heart went down and around the heart and attached itself to aorta. My heart was basically circulating blood around itself alone and the rest of my body didn’t get enough blood.

So how it was found out? Not when I was a baby or kid, no. As an adult, I blew my nose and had a full-on heart attack.

Surgeons repeatedly stated and asked “How was I alive” and “You played lacrosse for four years?” Also, the main surgeon stated that anyone with this condition usually dies at birth. They only know of the condition from autopsies.


1. Hey Doc, I Think I Need Some Help

It was near 2am, in quiet shift. A guy walks in the ER and asks for a doctor, with his left hand at his forehead. I present myself, asking what I could do for him. “I just got shot in the head,” he says, releasing his hand and showing the bullet entrance.

He was immediately taken to surgery, and turned out okay. The (removed) bullet was stuck in his skull.



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