“Throw physic to the dogs; I’ll none of it.”—William Shakespeare, Macbeth.
Self-diagnosis can be dangerous because (shockingly!) not everyone is a doctor. That’s why there’s doctors, nurses, and emergency rooms. We would never recommend not going to the doctor in the face of something seriously wrong. But that’s not to say that every problem involving the human body requires a trip to the hospital. But people will be people.
Reddit asked doctors, nurses, and medical professionals of the Internet to reveal the most outlandish reasons patients brought themselves to the professionals. If these stories don’t inspire laughs or horror, they’ll at least make one question the state of health education in our society. From unfortunate stains to the strange objects in places they shouldn’t be, check into these 42 uproarious stories about the most absurd visits to the ER.
42. Feeling Blue
I had a patient present for a blue hand.
Good pulses. Normal temperature. Sensation and motor intact. Resolved with an alcohol prep pad.
It was garment dye transfer from her not-yet-washed denim jeans.
41. Game On!
Work in a vascular office. Had a middle-aged woman come in with complaints of numbness and tingling in her feet and legs. Happens frequently, very painful, can’t walk.
Me: “Do you notice these symptoms more when you’re lying down or walking?”
Her: “Neither. It only happens when I’m sitting on the toilet. I like to play games on my phone, but my legs and feet go numb after I’ve been sitting a while. I’m afraid I got poor circulation.”
Took everything I had to continue that conversation with a straight face.
40. Uneasy Queasy
I had to explain to a 17-year-old girl and her mother that she was not in fact “allergic” to alcohol, but she was just hungover.
She complained that on nights when she drank too much vodka, usually on an empty stomach, that she would feel nauseous, flushed and sometimes vomit in the morning. But it didn’t happen all the time, and there were no other typical symptoms of an allergic reaction.
39. Covering All the Bases
Irate mom who wanted to speak to the doctor because we took an “unauthorized” urine pregnancy test on 16-year-old daughter just before x-rays. “I never consented and now she’s traumatized.”
Explained that it is standard in females of child-bearing age and that consent to treatment was signed upon entrance to facility. Not good enough. They were rich and I suspected that this routine standard was perceived as an insult to their status.
38. Fool Yourself Twice
I once had a child who swallowed a sizeable magnet that passed to the intestine, and we were just waiting for it to pass in stool.
The next day, when he came for follow up, we just found out that he swallowed another one that got stuck to the first magnet in the intestine through the stomach wall resulting in intestinal obstruction, and he was transferred to the OR immediately to have them surgically removed.
37. Getting to the Bottom of This
Guy in the ED for an infection caused by shooting meth into his hand said he had never had surgery. Then when I was examining him and saw his large abdominal surgical scar and asked about it, he told me he had liver surgery for cancer but never finished the chemo treatments.
I was a naïve intern at the time, so this caused me great concern, and I asked him where he’d had the surgery/incomplete treatment, so I could get the records. He told me, signed the waiver, I faxed them, and they faxed me his record.
He had never had cancer but what he did have was exploratory abdominal surgery to remove the shampoo bottle that got lost in his rectum.
He was the stupidest patient not for the shampoo bottle in the ass, or the meth, or for lying about cancer, but because out of the many hospitals in the city, for some reason he directed me to the ACTUAL PLACE where he had his ass-bottle removal done.
36. Bon Appetit
I worked at a pain management clinic. In an attempt to combat opioid use/addiction/abuse, a lot of patients were prescribed a medicated cream. It looked a lot like sunscreen, and you just rubbed it onto the areas affected by pain.
I watched the nurse carefully and slowly explain how to rub it onto the skin, using small, uncomplicated words and going through the motions of applying it several times…
But every so often, patients would complain that their cream “tastes bad.”
35. Don’t Give It the Dignity of Attention
Paramedic… Got a call for a stroke.
Patient had facial droop and slurred speech, says that it feels just like the last time she had a stroke (ten years ago). Says that the symptoms came on about “four days ago,” and she knew the moment it was happening that it was a stroke but didn’t go to the hospital because she “thought she could make it go away on her own.”
34. Let’s Just Be Safe
Me: Any chance you’re pregnant?
Me: Are you sexually active?
Me: Why is there no chance you’re pregnant?
Patient: Because I’m not married.
Me: Pee in this cup.
33. Cut It Out
My dad is an orthopedic surgeon who does a lot of hips and knees and cries with laughter every time he tells the story of a woman who didn’t understand how hip surgery works and thought they were going to take her leg off, fix the hip, and then reattach her leg.
32. Having a Ball
A guy came to the outpatient clinic with a swollen left ball. He said he was injected with some cajuput oil by his friend (with his consent) to enhance his performance in bed.
I’m a female medical intern and I tried so hard to keep my expression as neutral as possible.
31. Walk It Off
Not an emergency patient.
I did just have a chiropractor tell me he had more training than a medical doctor.
I changed the subject to something else. I’m an eye doctor and when I was looking at his retina, I found a new choroidal nevus—essentially a mole. Almost always benign, depending on size, elevation, location, and a few other factors. He asked me what supplements I’d recommend to make it better or stop it from worsening. Took everything in me not to roll my eyes.
On another note, yesterday had a patient walk in over the lunch hour. It’s always Friday when these ones walk in. The ones with serious problems that they should have seen someone months ago or weeks ago but didn’t because they thought it’d go away. His vision had been worsening and distorting. Finally wanted to get it looked at.
Giant choroidal melanoma. I’m sending him to a specialist, but I’m afraid at best he’ll lose his eye. At worst he’ll have a few more months. Would have had a better prognosis had he come in months ago.
Don’t just wait for problems to resolve on their own guys.
30. So Every Instagram Tutorial is Deadly
I know a guy who went to the doctor in a panic thinking he had cancer because when he tugged his eyebrow hairs some came loose.
29. They Say It’s Only 99% Effective, After All
Not a doctor, work in Ultrasound.
Patient: “We have been trying to get pregnant for five years with no success.”
Me: “Are you currently on any infertility drugs?”
Patient “No, but I have been on birth control for the last seven years.”
Me: “You are currently on birth control but also trying to get pregnant.”
Patient: “Yes, I like to know when my period is coming.”
28. The “Die” in “Diet”
I have a few examples: Patient who recently been diagnosed with diabetes, we needed to adjust her blood sugar levels, but she kept eating sweets. So we had a talk for like 30 minutes with her about not eating sweets and so on, she seemed to understand. Five minutes after the conversation, she went around drinking a soda.
Another guy who had a benign arrhythmia—an irregular heartbeat. He knew that he could get the arrhythmia from time to time, but as long as he didn’t faint or have any pain in the chest he could just take a beta-blocker and let it pass. But he went to the ER like six or seven times before he understood that we couldn’t do anything.
One patient came in for something—can’t remember what—and when we ran tests we found that he had a pH of 6.97! That is on the border of what the body can have and still have any function at all—read: he should be dead. But he was awake and clear. We wanted to admit him to the ICU and adjust it with utmost care. But he needed to go home to eat a shrimp sandwich. Yes, a shrimp sandwich. We sat down and talked to him and his mother for 30 minutes, telling them that no shrimp sandwich in the world is worth your life, and if there is something else you need to get help with we can help him. But nope, he left. He came back a couple of hours later and we cured his acidosis. But that must have been a mean shrimp sandwich.
27. Under the Counter
I’m a CNA, not a doctor. With that being said, the other day a patient was telling me that they want the doctor to prescribe them heroin.
I told him I’m pretty sure they can’t prescribe anyone heroin. Being new to the field I have learned the opioid epidemic is a very real thing that affects an insane amount of people. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t think it was this bad.
26. Doctor Roboto
Not a doctor; however, recently talked to a patient that is getting ready for surgery that involves usage of robotic arms to help remove the tumors. Allows for smaller incisions and greater precision.
This patient starts insisting to meet the doctor when it seemed like the consult was wrapped up. So we get him back in there, thinking maybe she’s got another question. The patient says, “I still want to meet the doctor.” And the doctor points at himself and says, “I’m the doctor.”
Patient: I know you’re a doctor, but I want to meet the doctor!
Doctor: You’ve already met the resident. I’m the doctor doing your procedure.
Patient: No, not you! I want to meet the robot that’s going to do my surgery! I feel like we should at least shake hands first!
Apparently, the patient was expecting some metal man to walk through the door. The patient also had “cancer cure” recipes and was insistent we take notes.
Not a doctor but dental nurse.
My favorite was a 30-something-year-old woman who came in for a check-up at the emergency low cost clinic I worked at. Teeth were broken and almost black and gums are angry swollen, bright red and bleeding by just moving her tongue against them, needed multiple scaling/hygienist appointments and a debridement. Honestly, YouTube has some amazingly disgusting videos of this treatment but maybe keep the sound off if you don’t like the scraping sound.
X-ray showed she had all but her wisdom teeth and 10 fillings, root canals to try and save some teeth and extractions for I think 3, but more if the root canal didn’t work. Explained everything and did the usual explanation of proper oral hygiene. Asked her if she had any questions to which she says “It’s okay if I lose this set of teeth, my others will come through.”
Me and the dentist just looked at each other probably a lot longer than we should have. No words. I couldn’t think of anything to reply to that comment.
I had a lot of weird and disgusting things happen at that clinic. I actually miss working there.
24. The White Stuff
Student here. A guy came into the ER one time because he noticed dandruff. Dandruff. Like, have you not heard of Head and Shoulders?
23. Where There’s Smoke
I was asked by a patient on the respiratory ward if I thought his lung cancer might have had anything to do with his 50-a-day smoking habit. Because he smoked roll-ups and he wasn’t sure if they counted.
I struggled to keep a straight face, and said yes, and busied myself in his chart.
22. Just Get It Over With
My wife is an RN who works at an outpatient surgery center. Cataract surgery is one of the common surgeries that they do.
Patients are told that after the surgery, they should put eye drops in four times a day for one week, so 28 drops altogether.
One patient asked if it would be okay to just put the 28 drops in all at once so they didn’t have to deal with it for a week…
21. You Never Know Until You Try Twice
Maybe the guy who had previously had an anaphylactic reaction to a foodstuff but wasn’t sure he was “really allergic,” so thought he’d test it out by bringing some to the ED waiting room and eating it.
Spoiler: he was really allergic.
20. Don’t Breathe
Respiratory Therapist here. Was working ER and was told we were getting a patient in respiratory distress.
When she gets in she is having problems breathing and needs oxygen. I’m placing an oxygen mask on her and she yells, “I’m allergic to oxygen!” I heard the doctor laugh behind the curtains.
19. Let It Go
My one patient used to hold in her farts to the point of being in antagonizing pain because she thought that there was a certain amount of air inside a person, and if you let too much out you’ll deflate.
18. Make It Stick
Not a doc, but work at an ER. I was putting in charges one night and one of the doctors had forgotten to mark the chart appropriately, so I looked at the diagnosis. It read “Imagined object in vagina.” I went back to joke about this and got the story.
A woman came in and said she’d accidentally sat on a cactus and had spines in her vagina. The doctor (with a female nurse in the room) had to go looking and never found a single thing, including any wounds or signs of irritation. When I sarcastically asked why someone would do that, the doctor on at the time said, “Well, I guess if you’ve got nothing better to do on a Friday night.”
17. Take It Away
I had a patient on my OBGYN rotation who was in her 50s and decided that her clitoris was actually a growth and needed to be removed. She came in three different times to talk to different residents over a month and would never understand that she’s always had it and it’s supposed to be there.
We even printed off a diagram of normal female anatomy to explain. Then she started saying her urethra was actually the growth and she wanted that removed. We explained she wouldn’t be able to empty her bladder without it and she then demanded her bladder be taken out too.
I think she should have been referred to psych…
16. Tunnel of Love
Surgical resident here. Had a man in his 60s who came in because he’d inserted a plastic jar full of supplement pills into his rectum.
This is despite the fact that a few years prior, he had done the same thing, it had perforated his bowel, and he ended up requiring an emergency laparotomy (big cut down the middle of his abdomen) and a Hartmann’s procedure (cutting out his sigmoid colon which had perforated), leaving him with an end-colostomy (the loop of bowel before the part that had perforated was brought out to his skin, emptying into a bag he had to change). He had the bag for 2 years, and then another procedure to reverse it.
He must’ve really enjoyed it.
We went for a dig with a colonoscope and eventually got it out.
15. Not Morning Person
Medical doctor here:
Saw a young woman in the Emergency Department. Her primary complaint, per the triage nurse’s note, was “lethargy,” but she was awake and alert when I went to see her. I told her that she didn’t look lethargic, and most patients who are lethargic come by ambulance rather than walking into the ED, so I was wondering what she meant. She started to tell me, “Well, last night while I was sleeping…”, and I interrupted her because, of course, people are a bit lethargic when they are sleeping. But I caught myself and asked her to continue. She then tells me this story:
“So last night when I was sleeping, I was talking in my sleep. People have always told me that I talk in my sleep: my family, room-mates, you know. So anyway, I was talking in my sleep, and I was saying, “Mary, (that’s my roommate’s name), Mary—wake me up!” And it was really hard for her to rouse me from sleep.”
Me: “And that’s why you’re here today?”
14. Jumped the Gun on That Confession
A patient of my dad’s (a dermatologist) had a visit from a city councilman who presented with a large brown growth on the tip of his penis. He started by confessing, “I haven’t exactly been faithful to my wife recently.”
After a close-up inspection my dad asked him “Have you done any camping recently, Ted?” He replied, “Why yes, I took the boys to Arkansas two weeks ago. How did you know?”
“Because you have the largest wood tick on your penis I’ve ever seen.”
13. Mr. Hot Pants
I had a fella come into the ER who was stone sober, but only because he had spilled all of his rubbing alcohol onto his pants, which meant he couldn’t drink it.
The reason why he was in the ER if the first place was because he tried to burn the alcohol off of his jeans by lighting the alcohol on fire, thinking the alcohol would burn and not his pants.
He had some pretty rowdy burns from the calves down because he couldn’t get his pants off of his shoes. To be honest, pretty nice guy… absolutely the kind you’d expect to light themselves on fire, but he was very pleasant considering the circumstances.
12. Back Off That Acne
Had to explain to a nurse that what she is seeing inside her daughter’s ear on an otoscope is normal (cone of light) and NOT a pimple as she had thought initially and that she should NOT pop it with a needle as she had originally planned.
She was my nurse at the time (I’m a physician’s assistant), texted me the night before saying she found a pimple in her daughter’s ear and that she was going to pop it with a needle. Called her immediately and told her to leave it alone and bring the child in the next morning for me to look at.
11. A Part of Us
After my sister helped to deliver a baby boy she had to explain to the mother, the grandmother, and the great-grandmother what the penis and scrotum were. They were all pointing at it and acting very confused.
10. I Doubt That’s in the Scriptures
I had a patient who was paralyzed from a lower back problem that was reversible by surgery. The night before surgery, his blood glucose was getting up pretty high, like 500ish and climbing. I told him we had to start an insulin drip to control it. Wound healing and infection risk are greatly affected, and no surgeon would do this surgery with BG this high.
He then drops this line: “It is against my religion.” Ok, in fairness, I get religious issues all the time, so I try to be a good doctor and ask.
He states he is Catholic. It took me an hour of my life at 3 AM to get him to take his insulin. He was ever so close to spending another day without use of his legs because he made up a religious objection to insulin. I can’t fathom the stupidity that had to be conjured in order to roll that dude.
9. Threads of Confusion
Not a doctor, but when I was in college this girl I was dating called me all freaked out that her skin, “was turning black.” This was midday during the week. She said she was going to the hospital. My house was across the street from the University hospital, so I decided to head over to see what was up. She was distraught.
I went into the examination room with her and she explained her situation to the doctor and showed him her arm. The doctor just licked his thumb and rubbed her arm.
Turns out she was wearing a brand-new black sweater and some of the fibers rubbed off on her arms.
8. Wrong Direction
Had a patient that got pregnant while on the pill. She was devastated and couldn’t understand how it happened. I asked her how she took it.
Patient: I just used one before sex.
Me: Ma’am, you need to take a pill every day for 21 days to for it to work and then you are supposed to take a 7-day break while you have your period.
Patient: What!? I am supposed to shove one of these up my vagina every day!?
7. Out of Mind, Out of Womb
Ob-Gyn doctor here, 40 years experience. About once a year would take care of someone in full blown labor, full term, who did not know she was pregnant. Very hard to wrap my head around, I guess the denial power of the mind is substantial.
6. Puppy Love
Put a very expensive implanted device in a patient with government-funded care. She came to the follow-up appointment with a gaping wide infected wound. Said she thought it would help healing if she had her dog lick it. Device had to be removed and discarded.
5. Something’s in the Way
Had a patient come in stating that he couldn’t bend his knee.
Asked him to remove his trousers so I could examine his leg. After he removes his trousers the reason that he couldn’t bend his knee was that he had a plaster cast around his knee.
Checking his notes, he had been sent numerous letters asking him to come in for removal of this plaster cast and as he hadn’t attended any of the outpatient clinics, the hospital had assumed that he had removed the cast himself.
4. Tell Her the Bleeding Truth
I had a mom and grandma bring their 12-year-old daughter/granddaughter to the emergency room because she was bleeding.
Not from trauma or a wound mind you, the poor girl had started menstruating and the mom didn’t want to explain what was happening or started to happen, nor that it would continue to happen—as mom and grandma well knew.
On the upside, it was a very quick ER visit once they were actually seen.
3. It’s Eating Me, Doctor
There was a 24-year-old patient who was brought in from a jail in a rural county. He was working roadside cleanup when he found a bottle in a ditch that he thought contained alcohol and he quickly chugged it down. To be fair, it did look like whiskey. It wasn’t.
It turns out it was a substance that contained sulfuric acid. Its pH was less than 2.5…it just ate up the litmus paper. So shortly after he gets to the ICU he is in excruciating pain.
The gastroenterologist took him to do an EGD (basically a procedure where they can look at the esophagus, stomach and duodenum with a camera attached to a flexible tube) and the pictures were horrendous. You could literally see his stomach and esophageal mucosa eroding away.
He had to be sent off to another hospital where they had an esophageal surgeon who could repair the mess. He, of course, needed multiple surgeries and had a very long hospital stay. I saw him a few months later when he was admitted for another issue. He was down to 90 lbs. from about 150 and was getting fed through a PEG tube.
He was very lucky to be young and otherwise healthy—but obviously not very smart.
2. At Least He’s Well-Exfoliated
Called for a diabetic. I get there, and the patient is an older gentleman who is laying on a bed with what looks like a white mask on. I ask what’s going on, and the family goes on to explain that he’s a diabetic, and the doc told them to give him frosting if his sugar gets low because the sugar content will perk him up. Turns out he didn’t explain that they should put it in his mouth.
That’s right. They put a white frosting mask on this poor guy. Shocker: It didn’t work.
1. Seeing Red
I’m that patient. My dad is a doctor, and as a kid, I called him in a panic because I was peeing blood. Mind you, we were in Africa at that point and he was doing development work. Told me not to flush and rushed home.
Just to clarify, my dad was in the middle of a meeting with a bunch of big kahunas from different NGOs and I ruined that instance for him.
I’d eaten beets.