Some of us just aren’t cut out to be doctors. Although the hospital can be a place of joy, it’s often associated with pain, death, and STRESS. And if these stories are anything to go by, then the assumptions aren’t wrong. Get ready to dive into some of the most horrifying hospital stories you’ll ever read: close-calls, mysterious ailments, medical mistakes, and so much more.
1. Not Just A Scratch
EMT here. I got called to our local limited-capability ER to transport a patient and a critical care team to a trauma center. I got into the ER and headed over the to patient. The patient’s room was a *horrible* mess: dressings everywhere, and blood on the ceiling and floor. Imagine any scene from any over-acted movie where the medical professional yells, “Don’t you die on me!” Like that.
On the bed was an older woman with her leg exposed and the doctor was doing some stitches on her shin. No biggie—it was the kind of thing you’d expect the doctor to spend five minutes on deciding if a band-aid was good enough or if it actually needed surgery. It completely failed to line up with the scene around them, like the housekeeping department was on strike or something.
Anyway, it turned out that the woman had banged her shin into the steps of a shuttle bus. Her husband then drove her to the ER closest to their house (45 minutes away), bypassing six other hospitals, including the one we ended up taking her to. Apparently, when she walked into the ER, she said to the nurse, “I think I’m going to die,” and the nurse responded, “I think you’re right!”
She was on aspirin, warfarin, and some form of chemo. She had virtually no clotting factors, and the ones she had left were inhibited. So what would have been an annoying bleed for most people, which would have easily been controlled with pressure after a few minutes, was actually a very small, uncontrolled arterial bleed which sprayed everywhere. We got her down to the trauma center without any additional complications, but I have no follow-up from there.
2. Little Red Dots
When I was about 16, I started having these little red irritated spots show up on my arm. My mom was immediately like, “You have psoriasis, just go tanning.” So I tanned for about a week and they just got worse. Now I had them all over my body. I even had spots on my eyelids. I went to the doctor finally, and he made a gruesome discovery.
It turned out I had ringworm. Even worse? By tanning, I was basically rubbing them all over with the lotions and incubating them while I tanned.
3. A Hairy Situation
This one was actually from back when I was a medical student, but it’s still the weirdest thing I’ve seen. It was my last rotation in medical school before graduating and starting residency. I had completed all my requirements and just wanted to take a few interesting electives of things I hadn’t seen yet. This was a dermatology rotation at the VA.
The rotation had been interesting and chill, and I was seeing my third-to-last patient as a medical student. The guy came in and the resident asked him why he was there. He said, “I have hair coming out of my hand.” I figured he meant a weird mole with some hair coming out, but this guy (who was probably in his late thirties or early forties) said, “No, the hair is coming out from under the skin.”
The resident asked him what he did for a living and he said he was a barber. Apparently, it’s not too uncommon for hair to poke through the skin, especially for barbers who cut men’s hair. It’s short, thin, and can be kinda pokey after all. It was sort of like getting a sliver, but with hair. But the guy said, “No, it’s a lot of hair, look!”
He held up his hand, making a fist, and there were several hairs poking out from between the knuckles of his pointer and middle finger. I stared in confusion, and the resident grabbed some tweezers to pull out maybe a half dozen short black hairs. The guy said, “Yeah, I already pulled out like 50.” That’s when the resident’s face dropped.
We numbed up the backside of his hand between the first and second knuckle and made a little incision. We were shocked at the mass of hair that we uncovered. We started pulling out GOBS of short black hair. A chunk of 20, a chunk of 30, etc. At some point, she got the magnifying glasses out with an attached light and said, “Oh my gosh, there are still more in there! Sir, do you know how all this hair got into your hand?” His answer was so disturbing, it’s unforgettable.
The guy said, “Oh it probably came in through there!” He flipped his hand over to reveal a HOLE in the palmar aspect of his hand’s skin. It turns out, the dude had cut himself like TWO YEARS before this, and it had never healed properly (he was diabetic), so he just kept cutting hair with this open wound on his hand. Probably every day, a few hairs got stuck in his hand. For two years.
Now those hairs had tunneled through the webbing between his first and second fingers from the front of his hand and out the backside. We spent like 30 minutes MILKING his hand and fingers while more and more hair came out. She said, “There’s no way I got it all out, so you have to come back every two weeks for a few months for us to keep removing more hair from your hand.”
4. Off Like A Rocket
I was doing a C-section for this poor mom who’d been in labor for hours. The baby wouldn’t come out of the hole we’d made, so we applied more pressure—and suddenly whoooooosh, baby zooms out like a torpedo, covered in lubrication. She zips over the surgical sheeting, which has the texture of a Slip n’ Slide, and almost rockets straight off the table.
The nurse caught the baby’s foot and whipped her up in the air upside down like in old cartoons, but almost dropped her again. Thankfully, the midwife was ready with the towel and caught the baby to wrap her up. Mom and dad seemed to think this was normal practice and didn’t notice, but me and my colleague just stared at each other with a look of absolute horror.
It still makes me shudder to think how close the baby was to hitting the floor headfirst. Never happened before or since.
5. Little Snag, Big Mess
My wife was a social worker at a dialysis clinic. She came home frazzled early one day. Apparently, a regular patient who came in got his central catheter (PICC) line pulled out of his neck, and it happened in the weirdest way—as was pulling off his sweater at home. Instead of walking to the ER, which was across the street, he drove there…and he sprayed blood all over the foyer area.
A couple of nurses got to him and controlled the bleeding as best they could while my wife called an ambulance. She said that the amount of blood was indescribable. He had parked out front so they had to move his car. They couldn’t drive it because of the amount of blood in it and it had to get it towed. She said it looked like a murder scene.
6. The Root Of The Problem
My husband and I were messing around and he chased me through the kitchen. When I took a hard left turn, he lost his footing and fell on his side. He’s a big dude, so falling is a bit more traumatic for him. He couldn’t put pressure on his leg and he knew immediately he was hurt pretty bad. He was able to crawl to the couch, and once he settled in, he said he wasn’t in too much pain.
He decided to sleep on the couch that night so he wouldn’t have to go upstairs. We made an appointment in the morning for the ER so we wouldn’t have to sit there all day, but they didn’t have an opening until 2 pm, so we just hung out at the house. He was in a decent amount of ambient pain, but it didn’t seem too urgent. Once we got to the hospital, however, we found out the shocking truth.
He had broken his hip, breaking off his entire ball joint from the top of his femur. The nurses said they couldn’t believe that he was able to sit up and sleep on it, which implied that we should have come the night before—and probably by ambulance. It required surgery with some hefty bolts to put it back into place. But the crazy part is that, apparently, a healthy 30-year-old man breaking his femur from standing is highly unusual. That’s when we found out that there was an even more terrifying cause behind it.
After several tests and an MRI, it turned out he was in the early stages of osteoporosis. Even craziest? It was due to a pituitary tumor in his brain. So we discovered a benign brain tumor all because the dude was wearing slippery socks.
7. A Traumatizing Sight
My dad was a medical lab technologist and when he was an intern, the lab techs got paged to go down to the ER to draw blood from a patient. Since my dad was a young guy and fresh out of college, he raised his hand to go down, despite the more senior techs warning him not to go. He went down and they had IVs EVERYWHERE.
The patient tried to end it all with an electric knife (like the one that gets used to carve turkeys) and he tore everything in his neck. The only thing keeping his head to his body was his spine. My dad had to draw blood from this patient’s ankle since everything else has been taken up by units of blood just hanging there. When he came back to see his co-workers in the lab, he was as white as a ghost!
They warned him not to go, but him being young and eager, he went. He has more stories from when he worked in Detroit as a lab tech in the ER for a Level 1 trauma center. He was there when Detroit was not a very nice city and he saw the decline in danger since he left earlier this year.
8. Stop, Look, And Listen
I’m an emergency doctor in the midwestern USA. The patient was transferred from some rural nowhere to our tertiary care facility. We’re a big hospital with every kind of specialist. The transferring physician described a 21-year-old male who had a rapid heart rate and breathing rate, low blood pressure, low oxygen, confusion, and a severe opacification on his chest X-ray on the right side. He was initially diagnosed with pneumonia.
They gave him a ton of fluids, started antibiotics, and put him on a ventilator, but he wasn’t getting better. So they wanted to send him to us. We said sure, send away. An hour later, the gentleman arrived—he looked young, fit, and not the type to just drop from pneumonia. We rolled him onto our stretcher and our jaws dropped to the floor—we found a huge open wound in his back.
The X-ray found his entire right chest full of blood. We put a tube in it, gave him back some blood, and he had to go for surgery to fix the bleeding. Lesson: Actually look at your patient.
9. Eye Of The Tiger
Eye doctor here. I had a patient who came in several months before their scheduled annual visit, which indicated to me that something could be wrong. But when she arrived, she had no complaints—she just wanted to get an update on her eye health before she got some new glasses. We decided to just run the regular gamut of tests anyway since she was already there.
She was a 50-year-old woman. It was a fairly normal exam. Perfect vision, healthy retinas, but something about her pupils really bothered me before I dilated them. I asked her if she had banged her head or had any trauma to that area recently. She said no, but then suddenly revealed a disturbing secret she had been concealing—she had this crazy history of an old meningioma (a type of tumorous brain growth) that she’d had removed a few years ago.
She had decided to omit this from her history with us as she didn’t feel it was important, but we went and put it into the charts anyway. It turned out she got a CT done two weeks prior to her exam with me, which she said turned up completely normal. I told her she should tell her doctor about her pupils anyway, just to cover our bases.
Fast forward a few months: the patient showed up in my office ecstatic to tell me that my examination revealed her tumor had returned with an incredible vengeance. She had no idea as was totally asymptomatic, and the CT scan she had prior to seeing me showed what was very literally the size of a speck of dust which the radiologist dismissed as an “artifact.”
On her return to her doctor, they decided to re-run the CT scan to cover their bases and they found a quarter-sized tumor. Within two weeks, the tumor had gone from the size of a dust particle to the size of a quarter. She was rushed into emergency surgery as the tumor was growing super fast and was close to a blood vessel, which could have caused a massive stroke.
She had it removed that day and returned to me after recovery to tell me. She is now a long-time regular patient I have been seeing for about ten years.
10. A Really Close Call
A teenager got in a fight with his brother, of course, both under the influence. They were fighting over a girl. The brother smashed a glass coffee pot and attacked the dude in the neck, and when he saw blood, he ran. Somehow, he managed to miss all the major vasculature in the neck. This was out in the bush, so I got to take this guy to the nearest major hospital with a trauma surgeon on standby.
On the way, his mom called and told him he better not rat his brother out (since he has a record). They then proceeded to get in a shouting match and he started thrashing around. I took the phone away from him and told him to lie still unless he wanted to die, then administered more morphine. Later, a CT scan showed that he was a centimeter away from having a carotid nicked and dying.
11. Biting The Bullet
Medical specialist here. I worked at an inner-city hospital that was kind of the red-headed stepchild of hospitals in the area, but that’s another story. We were a community hospital that did primarily cardiac care but we also had a small ER. We were in the middle of the Trauma Triangle—that is, three large Level 1 trauma centers—so we rarely saw much of anything in our ER.
It was usually just glorified primary care and cardiac patients diverted from the other Level 1 trauma centers. But one time, while working a night shift, we got a call from the fire department saying they were responding to someone with a self-inflicted bullet wound. This was an unusual patient for us to get, but they were all on divert and we were the closest facility. Being a pretty boring ER, for the most part, all the staff there got a bit excited to finally have a real ER patient.
The firemen rolled in with the patient a bit later. Apparently, the guy had called his friend from a run-down hotel, said he was going to end himself, then hung up. The friend then called 9-1-1, and emergency workers rushed to the hotel. The patient arrived intubated with CPR in progress, but there was no visible wound anywhere.
I was on the chest doing CPR and my supervisor was bagging the tube. He told the doc that something wasn’t right with the bagging, and he didn’t think the tube was in. My supervisor pulled out the tube and the doc went to intubate the patient. While trying to insert the tube, the doc yelled loudly: “What the heck?” He then asked for the McGills, a type of forceps used occasionally for intubation procedures.
He proceeded to yank out a bullet shell from the patient’s trachea. After the code was called, we did a closer examination and noticed the guy’s two front teeth were chipped. The coroner concluded that the guy didn’t have the weapon but had the shell, and he put the shell in his mouth thinking he could set off the primer with a hard bite.
The guy bit down, chipped his teeth, winced in pain, and inhaled the shell into his trachea. The firemen didn’t notice the obstruction and put the tube in his esophagus. I’ve seen some crazy stuff in my 20 years, but this was by far the strangest.
12. Not One, But Two
My oldest son was 11 years old and he needed a physical for youth tackle football. He had complained that his ankle hurt during the middle of baseball season so she asked if he could take off his shoe. When he did, she immediately pointed to the side of his foot where there was a strange bump and informed us he had a broken foot.
I didn’t believe her because he had the same thing on his other foot as well. So she took a look at the other foot and said, “Oh…he has TWO broken feet.” She then sent us over to get X-rays from the hospital. I was laughing in my head, thinking it was so crazy that my son, who not only finished playing in a baseball tournament but had also been running and jumping at the swimming pool literally an hour before, had two broken feet.
After the X-rays were completed, my smile quickly faded as the doctor was right. That’s when we learned about how completely flat feet can be damaged with stress fractures that go undetected. He was put into a cast for eight weeks and was made to wear special shoes and insoles for the rest of his life. His feet are still deformed, but it has never slowed him down.
13. That’s Just Looney
I had a guy rush into the ER saying his brother had been “blown up.” He opted to drive him in because he foolishly assumed that would be quicker and safer than calling an ambulance. We went out and got the guy out of the car—he literally looked like one of those Looney Tunes characters that had an explosion backfire. We ended up having to put his armband on his foot because his hands were literally melting off his arms…
Surprisingly, he was relatively calm and lucid (endorphins are a heck of a thing). When we asked what happened, he said his “oil tank in the truck exploded.” I don’t like to generalize, but our demographic tends to dabble in the forbidden, so we assumed it was actually some shady operation gone wrong.
14. A Near Fatal Mistake
I was working for this small engineering company which had very old lathes. I was only going to work there for six months to get experience for a better job, but my second to last day was a nightmare. The lathes were these big old things that did not have any of the safety guarding that more modern machines have. They were primarily used to make parts for WWII aircraft.
I was working on one and I knew how dangerous those things could be, so when I was running them, I had my wits about me. But the guys who had been working there for 30 years or more had become really complacent with them. To give you an example, whenever I measure an aircraft part, I always turn the machine off and then start it back on just to be safe, but that takes ages, so the other guys just leave it on.
One guy started measuring his part and his overall sleeve ended up getting caught on it, wrapping around the spindle. Behind the machine is a metal plate designed to stop metal cuttings from going everywhere, but the gap between it and the spindle is about three inches. The guy got wrapped around and was pushed into the 3-inch gap, then came out the bottom onto the workshop floor.
He looked like a crash test dummy being hit by a car. I definitely do not want to see a person with literally every bone in his body broken again, so now I work as a safety officer—I have every right to be a witch about safety.
15. Gaming The System
ER nurse here. I had a lady come in for simple pneumonia. Her 13-year-old son was getting bored, so I showed him some equipment. I connected a simple heart monitor to him just for fun, and when I saw the screen, my face went white—I discovered he was in a complete heart block. I printed a strip and showed it to the doc. Hmmm. We suddenly and unexpectedly got a cardiac patient.
16. Parting The Rib Cage
Anesthetist here. I was once on-call and had an emergency trauma case. We usually got a few of those every day and they normally consisted of people who fell from a certain height or suffered a minor car collision. I came down to the resus department and was told it was an 18-year-old patient with stabbing to the chest and lost output.
It was my first time dealing with this type of scenario so the adrenaline got going. I called for immediate help from the consultant on call. Multiple surgical and ED personnel arrived to be on standby. I work in a district general hospital, so we don’t have facilities for cardiothoracic surgery. At the time, our only hope was to cut open his chest (thoracotomy) and hope there was something we could treat—i.e., pneumothorax, haemothorax.
The young man arrived by ambulance with CPR in progress, and there was BLOOD everywhere—his clothes were soaked, he was blue and pale, and there was vomit in his mouth. I took over the airway and intubated him while the ED doctor and surgeon started to quickly cut open his thorax in ED. Within 30 seconds of arrival, they had cut away his entire rib cage, lifting it up like a flap.
I could literally see his entire heart and lungs. Huge amounts of clotted blood fell out of his chest. His heart was palpated but he had lost enough blood that further CPR was futile. His official time of passing was three minutes after his arrival. The authorities took over for evidence, then we all washed our hands of the blood and went back to work. I could not sleep that night or for a few days after.
17. A Quirky Defect
When I was a medical student, a patient and his brother came in together. The patient was just there for a post-op visit after a hernia repair. Turns out, after inspection, he actually had another baseball-sized hernia. Somehow, that’s not the craziest part. His brother, on the other hand, LITERALLY had a football-sized hernia visibly coming out of the left leg of his shorts.
It looked like an inguinal hernia, and he was able to use it as an armrest. I asked him if that bothered him at all, and he just straight up said: “My brother’s hernias were painful but this isn’t, so I thought it was just a quirky defect.” I hope he was lying to save face, but we recommended he get it taken care of.
18. The Jumpy Ticker
The other night, one of my crewmates transported a person to the ER. The report went something like this: “Uhhh…We’re en route to your facility with a patient and…her pacemaker…Well, it fell out. Vitals are within normal limits. We’ll be there in five minutes.” The nurses were all like, “Yeah right. Dumb paramedics. How can a pacemaker fall out?”
They soon arrived with the patient… And indeed, her pacemaker had fallen out. She got it like 20 years ago and the skin just opened up…There was no blood or anything, just plop…The pacemaker popped out. You could see some adipose tissue, again no blood, and the pacemaker hanging by wires from their chest. No pain, no accident, no apparent self-injury.
19. The Tell-Tale Signs
I heard an “Oh God” moment happen…when I was a patient on the operating table. A couple of years ago, I was in labor for 28 hours, pushing for six, when my child started showing signs of distress. The baby had a slightly elevated heart rate. My midwife at the hospital told me the doctor was coming in to check to see if a vacuum assist could help.
She checks me. Then I see a horrifying sight. She immediately stands up with blood on her hand and says “We’re going to the operating room NOW.” At that time, I started feeling that zoomed-out tunnel vision I know is shock. I had anxiety, but I figured she knew what was best. She did. We got in the OR eight minutes later, and when they opened me up, I heard the surgeon say, “Oh God. Look at this.”
They saw blood in my catheter bag, and upon fully opening me up found my son was actually trying to come through my uterus. He had ruptured it. They got my son out. Those moments where he was stunned and not crying were an eternity. Then he cried and he was born a completely healthy baby. After I woke up and was back in my room, the doctor came in and told me what happened. I knew a ruptured uterus sounded bad, but oh darn I googled and started having a massive anxiety attack.
A ruptured uterus is extremely rare and often fatal. I read from the time it happens, you have about 15 minutes before you bleed out and the baby is gone. When I went back for my follow-up, my midwife let me know she had never once encountered that, and it was such a big deal for them that a few days after my birth, they all got together to discuss my case.
I was so incredibly fortunate I chose to labor in a hospital, and that the doctor just knew from my vitals and baby’s that something was off. They just didn’t know exactly what until they got me open. I can’t even tell you how grateful I am for Dr. S. You saved my life and my son’s life and our family will forever be grateful.
20. Sharp Objects
My boyfriend was the patient in this story. He was an eight-year-old boy with Type 1 diabetes and he’s had it since he was five years old. His blood sugar got out of whack one day and he was admitted to the hospital. The kid had been getting his fingers pricked and having insulin injected for years, so nobody thought he’d have a problem getting an IV cannula in his arm. They were WRONG.
Apparently, one nurse staggered out of his hospital room with a visible sneaker print across her face, while another nurse got knocked unconscious. It took nearly a dozen people to restrain and sedate this scrawny little kid. He still has a phobia of needles, and even then he usually needs sedatives. The only real exception is putting his insulin pump line into his stomach.
21. Human Flag
Mexico’s Independence Day is on September 16th, but aside from the parade, all the celebrations take place on the 15th. It is the busiest night of the year for paramedics as all sorts of craziness ensue, from stages that fall under the weight of tipsy people to street fights between rival hoods. And then, there is this guy. He impaled himself with a flag.
He probably climbed a fence or something and was waiving it when he fell and it went through him. But what was really shocking is that he was so tipsy that he was still waiving it while lying on the floor and half the mast was inside of him. Patriotic as heck though. We nicknamed him Pedo (slang for tipsy) Escutia (a hero of the Mexican-American conflict who threw himself with a flag off a castle to prevent it from being captured by the enemy).
22. The Family Jewels
My 13-year-old son complained to me that he was unbearably itchy down there. I figured probably sweat, so I told him to wash the area thoroughly and make sure to dry well. A couple of days later, he said it was still itchy and getting bigger. Bigger? He said there was no pain or anything, but it was still itchy and swollen. I still didn’t think it was anything more than a sweat rash that maybe needed some ointment.
But when we went to the doctor, we were sent off for an ultrasound. The scan showed zero blood flow to the area, so he was immediately transferred to the emergency room. He went in for emergency surgery where the urologist removes one necrotic mass. It had become randomly twisted and passed at least a week prior. The swelling was a major infection setting in, which also caused the itchiness and swelling.
He had no pain whatsoever and the doctor said that was amazing. For most boys, torsion feels like being kicked in the nuts continuously, and by the infected stage he was in, he should have been screaming and crying from the pain. If we had waited any longer, he could have developed sepsis. He had a follow-up surgery a month later to insert a replacement part and to stitch his remaining one in place so it doesn’t happen again.
23. Next-Level Insanity
I’m a psychologist who works in prisons. One guy was so imaginative with his self-harm that he’s now used as an example in officer training. There were so many things he did to harm himself that I couldn’t list them all here, but the one I’ll never forget was when he used the plastic from a packet of Tim Tams as a sharp object to create an opening in his skin. But that’s not the most disturbing part.
He patiently waited until his one-hour-per-day time in the exercise yard to grab a fly, and somehow managed to not let the officers see it even though he was handcuffed hands and feet. He then inserted the fly into the wound and eventually, his wound became a home for larvae.
24. What A Wonderful World
Psychiatrist here. I was the one who made the misdiagnosis in this case.
A 30-year-old man with mild depressive symptoms was in and out of the hospital fairly quickly. He was under pressure from his home life, due to living with four roommates who were making life a bit difficult for him. No life-threatening thoughts, but still not a good situation. He was cleared of all psychopathologies by me and two other doctors.
A few months later, he came back. He had the same symptoms; however, this time he talked about five roommates. It felt wrong, and I dug into his story. What I found out shook me to my core—he lived alone and was severely psychotic. I have no idea how he hid it so well from everyone. A few more details: the patient talked, dressed, and acted normally on the surface.
However, after admitting him for a longer period, we noticed he talked with his “roommates” often. He was single, had no contact with his family, and was somehow working. He had a routine job with little to no personal contact. After a few talks, he also claimed other people’s thoughts were sometimes “thrown at him and sitting on his head,” and he could thus read people’s minds against his will.
The interesting thing about this patient was that his internal world somehow fit in the external world. His roommates sounded like they would be perfectly plausible human beings. They were not “shadow people,” Vikings, 12-feet tall, etc. His only complaint was that they teased him by hiding his stuff, but otherwise, he ate with them, watched TV with them, and so on.
Normally, a person with paranoid schizophrenia (paranoid meaning all types of delusions) will have multiple symptoms, sometimes easy to see even for the untrained eye. The patients can dress, talk, and present themselves in odd ways, usually different from cultural norms. They can have incoherent speech, even make up words and phrases, and even separate themselves from reality.
For example, another patient of mine insisted that I was behind bars while medicating him. FYI, when we quickly “scan” a patient for psychotic symptoms, we basically look for inconsistencies in the patient’s experience of the world. The patients normally know “something is wrong” or “weird” or “different,” but they often believe it is the world around them that has changed.
This is due to a discrepancy between what they experience, a failed assessment of the inputs (due to the thinking disorder), and testing hypotheses based on failed assessments that collide with the real world. This will activate defense mechanisms such as denial, wild explanations, accepting both “realities” at the same time, and so on.
An example might be a patient who says: “I am not sick, therefore my doctor must be a bad guy for saying I am. Bad guys are behind bars, so my doctor must be behind bars. But my doctor is sitting right in front of me at the same time, so he must have an identical twin or this must be an alternate reality.” This is usually the way delusions are made.
To summarize: when we scan for psychosis, we look for inconsistencies between the patient’s subjective experience of thinking, being, and acting and the objective reality accepted by the general cultural norm. This patient managed to live in a subjective psychotic world that just fit so well with the objective reality that he tricked several psychiatrists.
25. Just A Typical Night
Here are a few to boggle your mind: A honey crisp apple up the butt. Just your average night. A lady whose throat was injured with a broken glass bottle. Many reconstructive surgeries later, I hear she is doing well. A hallucinating man who was convulsing after attending an EDM festival. He literally looked possessed. 20 security guards later (even after, we finally got him restrained. I’m seriously surprised he didn’t die as he was incredibly messed up.) But this last one was something else.
We had a guy come in stating he was involved in a carjacking and was attacked. His head was bleeding, his heart rate was high, and since he claimed he had been attacked, the attending doctor decided we were going to take him to the resuscitation room (which is protocol). As we are taking him there, a pregnant woman arrives via ambulance.
As soon as they saw each other, the man yelled something like, “That’s her, that’s the lady who took my car!” Like a bat out of the depths, the pregnant lady jumped off the stretcher and bolted out of the hospital. Security went after her but she was gone. I don’t know if she was found later on or not.
26. I Can See Clearly Now
I was doing a corneal transplant when I had the “oh no” moment. During surgery, I cut off the patient’s own cornea and replaced it with a new donor cornea. During that moment when the host cornea was off but before I could get the new one on, there’s literally nothing on the front of the eye except a tear film. Anyway, the patient takes that moment to start vomiting.
The reason we tell everyone to skip food and drink is so they don’t aspirate in case they throw up. This patient lied about eating breakfast and started throwing up everything. The eye is still “open sky” at this time. Everything inside of the eye can now become outside of the eye. And she’s bucking and vomiting. It’s awful. I had to grab the new cornea and start stitching as fast as I could on a patient actively throwing up. Don’t lie about eating breakfast before surgery, folks.
My dad got his ax tangled in a hammock when we were camping and ended up with it in his leg instead of the wood (yes, he is aware that he was supposed to check his perimeter—he had initially, but the log had rolled several times and he just got frustrated and moved with it). It went right between the tibia and fibula, chipping one of them and slicing through the artery.
He ended up having to have vascular surgery to repair the artery and he spent 2.5 months in a cast. It took a very long time for him to regain feeling in the top of his foot.
28. Never A Dull Moment
I was a fourth-year resident and I was on call that day. Around 5 pm, I went to do rounds and as I got to the first room, I came in to find the first-year resident on top of a patient who had very recently had neck surgery. As I came closer, my blood ran cold. The resident was kneeling next to the guy’s head with his hands and clothes completely covered in blood.
There was blood on the roof, on the sheets, on the bed, dripping onto the floor, you name it. I was instantly petrified. I knew his carotid artery was ruptured, and I’d never repaired one before. I am completely unqualified to help this guy! Someone, please HELP US! I was the senior resident, so I was the only one on call at the time.
Besides that, no one could get there in time to help this guy. He was bleeding out, so it was up to me alone to help him. So I took the guy to the OR as fast as we could and I opened him up, all of the time praying and telling myself “It’s OK, I can do this, I can do this!” I was pooping my pants while everyone was looking at me to fix him.
I open him up and I see the freaking artery loose, spraying blood all over. I clamped it, put a knot around it, and that was it. We closed him up, bandage, and transfuse the poor guy, and I went to collapse on a stool.
29. Golf Club Conflict
I’m a surgeon. My favorite trauma case I saw in residency was a guy who came in with a golf club through the bicep muscle belly of his left arm. How did it get there? Well, he was playing at a friendly adult soccer match when things got a little heated. He said he felt threatened and retreated to grab a handy golf club from his car for protection.
He then returned to the soccer pitch and confronted the other player who threatened him. Things got more heated and he took a swing at the dude with the club. This only broke the head of the club off on the other guy’s body. Another dude then grabbed the club and then attacked him with his own golf club. So he showed up to the ER with a golf club through and through his biceps.
It actually didn’t bleed that much when we took it out.
30. The Swamps Of Dagobah
I’m a nurse. I was on call one night and woke up at two in the morning for a “general surgery” call. Pretty vague, but at the time, I lived in a town that had large populations of young military guys and avid substance users, so late-night emergencies were common. Got to the hospital, where a few more details awaited me: “anal abscess.”
Needless to say, our entire crew was less than thrilled. I went down to the Emergency Room to transport the patient, and the only thing the ER nurse said as she handed me the chart was “Have fun with this one.” Amongst healthcare professionals, vague statements like that are a bad sign. My patient was a 314 lb. woman who barely fit on the stretcher I was transporting her on.
She was rolling frantically side-to-side and moaning in pain, pulling at her clothes and muttering Hail Marys. I could barely get her name out of her after a few minutes of questioning, so after I confirmed her identity and what we were working on, I figured it was best just to get her to the anaesthesiologist so we could knock her out and get this circus started.
She continued her theatrics the entire 10-minute ride to the O.R., nearly falling off the surgical table as we were trying to put her under. We see patients like this a lot, though, chronic users who don’t handle pain well and who have used so much that even increased levels of pain medication don’t touch simply because of high tolerance levels.
We got the lady off to sleep, put her into the stirrups, and I began washing off the rectal area. It was red and inflamed, a little bit of pus was seeping through, but it was all pretty standard. Her chart had noted that she’d been injecting IV substances through her bottom, so this was obviously an infection from dirty needles, but overall, it didn’t seem to me to warrant her repeated cries of “Oh Jesus.” I soon discovered how wrong I was.
The surgeon steps up with a scalpel, sinks just the tip in, and at the exact same moment, the patient had a muscle twitch in her diaphragm, and just like that, all heck broke loose. Unbeknownst to us, the infection had actually tunneled nearly a foot into her abdomen, creating a vast cavern full of pus, rotten tissue, and fecal matter that had seeped outside of her colon.
This godforsaken mixture came rocketing out of that little incision. We all wear waterproof gowns, face masks, gloves, hats, the works—all of which were as helpful was rain boots against a fire hose. The bed was in the middle of the room, an easy seven feet from the nearest wall, but by the time we were done, I was still finding bits of rotten flesh pasted against the back wall.
As the surgeon continued to advance his blade, the deluge just continued. The patient kept seizing against the ventilator, and with every muscle contraction, she shot more of this brackish gray-brown fluid out onto the floor until, within minutes, it was seeping into the other nurse’s shoes. I was nearly twelve feet away, jaw dropped open within my surgical mask, watching the second nurse dry-heaving and the surgeon standing on tip-toes to keep this stuff from soaking his socks any further.
The smell hit them first. “Oh god, I just threw up in my mask!” The other nurse was out, she tore off her mask and sprinted out of the room, shoulders still heaving. Then it hit me, mouth still wide open, not able to believe the volume of fluid this woman’s body contained. It was like getting a great big bite of the despair and apathy that permeated this woman’s life.
I couldn’t breathe, my lungs simply refused to pull any more of that stuff in. The anesthesiologist went down next, his six-foot-two frame shaking as he threw open the door to the OR suite in an attempt to get more air in, letting me glimpse the second nurse still throwing up in the sinks outside the door. Another geyser of pus splashed across the front of the surgeon.
The YouTube clip of “David at the dentist” keeps playing in my head—”Is this real life?” In all operating rooms, everywhere in the world, regardless of socialized or privatized, secular or religious, big or small, there is one thing the same: Somewhere, there is a bottle of peppermint concentrate. Everyone in the department knows where it is, everyone knows what it is for, and everyone prays to the gods that they never have to use it.
In times like this, we rub it on the inside of our masks to keep the outside smells at bay long enough to finish the procedure and shower off. I sprinted to our central supply, ripping open the drawer where this vial of ambrosia was kept and was greeted by—an empty box. The bottle had been emptied and not replaced.
Somewhere out there was a godless person who had used the last of the peppermint oil, and not replaced a single drop of it. To this day, if I figure out who it was, I’ll hurt them with my bare hands. I darted back into the room with the next best thing I can find, a vial of Mastisol, which is an adhesive rub we use sometimes for bandaging.
It’s not as good as peppermint, but considering that over one-third of the floor was now thoroughly coated in what could easily be mistaken for a combination of bovine after-birth and maple syrup, we were out of options. I started rubbing as much of the Mastisol as I could get on the inside of my mask, just glad to be smelling anything except whatever slimy demon spawn we’d just cut out of this woman.
The anesthesiologist grabbed the vial next, dowsing the front of his mask in it so he could stand next to his machines long enough to make sure this woman didn’t expire on the table. It wasn’t until later that we realized that Mastisol can give you a mild high from huffing it like this, but in retrospect, that’s probably what got us through.
By this time, the smell had permeated out of our OR suite, and down the 40-foot hallway to the front desk, where the other nurse still sat, eyes bloodshot and watery, clenching her stomach desperately. Our suite looked like the underground river of ooze from Ghostbusters II, except dirty. Oh so dirty. I stepped back into the OR suite, not wanting to leave the surgeon by himself in case he genuinely needed help.
It was like one of those overly-artistic representations of a zombie apocalypse you see on fan forums. Here’s this one guy, in blue surgical garb, standing nearly ankle-deep in lumps of dead tissue, fecal matter, and several liters of syrupy infection. He was performing surgery in the swamps of Dagobah, except the swamps had just come out of this woman’s behind and there was no Yoda.
He and I didn’t say a word for the next 10 minutes as he scraped the inside of the abscess until all the dead tissue was out, the front of his gown a gruesome mixture of brown and red, his eyes squinted against the stinging vapors originating directly in front of him. I finished my required paperwork as quickly as I could, helped him stuff the recently-vacated opening full of gauze, taped this woman’s buttocks closed to hold the dressing for as long as possible, woke her up, and immediately shipped off to the recovery ward.
Until then, I’d only heard of “alcohol showers.” Turns out 70% isopropyl is about the only thing that can even touch a scent like that once it’s soaked into your skin. It takes four or five bottles to get really clean, but it’s worth it. It’s probably the only scenario I can honestly endorse drinking a little of it, too.
As we left the locker room, the surgeon and I looked at each other, and he said the only negative sentence I heard him utter in two and a half years of working together: “That was bad.” The next morning, the entire department still smelled. The housekeepers told me later that it took them nearly an hour to suction up all of the fluid and debris left behind. The OR suite itself was closed off and quarantined for two more days just to let the smell finally clear out.
31. Not Quite A Baby…
Nurse here. We had a 67-year-old woman who thought she was pregnant. I’ve got to say, she did look pregnant since her abdomen was full; similar to those pregnant women who look like they’re carrying a basketball when they are at the end. But she was 67. Turned out, it was a 37-pound ovarian cyst, and it was the largest one I had ever seen in my career.
I asked if I could watch the surgery. That thing came out all in one piece, and I’ll never forget the sound it made. This was at a community hospital many years ago, before HIPAA, so naturally, the lab announced that anyone who wanted could come down to the lab and view this incredible thing before it was dissected by pathology.
The line at lunchtime was so long you’d think they were giving away free concert tickets.
32. Better Take Cover
I have a good friend who described what a local hospital calls a “Code Alex” (I’ve changed the name changed for HIPAA purposes). He said that several times a week, a man with mental health issues and an ostomy (I don’t remember the specific location of the bag) would do something intentionally to be admitted to the hospital and taken by ambulance.
What he did to get himself admitted was different every time—he may have impaled himself one time or poisoned himself another time, etc. The EMTs would call the hospital ahead of time and warn them of a “Code Alex” when they picked him up. Anyway, he was a very large man—around 350 pounds—and he would always have to be restrained because he got violent with the healthcare workers.
But he got to the point where he was able to get his ostomy bag off, and I kid you not, he would use his ostomy to try to cover people in excrement. I’m guessing he had lots of gas in his intestines because that would be the only way to do what he did. My friend is not someone who lies or exaggerates, but it’s hard to believe someone would be this skilled, vindictive, and disgusting.
33. A Downhill Spiral
I was the patient. I had a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass in April of 2017. After I went home from the surgery, the expectation was that I would be on a liquid diet for a week, and then slowly start reintroducing soft foods, etc. I even used a check-in app that reviewed how I was feeling, just to monitor if something was wrong.
Two weeks in and I still couldn’t keep down an ounce of protein shake. My husband at the time was getting frustrated with me because he thought I was being deliberately difficult. While he was gone to a city three hours away by plane, I woke up in the middle of the night heaving and dry vomiting. My mother drove me to the hospital in the middle of the night where I spent the next 12 hours having every test imaginable run on me. That’s when doctors made a gruesome discovery.
It turns out, within 24 hours after my surgery, my intestine that was reconnected at the “Y” junction had actually come apart (it was leaking anastomosis, if you want to look it up). Everything I’d tried to eat had just been draining into my abdominal cavity. I was septic and had four large abscesses. After emergency surgery, I spent 10 days in the ICU recovering before I went home.
The surgeon told my mother that if I’d been even 24 hours late getting to the hospital, I wouldn’t have made it. Side note: less than two months later, my husband left me.
34. Patients Gone Rogue
Thankfully, I was not there for it, but at the hospital, a man pulled his ostomy bag off and threw it over his nurse’s face because he was angry about something. This was a completely oriented guy with no mental health issues (if you don’t count the absolute jaw-dropping reach of his rudeness). And this wasn’t the ER—he ended up being charged for assault for it.
One incident I did witness, and it was so ridiculous—I’ll never forget it. I saw a guy actually use his catheter bag as a whip. He was smacking the tech trying to restrain him. We had to pull it off of him to get the bag away. It ended with me basically kneeling on his chest to restrain him while trying to pull the catheter off (it was just placed so that thing was stuck on).
When security came in, it took four of the bigger guys to hold the patient down—he was maybe 115 pounds. Just insane, some of the things you see in the field.
35. What’s Hip With The Kids
My grandmother had her hip replaced, but the hip always hurt her. She waited a year, hoping it would go away, but it never did. She asked multiple doctors and did multiple X-rays, but the doctors said the replaced hip was fine. We finally made her go to a private clinic in my hometown, and the doctor saw that the replaced hip was fine and dandy. However, the bone around it was an entirely different story—it looked like it was a tad bit eaten by bacteria.
So the new doc did an operation, and there was so much pus in the leg it was insane. If my grandmother waited any longer, her blood would have become infected and she would have lost her life. I cannot think of a more critical time for someone to have gotten a second opinion. Thank goodness she went to the clinic when she did.
36. When There’s A Will…
I spent a few months in a psychiatric hospital a couple of years ago and was in a wing of teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18. We were there for a variety of reasons but a lot of us had attempted to end our lives, so of course, they were super strict about keeping us away from anything that we could use to hurt ourselves. I mean no shoelaces, hair ties, pencils, pens, shampoo in quantities large enough to be poisonous if ingested, etc.
Anyway, my roommate at the time was on “unit restriction” and basically wasn’t allowed to leave the room. When I was gone one day, she broke open a plastic, travel-size lotion bottle and dug the sharp, broken edge into her neck. She was unconscious and still bleeding when I got back and found her and she was taken to the ER.
I was told she ended up okay, but I never heard for certain because she didn’t come back in the time I was there. I have to wonder what the doctors thought when a kid was brought in with half a lotion bottle sticking out of her neck.
37. What Lies Beneath
My mom had to have a kidney removed due to her waiting for almost two years to go to the doctor about her pain in her back. The doctors found out it was a large kidney stone and that her kidney was infected and had lots of gross pus shutting it down. After draining the fluids through tubes, she was finally ready for surgery.
Cue last Wednesday, the day of the surgery, and she was ready to finally be done with it. They removed the stent and put in the tubes no problem, next was the kidney. Here comes the “Oh God” moment. As they get ready to remove the kidney, they realized the kidney’s infection had spread to a portion of her lung and a major artery, making them fragile as toilet paper.
As the surgeon removed the kidney, he tore a hole in the lung, and even worse, he severed the artery. At that point, it was a race to save her life and stabilize her. I don’t remember much about how they fixed her up there, but they had to fly her to a different hospital and have a heart surgeon fix the severed artery in a more permanent fashion.
Anyway, the heart doctor saw the grave situation and said she’s got a 1% chance to make it. But he did such an excellent job that my mom is still alive and getting stronger each day. The moral of this story is: If you have insurance and are experiencing pain, go to a doctor as soon as you realize it. You may save your life, and also save some doctors from an “Oh God” moment like this.
38. Stuck In Bed
An otherwise healthy, young man had to have one of his legs amputated after an accident. I met him months after that. He was so depressed he hadn’t moved at all in that time, even if he still had one leg and no other mobility issues. It doesn’t sound so bad, but he actually had the worst pressure ulcer I’ve ever seen. As in, a good chunk of his ilia (hip bones) was visible.
The skin had separated from the rest of the tissues around his lower back, forming a sort of pocket big enough that you could actually stick your hand inside. I don’t know what happened to him, as I left that hospital shortly after he’d arrived.
39. And Just Like That…
My father felt a loud pop as I was helping him out of bed. This wasn’t unusual and my father thought he just pulled something. However, the pain didn’t subside for weeks. I dragged him to the GP, and then to the hospital for a scan. The “pop” turned out to be the back of his rib totally separating, as the bone was mostly powder—and the reason why was awful.
He developed lung cancer from his bad habits as a young adult and it had grown through the back of his lung and into his ribs and spine. He was in palliative care from then on. At least he got to say goodbye to his cat Tilly—I brought her into the hospital and he let her loaf on his chest with her bum in his face for one last time.
40. A Well-Kept Secret
ER nurse here. I was working a night shift one day when I got a standby case of an infant drowning and the mother entering hypovolemic shock. Initially, I thought it was a mother trying to do a water birth thing but that went wrong. Turns out, the girl was underaged and her family didn’t know she was pregnant, so she gave birth to the baby in the toilet over the toilet bowl.
The reason the baby ‘drowned’ was because she let her babysit in the water for some time before calling her family for help. By the time the paramedics reached them, the baby was no longer breathing and the heartbeat was fading away. Luckily, they reached us in time to stabilize both of them and send them out to a women’s and children’s hospital for closer monitoring. That whole story baffles me to this day.
41. Going Out Of My Head
I went to my family doctor with the worst headache of my entire life. She dismissed it, telling me it was a tension headache and that I should just take a Tylenol and lay down in a dark room. Over the course of the next month or so, I saw her a whopping total of 13 times, each time with worsening symptoms. First, it was just dizziness, then vomiting…then eventually, I could no longer see out of my right eye.
Every time I saw her, she told me it was just a tension headache or a “weird migraine.” All she would do was just give me a prescription for painkillers and send me on my way. The final straw was when I was no longer able to walk properly. I would try to take a step, but all I could manage was this weird shuffle. At that point, she finally, albeit still reluctantly, agreed to send me to a neurologist.
The next day, I showed up at his office and was in there for less than a minute. He took one look into my eyes and immediately called an ambulance. Turns out, I had hydrocephalus. My ventricles were five times the size they were supposed to be, and my brain was literally being squeezed out of my head. Go figure!
42. Finally, Some Action
I worked as a patient transporter at a large county hospital with a Level 1 trauma center (basically, a trauma center that can handle everything you can throw at it) for several years. Two things stand out to me. Firstly, I had a patient roll into the ER with an injury… “down there.” It was odd, but we didn’t think much of it until the guy rolled onto the unit holding what was supposed to be “down there” in his hands, accompanied by two officers.
Turns out, numbnuts was running from the officers, tried to jump a fence, slipped, and cut himself open. Secondly, I had a tipsy guy arrive at the unit on Cinco de Mayo with a fence post stuck up his backside. According to him, he had been walking along the fence (while tipsy, as you do) and he slipped, lodging it up there.
When the attending surgeon, who was Black, decided to question the logistics of the patient’s injury, the patient chose to unleash several ethnic slurs in the surgeon’s direction. Well, he definitely lived to regret that…the jerk ended up getting the fence post removed…without any anesthetic. The surgeon in question was definitely an enormous prick and could be a downright belligerent jerk at times. This is definitely one of those times. I never did hear how that fence post actually got up there.
43. Secondary Complication
In my freshman year of college, I had a really bad sore throat for a few days. I thought nothing of it and just took a ton of Tylenol until it went away. About a month later, I noticed the joints in my fingers were extremely sore and I could barely make a fist. Next, it was my wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, etc. It reached all my joints and muscles.
It was even painful to lift my eyebrows or touch my scalp. I couldn’t roll over in bed. I literally just lied in bed for days and cried. Finally, my mom, who lived about four hours away, came and took me to the doctor. I couldn’t believe the diagnosis. He said I had something called post-streptococcal arthritis. Turns out, I had strep throat a month prior and because I didn’t treat it with antibiotics, it spread through my body and caused arthritis in literally all of my joints. He prescribed a steroid and pain killers and said good luck!
Man, I’ve had a lot of medical problems in my life but this one was the worst by far. It took another three months for me to start feeling normal again and a full year to get completely back to normal. Nowadays, I catch strep throat extremely easily and I get it at least four to five times a year. If I don’t get it treated within two days, my arthritis flares back up again.
44. Too Calm For Comfort
My sister is a doctor. She was doing her neurosurgery rotation when hospital personnel told her of a bullet wound victim. Doing the math—bullet wound, neurosurgery—they already expected it was going to be bad. My sister rushed into the room where she found a female patient seated on the bed…with a bullet stuck between her eyebrows. Nonchalantly, she just greeted my sister, saying: “Hi doc.”
Turns out, her abusive husband pointed a homemade firearm square on her forehead and fired. The bullet probably misfired resulting in it not penetrating the skull completely. A few rotations later, my sister bumped into her in the psych ward.
45. Hidden Agenda
I’m a paramedic…so many to tell, but this one will stick with me forever. Rainy afternoon in the spring. The call was for a tipsy person randomly pounding on house doors. Normally, it would be an officer response, but they were swamped. We pull up to the house, no lights, no siren. Heck, I’m so burnt out at the time, I don’t even get out of the passenger seat.
I just power the window down. “Hey!” I snap at the older gentleman on the porch, “What are you doing?” He turns from pounding at the stranger’s door and begins shuffling down the walkway toward our ambulance. I can see the elderly woman close the curtains, her nuisance addressed. “Man, I just got to lay down!” The guy says to me.
I look at my partner, and she at I. Henry Ford Hospital is six blocks away. Surely we can take the guy there? “Get in the back!” I snap at him. “And if you puke in my bus, I’ll mop it up with your clothes.” “But I got chest pains,” He says, holding his hand closed against the pelting rain. I roll my eyes, “Man, I do too. So let’s go to Ford and both get checked.”
The guy begins fiddling with his buttons, and I reach over from my seat to dial up the heater. When I look back, he’s got his trench coat open, to show me exactly where it hurts. What I saw still haunts me to this day. Right in the middle of his sternum, vividly defined against his white sweatshirt, is a star-shaped POWDER BURN.
A big one. Point-blank-to-the-chest, hole-punched GSW. Oh my God. The next four or so minutes were a blur. Rushing out the door to grab the man as he was about to fall. My partner yanking the stretcher out, loading the patient, and loading him in the back. Scissors cutting clothes, oxygen mask going on. Yelling, “Go, go, go!!!” to my partner as she raced the six blocks to the hospital.
I really only managed to get one IV started during the three minute ride. He was gone 25 minutes later. When we rolled him in the trauma room, you could see an exit wound the size of a fist. The doctors assured us that the only thing that could have helped this man was if he fell into the OR after being shot. But that didn’t bring me any peace.
We probably spent 10 minutes talking to the man as he stood in the rain. For me, that was my out cue. I took a week off work, and resigned two weeks later.
46. King of Kongs
A 40-something-year-old male walked into the triage and stated, slowly and uncomfortably: “So… I lost a bet.” Turns out, he somehow forced a Kong toy up his backside and couldn’t get it out. And we aren’t talking about the small Kong toys either. He ended up needing surgery and lost part of his colon. Nobody had the guts to ask him if he filled the Kong toy with peanut butter first.
Another time, there was a patient who came in after being in a motorcycle accident. Apparently, the kickstand of the bike impaled the rider’s knee, then somehow bent to the point where he couldn’t get it out. It looked like a really thick paperclip weaved through his knee. But perhaps the most memorable story I have is when a patient came in with a security escort for “acute psychosis.”
He tried to end his life with his truck trailer on the side of the interstate when PD intervened. He quickly deteriorated, and during intubation, when they pulled a blade out of his mouth, it was completely covered in a thick, bright blue sludge. We later find out he had been huffing paint and accidentally aspirated a whole bunch of it.
47. Get It Off My Chest
A 40-year-old woman, who was a successful business owner and fully insured, had been taken to the ER by her sister because she was complaining of chest pain. She was asked to put on a gown for an EKG. I will never forget the sight. Her skin literally looked like a green hamburger. Sadly, she did not seek care sooner because she said she was embarrassed by the appearance and odor.
I followed her care as best I could. She went through a bilateral mastectomy, radiation, and chemo. She survived another three months before she passed away.
48. Injury Prone
My stepfather was a nurse in an emergency room. One day, a man came in who had chopped off a few of his fingers while working on his car. He was working on something towards the front of the engine, and while the motor was running, he reached in for something. That’s when the fan blade cut his fingers right off.
They were able to re-attach his digits and send him back to his normal life. So far, nothing too strange you might say…but wait. A few weeks later, the same man walked into the ER again, this time with a fan blade sticking out of his shoulder. Apparently, it got bent when it chopped off his fingers and it was hitting other parts of the engine making a noise, so he was attempting to straighten it out.
He took the blade off, bent it back into shape as best as he could. Then he reattached it and started up the engine to see if it was spinning correctly. After the third adjustment, he did not properly secure the fan blade, and when he was checking to see if it wobbled, it flew off and struck him in the shoulder.
49. Beyond A Burp
I had been having a problem for about two months where I’d feel some pain or pressure in my chest, specifically in my left lung. If I bounced a bit or tried to take a deep breath, I would normally need to burp which made the pain disappear, so I always thought that I had just swallowed some air or something had gone down the wrong pipe or whatever. No big deal, I thought. I was so wrong.
Over time, it got worse and worse. I would burp more, and once or twice per week, I would have a splitting pain which made me unable to turn on my left side. I also couldn’t sleep at all and was just tossing and turning most nights. I had waited a total of 23 hours from when the pain first started to when I notified my mom “I might have to go to the ER.”
Turns out, I had a collapsed lung—not partially deflated, but completely collapsed. It was bad enough that it was pressing up against my heart and disrupting its rhythm. Two operations later, I was okay, and through the glory of healthcare, the total hospital bill I had to pay was only $25.
50. A Doggone Scandal
I was an animal vet tech. We had this golden retriever come in for diarrhea, vomiting, and no appetite. The vet checked her out with a physical exam and sent the dog home with meds. A few days later, the female owner returned and said there was no improvement. This time, we hospitalized the dog and took X-rays.
On the X-ray, there was definitely a foreign body in the intestines, but it was hard to tell exactly what it was. The usual foreign bodies are baby pacifiers, socks, bones, and parts of rope toys. Surgery to remove it was scheduled, and the vet showed the owner the X-ray, asking her what the object could possibly be.
Had the dog had a history of getting into anything? The owner said no. The next day, we did the surgery—and what we found was absolutely shocking: We pulled out 13 pairs of satin, sexy, thong underwear, all stained in green bile from the intestines. We put them in a plastic bag to show the owner. Surely the owner must have noticed over a dozen pairs of her underwear were missing…
That afternoon, the owner came in and we showed her what we found during surgery…She was livid. She told us she didn’t wear that style of underwear, and she left in a huff all ticked off. The next day, her husband came in to pick up the dog (and pay the hefty bill). He told us he had been cheating on his wife and the thongs belonged to his mistress.
When he walked out with the dog, he scolded her for outing him. The wife kept the dog in their divorce settlement. Shortly after this, I left animal medicine to work with humans. I miss that job every day. Humans bite more than animals.
51. A Hero’s Weakness
I have what’s called Haglund’s deformities in both of my feet. Essentially, I have bones growing from the back of my heels through my Achilles’ tendons. Every time I walked or ran, it would rip and tear a bit more, forming scar tissue called a bursa. I would only feel the pain after I had finished running, and the only time I was running was when I was playing rugby.
I had this for close to 20 years. I always thought it was normal as I never really looked at anyone else’s feet in great detail. When I tore all the ligaments in my knee, the doctor saw the lumps and told me that the only way to get rid of them would be to cut through my Achilles, grind the bone away, and then reattach my Achilles. As I would have to learn to walk again, I essentially just chose to stop playing rugby…
52. Tongue Twisted
I was the first person on the scene of a car accident. This old woman took a left turn into another car. I stopped and ran to her, after calling 9-1-1, and thought to keep her calm until EMTs arrived. She had so much blood down her face and chest, I couldn’t figure out where she was hurt…until she tried to speak…
In the accident, she had bitten through her tongue. I kept talking to her until they arrived, and tried to keep her from talking. She was totally out of it. I still can picture her tongue hanging out of her mouth by a tiny piece of flesh, and her trying to talk around it.
53. Nightmare Fuel
It was my wisdom teeth removal. All four were impacted, and they had to break out the heavy hardware. I’m knocked out, don’t even know the dentist entered the room. I wake up, but not able to move, just eyes open awake but my limbs won’t react to my brain. I can feel the dentist hammering a chisel into my tooth to break it for extraction.
My jaw is just coming undone on every hit. My eyes are wide open, jaw even wider with some evil metal contraption. I’m staring at the assistant begging for her to see me, and after about a dozen hammers to my jaw, she glances over and drops the suction, jumps up and shrieks. The dentist stops to look at her, then looks at me and I see him say “Oh God.” Next thing I know, I’m waking up post-surgery. What nightmares are made of.
54. Scratchy Throat
So I was the idiot in the ER this week. On Wednesday night, after work (10 pm), I just got home and realized I didn’t have any of my sleeping tablets. So I just took one of my mom’s. Problem was that my mom’s tablets weren’t end-coated and they got stuck on the back of my tongue, causing me to gag and inhale sharply.
When I inhaled the tablet unstuck, it self-lodged in the duct for my right lung, cutting off the airflow to said lung. It took me 10 minutes of coughing, vomiting, gasping, and giving myself a bloody nose before the thing came out. I calmed down and went to bed. I figured, “Well it’s out now and I’m fine.” Boy, was I not fine.
By the time I got to my second job the next morning, I had serious pain in my lung and it was affecting my breathing. So I went to the ER. The nurse thought I was joking when I told her the story and the doctor I finally saw actually asked me how the heck that happened. All in all, I’m fine,—I have scratches in my lung duct and down my throat and I still have a bit of trouble breathing, but otherwise, I’m in tip-top shape.
Still, that was scary.
55. Necrotic Neglect
My mom is an RN and she was just telling us about this lady she met while working in the ER a few years ago. This lady was morbidly overweight, diabetic, and bed-bound. She called 9-1-1 because she was worried about a smell coming from her bottom half (again, she was morbidly obese and could not bend over far enough to see what was going on).
She got seen by a doctor who checked her feet out. The doctor apparently said they were as black as a chalkboard and almost completely dead, which was going to result in her losing her feet. When the doctor asked why she didn’t have anyone checking in on her, she said she never thought to bring it up to her kids as she thought the tingling and diabetic pain was normal.
My cousin works in the ER. One night, two paramedics were wheeling in a stretcher with a man on it. The paramedics were grinning ‘from ear to ear’ and had a hard time not bursting out in laughter. The man on the stretcher was completely covered under a blanket. Only his hands and feet revealed that he was lying on his stomach.
The nurses and the patients in the ER were slightly confused because it all seemed like they were wheeling in a dead man. The whole ER was filled with suppressed laughter until a third grinning paramedic came in carrying a vacuum cleaner. He put the pipe under the blanket between the legs of the man. It turned out that he had put something in his backside and it somehow got stuck in there.
Another guy was wheeled in on a wheelchair, followed by two firefighters with some heavy equipment. He had a massive padlock on his private area for… reasons. When the lady he hired wanted more money for her services, he refused, so she left with the key. They brought him to the ER because they didn’t want to take any chances of infection.
57. One Wild Night
Last October, after a wild night, I fell into some bushes by the side of the road. Lack of sobriety was definitely a cause, though I always wonder if I’d been pushed. Anyway, it wouldn’t be so bad except for some reason, the sidewalk I’d been on was elevated by about 1/2 meter from the base of the bushes. There was a concrete patch (which I later discovered to be a manhole) right where I landed on my right shoulder.
I got up, checked that I had full hand and finger mobility, and if I could bend my elbows. I couldn’t lift my arm above my head without some pain, but I figured I should be fine. I cleaned myself up, got home, and went on with life as normal. The next two days it was a bit rough trying to lift my right arm, but after that, it was more or less okay. I dismissed it as a muscle strain.
10 days later, I picked up my daughter and felt a searing pain in the shoulder where I had fallen. It still wasn’t so bad, but since it hadn’t gone away after 10 days, I thought I should probably get an X-ray done. I had actually gone to see a doctor who asked me to get one done, but it slipped my mind. So fast forward to the X-ray scan—and I heard what you never want to hear. The X-ray technician exclaimed, “Oh!'” right after the first one.
Then, I heard a muted phone call between him and the doctor I had seen earlier that day. When I was dressed and came out, the X-ray technician told me he couldn’t believe I’d been walking around for 12 days without pain. My clavicle and collarbone were broken. On the right side, the bone was kind of tilted upwards, and it was totally separated from the left.
By the time I got surgery to get the collarbone fixed, almost four weeks had passed since I fell.
58. Seeing Red
I was working in a rural ED when we had this guy and his gal come in. The guy was crying and his girl was COVERED in blood. In amongst the tears, and both of them freaking out, it transpired that they had been out at dinner and afterward had spent some time together in the car park. Well… things progressed from there, and it must have been dark or something because, before they knew it, this girl was covered in blood.
Freaking out, they hastily got themselves to the ER. Both were upset on arrival that she had miscarried a child, although neither was sure she was pregnant. It turned out, after the gynecologist’s review and several hours of assessment in the ED, she was just on her period. Well, it must have been a really bad period, as there wasn’t an inch of her, and a good part of him, not covered in blood.
59. A Major Screwup
I have a story about a friend who was severely mismanaged. My friend has been going to her doctor complaining about migraines, severe vomiting, and dizzy spells for the past two years. Every time she went, the doctor would order blood work, then tell her she was fine. But then one morning, she woke up and she could barely stand.
She was extremely dizzy and had a bad migraine. She told her husband to go to work and not worry, as their neighbor offered to drive her to the emergency room. She didn’t remember arriving. When she got there, she started acting erratically. They had to sedate her and once she was calm, they sent her for a CT scan of her head. That’s when they made a startling discovery—there was a huge mass in her brain.
The hospital wasn’t equipped to deal with that, so they sent her by ambulance to the nearest hospital that they could find, a four-hour drive away. This hospital immediately sent her for an MRI. It wasn’t a mass. They could actually see the “mass” growing as they did the MRI. No, she was having a massive stroke…she was in immediate need of surgery.
They put in a stent and had to remove most of the left side of her brain, as it was all severely damaged. Afterward, she was in a coma for nearly 72 hours. They were uncertain if she would ever wake up, and if she did, if she would ever recover. Thankfully, she did. It took almost a year of physio, and speech therapy, among a few other things, but she has made almost a complete recovery.
The couple even had their first child eight months ago. Turns out that she’d had incredibly high cholesterol. With all the blood work that was done, her GP should have caught it. When she confronted him, he told her that her diagnosis was wrong; that she hadn’t had a stroke and had made it up. She went after his license.
60. Dodging a Bullet
My brother cracked his skull on ice and was taken to the ER when he was young. I remember it vividly. My brother got knocked over by another skater. He started crying and got medical attention immediately. I was so confused; people kept reassuring me that my brother was going to be okay. He got taken away in an ambulance along with one of my parents.
Apparently, the crack in his skull just missed a very sensitive part of his brain, and if it was any bigger than it was, it would have been incredibly fatal. My brother literally dodged a bullet that day.
61. A Comedy Of Errors
My father told me this back when I was younger. He had a 21-year-old patient who needed to have a penectomy. Yep, he had cancer of the penis. There were two “Oh God” moments for this. The first is a common thing: He wasn’t fully asleep. The second, however, is funny and humiliating. So, they are about to start the surgery.
Suddenly, one of the nurses who was there threw up and left. A test later, and boom! She was actually pregnant! Back to the surgery, though—halfway through, the other nurse leaves for a call about her father. So my dad is just standing there, the guy’s junk in his hand. He calls for help, but no one came to assist him again for 30 minutes, poor guy.
62. X-Ray Vision
I was an X-ray tech at the time. A trauma patient rolled in, just waiting there in the trauma room, ready with my portable X-ray machine to do my part. Then, out of nowhere, a teenage girl on all fours came through with a pretty big fence post going right up and through, well, everything. When I checked to see exactly how deep it was, I found that the giant fence post just went through her entire bottom. She was immediately rushed to OR.
The story goes that she was locked in her room and freaked out that she couldn’t get out, so she jumped out her window and landed on a fence post. I’m sure substances were involved in some way.
63. Luck Of The Draw
I’ll state up front that I’m a rather large girl and have been since I was a kid. I’m always tired and I pretty much get called lazy by anyone who knows me. I can never miss meals or I will get so tired that I would fall asleep on my feet. Growing up, I got told constantly that I was attention-seeking and just needed to lose weight, etc. Well, they were all horribly wrong.
I had multiple blood tests done and they showed I had a slight increase in the size of my red blood cells, but nothing explained why I was so tired. Years later, after noticing some spots appear on my body from my feet to my neck, I started to swell to the size of a balloon. I was told multiple times it was just scabies, so I started peeling off skin in multiple layers right down to the fatty layer.
Later on, the hospital decided that it was a bit more than scabies. Three weeks of pain later, I found out that I had multiple auto-immune diseases. One of them was rooted in a vitamin B12 defect, whereby my antibodies stop the binding of B12 in the stomach, causing pernicious anemia. The reason I am so tired all the time is that my blood cells cannot transport as much oxygen around the body.
I also have a slight gluten sensitivity that was beginning to transform into lactose sensitivity. All my specialists thought my case was very unique. “You’re in your 30s; why was none of this diagnosed as a kid?” Yeah. I wonder why. As for the spots, the doctors at the hospital still have no idea what the heck started that. They just think it’s some variant of a common skin disorder.
64. Javelin Jiffy
My high school physics teacher was also the track coach. He told us a story about how when he was in high school, he was at a meet where someone had the bright idea of putting the javelin range immediately adjacent to the track with the throwers throwing toward the track rather than away from it. The javelins also happened to be a very similar shade to the dirt of the track.
One of the javelins had gone through the fence between the range and the track and had embedded itself there. No one on the trackside realized this and the throwers were not able to retrieve the javelin before the next race began. He said he was standing around, watching the race when one of the guys stopped dead as he came around the bend.
He couldn’t see the javelin (just a point the same color as the dirt facing him as he rounded a bend at full speed) and ended up getting impaled through the thigh (though to everyone watching said it looked like it had impaled “down there”). I cannot for the life of me remember why my teacher felt compelled to share this story with us.
65. Letting It Fester
My mom is a medical assistant in a pediatrics office. About two years ago, a lady came in with a gash in her heel. The lady had thought the tingling was a bad sign and that she should get a check-up…but mind you, the gash had been open for weeks. My mom undid the wrapping the lady put on her foot and there were maggots eating at the lady’s flesh inside her foot.
My mom and another medical assistant had to dig them out from this lady’s foot. The night she told me this, I was dumbfounded by how stupid this woman was not to go to a doctor once she got the gash.
66. Don’t Turn Your Back
As I was working the night shift, a dude came in with four officers and a bunch of restraints. He was naked, bleeding, and screaming. Great. So we did some blood work, sedated him, and tried to figure out what the heck he was on. Overall, the guy seemed okay, but we made some fatal errors: 1) we failed to do a pupil check, and 2) we let the new grad do the blood draw.
The dude immediately stood up, shoved the student nurse, and started throwing stuff. As I waded in to try to calm him down, another nurse came in to play “bad cop.” This enraged him, so I turned to the new nurse to tell her to back off. At that point, my back was facing the patient, which was not good…
He picked up his IV pole, swung it like he was going for a world record, and hit me across the back. I heard my ribs crack. I hit the floor, flipping around like a fish out of water trying to breathe. The officers came in to secure the dude and decided to stick him in 24-hour monitoring. I was still trying to breathe and cough, which hurt a lot.
That day, I learned a valuable lesson—DO NOT turn your back on anyone. Also, we never did find out what he took, but we had a suspicion that it was some new street substance making its rounds in our area.
67. Love The Skin You’re In
I’m an ER doctor and there’s one case I’ll never forget. I had a patient come in for a cast removal literally YEARS after it had been put on. She had just decided it wasn’t worth taking off. Her leg skin was literally growing OVER the top of the cast and then down it. Once we finally cut the cast off, she was surprised to find that she had no skin underneath…
Instead, the dead tissue over her muscles and bones was being cleaned by about 300 maggots. I knew by the smell that something under there wasn’t right, but wasn’t expecting that. The patient seemed completely fine with it. Whatever.
68. Hanging On By A Thread
I had a patient while I was in the Air Force who tried to end his life by taking a rotating saw to his neck. When that was unsuccessful (how, I still don’t actually understand), he then wandered three miles into the woods hoping to just slowly bleed to his end. His wife found the blood, called the base officers, and they ended up finding him just wandering around in a daze. He lived. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.
I ended up seeing him a few months later when he came into the facility for a follow-up and he stopped in to see the ER staff that night. He was very apologetic and couldn’t even remember why he even did what he did.
69. When It Rains, It Pours
My grandfather was scheduled to have double knee replacement surgery when he was in his 70s. They go through a bunch of health screenings to make sure your body can take the stress of the surgery, and during one of these screenings, the cardio doctor found an aneurysm in my grandpa’s aorta. But that wasn’t even the worst part.
This beast ran basically the entire length of his torso. The doctors were shocked he was still alive with that in his chest. He ended up having to have stent surgery in his aorta first, and then a few months later was cleared for his knee replacements.
70. Back-Alley Tonsillectomy
Years ago, I was working as an ER doctor. A dad brought his three-year-old daughter in—they’d been eating pizza and she started choking. He opened her mouth and saw a red lump in the back of her throat, so he stuck his finger in and hoicked it out. Some fairly brisk bleeding followed, which had stopped by the time they came in.
He brought this three-centimeter piece of meat with him in a handkerchief, but it didn’t appear to be from the pizza they were eating. I had a look in this happy little girl’s throat without a problem—yep, only one tonsil to be seen. The other was in the hanky.
71. Did I Do That?
I once saw a med student suck up a skin graft with a suction device. The skin graft is a very thin piece of tissue that was being carefully laid onto the wound where it was then to be sewed on, carefully, like a patch. The med student was using the suction to clean up the wound and accidentally sucked up the carefully-prepared graft entirely. Gone instantaneously.
72. Off The Ladder
Not an ER staff person, but…the ER staff were pretty shocked when my adult brother came in for care after he cut his backside with a small electric pruning chainsaw. He was standing on an orchard ladder with the saw resting on the top step and his toddler shook the bottom of the ladder. That’s when things went haywire.
My dear brother grabbed the saw, somehow engaging the starter mechanism, and whirred it right into his rear end as he fell off the ladder. 42 stitches to close the jagged wound. He said his rear was on show as many staff people came by his ER room to check out the weird butt wound.
73. Tooth Fairy Goldmine
I work in a dental office. The most common thing we see is people placing aspirin on their gums next to an aching tooth. All that does is severely burn the gums and make the pain worse. I’ve also met a few people over the years who have taken their own teeth out with a pair of pliers. One guy we saw had a problem tooth, went to pull it out, pulled the wrong one, then tried again, and finally pulled the problem one.
He shattered the alveolar bone in that area and had to be sent to an oral surgeon immediately.
74. Barbecue Dangers
I had a woman come in for months complaining of random abdominal pain. Every time she came in, the pain was in a different location. She had X-rays and a CT scan, but nothing showed up. One night as she was laying in bed, she felt a sharp pain in one spot. She pressed down on that area and felt a very hard object poking through her skin.
She pinched it between her fingernails and pulled it out. It was a five-inch wire. It turned out to be part of a BBQ brush that was fraying from about five months earlier when they barbecued burgers last. Lesson learned. Replace your barbecue brushes often.
75. Gone In 60 Seconds
Gastroenterologist here. I was removing a large polyp during a colonoscopy. I put the snare around the polyp, and it took an unusually long time to sever the base of the polyp—until, all of a sudden, blood started squirting from where it was removed. The screen quickly turned red with blood, and I couldn’t see a single thing.
The patient’s blood pressure started to drop. The patient, who was a dark-skinned Middle Eastern man, turned pale white on the stretcher in front of me. That’s when I felt like I was going to faint and empty my own bowels…the only thing I could think was “Oh God.” I gave myself a moment to breathe and control my emotions.
Once I cleared my head, I let my instincts kick in. We gave him fluids to bring up his blood pressure and put him a safe position to maintain blood flow of his brain, lungs, and heart while reducing the blood flow to his gut, where the polyp was. I then turned on the water jet and diluted the blood with as much water as I could, hoping to see more on the screen and eventually clip or cauterize the blood vessel.
As it turned out, the patient’s blood pressure dropped just enough to stop the bleeding automatically. That gave me a short window to identify the vessel and clip it. The man lost 1/3 of his blood volume in less than 60 seconds. He was admitted, transfused, and discharged the next day. These days, if I anticipate a similar situation, I just refer them for surgery. I am not interested in being a hero like that again.
76. Third Time’s A Charm
I was a very new nurse when a guy came in by EMS after an attempt to take his own life. This was his third attempt according to family—the first time, he took too many sleeping pills and ended up sleeping for 36 hours, and the second time, he tried hanging himself and the rope snapped. This time he went all out. He took a chainsaw to his throat.
It was a huge, gory mess, but the actual teeth of the saw ended up getting snagged in his shirt and stopping the saw. He was able to go through a lot of muscle and fat, but he didn’t hit anything major, the best part was you could actually see his carotid artery pulsating. It took the doctor somewhere around 300 sutures and two hours of sewing to get him to put together again.
He was a really polite guy the whole time too, so I’m sure he was embarrassed by the whole thing.
77. Respect Your Elders
My son was about one month old when he started excreting small amounts of blood. It just kept getting worse. The pediatrician ignored us because we were new parents. On our second trip to the pediatrician, I refused to leave. I said, “Something is wrong and we aren’t leaving.” At that moment, his diaper filled with blood. The pediatrician freaked out and sent us straight to emergency.
The doctors there ordered several different bacterial tests. Just before they sent the test upstairs, a very old doctor came in. He asked us a few questions and told the tech to test for one more type of bacteria. That was the one. C-diff. 25% fatality rate when left untreated. Even worse in infants. Thank you, old man doctor. You saved my kid’s life!
78. Worst Dare Ever
One frat guy came in with “pain,” which was pretty obvious in his backside. He was a bro, through and through, so I thought maybe he would be embarrassed by the situation. But nope, he was honest and upfront; not for the pain meds, but for the pain to stop. He had a pool noodle (or the part they didn’t cut ) just stuck up in there.
It started as a dare, and multiple people at the pool party egged him on. So he took the challenge on by using something to help ease it in, then boom, the pool noodle was in the keister. Long story short, it hurt him severely, and there was blood so it was no good trying to pull it out. He ended up having it removed under surgery… and then ended up having an ostomy, because he was damaged beyond repair.
79. The Hospital Files
My friend who is a doctor tells me stories all the time. Two of them stuck with me. The first is of a guy in his late twenties who came in complaining about chest pain. The first ER doctor wrote him off. They ran an EKG and didn’t interpret the results correctly because it was subtle. But when my friend got a hold of him, he realized he was having a heart attack.
The second story is about a 14-year-old girl. She was discharged from another hospital for being “combative.” They brought her into my friend’s hospital because her mom was persistent and what they found was shocking. Her liver enzyme count was 10,000! Normal is about 10 to 40 for AST. He put two and two together and immediately gave her acetylcysteine, a Tylenol antidote.
Turns out, the girl tried to take her own life. She was quickly flown out to a bigger hospital and was in the ICU for a month. He thought for sure she needed a new liver, but she lucked out. Between her age and it being caught just in time, the girl made a full recovery.
80. That’s Gonna Scar
One time, I was sitting in the ER with a broken foot and I watched this father come in crying, carrying his toddler son. The kid had no shirt on and I could see he had what looked to be pieces of tire tread stuck in his torso. Later on, I had found out he apparently fell off an ATV and one behind him had run him over. No freaking clue how that was even possible.
81. Glitches In Time
I was rushed to the ER after frequent blackouts and sudden-onset fatigue. I worked a physical labor job and attended college after my shift, so I didn’t think anything about the fatigue and the blackouts. I thought it was just my brain giving me a fast forward through mind-numbing tasks. Typically, I would have blackouts while driving because my commute to work was about 45 minutes and my school was about an hour away from my work. I can’t believe how dangerous it was.
I would get on the highway, blink, and the next thing I knew, I was in the parking lot with 45 minutes having passed in an instant. I told my girlfriend about this and she told me something was wrong; but being a dumb 19-year-old, I ignored it. It wasn’t until I was at work stacking chairs that it really started to sink in—I had an empty cart, put a chair on it, turned around to pick up another chair, then turned back to a chilling sight. The cart was full—but I didn’t remember filling it.
When I saw the full cart, it was like someone hit me in the back of the head and I instantly felt like I hadn’t slept in days. I ended up sitting down and one of my co-workers noticed I was white as a ghost. The guy in charge forced me to go to the hospital even though I insisted I was fine. Once I got to the hospital and got brain scans done, it turned out I was having mild seizures caused by a lack of sleep.
When I told the doctor about my commuting blackouts, he looked like he just saw a ghost. He told me he had no idea how I didn’t crash. He basically told me to find a new job and get more sleep.
82. A Tickle Under The Rib
I saw this one patient with a really odd condition. While she was asking me why she gets rib pain so often, she literally reached under her own rib and jiggled it with her fingers. Turns out, there were a lot of other things she could do that she shouldn’t ever be able to. I attributed it to a variant of Ehlers Danlos syndrome, which causes connective tissue abnormalities.
I was so distracted by the popping in and out of her rib that initially, I didn’t even notice how horrifying it was that she could get her hand under there.
83. Anti-Seatbelt Consequences
My dad might qualify as one of these cases. I’m going to preface this with the fact my dad indulged in a lot of bad stuff at this time, which most likely contributed to the story. My dad had been in a car with his friends when the driver drove off of a cliff (whether he did it intentionally or unintentionally has never been determined).
Thanks to my dad’s lack of belief in seatbelts at the time, he was thrown from the car which caused his eye to pop out of its socket. The ER staff managed to pop it back in, and the eye in question is now a lazy eye but he can still see out of it. I’ve seen pictures of my dad before this point and it wasn’t a lazy eye prior to this accident, only after.
84. I’m Not Crying Wolf
One night, when I was 16, I had a very sharp pain in my right side. I tossed and turned for a couple of hours before getting up and knocking on my mom’s bedroom door; a forbidden action. My mother swung the door open and snapped at me. Then, when I explained my pain, she told me it was just heartburn. She ordered me to drink some milk and go back to bed.
I drank the milk, tossed around my bed for a few more hours, and finally passed out from exhaustion. The next day and a few weeks after that, I felt fine. But then, a couple of months later, the pain was back and I woke my mother in the middle of the night again. She gave me the same response as the first time, and I once again just passed out from exhaustion.
Because it was starting to become a pattern, the next time I felt the pain, I didn’t bother going to my mother and just rode it out. This continued until I was 18. My parents were out of town one weekend and the pain came back worse than ever before, waking me from a dead sleep. After hours and hours of utter agony, hurting to move, hurting to lay still, I broke down and called my mother.
On the voicemail I left her, I told her that I thought I was dying. I finally passed out as the sun began to rise. I was woken up by my uncle banging on the front door and he took me to the doctor, who then referred me to an ultrasound and a surgeon. I was able to get the ultrasound done on the same day but the surgeon didn’t have availability until the end of the week. I didn’t think anything of it as, once again, the pain had disappeared by then.
My mom begrudgingly took me to the appointment with the surgeon, but I’m pretty sure she thought I was faking it since I’d been completely fine all week. I remember sitting in the office with the surgeon, just chatting while we waited for the nurse to bring him my ultrasound file. I’ll never forget when she handed it to him. He opened the folder and the smile immediately fell from his face.
Surgeon: Did they give you any pain meds when you went to the doctor? Me: No, just some antibiotics. Why? Surgeon: Nancy, call my 2 pm and tell them we have to reschedule as I’ll be doing emergency surgery. You should have been sent to me last week. I’ll meet you in the ER. So yeah, my gallbladder had apparently been filled with stones since I was 16 and it kept making more for the next two years. The surgeon said he’d never seen anything like it.
All of this could have been avoided if my mother had just listened to me when I first complained to her.
85. Scary Interior Connections
I was the patient in this story. After having intense intestinal pain, I was diagnosed with diverticulitis back in October and started a regimen of antibiotics. The antibiotics would help ease the pain for a little while, but whenever I was done with the antibiotics, the pain would return in full force. I ended up going to the hospital in June, due to the pain.
At first, the surgeons at the hospital thought I was misdiagnosed because they found evidence of a urachal cyst in an MRI and exploratory surgery. However, as they were setting up plans on removing this, I went in for a fistulogram (to determine how large the cyst was and its dimensions), only for the radiologist in charge of the fistulogram to realize it was not purely a urachal cyst. Instead, they realized something far more disturbing.
I had an exploded diverticuloid that became a fistula, connecting my intestines to a urachal remnant. The surgeon said he had seen fistula connections before, but not to a urachal remnant like mine. And with the rarity of urachal remnants in comparison to diverticulitis or similar syndromes, it’s probably going to be a while before these circumstances occur again.
86. Ignoring The Pain
There are so many, but perhaps one of the most stunning cases was the man who thought searing pain while urinating every once in a while was normal. He would have tremendous back pain for a day or so, which he thought was due to advancing age and the highly physical nature of his job. Not incredibly unreasonable, but something he should have still checked out.
Usually, a few days later, he would have searing pain while urinating, then be fine again. Of course, it turned out to be chronic kidney stone formation. He said he never noticed the stones coming out because he never looked down while urinating. Honestly, I still don’t understand. I have had kidney stones myself and it definitely feels like something solid is coming out. Baffling.
87. Lucky Ol’ Lady
A lady was rushed into the ER in a cab, and the driver was completely freaking out. She had the handle of a knife sticking out from the side of her head. She’d been robbed and the guy had attacked her, stabbing her freaking skull with a knife. The incredible part is that she was absolutely fine. She was super chill the whole time, and honestly the sweetest old lady.
She was so amazingly lucky that the blade of the knife didn’t hit any major structures. She only lost partial sight in one of her eyes.
88. Zip Slip
One time, this guy was going #1 and looking out of his apartment window. All of a sudden, he saw his prom date fixing her dress with her mom and their jaws just dropped to the ground. He started freaking out and accidentally zipped his fly all the way up. I heard the emergency responders yelling at him, asking how he managed to get his family jewels caught in the middle.
89. Life Imitates Art
I think the one of the most interesting things I ever saw in the emergency department was the opposite of an episode of untold stories of the ER that I literally saw a few days earlier. The patient in the episode was labeled as being acutely psychotic as she said something was crawling in her head.
The doctor listened to her story and indeed believed his patient to be acutely psychotic. It was the physical exam that revealed that a fly laid eggs on her head and they had to remove multiple insects from her scalp by using Vaseline to suffocate the bugs. My patient unfortunately had the opposite. She was a highly respected member of the community.
She went on a holiday and got worms in her private area. The gynecologist confirmed it for her under a microscope. Once the diagnosis was made, she could have been easily treated. She was given the requisite dosing of mebendazole, I think. That’s a one-time dose, though sometimes you need a second to cure yourself within two weeks.
Unfortunately, what the patient presented with was an acute psychotic break. She stated she had worms coming out of her skin. The only way to get them was to chew walnuts and rub the chewed walnut paste against her skin to extract the worms. She rhythmically rocked in the bed while her husband sat by. She couldn’t stop rubbing walnuts and saying, “See there’s a worm.”
This went on for hours while we ran lab work, A CT scan of her head, and a substance screen. We even sent walnut worms for pathology. No positive results. Eventually, I had to admit the patient. The husband looked so defeated. I didn’t feel comfortable with him having the strength to care for her. I don’t know if I’ll see that scene again.
90. Quack Doctor, Quack Advice
Some years ago, we had this patient who was diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage—it was pretty treatable and she wouldn’t even need a mastectomy or chemo; just a lumpectomy plus radiation. Well, after some “advice” she got from some “holistic healer,” she backed up on the surgery and refused any of our recommended treatments.
Apparently, her healer had told her cancer was “the result of keeping a grudge on things and medical treatments were a scam that were colluded with the big pharma. Her whole care team tried to put some sense in her head to no avail. Even the head of surgery tried to convince her, the social workers, the priest of the hospital chapel…yet she still said no.
Fast forward a year and a half or so later—she came back to the ER with a startlingly elevated temperature. The smell gave it away. Her breast was no longer there…it was just an open bleeding mass, producing pus and filled with maggots. She went to the ER after her husband begged her for it, and she was still convinced her “healer” could cure her. Unfortunately, the scans showed that it had already spread everywhere.
She passed a month later. She was 35 and left three small kids and a heartbroken husband behind.
91. One Way To Get Revenge
It was my duty as an intern doctor in the ER. At around 3 pm, a huge crowd rushed in with a guy on a stretcher. I could see his clothes were totally drenched in blood and I hurried towards them. Well, I almost gasped when I saw what had happened. His private part was NOT intact and it took me a few seconds to finally grasp what I was seeing before I could start assisting the senior doctor.
The whole time I kept wondering how it happened. It came out in the newspaper the next day that the guy’s girlfriend from his extramarital affair was responsible when he told her that he wanted to end their affair. Sad life.
92. Photo Finish
I had an accident when I was around 12. I fell from a fair height into a body of water and onto my back, then got trapped. After that, I started to get strange, horrendous leg pain. It would creep through my legs, just burning and tingling. It would last for hours or sometimes a whole day, then just slowly disappear.
My mom took me to the hospital once because it happened while I was at school and they freaked out at how much pain I was in. The ER doctors told me to get out because it was just leg cramps, and my mom told me it was because I crossed my legs too much. Seven years later, I finally went to a specialist.
He sent me for CT scans…and found nothing. He then referred me to a neurologist and was instantly sent for an MRI. What they found was horrifying. They saw that I had torn my spinal cord in the original accident and the intense nerve pain was from a build up of fluid in the gap of the cord. It’s uncommon, but not rare. Watching doctors Google your condition in front of you with a “what the heck” expression on their faces is pretty chilling.
93. Feel My Pain
My friend had a horrible moment when he was going under the knife. Two minutes into surgery, the doctors noticed his pupils dilating or something. He said it was horrible, he could feel the scalpel cutting into his flesh, the agonizing pain, and the oxygen thing only gave him air every few minutes. They noticed he wasn’t under and fixed it. But then the dark truth came out.
Turns out, the anesthesiologist who put him under was his ex-girlfriend, though no one knew about it, and she likely did it on purpose. The surgery went well, the recovery was a bit longer than expected, but he’s all good now.
94. Well That’s Horrifying
I had a kid come in with a lesion in the back of her head. Her hair was a mess, and she had two wounds. I immediately suspected foul play. In hindsight, that was naïve of me—I should have had that diagnosis by the smell alone. That was severe neglect, which can be far more damaging. I picked up my flashlight to better observe what was a yellowish looking wound, and as soon as light touched the wound, the kid started screaming.
Weirder still: the wound started moving. If anyone had washed that kid’s head in the last six months, she would not have had myiasis in her head. FYI, the final count was around 135 larvae.
95. Knowing Better
I was sitting in a hostel with an emergency nurse and an emergency doctor who had just learned that while they worked on different continents, they did similar work. We were happily chatting along, and this older guy walked in. He overheard that they’re in the medical field and asked a question. He showed them his leg—the sight of it is still burned into my memory.
It had large black spots on it everywhere below the knee. Both the nurse and the doctor looked at it and immediately said, “You have to go see emergency services. That leg is necrotic. You’ll lose the leg if not your life.” He said, “Ha, that’s what my doctor said too. But the leg feels fine, I would know if it’s bad.”
He finished with, “You’re wrong. Besides, I’m not going to ruin my vacation by seeking medical treatment,” which left me wondering why he asked in the first place. He went to sit at the bar, and over the course of the evening, both the nurse and the doctor unsuccessfully tried to get him to understand that he may not even have ten days.
96. Seeing Green
When I was in my early twenties, I took someone to the emergency room one time with a badly infected wound. When I told the middle-aged doctor that it was an infection, he chuckled and said, “don’t be silly. I’m sure you just mean that it’s inflamed.” I said yes, but it was also infected. He just rolled his eyes at me.
The nurses and other doctors chuckled. But then when the doctor looked at the wound, he said, “oh man. That is really badly infected.” After that, he wouldn’t make eye contact with me. I didn’t know why he had to argue with me and make me feel dumb in front of everyone.
97. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
I was a 19-year-old male patient at the time. I’m 33 now. I felt sick for about a week, with flu-like symptoms. I didn’t want to eat; I just felt bad all over. One day at work, I felt a very uncomfortable cramp in my abdomen, so I went to one of those 24-hour clinics. At that point, I was slumped over and couldn’t stand up straight without an insane amount of pain. I was just generally uncomfortable and hating life.
After a few hours at the clinic, they told me: “You probably have kidney stones. Go home, drink fluids, and sleep it off.” That seemed fine to me. I was ready to go home and take the doctor’s suggestions. All was good. But my girlfriend at the time wasn’t a fan of the diagnosis and drove me to the ER, against my wishes of course. After a few minutes at the ER, they confirmed that I was in greater danger than I initially thought…They determined that my appendix had ruptured and that I was going septic.
Apparently, I was pretty lucky to have lived. I did pick up bacterial pneumonia while in the hospital, so the recovery kind of sucked. Now, I just have a crazy seven-inch scar on my belly to remind me to not be afraid of going to the hospital when I’m sick.
98. Got A Tell
I became a dad at 18 but broke up with my son’s mom two years later. Despite our problems, I stayed engaged in my son’s life. When he turned five, she went in for a hysterectomy. Then the day after the surgery, her mom called me asking me to go to the hospital. Apparently, she was “in a mood” and wouldn’t talk to anybody.
She thought that I could get her to talk, so I visited later that day. She just stared at me while I talked. After 20 minutes, I decided to give up and went for a hug. I noticed she was clenching her fist. At the time, I thought nothing of it and left. At home, I thought about how one-half of the brain controls speech. And that’s when I had a terrifying revelation.
I remembered her clenched fist and did some research online. I looked up strokes and quickly figured that was what was happening to her. I called the nurse at the hospital to tell her my realization and got to sleep thinking I’d done a good deed. Except in the morning, her mom called saying she was getting transferred.
Apparently, due to her history of depression, doctors assumed she was acting out. I talked to my boss and asked for a day off to go to the hospital. When I got there, everyone ignored me since I “wasn’t a family member,” so I sat with her for a little. Eventually, a doctor came to sign off on the final transport orders.
I was upset. When he asked me why I was crying, I told him that she’d obviously had a stroke, but no one could see it. He told me to leave the room, and two minutes later came out confirming that she did have a stroke.
99. Surgery Complications
Last year, when I went in for surgery to fix a broken leg. It was a routine procedure—until something went horribly wrong. I woke up 18 days later with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). When I woke up I couldn’t see, move, or speak. I can sort of walk now. I can’t see faces or read well, and I slur my words when I speak but I’m largely functional for caring for myself.
100. The Big Heave
This happened to my brother while he was in med school. One day a guy strolled into the emergency room with the most extreme injury ever: He had the handle of a butcher knife sticking out from under one of his eyes. They did an X-ray on him and found that the whole knife was indeed in there, sticking into his skull.
Neurological tests also indicated that he was really lucky, as the knife didn’t do any serious nerve or brain damage. After some debate, they decided to pull the knife out, but it was really stuck. Eventually, they laid the guy on his back, the ER doc took off his shoe, climbed up on the gurney, put his foot on the patient’s forehead, and heaved the knife out.
They put the guy on the ward and the next morning, the authorities showed up to ask him about it. The guy just said, “Never mind, I’ll take care of it.” The next day, while no one was looking, the guy got up and walked out. For people who didn’t show up for their yearbook photo, they substituted the X-ray of the guy with the knife in his head.