The world needs medical professionals. As a society, we trust them with our lives, hoping that they only have good intentions to serve us and keep us healthy. Unfortunately, doctors, dentists, nurses, and the like are all still human, which means they are subject to the same flaws and vices that affect the rest of us. One mistake in their hands could be the difference between life and death. Here are some of the scariest medical mishaps that almost ruined lives:
1. My Boss Is A Heartbreaker
I had a doctor that constantly ignored patients in serious pain, and it led to a serious “Oh God” moment that was also his comeuppance. He thought all of his patients were faking it to get painkillers. After a senior director at Microsoft died from a heart attack in our ER that he refused to do an EKG on, I went to management and told them what I had seen. He got fired the next day.
2. Severe Shingles
Someone else’s mistake directly affected me. I was working in Yosemite as a camp counselor, so there was no internet access or anything. I started to get a red rash on my chest, and then on the same place on my back, and it started to expand and crawl up towards my armpit. And it hurt, really, really, really bad. As if you had the worst sunburn ever and someone slapped it really hard every time you moved.
I went to see the nurse (a new nurse gets cycled in every week) and she looked at it and goes “Ohhh that’s poison oak!” I was like, really? I haven’t really gone hiking anywhere… and she assured me that it was poison oak and that I must have accidentally gotten the oils in my clothes or something. She then proceeds to rub hydrocortisone cream into my chest and back as hard as she can.
I’m literally tearing up it’s so painful, and all she can say is, “I know dear, I’m sure it’s painful.” She gave me a bottle of the stuff and some antihistamine pills and told me it’d be gone in two days. It wasn’t. I couldn’t move without being in terrible agonizing pain. I returned to the nurse and told her, “I don’t think it’s working.” She says to me, “Oh, my brother who’s a doctor knows what it is and he doesn’t even need to see you. He says it’s something called ‘Herpes Zoster.'”
For those of you who don’t know, Herpes Zoster is Shingles. I had been living with undiagnosed shingles for like five days, and at this point, the rash was the most disgusting collection of painful, pus-spewing pimples ever. Ended up getting driven to the closest clinic which is 40 minutes away, and the doctor said it was one of the most severe cases of shingles she’d ever seen. Gave me some Vicodin to put me in “feel good” mode and told me everything would disappear in three weeks.
Since that time, I have a rare complication called Post-herpetic Neuralgia in the spot where my shingles were which causes me to feel basically the same pain because my nerve endings are too screwed up in those places. Turns out Hydrocortisone cream is the worst thing you could put on shingles.
3. Heartbreaking Experience
As an ICU nurse, I’ve seen the decisions of some doctors result in death. Families oftentimes don’t know, but it happens more than you’d think. It usually happens on very sick patients that ultimately would have died within six months or so anyway, though. Procedural wise, I have seen a physician kill a patient by puncturing their heart while placing a pleural chest tube.
It was basically a freak thing as apparently, the patient had recently had cardiothoracic surgery and the heart adhered within the cavity at an odd position. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he came to the realization of what had happened. You rarely see people accidentally kill someone in such a direct way.
4. Luckily That Tooth Was Bad Too
Dentist here. I was performing a simple extraction and preparing for the case when I didn’t realize that I had the X-ray flipped the wrong way the whole time. I was viewing the film backward and pulled out the wrong tooth. When I realized my mistake I started freaking out, only to find out that by some dumb luck, the tooth I extracted had to go as well.
For the record, this happened in dental school, so safe to say it was a learning experience. It was my first and very last time to make that mistake…And yes, we are doctors.
5. I Would Have Noticed
This doctor saw the patient regularly for medication management. The patient came back for a follow-up appointment with a very telling side-effect from a very low dose of a medication and no improvement in symptoms that the medication was intended to target. Because this particular side-effect is relatively mild early on and can also be caused by many other variables, the doctor was not duly suspicious of the medication being the cause of the side-effect and increased the dosage of the medication.
The patient became very gravely ill several days later and then died a few days after that due to complications of the side-effect of the medication. It was a massive mistake and I cannot help but think that if I had been the patient’s doctor, I would not have overlooked the side-effect and the patient would still be alive today.
6. Don’t Burn Yourself Out
My parents are nurses. They knew a doc who’d been on a 36-hour shift. The patient came in with a punctured lung (I think) and the doc had to collapse the lung to fix whatever was wrong with it. Through tiredness, he collapsed the wrong lung, and the patient died. That doctor ended up killing himself not long after being fired.
7. Doctors Are Humans Too
I was at a holiday party with relatives and friends. My older uncle is a radiologist. He said (a story I’ve heard before) that he wrote left instead of right on one of his X-ray interpretations and because of that error, the patient subsequently died (it was the wrong lung with the tumor or something like that, but I really didn’t get the details).
Anyway, a doctor friend of his at the party said, “It happens to us all, it happens to us all” consolingly. So, people, it happens to them all. Be really vigilant; don’t have a naive, childlike view of your doctors—they’re human.
8. Don’t Go Empty-Handed
When I was a new nurse working in the ICU in a large teaching hospital, I came into work one morning to a patient who was admitted that night, sedated, intubated, and all. Long story short, by the end of the same shift his breathing tube was out and he was completely alert and oriented, so he was able to tell us what was going on.
He was an end-stage renal patient, meaning his kidneys didn’t work and he needed dialysis, and he was only in his late 30s. He said he never made urine anymore and didn’t need his catheter so he wanted it out because it was hurting. So I went to remove the catheter as I’d done about a thousand times on other patients. It was the start of a nightmare.
As soon as the catheter left, blood started pouring out of his you-know-what in a heavy stream. Turns out, the nurse who placed it on admission hadn’t advanced it far enough, since there was no urine production to indicate correct placement. This had caused a massive amount of trauma. It would not stop bleeding. I had to hold this man’s nether region “shut” to put pressure on it while my co-worker paged the resident.
The doctor came in, looked at me with pity, and told me to just keep holding this 30-something-year-old man’s junk in my hands to staunch the blood flow until urology could get there to assess. It just kept gushing blood every time I eased up to check. For over an hour total, I held it and tried to make polite conversation until the urologist arrived.
9. Do Panic
My mom was always exhausted. Like, she’d have a bath and get so worn out from it that she’d sleep on the bath mat when she got out. She went to her doctor and he told her, “Oh, you’re just depressed, go get a haircut!” She did. but she was still exhausted. So she went back to the doctor, but he just continued to tell her she was just depressed.
He told her to get a hobby; that it was all in her head, etc. He never sent her for blood work or referred her to any specialist. Months later, she went back. That’s when everything changed. Her regular doctor was on vacation and the physician relieving her doctor took one look at her eyes and nearly gasped. He said, “It’s your liver. Get these blood tests now.”
Some blood tests and a liver biopsy later, she was told she had autoimmune hepatitis and was three months from dying. After she improved with medications, she went back to the original doctor and said, “I didn’t need a haircut.” 27 years later she still suffers from lingering effects; though, all things told, she was super lucky.
10. Close But Not Quite
When I was in med school, there was an “Oh God” moment for everyone. They were prepping a patient for surgery and put him under and the nurse said “Ok, he’s out” before they were about to start slicing him open. The patient just had enough strength to move his head from side to side and said “No, I’m not out yet.” Everyone laughed it off, but if the patient didn’t do that, it could have ended badly.
11. A New Lease On Life
I’m a lawyer. I had a client who was given a devastating diagnosis of an extremely rare heart condition. The doctor told him he had six weeks to live. He contacted me to make his will and set his affairs in order. Thankfully, he sought a second opinion with an extremely well-known cardiologist who was intrigued due to the rare nature of this heart condition.
THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH HIM. HE WAS FINE. This poor guy and his family were so tortured over this; so devastated and terrified FOR NOTHING. He actually called me to tell me all of this, and he seemed to be still in a joyous mood, but I imagine anger comes at some point when you take stock of what you went through.
I don’t know how a doctor screws up that massively, or if somehow my client’s results were mixed up with someone else’s. Hopefully, it’s just the former.
12. A Slip Of The Hand
I was the patient, and it was a kidney biopsy. I was pretty out of it, but still awake so they could talk to me, laying on my stomach as my kidney doctor worked behind me. He warned me, “You’re going to hear a click and it will feel like Mike Tyson punched you in the back.” “Ooookayy?” I hear, click, feel the punch, then hear, “Oh, GOD. Get on the phone now.”
A nurse came up near my face to calm me, and maybe keep an eye on me. I don’t really remember everything. Apparently, the doctor had nicked a blood vessel, and I was bleeding internally at an alarming rate. I got to spend the night in the hospital and peed what seemed like pure blood for about 24 hours. Never try to fit your kidney biopsy in on a Friday before the doctor leaves for vacation.
13. Soon You’ll Get Better
Well, when I first started feeling sick in my first year at college, I had a non-productive cough, night sweats, trouble sleeping, and I had lost some weight. The school nurse gave me some Claritin. All of those symptoms only got worse; plus, I was incredibly fatigued. My lymph nodes swelled up and I had pretty bad backaches.
My doctor took a chest X-ray and prescribed antibiotics for pneumonia. At this point, I had almost failed out of school because I was only managing an hour or two of sleep per night. It took until spring break for me to go see a pulmonary specialist. He could instantly tell that it wasn’t pneumonia. Then, it suddenly got worse.
He told me I had stage 4B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My first PET scan showed cancerous cells in lymph nodes in all four quadrants of my body. By then, I had lost about a third of my body weight. The cough, weight loss, and back pain were my swollen lymph nodes pressing on my lungs, stomach, and my back. They gave me my first round of chemo and I genuinely felt the worst I’d ever felt.
I felt so awful that an IV mixture of (carefully measured) toxins was what gave me improvement. I went home and ate a whole pizza. Chemo got worse but it worked, so I guess I can’t complain too much.
14. Odd Anatomy
I’m a biomedical scientist, and my officemate was a medical doctor working on his PhD. He once did an appendectomy and cut into this person’s abdomen—only to find no appendix. He started freaking out. The support nurses in the room, however, started snickering at him because they knew right away what the problem really was.
Occasionally, they see someone with a rare genetic disorder where all their left-right asymmetries are reversed. This patient’s appendix was on the other side.
15. Not So Mellow Yellow
I was the patient. When I was in college, I went to the doctor because I was peeing razors. It progressed pretty rapidly and by the end of the week, I couldn’t walk or even sleep. The doctor asked me about my bedroom life when I went in for a consult. I told him the truth: That my girlfriend and I had only been with each other, and we had been together for many years.
He sort of scoffed at that and told me it was likely chlamydia that was bothering me. He had a long, condescending speech about safe intimacy with me and sent me home. That was that. Well, a week later my urine tests came back. Turns out I had the worst bladder infection they’d ever seen. I had to have a camera shoved up there, multiple rounds of antibiotics, and to this day I struggle to urinate due to the irreversible damage the infection caused. Thanks a lot, doc.
16. Pobody’s Nerfect
I have a coronary heart issue. I once watched a video of my surgery, as they are used as teaching tools at Baylor, and I convinced someone to let me see. At one point the surgeon, while holding my half-heart in his hand, says “Oops!” I couldn’t pick out the mistake, but it certainly freaked me out at the time. I still think about that.
17. A Pain In The Neck
I did college gymnastics. In my senior year, I had an accident in practice and landed on my neck. I went to the hospital and got X-rays, but the doctors told me that I was perfectly fine. Nothing could be further from the truth. I walked around in utter pain for the longest time.
Weeks later, still in pain, I went to another doctor and got a new set of images. Guess what? My neck was broken in three places and was majorly dislocated. I had a multi-level fusion surgery days later—but the story doesn’t end there. I found out my initial X-rays the first time around got swapped with someone else’s in the ER and I was originally diagnosed based on someone else’s images.
This was revealed long after my surgery when I went to get my records for insurance purposes. My files had someone else’s medical records and images in them. Because of the time I spent walking around with my neck injury, I had to have a posterior surgery instead of an anterior surgery, which is way more invasive. It gives me major issues to this day.
18. Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls
I had a hysterectomy a week ago, and I begged the nurse for four hours while in recovery to please take the catheter out because it was painful and I felt like I had to pee. She kept telling me it was a normal catheter sensation, and I know that that’s at least part of what was going on, but it felt like my bladder was going to burst. I just didn’t know how bad it would get.
About 10 minutes after she obviously begrudgingly took it out, I paged another nurse to help me go to the bathroom. She was in the middle of telling me it might take 20 minutes or multiple trips to pee because it’s usually just sensation from the catheter making you think you have to pee—when I unleashed an absolute waterfall of urine.
I don’t know if it was clogged, not put in right, or if I’m just weird and somehow my body wasn’t going to relax enough to let me urinate through the catheter. I really wished she would have pulled it without making me wait four hours.
19. More Than Skin Deep
One day, I went to a dermatologist for a nasty rash on my hands and face. The doctor insisted it was eczema even though I’d never had eczema in my entire life. He also refused to do any testing or take a biopsy, and just prescribed me a standard steroid cream for eczema. The rash spread and got horribly worse. It was all up my arms and all over my face.
It was itchy and painful, so I went to a different dermatologist and explained the situation. They took a biopsy, finally. Yep, it was a bacterial infection and the first doctor’s steroid treatment made it ten times worse. I was a minor at the time and I don’t know why my parents didn’t go after the first doctor in court.
20. Caught Red-Handed
My husband went in for a routine colonoscopy and as they were prepping him, the anesthetist asks him if he’s a ginger. My husband tells him, “Yeah.” When he was a kid growing up, he had fire engine red hair, though it’s faded to a more strawberry blonde now. The anesthetist laughs and says, “Okay, I gotcha, we’ll give you the redhead dosage.”
He then winks. Well, my husband thinks it’s funny…until he wakes up at the tail end of the procedure and the doctors are just chatting it up. Turns out, it’s not a joke and redheads have some type of natural block to anesthesia. The doctor had given him the maximum allowable dosage and he still woke up. It could have gone so much worse.
21. Home Sweet Home
My husband had a situation where he almost completely kicked the bucket because of a misdiagnosis. To preface this, we were young at the time—in our mid-20s—and living in a college town. My husband had horrible pain; he was on the floor on his hands and knees and everything. We went to the ER and the doctor barely looked at him.
He just told him to stop drinking and he would be fine. So we went home, but the pain was still getting worse. At one point, he started vomiting all over the place. We decided to drive 1.5 hours to see our primary care physician back in our hometown to get a second opinion. Within 15 minutes of walking into the office, my husband was rushed to emergency surgery.
Apparently, his gallbladder had completely ruptured and he was going septic. It was a total mess and he almost passed, all because of a lazy misdiagnosis.
22. A Rude Awakening
I was having surgery on my breast to remove what they suspected was cancer. I woke up during the surgery and I looked up and saw four people with scrub caps on, staring down at me. I looked at my boob in pure horror, and that is all I remember because they knocked me back out. Still makes me want to vomit thinking about it.
23. Fear The Worst
My mom went into a walk-in clinic and told the doctor she had really bad headaches all the time. She was a stay-at-home mom to me, who was 10 years old at the time, and my sister, who was six, so it was written off as stress and she just got a prescription for pain pills. Two weeks later, her headaches suddenly became migraines.
The doctor then gave her a stronger prescription and told her to try to reduce her stress. But at that point, things already took a huge turn for the worse. A few weeks went by and she could no longer get out of bed. She threw up everything including the meds and was completely disoriented. My dad was a truck driver, so he was never home and couldn’t help her at that time.
I was taking care of my sister and my mom all by myself. We went back to the doctor and this lady had the audacity to say that my mom’s case was the weirdest migraine case she’d ever seen. She told her to take warm baths and just keep taking the meds. Two months went by and my dad came home. When he saw the condition of my mother, he was shocked.
My mom was so sick she would regularly urinate herself. The house, which was being kept up by me, a 10-year-old, was in total disrepair. My dad’s response was chilling and completely unexpected. He simply said he wanted a divorce. That night, we found out she had stage 4 lung and brain cancer with a tumor the size of an egg pressing on her brain, as well as many others scattered throughout. I still haven’t forgiven that doctor for not taking my mom seriously.
As far as my mom goes, she fought hard for two years to beat her cancer, but she eventually passed in November 2010. I was 13 and my sister was nine at the time. And that wasn’t all. My dad fell out of a tree about a month after her diagnosis and shattered his heel. He became disabled because of the back surgeries it required.
He was a monster while I was home. All I remember from my younger years was walking on eggshells, constantly being accused of things I didn’t do, and being watched like a hawk 24/7. I suspect he is bipolar and has severe PTSD, but you know how older people feel about treating mental illnesses. As for us, it sucked not having our mom growing up.
She talked every day about how she couldn’t wait to beat cancer and leave my dad so we could all have the life we deserved. I think we turned out fairly well. I’m 23 now—I have a family, I’ve moved far away from all of those memories, and I have committed to breaking my father’s awful cycle and loving my children the way I wish I would have been loved.
I do wish I knew the doctor’s name now. Even though I know that it wouldn’t bring back my mom, I still want to ask her if she finally started believing her patients. I think the fact that my mother was a stay-at-home mom and had previously lived in poverty had a lot to do with the doctor not taking her seriously.
I wish no harm on the doctor, but I haven’t forgiven her for not saying something about going to the ER. Life is short. I learned that by watching my mom give up on every dream she had because she knew she’d pass soon. Go do scary stuff because who knows what’ll happen tomorrow.
24. A Win For Once
Fifth-year resident here. There are lots of bad moments throughout training, but I do have one positive “Oh God” moment. This patient had a kidney tumor. We made a big incision, and my attending and I are dancing around the aorta and vena cava. I was expecting that we’d need to cut and clamp the vena cava to get all the cancer out.
But my attending literally squeezes the tumor out of the vena cava and back into the renal vein and then has me tie it off. It was incredible, and incredibly rare to be able to do. The patient went home in like four days and is still doing great. First time I felt like “Oh man, I’m a surgeon.”
25. A Swing And A Miss
I went to a walk-in clinic because I couldn’t swallow anything, not even liquids. The doctor pressed on my forehead and asked if it hurt. I told him it kind of did. He then said that I had a sinus infection and prescribed me antibiotics (that I couldn’t swallow) and sent me on my way. Turns out, I had had a stroke and ended up spending three weeks in the hospital.
26. No Laughing Matter
I had an ingrown toenail, and it was supposed to be a quick fix. I was 14 and had my mom in with me. They let an apprentice do the surgery, and suddenly he goes “Oh God.” The doctor in charge just laughed and said “No risk, no fun.” Turns out they messed up my toe, and I had to have four more surgeries to correct it. I cried.
27. Don’t Sleep On This
I’m the patient in this story. One day, I went to a sleep doctor because I was constantly tired, so much so that I was basically falling asleep while standing up and such. It was serious stuff. The doctor was like, “Well, you’re overweight, so it’s definitely sleep-apnea.” I did a sleep study, but it came back negative for sleep apnea. I thought we’d go down different avenues…but I was so wrong.
The doctor was like, “Well, I’m still positive it’s sleep apnea because you’re a fatty.” So he sent me home with a sleep apnea machine for a month. After a month of using the machine (which records your sleep apnea events every night) and having zero improvements in any of my symptoms, I went back to him.
His response? He said, “Well if this isn’t working, I can’t help you. You obviously have sleep apnea since all tubbies have sleep apnea, so you must not be using the machine properly.” So I dropped him like a fresh turf and went to get a second opinion. A new sleep doc and a new sleep study. Then I finally got an answer.
He said, “Yeah, this is textbook narcolepsy. You have all the symptoms and the sleep study proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt.” I told him about the other doctor and he said, “This is obviously narcolepsy. Your previous doctor was a moron.” Unlike the other quotes in this story, that one is an actual, direct quote. I’ll never forget the look of disgust on his face when he said the word “moron.”
28. A Seed Of Truth
My uncle is a respirologist, and he was supervising lung surgery to remove a tumor. Well, when they opened the guy up, they all went white as a sheet. Turns out, the so-called “tumor” was actually a root ball. Some type of seed had gotten into the patient’s lungs and started to grow. No one had ever seen anything like it before.
29. Hiding In Plain Sight
My doctor told me that my health issues were stress-related. Well, the second opinion I got determined that was not the case at all—instead, my gallbladder was functioning at 3%, which is super low. I had that sucker removed a couple of weeks later, and everything got much better. What’s worse is I specifically asked the first doctor about gallbladder issues and he assured me it couldn’t be that.
30. Lending A Hand
I was observing a hand surgery about a year ago at a teaching hospital. The surgeon was removing one of the carpals, which are the bones near the base of the hand, to be used later. A nurse was given the carpal to hold until it needed to be used. She ended up dropping the patient’s bone right on the ground. The surgeon was not happy.
31. Baby On Board
My sister was about two weeks away from giving birth when she suddenly started feeling excruciating pain and vomiting. I called her midwife in a panic. The phone call made my blood run cold. She refused to speak with me despite my sister clearly not being capable of speaking as she sat on the floor next to the toilet, crying and puking.
Finally, she took the phone and her midwife told her that it was probably just a virus. Her suggested remedy? “Eat a popsicle.” Eventually, I was able to convince her to go to the ER. She was immediately rushed to the operating room for an emergency C-section. Her placenta had erupted and my niece was born not breathing. That poor baby suffered several seizures and even died for a short moment before she was resuscitated.
She is now 15 and has cerebral palsy due to going for so long without the oxygen she needed.
32. Ignorance Isn’t Bliss
Former medical student here. I remember one young patient, 22 years old, was re-visiting the ER, where he’d been seen six weeks prior for sustaining some abrasions and bruises after falling hard off a skateboard. He was all scraped up everywhere but had healed up OK. But now he’s in the ER again, feeling awful sick and vomiting.
As the third-year med student, I was dispatched to the bedside and hung up the CT films on the lightbox, too much finger-pointing and grunting among the surgeons. I had no idea how to read a CT at the time—I wasn’t even really sure what part of the body had been scanned. So when the surgical resident barked “Prep him for surgery,” I decided to disguise my ignorance and just go for it.
We got him gassed and prepped and I scrubbed in. The surgeon said “Open.” That’s where it all started to go wrong. First, I had to be told what we were doing: The Kocher maneuver, where you basically move the intestines to expose what you want to get it. By now, everyone knows I’m not with it, but they watch me do it anyway.
I slid my gloved hand up, getting ready to grab the entire sack of intestines and move it up and over—but I met unexpected resistance. I peered up, seeing in my confusion that everyone was edging away from the table. “What’s the trouble young man, get your hand up there and complete the maneuver! Push harder!” A spongy sort of barrier gave way with a sickening stench.
Suddenly, a gushing cascade of grey-brown, bloody pus roared out of the incision, soaking my gown, scrub pants, and shoes before splattering on the OR floor and walls. The guy had a splenic abscess, as I just found out. After that, the other doctors cleaned it up and mostly cured it. The attending finished up and the patient was good as new. I had to throw out my shoes.
33. Supplementary Opinion
A doctor diagnosed me with MS. Well, I eventually sought out a second opinion, and turns out my case was just a vitamin deficiency. Pretty darn different from MS, if you ask me. I spent $15K in medical bills only to have all symptoms subside with some nutritional advice and supplements. I’m still rightfully salty about it.
34. Dirty Little Secret
When I was a nursing student, I was on surgery practicum. We had a guy in who needed an elbow repair. I was pretty useless in everything but emotional support, as I wasn’t qualified, so was chatting to him before he went under. He admitted to having an (un)healthy substance habit. I informed the surgeon, who shrugged it off. This was a big mistake.
Apparently, I should have told the anesthetist, because this dude woke up mid-surgery and was trying to reach for his open arm that the surgeon was working on. Super “Oh God” moment as we scramble to contain this guy’s arm and stop it from touching anything sterile.
35. My Sister’s Keeper
My sister was suffering from terrible headaches and minor seizures for a while. One particularly bad night, we went to an urgent care clinic. They told us that she had an anxiety disorder and just needed something to calm her down. We got a second opinion at the ER and it turns out she had stage four brain cancer. I miss her every day.
36. Doing More Damage Than Good
My father is an ER doctor. One day, an old woman comes in with a headache. Attending sees her, sends her home with some Advil. You can tell where this is going. She comes back two days later with a stroke and chest pain. It is a massive stroke, so they get her on blood thinners right away. They send her in for a CAT scan, to check out her brain.
On the scan, they notice something odd. Do another scan: her aorta has almost completely dissected. This is the most blood-filled, high-pressure artery in the body, and blood thinners are the absolute last thing that an aortic dissection patient should be given. Commence freak out. They wheel her into emergency surgery to repair the aorta, but by then she’s bleeding profusely.
Her heart stops shortly thereafter. Luckily, my father never personally prescribed the blood thinners, but apparently, that was a real “Oh, God” moment. Her condition was fatal either way, but it was not a good day.
37. Forgive As A Family
My aunt had been having what we now know was absent seizures for years. We were part of the problem. Sadly, we all just put it down to her alcoholism and her pain medication addiction. She was forgetful, clumsy, and scatterbrained; but again, a raging alcoholic. One day, my brother stopped by to check on her and she was sitting up but completely non-responsive.
We rushed her to the ER. A week later, we got the diagnosis back. Glioblastoma. She passed 11 months later. The only thing that saves us from the guilt of ignoring her symptoms for so long is that the neurosurgeon said NOTHING we could possibly have done would have extended her life. We tried all sorts of remedies after the tumor was found and removed, but there was nothing we could really do.
Nothing she did was the cause of it, thank goodness. We miss her every day, but there was nothing we could have done. If anything, she at least didn’t spend years of her life anticipating her own mortality. Sometimes you just have to appreciate the little tiny silver linings.
38. A Swing And A Miss
I had a biopsy done on my neck by an ear, nose, and throat specialist. It went horribly. He jabbed it in just below my ear, then wiggled the huge needle around, took it out, put it back in, wiggled it around…just awful. I was left with an enormous yellow and green bruise all over my neck. The results were inconclusive. But it gets worse.
A month later, I went to see a really old doctor. He pushed on the spot in question. “Is this the bump you’re concerned about?” “Yes, that’s it.” “That’s your second vertebrae. That guy tried to do a biopsy on it?” “What? Yeah…” “What an idiot, sorry.”
39. Testing, Testing
When I was 11, we thought I had Lyme disease. The doctor refused to test for it because the bull’s eye rash on my ear was squiggly in one area. Six months later, I had excruciating pain in my hip. I was 11, very athletic, and had to be pulled off all my sports teams because whenever I tried to run, I’d fall and burst into tears.
My doctor examined me again and, without telling us what he thought was wrong, asked my mom in a grave voice what kind of health insurance I had. My mom flipped out and kept asking him what was wrong. He told my mom that my leg was calcifying (turning into bone) and that we’d need to amputate it. We left, switched doctors, had an appointment later that week, and demanded they test me for Lyme.
It was positive. My mom also has nerve damage and has had a slew of misdiagnoses, from MS and cancer to issues with blood vessels in her brain.
40. Let Me Introduce Myself
As a doctor, I’ve gone into the wrong room and started talking to the patient before, only to realize it’s the wrong one after a bit. But probably worse than that is walking in and completely forgetting who the patient is and why they’re in there. I just keep conversation going until I casually pull out my notes. Sounds awful, but easy to do when you’ve been up 25-30 hours and are following 15+ patients to remember each detail.
41. Faking It
My freaking doctor sent me home because he was convinced I was faking an illness. Oh, did I mention I was freaking two years old and was complaining that my stomach hurt? See, my mom had got me an emergency appointment with our family doctor for that same day—he took one look at me and declared that I, as a two-year-old, was faking the stomach pain for attention.
He ended up just blindly giving me a prescription for antibiotics. Two days later, I was still in pain. Another twist was in store. I turned blue, according to my mom, and passed out. She rushed me to the emergency room. The ER doc took a five-second look at me and had me rushed off for emergency surgery. My appendix had exploded.
Quite literally too; it was in shreds inside my body. The ER doctor said that our family doctor should have known what was up. He said at the time it was just inflamed.
42. An Honest Mistake
I have a friend who is a doctor. He was doing a rectal examination using a camera, and all he could see was crazy psychedelic colors in this patient’s rear. He was completely freaked out…Then he looked down and saw he’d pushed his tie in with the camera.
43. Shut My Mouth
I’m a dermatologist. I was reading a patient’s notes and found out he had been diagnosed with deadly skin cancer and was booked in to have his whole upper lip removed. Obviously, this would leave the patient quite disfigured. On a whim, he’d booked in to see a dermatologist at our hospital…who advised it was just a cold sore. He prescribed some medication and the problem was resolved.
44. Man Vs. Machine
My dad was observing a surgery during his residency several decades ago, just when electronic monitors were becoming a huge deal. He noticed the patient’s fingertips and lips were blue and tried to tell the surgeon, who informed him the patient was fine because the machines showed normal oxygen and blood pressure.
Dad responded by jumping on top of the patient and performing CPR while someone had the common sense to rush them to the ER. Best part is that a representative from the company that made the machines was there to observe this miserable failure.
45. The Bearer Of Bad News
I’m a surgeon. Most patients come to me after having seen another physician who has diagnosed them with something and being told to see a surgeon. I’ve seen several patients who were diagnosed with appendicitis….even though they’ve already had appendectomies. I’ve also been called in for multiple patients who very obviously had previously undiscovered and very advanced cancers.
Those cases are always too far advanced for me to help out on, so I have to wonder: am I being called so I can be the bad guy and explain everything? Yes. The answer is yes.
46. A Flesh Wound
I was working in the trauma unit one morning when I got an emergency call over the radio about somebody with arterial neck bleed from an unknown injury. Prior to arrival, I called down the surgeons and we all gowned up and were waiting for him in the critical bay. So in rolls this old guy with a 4×4 of gauze on his neck just sitting there, and EMS just rolling him in on a gurney.
Clearly in no distress. So we’re assessing the guy and looking him over, half of the surgeons looking at me trying to figure out why I called them down. I remove the gauze… nothing obvious.. maybe a small dot of blood… but really nothing. So all of us are leaning in to get a better look, and all of a sudden one super thin stream of blood streaks out of this guy’s neck all the way across the room and hits the wall.
All of us jumped back and half of us screamed. We all stood there looking at each other for a second before we all started laughing. Apparently this guy had been picking at something on his neck and hit a superficial arterial vessel. Scared the heck out of me!
47. Close Call
I’m a midwife and I was the one who gave a second opinion. The first diagnosis was given by the woman’s family doctor. She came into the antenatal clinic and said that she had a headache she couldn’t seem to shake. She’d called her general practitioner the day before and she had told her to take two Aspirin and have a bath to remedy the situation. What she didn’t know almost ruined her.
Whenever any pregnant woman complains of a headache, especially one that won’t go away, it sends alarm bells ringing as it can be a symptom of pre-eclampsia. Sure enough, the woman also reported seeing blue spots, exhibited a blood pressure of 220/180, and had a huge amount of protein in her urine. I got her to lie on her side in the room I was seeing her in and I raced to get a more senior midwife.
It wouldn’t have been more than 60 seconds until the two of us returned to the room—just in time to see her start having an eclamptic seizure. We called a Code Pink (obstetric emergency), which then escalated to a Code Green (alerting the operating room that we were coming down immediately for an emergency cesarean). The woman gave birth under general anesthetic 20 minutes later.
I still start sweating when I imagine what could have happened if she hadn’t come into the clinic that day.
48. A Stitch In Time
I was in sixth grade, and my family was living in an upstairs/downstairs duplex. The family above us had two small boys, first grade and preschool if memory serves. Their dad was at work and their mom had to run some errands, so she asked if I could watch them while she was away for a while. It was a nice summer day, so we were outside running around in the yard, generally acting like kids.
A game of tag or something soon developed, with the two boys chasing me. At some point, I ended up running right along the side of the house and losing my footing. Down I went. Instead of my knees or my palms, I hit the side of my head. It HURT. I got to my knees and put my hand to the side of my head, only to feel warm liquid. Lots of it.
I looked at my hand, and it was like it had been used as a prop from the movie Carrie. Blood EVERYWHERE. I looked up to see a nice little trail of blood on the wall of the house, leading up to the head of a nail that was sticking out about an inch. My dad grew Hollyhocks and would tie them up with twine so they wouldn’t fall over, and I just happened to catch one right over my eyebrow.
So, I went inside and informed my mother in very precise terms that I was probably in need of medical attention. My history with the emergency room was pretty robust, so my mom is quite used to the sight of me coming into the kitchen bleeding and/or broken. She made very little fuss, other than a frantic towel-grabbing mission before packing me and those two now-very-scared little boys into the car and heading to the local ER. This is where the “Oh God” moment happens.
Remember, this is a weekday during the summer in a suburban neighborhood. The ER was completely empty, except for the receptionist typing away at something. Mom lets me out to start admission while she parks the car. Apparently, my arrival went unnoticed, because the receptionist didn’t look up until I was just a few steps away. I smiled weakly and said something to the effect of, “I think this needs to get looked at” while pulling away the now very blood-soaked towel. At that moment, everything unraveled.
A small arteriole decided it had had enough and proceeded to burst forth, each heartbeat pumping a nice little jet of blood out, which I could just discern out of the corner of my eye. Needless to say, I was making a right mess of the place. The receptionist calmly responded by fainting. I have no idea how one becomes a receptionist at an ER while having issues with blood, but somehow this poor woman did.
So now I was standing there in that antiseptic-white reception room, bleeding quietly to myself, with an unconscious receptionist behind the counter and my mom out in the parking lot still dealing with two panicky little kids. I had a major “Oh God” right then and there. Fortunately, at that point, someone else of better intestinal fortitude came out and saw what was going on, and got me rushed back into an exam room.
I got 32 stitches and now the scar is barely visible as a minor line right above my eyebrow.
49. A New Perspective
This is my mom’s story. She used to work at a non-profit clinic that would give free healthcare to people who didn’t have insurance. This guy came in one day with his teenage daughter saying that he was between jobs and the insurance for his new job hadn’t kicked in yet, but his daughter was having her yearly case of pneumonia and just wanted her antibiotics.
He was really arrogant and rude, saying stuff like, “She has a CUBAN doctor she usually goes to.” My mom is Mexican and I live in an area where most Latinos you see are Mexican. My mom, staying calm despite wanting to bite the guy’s head off, examined his daughter. She noticed his daughter’s fingers were clubbed. This was an unsettling sign.
See, it was indicative of a serious, chronic respiratory issue, and not something temporary like pneumonia. She asked if she could run a few tests just to be safe, and at first, he was huffy about it, but he eventually agreed when my mom told him it wouldn’t cost him anything but a bit of time. A few days later, the clinic called her out because this girl didn’t have pneumonia.
She had cystic fibrosis. The girl was transferred to a hospital where she could actually start receiving treatment for her condition. Thankfully, it was a minor case—if it was anything more serious, she honestly could have been gone by that point, My mom probably prolonged this girl’s life expectancy by a huge amount with the diagnosis.
Her regular “Cuban” doctor had been regularly misdiagnosing her with vitamin deficiencies and pneumonia. Later, the father called my mother and thanked her for helping his daughter. My mom was going off in her head (“What about her Cuban doctor huh, buddy?”) but was polite and wished him and his daughter well.
50. The Water Cure
When I had mono, I was getting incredibly overheated and was drinking lots of water. I still felt incredibly dehydrated, so I contacted a nurse on call and told them that despite drinking liters upon liters I was still feeling dehydrated and my headache was getting worse. She told me to just keep drinking more water. This turned out to be near-fatal advice.
My symptoms kept getting worse, so I finally went to the doctor—who told me I almost passed from over-hydration. A few Gatorades later, I felt a million times better.
51. It’s Not What It Looks Like
My wife was given the diagnosis of a UTI and the doctor told me it was probably due to an STD. Since we’d been married for 25 years, I was obviously concerned about this. Well, it actually ended up that she was anemic. After large doses of iron and a hysterectomy (heavy flow), she was fine. Sounds weird, I know, but it really did happen. 34 years later and we are still in love.
52. A Warm Bedside Manner
I’m a female med student, and my first-ever patient had an inguinal hernia. I examined his lower abdomen and balls, and then I had to feel for the hernia. Except I was so nervous, I just started playing with his balls with my fingertips. Well, the obvious happened: He started to get “excited,” and I got so embarrassed I immediately left.
53. A Leg Down
My uncle-in-law went to multiple doctors about leg pain and trouble walking. He’s a big guy, and every doctor told him in more or less condescending ways that his issue was that he needed to lose weight. After five years, he finally got someone to MRI him, and they found out the whole sordid story. It turned out he had a grapefruit-sized tumor in his leg.
He, unfortunately, passed about six months later because it metastasized. Screw all those doctors who wouldn’t believe he was in pain.
54. A Second Opinion
For months, I was going to the doctor every Wednesday, because after running just a mile I couldn’t breathe. They checked my lungs and my heart and everything. Yet I still couldn’t run the mile without collapsing at the end. All of my doctors told my mom that I was just doing it for attention and they saw this kind of behavior all the time.
I had a physical scheduled and my mom thought about canceling it. I had seen so many doctors already, why waste the time? She finally decided I should go, just to keep on schedule. My normal doctor wasn’t there. He was sick and called in someone to take his shifts. She pushed on my stomach and asked if I was sexually active. My response made her panic. I said I was 11 and hadn’t even started my period, and she rushed me to the hospital.
After a sonogram, they said they saw something. That night, I was having surgery. When I woke up, they told me they took out a three-pound, malignant teratoma. I’d have to start chemo right away. Being the sassy 11-year-old I was, I just smiled smugly at my doctor and said “I told you I wasn’t lying!” I saw him recently, 15 years later. He still remembers me and apologized profusely for not catching it sooner.
55. Take Another Look
As a kid, a substitute doctor diagnosed me with asthma when I couldn’t see my regular physician. Cue the nebulizer and inhaler and all that. The whole time, I kept saying it felt like there was stuff in my lungs. A week or so went by and nothing got better, so I saw my regular doctor and they did a chest X-ray. Yeah, I had pneumonia the whole time.
Another one that comes to mind is when I vomited so hard after surgery that I had a pseudo-aneurism near my femoral artery. I immediately knew something was wrong. I went into instant shock. My girlfriend yelled for the nurse, and the nurse said, “It’s probably nothing,” to which I replied, “It’s something…get a doctor.” The surgeon came in, immediately saw that I was in trouble, and started putting pressure on my femoral.
My memory is foggy due to bleeding out internally, but I made it. Had I listened to that nurse, I would have been a goner right then and there.
56. Silent And Fatal
During my father’s residency, a gentleman came in with an infection he developed after having his gum scraped during a dental cleaning. The infection had gotten into his sinus cavity, and my father told his attending that the gentleman was going to die. They had a specialist from Harvard at the hospital at that time, and he called my father an idiot.
The attending corrected the guy from Harvard saying that no, my father was right and the guy was likely going to pass. He had seen 10 such infections previously, and each time the person didn’t make it. Apparently, there’s a part of your face some physicians call the “Triangle of Death.” The gums of your top teeth form the base, with the sinus cavities forming the arms.
Over the next two days, the infection spread to the guy’s left eye. Mr. Harvard said that they should take the eye, and hopefully, that would be enough to save him. My father said it’s not going to make much of a difference and the guy should start working out his final affairs. Obviously not wanting to give up, the gentleman consented to have his eye removed.
It didn’t make a difference, and within three days of having his eye removed, the gentleman was gone. The infection went from the sinus and ocular cavities and through the blood-brain barrier.
57. The Truth Comes Out
As a child, I had a lot of trouble with abdominal pain. My mom kept taking me to the doctor’s office and he kept dismissing it, saying there was nothing wrong. This went on for a long time until I was doubled over in pain outside school one day. My mom asked me if it was hurting and I told her it always hurt, but that it was really bad at that particular moment.
She took me straight to my doctor and demanded it got looked into further, figuring a five-year-old child shouldn’t be living in constant pain. A few scans later, I was immediately whisked into surgery. My mom still can’t bear to think of me being wheeled into the operating room when the doctors did not even know exactly what was wrong or what they were going to do.
The plan was to open me up, figure out the exact issue and go from there. The answer was gruesome. I had an extra growth on my kidney which was all infected, and an extra ureter that was infected the whole way along. The doctor who had continually fobbed my mom off as a panicking parent actually ended up making a house visit to apologize.
58. That’s The Tooth
I had some dental work done in my teens. I had two impacted teeth, and one was being taken out by some elaborate gear. The surgeon thought, “Well, the tooth is sticking out, I can just pull it.” He tried one tug and I almost fell forward out of the chair. The second pull, he had a nurse hold my shoulders. The third, he put his foot on the chair, used both hands while the nurse held me from behind around the waist and he YANKED!
Like in cartoons when a bullet bounces around the room and nobody can see it…yeah, that was my impacted tooth. I was numb and didn’t feel a thing except a warm sensation all over my chin…I learned then I was a bleeder.
59. Look And Learn
My dad had a lesion on his leg that wasn’t healing. The dermatologist prescribed different antibiotics (pills and ointment) but nothing was working. He also did two skin grafts that didn’t work. This went on for at least two years, and it was really stressful for my father. Then, my dad got a new dermatologist from the same hospital.
She realized that he never had a biopsy!!! It took her less than an hour to diagnose the skin cancer. The surgeon scooped all the cancer out (and did another skin graft) and that was it for a while. Since then, he’s got a lot of other skin cancer lesions but at least now he knows what it is.
60. Cradle To Grave
When I was a surgery intern, I was pulled to help out in a circus of a case. One of our older doctors was doing a simple liver biopsy on a patient and nicked her artery. Because the patient was already pretty sick, her tissue had the consistency of toilet paper—so every time they tried suturing the hole, the tissue just breaks apart, leaving a bigger, more leaky hole.
Pretty much all hands were on board. The chief residents were scrubbed in, the seniors were literally squeezing blood bags into the patient’s veins, and us interns were runners, going back and forth from OR to the blood bank to transport blood and plasma. We ended up transfusing over 12 liters of blood, so the patient lost over two times her total blood volume during that surgery.
A vascular surgeon eventually swooped in and did a rather slick patchwork that fixed the problem. Even better: the patient was like a daughter to the surgeon. He literally saved this patient’s life several times already, and they got really close over the years. She even named one of her kids after him. The poor guy broke down a few times during the surgery and was convinced that he had just killed his daughter.
The chief residents had to take over a few times when he was mentally not there. That was his last surgery…He retired the next day. Heck of a way to end a surgical career.
61. Never Seen One Like That Before
I went to the ER for some crazy stomach pain, and the doctor there said it was due to my thyroid being super inflamed. There was just one big problem with that answer. The thing is, I don’t have a thyroid. I was born without one, and I take meds every day because of it. I tell her this and she says, “No, that can’t be true, your thyroid is enormous” and sent me to do an ultrasound.
Lo and behold, it was not there. She refused to believe this and asked my primary doctor to explain my seemingly crazy anatomy. He goes, “Yeah, he doesn’t have a thyroid.” But honestly, that’s not even the most ridiculous part of the story. Turns out, what she thought she saw was actually my Adam’s apple, which I guess is sort of big.
62. Medical Insurance
I was the patient, and I’m pretty sure it was an “Oh God” moment for my OB-GYN. I was at the end of my labor and my daughter was stuck. I’d had two epidurals, both of which wore off. My doctor used forceps to try to get her out. I don’t think she knew my epidural was as ineffective as it was, otherwise I don’t think she would have shoved the forceps in like she did.
I obviously felt the forceps and started thrashing in pain. The doctor got scared and tried to take them out…but they got stuck. She had to wait for the next contraction to push them out. Then blood went everywhere. Most unsettling of all, she was on the phone with her lawyer while wheeling me in for my emergency C-section.
63. The Save Of The Century
The BEST request for a second opinion came from a CVS minute clinic. A young, healthy law student went to the minute clinic presenting flu-like symptoms. They did a swab test on him and it came back positive. His clinic vitals were notable for a heart rate of 140, which is a bit high but not CRAZY high.
The guy was young and healthy like I said. It would have been pretty easy to dismiss him. However, the minute clinic told him to go to the ER as he needed an EKG. So the guy did exactly that and he found out a horrifying truth. Turns out, he had a life-threatening arrhythmia that he needed to be shocked out of. They took a look at his heart and it was giant; barely moving.
He had insane myocarditis and needed cardiac surgery. I can’t say all minute clinics are the same, but man that was a great save.
64. Hips Don’t Lie
One of my dad’s colleagues was doing a hip replacement way back in the day. Hip replacements aren’t fun: They have to pretty much butterfly you like a boneless roast to get the top of the thigh bone clear of the ball-and-socket joint of the hip. They then saw off the ball end and attach the new stainless steel one, which is on a long stem they insert down the middle of the bone to keep it in place.
So the doctor has got to that stage, tapping the stem down the femur, when it jams halfway. Won’t go down any further. Won’t come out again. Can’t saw it off, because bone saws won’t touch hardened steel. Can’t close up the patient and come back to it, because there’s a foot-long spear stuck out the top end of his leg. Meanwhile, the anesthetist is saying they can’t keep him under much longer. It was not a “successful” surgery.
65. See No Evil
So my local doctor diagnosed me with a kidney infection and a urinary tract infection. He told me all my other symptoms, like the huge lump in my armpit, were all part of a cold I’d had. Skip to three months later—I was at a walk-in clinic due to not being able to move without pain. When the doctor there examined me, and his face went as white as a sheet in an instant.
He saw the lump and gave me a look of: “How the heck has this not been diagnosed?” Anyway, it was late-stage cancer by that point…but I’m all good now!
66. I’m Sorry, Come Again?
Three years ago, my grandmother was in the hospital to get her brain tumor removed. Nine hours later, we got to see her—only for the surgeon to say, “It went well, for the most part, dropped the top of her skull though.” Just like that, he walked away eating his apple. We were all just standing there like ???????
67. True Lies
There was one year when I was getting constant UTIs. Now, usually, this is due to intimate activity, but I’m not actually active. Anyway, my doctor was away for the school holidays, and I stupidly thought I could last a week until she was back. Nope. Two days later, I could barely move from the couch as I was in so much pain.
So, I called a doctor and he did a home visit because it was a holiday. This doctor refused to hand over the script until I acknowledged that I was being intimately irresponsible. When I told him I was a virgin— an embarrassing and potentially dangerous statement to make with a strange man in my house while I was home alone—this jerk LAUGHED his butt off.
He said, “No you’re not. Nobody is at this age. Stop pretending to be all innocent.” He then slammed the prescription on my coffee table and walked out. I called the office to complain and he did get reprimanded. But oh my God, was I embarrassed.
68. 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.
69. Not Horsing Around
My grandmother fell from her horse one day. Not a terrible fall, but from the way she landed, she wanted to get it checked out. She felt like she’d really jolted her neck and spine. Her doctor looked things over, then gave her one of those soft neck cushion things before sending her home.
A couple of days later, she decided to get a second opinion. No real reason; she just hadn’t felt that the neck cushion was helping. The second doctor took one look at her X-rays and freaked out. He told her they needed to get her immediately into a brace to immobilize her spine. Basically, she’d broken her neck with the same injury that had paralyzed Christopher Reeves, but she wasn’t paralyzed because the vertebrae hadn’t dislocated.
The second doctor said that anything that did dislocate it (another minor fall, twisting wrong in bed) would mean she could be permanently paralyzed from the neck down. She wore this intense metal brace that kept her spine in place for a few months and came out totally fine. She lived another 15 years after that. But I think about that story often—the second doctor saved her mobility and freedom.
70. 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.
71. A Bun In The Oven
I’m a gynecologist. The number of times I’ve seen patients pregnant and upset (or happy) because some other doctor told them they can’t get pregnant (so they didn’t use birth control) is appalling. I then have to explain that even if the patient has whatever condition that makes it unlikely for them to get pregnant, the odds are almost never 0%. Maybe less than 1%, but still not zero. Of course, it can happen.
72. 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.
73. The Big Sick
I went to the same doctor for two years in high school. In the time that I knew him, he diagnosed me with pleurisy, shingles, tonsillitis (despite having no tonsils), and malaria. Five different diseases within two years for an otherwise healthy 16-year-old girl. My teachers would read these medical certificates and say, “Two weeks off for malaria? Very unfortunate…” Clearly, they weren’t buying a word of it.
It was ridiculous. I specifically remember, with regards to the shingles diagnosis, telling him that I have psoriasis and that I think it just popped up randomly on my ribs. He said, “No no, it’s shingles…which is quite rare for a young person like yourself to contract it!” I was going to fight him on it, but he gave me two weeks off, so I just left it at that. The dude clearly just found a medical license on the street and claimed it as his own.
74. You Had One Job
We were operating on the carotid artery of a patient. Mid-surgery, there was a gaping hole in his neck, and suddenly the patient woke up. “Easy fix,” I think to myself, and I start shouting at the anesthesiologist to put him back under…only he’d gone out for a moment. I had to hold the guy’s head with my elbow so he wouldn’t move too much and hurt himself until the guy came back.
75. A Mouthful Of Problems
When I had my wisdom teeth taken out, it was pretty brutal. Like, they had to completely put me under, dig deep into my jawbone, and reposition the teeth before pulling them out since they were coming in sideways. It was just the worst-case scenario by wisdom tooth surgery standards. The next couple of days after the surgery, I was in a lot of pain, which seemed normal.
But then, I soon realized I had some growing hot lump on the side of my jawbone. Me being an idiot, I tried to dismiss it, telling myself, “Oh, it’ll go away.” Well, it didn’t. My mom caught sight of it and took me back to the guy who did my surgery. The dentist dude took an X-ray and, without even examining it or asking any questions, he said I was fine.
He thought it was probably just scar tissue and told me to leave. I thought, hey; well, he’s smarter than me so, I guess he’s right. My mother, however, did not think this. And so off we go for a second opinion. While we were headed over to the other office, my nightmare began. The hard lump in my jaw BURST open and blood started leaking EVERYWHERE in my mouth.
It was so gross. My mom immediately turned around, drove me back to the dental surgeon, barged into the office, and MADE the dental surgeon look in my mouth. The dental surgeon muttered something about women seeing things that weren’t there but prescribed me antibiotics and more pain meds anyway.
It ended up taking me an entire month to fully recover and I ended up having to drop out of a college course due to missing so many classes.
76. 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.
77. What A Headache
One day at work, I had a bad headache and blurry vision. At some point, I lost the vision in one eye, but by the time the EMTs got there, I could see again. They said, “You seem fine and don’t need an ER, but go see your doctor anyway.” I went to the doctor and he didn’t even take my blood pressure. He just said, “You obviously had a stroke” and told me if I didn’t lose weight, I’d be gone within a year.
I was only about 30 pounds overweight but had low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and was extremely active. I then found a neurologist who did actual tests and said that there were no signs of a stroke. Apparently, because I had a history of migraines, I had what is called a “complicated migraine,” which can act like a mini-stroke but doesn’t last or leave any traces. That was over 30 years ago.
78. 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.
79. Doom And Gloom
My mother had severe back pains for a few weeks and already planned for an MRT a month later. But in addition to the back pain, there was a tingling sensation in her legs. They drove to the ER which was located in supposedly the best clinic in town. Once she got there, they told her not to worry and to just wait for the MRT.
Well, a few days later, she became incontinent. This time, they got an MRT and saw a tumor next to the spinal column. They wanted to operate on the tumor and remove parts of it…two weeks after she had initially felt something was wrong. This seemed strange to my parents—was like no one really cared about my mother. They decided to switch to another hospital, but by then, a week had already passed.
My mother got an emergency operation that night, but the tumor had already caused lasting damage to the nerves. Thanks a lot, first hospital! Later, there was another incident. The doctor thought that she had tumors in her lungs. When the results arrived, another doctor came to my mother and blurted out: “You should say goodbye to your relatives. You won’t see them again, since you have just a few weeks left.”
Later that day, my father consulted the first doctor, who was completely surprised about this. “No, we already knew that there were tumors and I already told you how I plan to treat them.” That was two years ago. My mother is still alive and the treatment still works. Screw you, second doctor!
80. 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.
81. Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
I just left a medical practice partly because a woman brought her eight-month-old in for a second opinion. The owner of the practice had seen the rapidly enlarging sacral soft tissue mass that the mother first noticed about six weeks prior. He told her not to worry about it. I checked his notes and I was shocked. They just read, “Plan: ignore.”
There was a new rapidly enlarging cystic mass on a baby’s sacrum. Basically, it looked like a small plum under the skin at the top of her bum crack. Without any investigation, my colleague dismissed it. I was appalled, but the mother was obviously relieved. Of the many not-so-great judgments I’d seen from him, this was one of the worst.
I realized I couldn’t work in a clinic where I’d be stepping on other doctors’ toes whenever I questioned their judgment. The baby had scans done and was eventually referred to a pediatric surgeon, but unfortunately, I don’t know the outcome because I’m working elsewhere now.
82. Lights Out
When I was in nursing school, I was observing a tonsillectomy and the power went out. Everything switched over to the backup generators, except for the suction—which is incredibly important for any surgery but particularly in the throat. They ended up having to connect a giant syringe to a length of suction tubing to suction manually while someone went to the other side of the building to find portable suction.
83. A Bundle Of Pain
My father got a call at work from a neighbor. Apparently, our mother was curled up on a ball on the floor, crying and unable to stand due to pain. My father rushed home, carried her to the truck, and took her to the ER. The ER doctor just said, “Oh, it’s probably nothing. We’ll just put her under observation.”
During this time, my grandparents had arrived, and my grandmother thought the whole thing was rather worrying. My mother had the most incredible pain tolerance, so for her to be hurting like that meant some stuff was going down. My grandma called her doctor, who proceeded to scream down the phone for them to get her to another hospital immediately.
They did, and she was taken straight into the OR. It was a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. She survived, and family lore has it that it took four security guards to drag my father off that ER doctor the next day. A year later, I was born, which was a whole other load of craziness itself.
84. 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.
85. Life Comes At You Fast
My family friend is an airline pilot. He went to a doctor for his six-month physical. The doctor noticed some unusual bruising but thought nothing more of it. He simply told him to “go get that checked out.” He happily signed off on my friend’s First Class Medical. It unraveled so quickly after that. My friend went to another doctor and found out it was a very aggressive and late-stage cancer. He was gone within three weeks.
86. Game, Set, Match
When I was in pharmacy school, I was doing my internal medicine rotation in my final year. My supervisor and I were doing med reviews in the ICU when one of the doctors said “Hey, you wanna see something cool?” They were trying to extract a foreign object from a guy’s lung in one of the rooms. So we go in and watch for a bit.
There were about six people in the room. A tube was down the guy’s throat. Little grippers at the end. Two doctors are watching a monitor and trying to control the grabbers and get it like a claw game. I watched for a bit, then after a while, I lost interest and went back out to what I was doing. A few minutes later I hear: “Got it!” *Cheers from the room* “Oh it’s a tooth!”
The dude aspirated his own molar. The doctor walks out with his trophy in a jar, and it’s a completely intact tooth, root and all.
87. A Pregnant Pause
This happened to my mom 20 years ago. I believe she was close to 36 at the time. She was having severe abdominal pain, and if my mom admits to being in pain, then you know it’s bad. Her family doctor was on vacation, so my dad took her to the emergency room where the doctor told her she was just constipated.
She went home, but the pain got worse. She went back to ER a couple of days later, specifically asking the same doctor from before if it could be an ectopic pregnancy. He laughed at her and sent her home. Well, she ended up in the ER for the third time and got that same stupid doctor, who accused her of lying to get pain medication.
She had to wait a week until her family doctor came back. Just over the phone, the family doctor could tell something was wrong and told my mom that she wanted to see her first thing in the morning for tests. It was too late. My mom didn’t make that appointment because during the night, her fallopian tube ruptured and my dad found her unconscious on the floor downstairs.
He rushed her to the hospital and they found out that she was something like 10 weeks along with an ectopic pregnancy. Our family doctor apparently was screaming at the other doctor in the hallway because of his incompetence. Thank God she survived.
88. 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.
89. A Long Convalescence
When I was about 10, these red spots started appearing on my legs, so my family took me to the hospital. They immediately diagnosed me with an extremely rare disease that apparently caused my veins to burst open. They told my family I had about two weeks to live. I sat in the hospital for those two weeks, got some extremely high doses of antibiotics, and no one told me anything.
My parents would visit crying, but they were allowed only 30 minutes of visitation time a day since I was in a special ward. Fast forward to two weeks before my birthday. My parents convinced the doctors to let me celebrate “one last time” and my family threw a big party. Lots of my friends came and everything. At some point, a few other kids and I were running in the grass and I accidentally stepped on a bee.
I got stung and since I’m slightly allergic to bees, they rushed me to hospital. I could hear the nurses scream at my family something along the lines of, “Now you’ve done it, you’ve killed your son.” I got a lot more injections and IVs that day, and all of them expected me to pass. My aunt, at this point, got extremely suspicious.
She got someone else from out of the county to diagnose me. Turns out, all those red spots were allergies. Three days later, I was out of the hospital. My family was ANGRY. Really, really angry with the staff, and I think a few of them lost their jobs. For me, those two weeks of antibiotics completely screwed up my immune system and for the next half-decade, I got severe colds and illnesses.
90. You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get
One day, I got called into a long, six-hour cardiac procedure to ensure a laparoscopic camera was working and able to record. The surgery was nearing the end, so I knew I was about to see something good—they wanted to record something big. Suddenly, the surgeon pulls out some kind of growth from inside this guy’s heart.
This thing was the size of a chicken wing. It was growing through his valve, and I’m honestly amazed the patient was alive. Supposedly the only symptoms were shortness of breath.
91. Tearing It Up
I watched one of the biggest screw-ups ever. My sister is very tall, very thin, and very fit. She was in pre-season for her WNBL season, so she had been running medium distances. Suddenly, she had a sudden sharp pain in the left side of her chest, along with radiating arm pain and shortness of breath. She called an ambulance and was rushed to the hospital.
They did all the tests and determined there had been no heart attack. They said she simply tore a muscle and sent her home. Welp, a week later, she was still in pain and she swore she heard a hissing sound in her chest. She saw our family doctor. He listened to her chest while she breathed in and out. He then said, “You’ve torn your lung.”
She was the perfect candidate for a torn lung. Tall, thin, fit. Her doctor was amazed the hospital didn’t hear the tear. How do you miss a torn lung in a perfect candidate for a torn lung?
92. Small Cut, Big Consequences
I was the patient. I had a liver transplant and was having surgery to get a new bile duct stent. Well apparently, my anatomy is different than normal, and my lungs go more down my sides. So the doctor accidentally caused a nick. It had devastating consequences. When I woke up, I couldn’t breathe. They did an X-ray and had to do a chest tube.
Apparently, he cried he felt so bad about it all. But it wasn’t him being malicious or negligent, it was simply an accident.
93. The Solution To All Your Problems
I am the patient, and I am in the middle of this. I don’t actually know how it’s going to affect me yet. I have always had headaches. In fact, it led me to develop a pain medication addiction, though I’m better now. As anyone with chronic headaches knows, you can always tell when some pain is even a little bit different than normal pain.
One day, I started getting headaches that felt different than usual, so I went to a local doctor. They are free, but most of them are really rushed and don’t really care that much. The doctor who I ended up seeing basically said, “I used to be a physiotherapist and I think this is muscle pain. Get some physio and work on your posture.” I have worked on my posture for years as a remedy for my ongoing headaches, to the extent that people at work have asked if I was a dancer because I held my spine so erect.
So I didn’t think it was that. And you know that saying: “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”? I didn’t really trust an ex-physio when he immediately said it was physiological without even asking me where the pain was, or what it felt like, or whether it was new. So I got a second opinion.
I later saw an optometrist for my annual check-up. She took one look at my imaging and immediately got me to take some extra tests I hadn’t had before. Then, she gave me a referral to an ophthalmologist. She said, “Please go see this doctor as soon as you can.”
She looked scared. I said, “What is it?” She said to me, I kid you not, “Have you recently started having headaches on the right side of your head behind the ear?” I replied, “How did you know?” She said, “You have a retinal hemorrhage in your right eye.” Two days later, the ophthalmologist confirmed the hemorrhage. He took more tests.
Eventually, he told me he suspected glaucoma and gave me a referral to get an MRI. I got the MRI a month later and it revealed that I actually have a brain aneurysm. It’s small, but it’s pressing on my optic nerve and affecting my vision. When I eventually went back to my first doctor, I took GREAT PLEASURE in telling him about the retinal hemorrhage, the increased intraocular pressure, the glaucoma suspect, and the aneurysm.
He just said, “Oh well, I suppose that might be causing headaches.” We’ll see. I hope if I can get this aneurysm looked at, my new headaches might subside. I am going to see a neurosurgeon soon. Fingers crossed!
94. It’s Getting Hot In Here
I was working in obstetrics during a heatwave. This is important, as maternity wards are kept quite warm since newborn babies aren’t good at regulating their temperatures. Mid-emergency cesarean, the scrub nurse assisting the operation starts feeling faint. This is unusual, as this scrub nurse worked in these theaters full-time, so this was her bread and butter.
I can only conclude it was the heat that did it. Anyway, she has to step out and someone far more junior had to take her place, it was the nurse’s first section ever. They were trying to assist with the instruments in the uterus when they fainted. I had to jump in and grab the back of their gown to stop them face-planting the open uterus, and then sort of gently tug backward to let them fall into me while someone else took over. Thank God the baby was already out.
95. Young, Not Dumb
I have Crohn’s disease. Because of it, I was severely malnourished when I went through puberty, so I’m a bit shorter than doctors predicted I would be and I look very young for my age. In my late teens, I would get really awful flare-ups of Crohn’s and would have to go to the ER. About 75% of the time when I went to the ER in my town, they immediately assumed I was just faking it.
Usually, after one of my parents dropped me off at the door and went to park the car, I would have to argue with the front desk ladies and the security guard, since they were always skeptical. They would tell me, “Oh I’m sure you’re fine, why don’t you head on home?” It would take my parents coming in and yelling at them to shut them up.
I understand how scary it feels to be in so much pain and having no one believe you. I have a running theory about ageism when it comes to pain management in hospitals. I remember one time I was once admitted and, by coincidence, my roommate was a 40-year-old guy with the exact same diagnosis as me. I got to see the huge difference in care between us.
At one point, the head nurse pulled all my pain medication from me and actually said to me, “When I’m here, the drugs stop.” My roommate got great treatment the whole time, though. Rest assured, after this stay, my parents had made many calls to supervisors, department heads, and people who dealt with lawsuits to severely complain about my treatment.
I was very sick at the time, so I was really in no condition to fight for myself.
96. 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.
97. Gimme More
When I was in labor with my first son, the anesthesiologist gave me an epidural, as requested. However, things quickly got complicated. I was rushed out to have an emergency C-section. They got me prepped for it in less than five minutes and started cutting. I could feel everything and I started screaming. At first, they got kind of eye-rolly. Then, the doctor let out a “whoops.” They forgot to up the epidural for a C-section.
98. Feel My Pain
My friend had a horrible moment when he was going under the knife. Two minutes into the 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.
99. A Rash Of Problems
I had a small rash that wouldn’t go away, so I went to see the doctor after a long while of hoping that it would just disappear on its own. He said it was ringworm and gave me an antifungal, but the rash got worse. I went back and he gave me an even stronger antifungal. Still, the rash spread, and this time it was all down my arms. I went back to the doctor to get a referral to a dermatologist.
The dermatologist took one look at the rash and said, “That is contact dermatitis.” I had changed soaps and it irritated my skin, giving me a little rash. The doctor’s stupid antifungals, in the meanwhile, were making my skin go crazy. I just stopped using soap for like a week and it was fine, but I had skin discoloration for like a year.
100. Always Check the Decimals
I very nearly injected a premature baby that had Down Syndrome with ten times the amount of Lasix I was supposed to give him: I had put the decimal in the wrong place when I did the math on the dose.
That baby would almost certainly have died if I’d given it to him. I had the liquid drawn up in the syringe and had the syringe actually in the port ready to push through before I looked inside the chamber and realized how uncharacteristically full it seemed. Pediatric IV doses of anything are simply tiny. I was supposed to give him 0.1 ml/s and nearly gave him 1.0ml/s.
I needed a very large cup of tea after that.
101. Breathe Easy
Years ago, I had a respiratory infection that kicked my asthma into overdrive. At the time, I didn’t have a primary care physician because I didn’t see the point, so I’d just go to urgent care for everything. Despite my peak flow meter reading being at 50% and telling the urgent care doctor that I’d had to sleep sitting up the night before—a huge red flag that the patient isn’t properly oxygenating—it did not go my way.
When I asked for a breathing treatment, the doctor said no. He simply said, “I’m sending you home with prednisone since your O2 is at 97%.” Note that our bodies are really good at compensating for bad lungs, so if an asthmatic has a low O2 saturation, they should’ve gone to the emergency department an hour ago. I eventually did get a primary care physician and I know now why I have one.
I eventually told my regular doctor about that urgent care doctor who wouldn’t give me a breathing treatment, and my doctor got SO angry. It made me feel very vindicated. And as a postscript, I had to go back to that urgent care the next day, where a different doctor gave me a breathing treatment because he wasn’t a total idiot.
102. It All Comes Down
My dad had triple bypass surgery in 2011, and right when they were about to close him up, the vent fell out of the freaking ceiling, contaminating EVERYTHING. My dad looked like a Smurf when he finally came out of surgery because they had disinfected him so much. The surgeon was an ex-army surgeon and he came out SEETHING.
He basically told us that if my dad suffered any sort of post-op infection, we would own the hospital. Luckily, my dad was just fine and is still with us, healthier than he has been in a while. From what we have heard, the maintenance crew was epically chewed out, and the story is still told at the hospital.
103. You Tried, You Failed
“She’s depressed because of work.” No, ma’am, she has schizophrenia. “She has a borderline personality disorder.” Did you mean, “She is female and insisting there is something wrong when you want to write her off?” Also, what she has is a brain tumor, so thanks for playing, goodbye. “He has anxiety.” Nope, he has OCD, I’m not sure how you missed it because it’s not subtle.
There’s a reason I got the heck out of that job.
104. 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.
105. Eye See What You Mean
I’m a doctor—an ophthalmologist to be exact. Recently, a young guy came to my office. He said he went to urgent care four times in 16 months or so for “pink eye.” They convinced him it was just a coincidence that he got it four times. Well, the guy had blepharitis. Very common. Cracks me up.
106. 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.
107. At My Wit’s End
When I was a kid, another child in my class was institutionalized for acting out. Turns out, the kid wasn’t actually crazy, just upset at being constantly mistreated by the adults he lived with. When the mistreatment stopped, she stopped getting upset.
108. 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.