When it comes to medical diagnoses, surgeries, and check-ups, the stakes are so high that there’s often no room for a second opinion—let alone these massive mistakes. When these Redditors rushed into the emergency room or a doctor’s office looking for help, they barely made it out with their lives. So how did it all go wrong? Read on to find out.
1. Didn’t Get The Memo
After my heart operation where they went in through my femoral artery, they forgot to tell anyone outside the theatre that they had given me anticoagulants. Long story short, when I got back to the ward, my mom and dad came to visit and see how I was doing—only to walk into the room from hell. I had two doctors and two nurses around me, caked in blood with the back wall of the room dripping with it.
I should have been in this tourniquet thing for like 12 hours minimum after surgery, but they removed it and asked me to get up and move around after four hours. Suffice to say, it wasn’t pretty and the first nurse (the one who removed it) went absolutely white. No one answered the emergency buzzer for about 10-15 minutes to help her, either.
She just kept panicking and saying, “You are bleeding out!” to me. Oddly, I was completely calm and kept offering her advice. I think it was the shock, since I tend to get very analytical instead of scared. I should also mention that the advice I gave was rubbish: “Would you like me to hold that while you go and get some help?” She met this with, “You’ll be dead before I get back.” “Oh ok, best for you to hold it then.”
2. A Fly On The Wall
I’m not a surgeon, but I had a screw put in to hold together a fracture in my wrist. At the last moment before surgery, the anesthetist told me I could have the surgery with a local rather than general anesthetic as planned. So I let her make the call for me to be awake. That’s how I heard everything the doctor didn’t want me to hear.
See, he didn’t realize I wasn’t under, and it was one eye-opening experience. During the drilling, my surgeon started complaining at length about why he hates the drill he’s using and how it’s inferior to the other type of brand. It was apparently the only one he could find at the time and he didn’t want to reschedule. So not great so far.
Once the screw is in, the surgeon says to close up. Someone asked if the screw should protrude as much as it was, to which he responded, “No, but we can get away with it, and you never want to take a screw out and put another in, because it will wear out the bone.” Then silence for about 10 seconds while I feel them shifting my wrist around, followed by, “Actually we better put a smaller screw in.”
When I was in recovery, the surgeon was surprised how quickly I woke up and had a slight look of surprise when I told him I was only under local. Next thing he said was, “Surgery went well…”
3. Back In Action
My husband had a weird dimpled spot on his back. He went to the dermatologist multiple times, but was simply brushed off and told not to worry about it. The derm even burned off a nodule that was bothering him at his beltline, but repeatedly said it was nothing and was visibly irritated with us for being anxious over it.
We waited for nearly 10 years before going to another dermatologist. Big mistake. Since our experience with this one was so negative, we were hesitant to go and see another one. But the new derm immediately diagnosed what turned out to be a sarcoma, which had had ten extra years to grow thanks to the first doctor’s incompetence.
My husband now has a 18-inch scar snaking down his back from the removal of the tumor and the reshaping of his back. I now have months of experience with wound drains, tunneling, bandages, triage, and the laundry that comes with massive wound healing. I would like to take that first dermatologist who was so freaking patronizing with our concerns and shove his face deep into his own behind.
Don’t ever let a doctor dismiss your concerns like that!
4. Spick And Span
I’m a surgical tech, and we were doing a skin graft on a burn patient. In those types of surgeries, you have two different operative sites if you’re taking the skin graft from the patient and not using cadaver skin. This means I have two different surgical teams going and only one me bouncing back and forth and assisting both the teams.
This was also at a university hospital, meaning I have attending surgeons, residents, and medical students all working alongside. If you work in surgery, you know that unless you’re the tech, YOU DO NOT TOUCH THEIR TABLE OR ANYTHING ON IT. As we’re doing the skin harvest, you have to keep the skin moist until it’s ready to be transplanted on the site.
I wrap mine in damp sponges and keep it on my table. I bet you can see where this is going. I turn back to my table and the sponge WITH THE SKIN IN IT is gone. I look everywhere and finally stop everyone from working to ask who has the damp sponge that was on my table. A resident told me my table was “too cluttered” and he threw the sponge in the trash. I saw red.
I’ve never had to scold a doctor so bad in my life. Not only did he touch my table, he threw away an item that needs to be accounted for after surgery, and it had specimen in it. Since the skin was no longer sterile, we had to use cadaver skin, and you know who pays for that? The PATIENT. So, a note to all the baby docs, please don’t touch your scrub’s table unless we okay it.
5. The Difference A Letter Makes
A nurse assisting in the imaging center obtained an order for an anti-anxiety medication called Versed to be given to a patient getting an MRI. This patient had issues with claustrophobia, so this was necessary to obtain good images with the patient. The nurse went to search for the drug in the pyxis machine. Then it went so, so wrong.
So she has to type the medication name in like a Google search in the screen to pull the drug. She types in only “Ve,” which pulls up relevant substances by alphabetical order, and without looking, she clicked the first medication and gave it to the patient. Almost immediately, the patient suffocated and passed, right there on the spot. It was only afterward they found out what happened.
When the nurse typed “ve,” the first medication alphabetically wasn’t Versed, it was Vecuronium. The difference being an anti anxiety medication versus a paralytic medication, which paralyzed them while conscious and suffocated them.
6. Measure Twice, Cut Once
I work in the pathology lab where the hospital sends all the specimens. One day, a surgeon did a double mastectomy based off a different hospital’s pathology report. The report said the woman had the kind of breast cancer where both breasts need to be removed. But when we examined her specimens, we made an utterly disturbing discovery.
We found zero cancer in either breast. Obviously, the surgeon was beside himself and made us look through both breasts IN THEIR ENTIRETY…It’s unheard of to submit all the tissue like this, but he needed to find cancer. I’ve never seen a surgeon stand there and watch the pathologist like this guy did. We all felt so bad for him and of course the patient.
He was so upset, cussing up a storm the whole time and screaming about “this is why I never take outside pathology reports!” Turns out, the other lab had mis-labeled her tissue, so some other lady got the all clear who had cancer, while she lost both her breasts when she didn’t need to. All around a horrible situation, and the surgeon was sick over it all.
7. Not Getting The Picture
My sister had her gallbladder out. It was a totally routine surgery, yet two days later she woke up at 4:00 in the morning in searing pain. She went to the ER by ambulance. I’m a nurse, and I met her there. The ER doctors were all apparently convinced that she was a pill-popper and did not even conduct a physical exam beyond taking her vitals.
They injected her with a calming medication to shut her up, because she was just yelling “Help me! Help me! I’m dying!” over and over again. They did eventually do an MRI, but said it was negative and sent her home. She didn’t want to leave and insisted that something was terribly wrong. Their reaction chilled me to the bone.
They said they would call security and have her thrown out if she didn’t leave. At this point, I’d like to mention that she had no history of substance use or heavy drinking. She continued to get worse at home, and the next day went to a different hospital. They did a workup and found that the metal clip that closed off the bile duct had cut right through the tissue.
She had a large bile leak that was literally burning all her abdominal organs. She had to have three surgeries to fix it and was hospitalized for nine days. She was left with chronic pain from adhesions and chemical burns. When the new hospital finally acquired the MRI from the original ER visit, she was told that the leak was small but clearly visible in that image.
So those people failed to realize that the issue really was something serious.
8. My Granny, What A Foul Mouth You Have
I was doing varicose veins surgery on a very posh British middle-aged lady with a very upper-class accent. There was an anaesthetic that we used that sometimes induced some hallucinations either going under or coming out of anesthesia, and we often heard some funny things. Anyway, this lady was in recovery and just coming out of the anesthetic.
The team were around waiting for her to wake up, and she gagged a little on the tube in her throat for breathing, so we knew it was time to remove it. She gagged, we removed the tube, and she smacked her lips and said loudly, in her incredible accent: “That’s the best bit of dong I have had in years!” The whole recovery room just fell about laughing. Luckily, she didn’t remember it.
9. It Burns!
I was once given someone else’s medicine…while in the hospital…via an IV. The nurse realized after I had finished the bag that she screwed up—but that’s not the worst part. Then she hid the bag in the garbage. The night nurse brought it to my attention because he was confused as to why someone else’s used IV bag was in the garbage can in my private room.
I was on a severe liquid restriction at the time too, so there was an extra couple hundred milliliters of fluid that I should have not had. A few other things happened during that time in that hospital, too. I was left in my own excrement while in a coma for hours. That resulted in it eating away and breaking down my tissue on my coccyx.
I was restrained and severely burned as a result. They didn’t use the pads like they’re supposed to, or ask family. My skin blackened. I almost lost my hand. Oh, I should explain that I was restrained because I was coming in and out of the coma. I tried to scratch an itch and accidentally pulled out my nose feeding tube.
My PICC line was pulled almost completely out and I was given a lot of potassium. Now, if it’s pure potassium, it will burn. Since I was on a fluid restriction, it couldn’t be mixed with saline. My arm would swell and burn red. It was so painful. But they kept on doing it. It took about a week before someone realized “Well, this doesn’t look right.”
10. Off To A Strong Start
I’m not a doctor, but the patient. When I was born, I was my dad’s third child. He had two from a previous marriage. He knew something was wrong with me because of the way I was breathing. Apparently, I was taking very rapid, short breaths. When I was three months old, they noticed there really wasn’t any change in that.
The first hospital that he and my mom took me to, they said that there was nothing to worry about and that babies just breathe like that sometimes. But my dad was 100% certain that they were wrong. They took me to a second hospital, and they said there was definitely something wrong with me. But they didn’t have the technology to help, since it was back in 1986.
They recommended us to a third hospital, which was a couple of hours away. Finally, the third hospital took me right in and performed surgery on me that day. Turns out I had five holes in my heart. They tried to go through my rib cage, but it didn’t work. They had to crack my sternum and go directly through my chest. They took my heart out of its body and patched the holes.
I’m doing wonderfully medically today, and I am forever in their debt. Not financially, though, thanks to some helpful children’s charities!
11. And The “Eyes” Have It
I was a junior doctor working in the neurosurgery department back in 2008. One of the senior registrars I worked with told me his most unfortunate moment in the operating room. In order to have a patient’s head stabilized for surgery, he used a frame that had a set of three spikes that held the head in place. Due to the angle he needed to approach from, this required the patient to be face down.
As he was placing the head of the anesthetized patient onto the frame, the unimaginable happened—the head slipped and his eye landed on to the spike, perforating the eyeball. Panicking and thinking that his career was now over, he then started poking at the eyeball, trying to work out what was what until the anesthetist told him to stop.
They then called the ophthalmologist who came to tidy up what was now a completely ruined eye. After the surgery, he went to explain to the patient what had happened. Understandably fearing the worst—anger, distress, and tears—he received the response of, “That’s OK, I was blind in that eye anyway!” from the patient.
Luckiest guy ever.
12. Line Of Sight
This was one of the more bizarre things I’ve witnessed in an OR. So, the surgeon brought in a bad pair of glasses. Here we are, total hip replacement, and the surgeon is going to town with what I lovingly call the human grater, which is a doohickey to make sure the new hip socket will fit in. Picture a cheese grater wrapped around a golf ball on the end of a power drill. It’s not pleasant.
Anyway. Dude’s grinding away at the guy’s hip and suddenly yelps in surprise and stops, backing quickly away from the table. We’re all like, what the heck? Well, his glasses spontaneously broke in half. They were the type that didn’t have rims, just lenses with a bar across the nose and bars for the ears. So the metal crossing the nose snapped at the screw.
The surgeon quickly starts stripping off his gown, the rest of his equipment, and leaves the room. Comes back with a roll of tape. Him and the circulating nurse can’t get the glasses fixed, so he just holds them to his face and has her run the tape around his head a few times. Then he suits up again and goes back to acting like nothing happened.
All in all, it only added like 10 minutes to the surgery time, at least that I could catch directly. I hadn’t been with that surgeon before, but I can’t imagine that was his best performance after the glasses broke, seeing how they were now taped across his eyes at weird angles. But yeah, don’t buy $5 readers for the freaking operating room.
13. Back To Basics
My mother was having intense spine surgery, and her idiot surgeon apparently couldn’t do math correctly, because he left two sponges inside of her, which meant she’d have to have an entire other surgery again to remove them. My mom was 20+ years sober, so she refused most of the pain medications after her first surgery.
When the hospital realized and had to confess they messed up, she had a mental breakdown over facing all that pain again. She got a lawyer and they settled ASAP for about $50K. My mom thought that was fair, but my godfather is a retired federal prosecutor and said it would have been $100K easy with another attorney. This happened about 15 years ago.
My mother has a master’s in biology and knows, well, stuff happens. It’s a testament to her character that she decided the settlement was fair for an accident. Yet another example of how extraordinary my mom is and how under-appreciated this retired high school biology teacher remains. I lover her so much, and I’m so glad she’s OK.
14. That Poor Kid
I suppose I have one for this as a resident doctor. It was a horrible ordeal to witness. We saw a kid in the emergency room for difficulty walking. He had been slowly losing the ability to walk over months, and also had random unexplained projectile vomiting episodes. Looking at his records, he had seen his doctor several times and the doctor had X-rayed one hip, then the other hip, then gave some Zofran.
We find out through the exam that he is blatantly ataxic. He had bad coordination and couldn’t even stand up. He failed all our bedside neurological examinations for cerebellum function. It was obvious to me, and I’m not even that good at this yet. So, we did a CT scan. And sure enough, there was a big huge tumor in his cerebellum. It was obstructing fluid drainage in his brain too, raising his intracranial pressure and causing vomiting.
We had to call in the neurosurgeons overnight for an emergency drain, and he went to the ICU. Later, he had more surgery for the tumor. My supervisor got pretty emotional about it actually. The kid had really declined further over the last few days before his parents brought him to see us, which is what initially prompted the visit. So he looked really bad for us, though I’m not sure what he looked like before.
To any med students reading this: 1. Do an exam. 2. It’s okay to cry sometimes.
15. Not All Right In The Head
I had brain surgery a few months ago. They put a shunt in (my first one) so it goes from the center of my brain to my abdomen. When I woke up, I vaguely remember the surgeon saying that my intracranial pressure was really high. After a few days in the ICU from a brain bleed that luckily healed on its own, I went home.
I get to my post-operation meeting and ask the doctor how high my pressure was, thinking he measured it like you would during a spinal tap. So then this lovely conversation happened. Surgeon: “Oh, we didn’t measure it.” Me: “How do you know it was high then?” Surgeon smirks and does a half laugh. “…Well, I drilled through your skull and of course spinal fluid comes out. But with you it was so high that as soon as I got through your skull it shot out, covering me AND the wall behind me.”
“Never seen anything like it,” he continued, “I had to get a new gown.” My mom, the surgeon and I had a good laugh at that. I imagine there were some curses while trying to manage the situation, and I wish I was awake to hear it. I had to wait three years for this surgery because no one believed I was suffering as much as I was, and he believed me and fixed it.
16. Coming In Wrong And Strong
My mom had to have a mastectomy on her left breast. They were getting her ready and came in saying, “Ok, so we’re going to remove the right one.” Then we were like, “Uh no, the left.” The nurse goes “Oh, hold on” and cue 15 minutes of endless right, both, left suggestions and several different nurses coming through. Finally the surgeon comes and is like “left.” But that wasn’t all.
The same surgeon told her the tubes they put in for drainage would be removed by the time she could go to work in a month. But just a day after the surgery, a resident came in toward the end of the day and told her he was there to take the tubes out. She said, no the surgeon said it would be a month. He pressured her and took them out. I mean, these had been stitched to hold them in place.
The next day, she is in so much pain and her chest is swollen and hard. They call the surgeon and he comes in without the resident who had been following him around. He takes one look at her and goes beet red in the face. He’s so angry. Yep, they definitely weren’t supposed to take those tubes out, and now my mom is in big trouble.
He has to help drain her fluids himself, because they can’t go back and re-insert the tubes anymore thanks to the resident. He also had his resident apologize and laid into him for the mistake, but that didn’t save my mom from a month of manual drainage.
17. Reverse Psychology
A couple of years ago, I was on overnight call at a VA hospital. It started with a relatively routine call asking to transfer a patient to our psychiatric unit from a community hospital emergency department for the treatment of psychosis. He was an older guy, I want to say early 70s. He had come in acting strange and delusional.
His son-in-law had told the ED staff that he had received care with use for psychiatric issues before. I asked them to fax the transfer packet, a bundle of the assessments already performed there, and I started looking at his chart in the meantime. However, what I found was that he had not actually been admitted to our psychiatric unit.
He had been seen by our psychiatry consulting team for delirium while he had been admitted to the medical floor for decompensated heart failure. For anyone unfamiliar, delirium can occur with pretty much any severe illness, where your brain basically isn’t functioning properly due to the physiological stress your body is under.
Sometimes, it just manifests as confusion or disorientation, but sometimes it can get more dramatic, with delusions and hallucinations. From what I saw in his chart, he had no actual primary psychiatric issues and had only been seen by the consult psychiatrist while he was delirious. So, I get the transfer packet for this guy.
Not only has there been no cardiac workup for this guy, who has a known history of heart failure, but there aren’t even any records of vital signs on him. The only labs are a pretty unremarkable blood count and electrolytes/kidney markers. These chemistries are also not too abnormal, but I notice that his urea nitrogen is a little elevated.
This is generally a sign of poor perfusion through the kidneys, as reabsorbing this urea also helps the kidneys reabsorb every last bit of water they can when the body is dehydrated. However, dehydration and low blood volume is only one possible reason why the kidneys might see reduced perfusion. Another possible reason is a lot more sinister—it would be if someone had uncontrolled heart failure.
So I call the outside emergency room and tell them that I will not accept this patient onto our psychiatric floor without at least a basic cardiac workup. I tell them his history, that he has only had psychiatric symptoms in the context of delirium from heart failure and that the little bit of data they actually sent me points to that again recurring.
They tell me okay, they will get the labs and vitals that I requested and reach back out to me. I didn’t hear back from them after this, and I assumed that they had found evidence of cardiovascular decompensation and reached out to the medicine floor to transfer him there instead. So I am going about my night, and a couple of hours later I get a call to come evaluate someone in the ED.
I am down there and using one of the computers at their desk when I hear one of the ED doctors mention something about a patient coming into medicine from the same hospital. For anyone unfamiliar, transfers to the VA pass through the ED first, despite this literally being illegal to do in other hospitals. I don’t understand the reasoning behind it, but it’s what they do.
Curious, I ask if it’s a guy coming in with decompensated heart failure. Their answer was absolutely infuriating. I am informed that not only is it the same guy–who will probably be getting a psych consult for delirium—but that he had ACTIVELY BEEN HAVING A FREAKING HEART ATTACK IN THEIR ED without them so much as noticing.
Needless to say, I was pretty upset that this outside ED had tried to send this guy to our psych unit, where it is a lot harder to get other medical treatments, without even getting vital signs on him or realizing that he was having a heart attack. I tell this story to medical students who are rotating through psychiatry all the time to try to hammer home the point that just because someone is acting bizarre doesn’t mean that you can just throw the “psych patient” label on them and ignore everything else.
18. I Just Can’t Quit You
Medical student here. I was going to be watching a procedure of a 60-something-year-old lady get her pacemaker leads changed on a Monday. Well, right before the attending began the procedure and the patient was still a little awake before the anesthesia was completely administered, she let out a shocking confession. She told everyone that she had smoked crack the day before.
The procedure had to be postponed to Wednesday of that week to let the substance get out of her system. So we finally finish the operation and it goes well. Then, when the attending doctor called the sister of the patient post-operation to let her know the results and any precautions they had to take, the sister asks the doctor “if her sister could smoke again?”
Because the phone was on speaker, the entire room just face-palmed.
19. Walking The Walk
I’m the patient in the story. When I was a toddler and started walking, my extended family noticed that I would waddle a lot. My parents didn’t really notice it because they grew used to my funny walking, but my grandma and my aunts that saw me so much less often insisted that I had a limp. So, my mother asked our pediatrician about it and he reassured her that it was nothing and would fix itself as I was growing up.
One year passed and it didn’t fix itself. In fact, it got more noticeable. My mother asked my doctor again. She asked for an X-ray to make sure everything was fine, and the doctor bit her head off for wanting to expose me to the rays. He insisted it was nothing, but referred us to a specialist anyway. The specialist suggested that my parents put some wool around my leg that had the limp.
Because wool would warm it up and speed up the growing process. Right. My dad finally had enough. It was summer and my regular pediatrician was on holiday. His partner visited me because the limping had since become really bad and my parents wanted another opinion. The new doctor measured my legs. There was a four or five centimeter difference between the two legs.
They sent me to a specialist at a children’s hospital to get it fixed right away. I had severe dysplasia. So severe that my right hip didn’t have a socket for the femur bone. Three years and three surgeries later, as well as after months of physiotherapy to learn to walk again, I was normal. If the second doctor didn’t catch it, I would have grown up disabled.
That doctor split up with his work partner, i.e. the first doctor who couldn’t even be bothered to measure my legs. The second doctor is now my daughter’s pediatrician.
20. Hanging By A Thread
A few years ago, my mom had a major stroke, which left her on a permanent feeding tube, placed in her abdomen, for about three months of her recovery. I will say, she got the absolute best care other than this one incident, and she had a miraculous recovery, to quote the doctors. But, yeah, there was one major mess up in her case.
When she had the feeding tube removed from her abdomen, we weren’t worried, because it’s a fairly simple procedure from what we were told. Then my dad goes to change the bandage when the time comes, and what does he find, but a string, sticking right out of my mother’s incision. So, he called the doctors, thinking that probably wasn’t right.
They very quickly got her back in to remove the pieces they had left in her. My dad taped the string to a sticky note and hung it in the kitchen. He said he’d file a lawsuit, but nothing yet. I think he was just glad she’s alive, and tired from all we’d been through.
21. A Swing And A Miss
Recently, my eight-year-old grandson went for his surgery to have a cyst removed from his thyroid gland. It’s supposed to be a simple surgery—you go in the morning, and come home in the afternoon. An hour later, my son (the dad) calls me. Something went horribly wrong. My grandson is being rushed by ambulance to the local hospital with a children’s wing.
Apparently, the damage was so severe that the surgeons at the new hospital didn’t even know what to do. The original surgeon had cut my grandson’s vocal cords, and he cut a hole in his larynx. They then called to talk to experts at Seattle Children’s Hospital. My grandson has been sedated and ventilated this entire time.
The following day, the doctors recommend my grandson be flown to Seattle Children’s Hospital. The mom gets to fly with my grandson, my son drives over by himself. They arrive Friday morning, and the new surgeon does the six-hour repair surgery from 5-11 pm on Friday night. My grandson spent the next week under sedation and on the ventilator.
After that, the new surgeon opened my grandson up again to take a look and told my son and daughter-in-law that everything looked better than he had even hoped for. The surgeon had three goals. First, that my grandson would be able to breathe on his own and not need a tracheotomy. Second, that he would be able to eat and swallow on his own. And third, that he would still have his voice.
Yes, that’s how bad this was. But after two weeks in Seattle, they came home and my grandson is doing fantastic! He does have to go to Seattle to see his wonderful surgeon every few months to have scar tissue scraped from his vocal cords. Still, he is doing awesome, and that surgeon succeeded in meeting every one of his goals.
Two other items: My grandson has wanted to be a voice actor since he was four years old. And then finally, the worst thing. The original surgeon that messed up called my son and told him that once he opened my grandson up, he saw that it was not a cyst on his thyroid gland, but a lymph node. Yet he continued to perform the surgery! My son and daughter-in-law have a malpractice suit against this doctor.
22. Too Little, Too Late
My best friend was in her late 20s and was feeling constant irritation in her stomach. She went to see several doctors over the course of almost three years, and they all dismissed her saying she just had an irritable bowel. She would try a new diet every few months, but nothing helped. One day, she calls me and tells me she broke her ribs.
She didn’t know how it happened, but she started having horrible pain and her doctor said her ribs must be fractured. Long story short, it wasn’t fractured ribs. At some point when the pain became too much to bear, she went to the ER and got a CT. The results were absolutely devastating. It turns out that she had stage four colon cancer with four-inch tumors in her abdomen that were compressing her organs and causing the pain.
It took her life a few months later. She’d been seeing doctors about her symptoms for three years. If just one of them had taken her concerns seriously and sent her to get a colonoscopy, she’d probably still be alive today. It’s disturbing, but sadly not surprising, to see that there are so many similar stories to this one.
If you feel like something is off with your body, trust your instincts, and don’t listen to doctors who try to tell you otherwise! The cancer may have taken her life, but the real reason for her passing was apathy.
23. Asleep At The Wheel
There was a story pretty recently in the hospital I work for, where a cardiologist in the ER was doing a rather difficult nightshift and started feeling light-headed, dizzy, and fatigued. Those shifts are pretty intense. They can sometimes last more than 26 hours, sometimes multiple times a week. Because of that, nobody thought much of it when this doctor said he wasn’t feeling well.
The doctor in question went to catch a quick nap in the staff room. People passed by him in the staff room every once in a while, but they just assumed the poor guy was exhausted and let him rest. They all saw him lying there though, and didn’t do anything about it. Later, they realized the awful truth. Believe it or not, even surrounded by all those doctors, the poor guy was dead for several hours by the time someone realized that something wasn’t right.
24. Thar She Blows
This was from my days as a vet technician. There was a small dog in for surgery because he, if I remember correctly, hadn’t peed for days, but was otherwise healthy. It was some sort of blockage that couldn’t be handled in the exam room. So we get him sedated and prepped for surgery. The dog is splayed open on the table and his poor bladder was as full as it could go.
It was like the biggest water balloon you’ve ever seen, except this is full of days’ old urine. And of course, like a good water balloon, the slightest pressure caused it to burst all over teenage me and the good doctor. So I’m in shock. Pee dripping off my face and covering my scrubs. No mask, face shield, etc…this was a vet office in Alabama.
We don’t need no stinking PPE. Except I desperately do need PPE at that moment. We cleaned up the dog, got the ruptured bladder repaired and stitched him back up. I’m pretty sure that was the moment where I decided my childhood dream of being a vet wasn’t quite as glamorous as I thought after all. I am not a vet now, either.
25. That’s Not Supposed To Be There
This was a very weird oops. I was the patient. The day I turned 14, I had an ovarian cyst rupture and bleed into my abdomen. They took me to a children’s hospital and they decided on surgery to drain the blood and an appendectomy because I already had horrible pain on that side and it looked a tiny bit deteriorated. Besides, I had an uncle pass from a ruptured appendix and they didn’t want any risks for me.
When they removed it, they used a surgical staple to close off where the appendix was attached to the colon. The problem was, I actually had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and was diagnosed a day later, so multiple ovarian cysts showing up and pushing on stuff in my abdomen was going to be a regular problem. So seven years later: horrible pain, bunch of cysts again.
I get taken out of college and rushed home for surgery, with my gynecologist thinking it’s endometriosis or something. Nope. It’s the staple from my appendectomy in the middle of my gut, floating towards my stomach. She later figured out that this was actually a reoccurring issue, especially for women who had PCOS or who were younger.
In a few cases she found, the staples ended up migrating to the skin and trying to come out of the body that way. It wasn’t malpractice or a true mistake, just what they used at the time versus what they would have done now. My doctor, however, did have some choice words regarding the previous surgeon’s decision, because I was her third patient in five years this happened to.
26. Eyeing The Problem
When I was a kid, my eyes were hurting and my dad kept taking me back to the same eye doctor, who insisted that the problem was that I wasn’t cleaning my contacts properly. He just kept giving me harsher and harsher chemicals to wash them in. It got to the point where I couldn’t open my eyes fully in a room with the lights on, even though I hadn’t worn contacts for months.
Finally, after a year, my mom forced my dad to take me to a different doctor. This doctor literally met me in the waiting room, looked at me with his naked eye, and said: “You have a raging eye infection.” A month of medicine and the infection was gone, but there was so much scarring and damage that it was about 20 years before I could wear contacts again.
This was more than two decades ago and it still bugs me to think about.
27. Trust No One
I’m a medical student on my anaesthetics placement. I went to see a patient due for surgery that morning. On my way back to theatres for briefing, a nurse comes running down the corridor to tell me that the patient had been fully anti-coagulated the night before because the surgeons had forgotten to un-prescribe the medication that thinned her blood.
If nobody had stopped us before we gave her the epidural, she would have bled into her spine and become paralyzed even before the surgeons opened her up, and that would have been even worse because had she bled, we wouldn’t have been able to stop it. It’s hard as a medical student to know your place and when to speak up, since you’re surrounded by professionals.
So when you see something like a full therapeutic dose of anti-coagulants on the patient’s medication list, you don’t want to question it because surely everyone above you knows what they are doing? The consultant I was working with told me there have been stories of medical students not speaking up when surgeons have started operating on the wrong side and things like that.
28. Can I Get A Do-Over?
Medical student here. I was watching a knee operation when the surgeon suddenly stopped and looked towards the staff. His face was absolutely shocked. Then he asks, “This is the wrong knee, isn’t it?” Basically, he was told to operate on the wrong knee. Halfway through the job, he realized it was too “good-looking” to be the knee that needed the operation.
Luckily there was no permanent damage done; the team re-knit everything together and rescheduled the surgery.
29. Forgive And Forget
When I was a kid, I often had surgeries to treat my genetic condition called osteochondromatosis. My surgeon came highly recommended, and although he didn’t have the best bedside manner, he was very good at his job. I went in once to get some plates put in both knees to correct the bowing growth and also to have a bone spur removed from my left foot.
Surgery went well, I’m put in recovery, and my parents come see me. My mom, however, notices something strange. “Weren’t you supposed to do both knees?” She asked my surgeon. I don’t know what his response was, as I was in dreamland, but I gather he was horrified. He’d done my right knee and my left foot…but had literally forgotten to do my left knee, which lead to me having to undergo two more surgeries than I would have.
He overall was a good surgeon. Still kind of upset about how he sort of misled us on the possibility of me developing cancer, though, but that’s another story.
30. Down To The Bone
I was the patient, but I was close with my surgeon and his assistant. I was in an ATV accident and shattered my humerus. About five months later, my orthopedic surgeon decided to insert a plate, screws, and cables. Two months before, I had a bone graft to try to repair it so I wouldn’t have to have hardware for the rest of my life, but it didn’t take like my doctor wanted.
I had been in a sling and splinted from shoulder to fingers for this entire time. Surgery goes well, and I start to regain muscle. I go in for a check-up about three months after starting physiotherapy and they do X-rays. My surgeon comes in and we’re looking at the X-rays…and that’s when he freezes. He points to the X-ray and tells me that I need a third surgery to repair my arm.
Due to the atrophy, he wasn’t able to extend my arm during the plate placement to test it to make sure it was high enough. Turns out, the placement was too low and as I was extending my arm, it was knocking the plate out of the bone. I cried when he told me because I just couldn’t stand the thought of going through that pain again.
He apologized multiple times and told me he was there if I needed anything or had questions. My mom was friends with his assistant, and this woman confessed that after I left the surgeon went to his office and cried because he didn’t want me to have to go through the surgery and healing all over again either. He referred me to another surgeon, and the surgery went well to move the plate and add another one.
I saw my original doctor a few months ago, and he saw my updated hardware for the first time. He cried when I told him my life was pretty much back to normal.
31. Sixth Sense
Surgical ward nurse here. The worst I’ve seen was a guy who managed to get to the operating theatre for an inguinal hernia repair, but had completely forgotten to disclose his medical history, and no doctor or nurse had bothered to ask. He was otherwise a young, fit, and healthy guy, so no recent blood work had been done either.
Within a few minutes of returning to the ward, his surgical incision was starting to fill. It almost looked like an IV drip had tissued and his lower abdomen was filling with the IV fluids. But of course, no one put any fluids down there. I was still a grad then, but I’d seen enough post-op hernias to know something wasn’t right.
I called the on-call doctor, who at the time was only a medically trained junior. He took a cursory glance at it, told me he wasn’t a surgeon, and said he had another real emergency to go to on another floor, but that he would come back to check on it after that. I just knew something was terribly, terribly wrong. So I started an FBI-level interrogation of the patient.
I asked if there was something he might have forgotten to tell the doctors. No judgments etc., but I needed his 100% honesty. He then admitted that he had a condition called “thrombocytopenia,” but he didn’t know what it was and was too afraid to bring it up. He also just assumed the doctors somehow knew or could tell when they looked at him.
Basically, the condition would completely affect his bleeding. I called the other doctor back immediately and told him that with or without him, my next call would be to transfer the patient immediately to our department of emergency. The doctor told me to do what I needed to. Thankfully, we caught it quite quickly, and the patient only needed a couple of bags of blood and some medication to restore normal bleeding and clotting.
32. Too Close For Comfort
My mum is a nurse. I was 15 and had fallen on my wrist while playing football in gym class at school. The school nurse, who was friendly with my mum through nursing circles, said to keep an eye on it during the evening. Later that afternoon, I’m in agony. But my mum wasn’t having any of it. She said if it was hurting, then I was old enough to bike to the doctor’s myself.
I tried to explain the importance of brakes and wrist usage. After enough whining, she finally takes me to the doctor and then on to the hospital after they said it was broken. She sat very sheepishly in the waiting room after hearing the prognosis. Fast forward three years later. My stepbrother comes back home for the weekend from school, with a sore wrist from getting into a fight.
Same “quit whining, it’s fine” response from her. He goes to the school’s health center. When he gets back, he is taken to the hospital for surgery and a pin put in place. Based on these stories, some might think that my mother is an awful mother and nurse. Total opposite, she’s been a fantastic mum and now grandmother and is very highly regarded locally for her nursing.
But as other kids of medical professionals have mentioned in posts, there’s something about how they react to their own kid’s medical issues. It seems that any medical logic switches off when it comes to their own kids. I’ve met a ton of people who have had very similar occurrences with medical professional parents, and it’s been good to talk to them and share a laugh at the stories.
33. The Eyes Don’t Lie
Once, when I was a medical student on surgery rotation, in trauma, we had a patient come in after he fell on the street and bonked his head. Well, apparently, he had fallen once earlier that day and was discharged when the trauma workup at the other hospital was negative for injuries. We examined him and noticed that his eyes were kinda yellow.
So, as part of our trauma workup, given that he couldn’t give a great story and we couldn’t be sure as to what happened, we CT scanned his abdomen and made a gruesome discovery. We saw that his common bile duct was like three times normal size. You could drive a truck through it. About that time, we checked his next set of vitals.
His temperature was 103 degrees Fahrenheit. The guy was floridly septic from ascending cholangitis, which is why he was falling down. Big miss and that is an emergency.
34. Try, Try Again
I haven’t worked in a surgical setting, but I did work as a fire fighter and EMT for eight years. The worst mistake I witnessed was when a paramedic delayed the transport of a critical patient by 40 minutes because they couldn’t intubate the patient—the patient’s airway was compromised due to a headfirst fall off the rafter of a garage he was building.
We had a secondary option for airway protection called an igel, which is very easy to insert and should have been resorted to due to the patient’s condition. Unfortunately, the paramedic chose to attempt the tube intubation six times (our county protocols only allow two attempts) before finally letting another paramedic who had arrived on scene make an attempt.
This paramedic was also unsuccessful and resorted to the igel immediately. No idea if the patient made it or not unfortunately, but the paramedic got in big trouble over this call.
35. Getting The Real Story
I started taking my daughter to the doctor for abdominal pain when she was 12 years old. It was excruciating, can’t-function-level abdominal pain. We tried tracking pain cycles. Nothing seemed to add up. Doctor after doctor, specialist after specialist, they all literally told her it was in her head. To the point where, on top of the rest of what was going on with her life, it caused her to develop some massive mental health issues.
At the age of 19, she ended up in the ER again for abdominal pain and they saw a cyst on her ovary. A few weeks later, she had scheduled for surgery to remove it. After a surgery that lasted a couple of hours longer than a cyst removal surgery should have, I finally had the horrible answer to my problems. The surgeon came out and said: “That is the worst case of endometriosis I’ve ever seen in my entire career.”
Granted, she was a gynecologist, but those are heavy words. At the age of 21, after having exhausted all avenues for controlling the endometriosis, she had a full hysterectomy. Even prepping for that surgery, with a surgeon that specializes in endometriosis and is the best in the field, the nurses and anesthesiologist said they were warned that this is one of the worst cases ever seen.
I so badly want to go back to all the doctors and ERs that I had taken her to and say “Look, she wasn’t faking it!” Simply so that it’s something they can take into consideration and maybe the next kid won’t be in the same position my daughter was.
36. The Zen Master
I’m a thoracic surgeon. I was still a young intern when this happened. I was young enough that the senior surgeon wouldn’t let me perform the whole surgery (under his supervision, of course), but old enough that he allowed me to do parts of the procedure. He might have overestimated my abilities at the time, honestly.
In my mind, I was doing a pretty decent job of dissecting a branch of the right pulmonary artery, freeing it from the cancerous nodes around it. Then, suddenly, dark blood started pulsing out of it. It was like the tide coming in, only way quicker—and way redder. My brain froze and I could only think, “Oh shoot,” but in far less family-friendly language. I then realized the grave error I had just made.
I had perforated the pulmonary artery—a very fragile organ that carries two and a half liters of blood every minute. Thank goodness my senior surgeon was the Zen Master he always is. He put his finger on the breach which stopped the bleeding immediately, then looked at me and just winked as if to say, “Well, you’re in trouble now, aren’t you?”
He stitched the pulmonary artery up himself and finished the procedure as if nothing had happened.
37. The Bad Doctors
A long time ago, I worked for a law office as an administrative assistant. The office represented doctors who were going in front of a medical board to defend their licenses when they were accused of violating medical conduct. There were surgeons who routinely left items in their patients, over and over again, who kept getting let off.
There was a doctor who was forging paperwork for parents to show that they provided services to their kids when they were never provided, which resulted in innocent people dying. There were doctors who were using their medical knowledge to poison family members. I obviously can’t go into any detail. But that stuff was terrifying.
Most of them kept their licenses and faced no recourse besides losing a little money in a malpractice suit and getting their malpractice insurance raised and occasionally paying a fine to keep their license. There are a lot of good doctors out there, but these were not them.
38. Murphy’s Law
I’m a surgery resident. For the non-medical people, I’m a doctor who’s in the middle of a 5-8 year surgery training after medical school. This was not my mistake, but a mistake of a mentor of mine who I consider one of the best surgeons in terms of surgical technique, warm bedside manner, and as a teacher. A healthy young patient with acute appendicitis was booked for an appendectomy.
This is a minimally-invasive operation commonly performed every day for removing the appendix through three small incisions, followed by placing special ports through the incisions to allow the instruments to go in your belly. Before placing the ports, we inflate your belly with CO2 like a balloon to make space for the ports.
Each of these ports has a pointy javelin-looking thing so it can enter the abdomen. The first one goes around your belly button. The second goes somewhere below the belly button. The third one goes somewhere on your left side of the belly. In my mentor’s case, the first port went in smooth, but upon placement of the second port, the javelin point went through into an artery, and also into the vein underneath it.
Vascular Surgery was called in for an emergency. The abdomen was opened up, and the vascular team tried to repair the injury. The patient coded from massive blood loss and eventually passed after many hours of CPR, resuscitation, and transfusion. The loss affected everyone in the Surgery department, not just my mentor. It was devastating…
39. The Nick
I’m not a surgeon, but I can tell you about one. My mother-in-law had a bad fall while on vacation in Florida and had to have hip surgery. During the surgery, they nicked her bowels without realizing it—until almost two days later when she started complaining of abdomen pain and her blood pressure started dropping. The worst came true.
By then she was already septic, went into a coma, and they couldn’t save her. The hospital declared her passing was from natural causes. We only know otherwise because my husband’s family hired someone to do an autopsy before they cremated her body.
40. You Had One Job
I’m an operating room nurse. We were doing an operation for a patient with rectal cancer where we were going to remove the cancerous rectum, close it up, and the patient then would have a colostomy for the rest of their life. This procedure was done robotically, and the cancerous tissue was detached but not immediately removed, so I went to lunch.
When I came back, though, I noticed there were no specimens on my table of the cancerous tissue. Meanwhile, the patient was already closed and minutes away from being extubated—even though we hadn’t yet removed the cancer. The surgeon had to return to the OR, reopen the patient, and actually remove the specimen this time. Big deal! But luckily no real harm to the patient.
41. Trust Your Gut
When I was in training, I saw a child suspected of having meningitis. While I was new to pediatric medicine, I had a gut feeling just by looking at the four-year-old patient that he was too sick for it just to be a regular child sickness. The thing that tipped me off was the child having a slight delay in the pupillary reflexes.
After seeing the child, I asked the head pediatrician to do a lumbar puncture to investigate the spinal fluid for signs of infection. She said there was no need and that all signs pointed to some airborne virus that was roaming around at that time. An unnecessary lumbar puncture can scar children for life and whatnot.
While I didn’t agree, I mistakenly doubted my own assessment and assumed the doctor with tens of thousands of hours of experience would surely know better than me. I shrugged and wrote everything down in the dossier. I then asked the pediatrician to read my evaluation afterwards. I went home after an exhausting evening, having worked almost 14 hours straight.
Three days later, the child came back with a fulminant meningitis that had taken a bad turn. When discussing the patient, she remarked that she noticed a bizarre pupillary reflex in the patient. So not only did she discount my suggestion of doing a diagnostic lumbar puncture, she also apparently did not read my evaluation of the patient three days earlier.
I learned to never doubt my gut feeling and it has led me to some outlandish diagnoses sometimes. It’s scary to think that some doctors don’t even bother to really pay attention to what’s going on when dealing with patients.
42. The Blame Game
I’m a surgeon, but this one is not a personal experience. Instead, it’s a case that stuck with me. So, a surgeon amputated the healthy leg of a 52-year-old instead of the other diseased leg. He was already cutting the wrong leg when a nurse looked through the patient’s file and stopped the procedure, informing him that he had been working on the wrong leg.
Apparently, the surgeon denied responsibility for the error and shifted it to other staff members involved in the surgery, since the blackboard in the operating room, the operating room schedule, and the hospital computer all listed the wrong leg for amputation. Also, the wrong leg had also been prepared for surgery prior to the doctor’s arrival.
43. Your Own Worst Enemy
My brother is a surgeon. He once told me about a patient who should’ve just died in his bed. The guy had extremely acute stomachache and neighbors called the ambulance because they couldn’t handle his screams. His whole family were religious fanatics, and claimed the poor guy had visions of God. The doctors had to call the authorities, who applied force to take him to the hospital.
If they had come just a few hours later, the guy would’ve just perished in agony. My brother said that he never saw someone’s appendix in such a terrible state; it was near exploding. In a few weeks after the operation he made full recovery—but then it took an even darker turn. He hanged himself because his family pressured him for not being able to become a new prophet.
44. Sweat It Out
I’m a medical student. I was watching a Caesarean birth, and the first surgeon wore his mask just on his mouth, not covering his nose. He was a big name there, so no one said anything—it was strange, sure, but not the strangest thing I’d ever seen. But when it was the moment to stitch everything up after the baby was born, the mother had internal bleeding.
It wasn’t massive, but at the same time no one could say where the blood was coming from. The surgeon is now a bit troubled and starts to sweat, literally. Well, his mask doesn’t cover his nose, so I swear I see a lot of drops of his freaking sweat falling into the woman’s abdomen. I pointed it out silently to the second surgeon, who then put the man’s mask in place. The surgery ended well, thank God.
45. The Bionic Woman
I was a medical student at the time, so I was just there to observe. It was an elderly lady with dementia who was in for an above knee amputation. After cutting through her tissue to expose her femur, the surgeon started with the bone saw, and within a few seconds started cursing and everyone around him seemed perplexed and worried.
Turns out, the patient had a rod in her femur that the surgeon did not know about. A few other surgeons came rushing in, and a few minutes later they all figured it out eventually with a mallet and lots of pounding. I had a lot of questions, but I was not in the right place to ask with all the tension in there! I guess it was a learning experience.
46. Breathe Easy
I was the patient in this story. When I was between 7 and 9, I had my first port put in, which is an IV catheter attached to the main vessels in my heart. When I woke up, I they had made a horrible mistake. My lungs were horrible already, but this was way worse. I couldn’t breathe and I was in so much pain. The doctor, however, thought I was just being a kid and not handling the pain very well.
My nurse knew me pretty well, though, and after me crying and struggling to breathe for a few hours, she convinced the doctor I didn’t normally act like that and that something was really wrong. He ordered an X-ray and we found out that the surgeon had accidentally sliced my lung when he was putting the port in, and my lung had collapsed.
47. An Inexplicable Decision
The two-year-old patient and their dad were out gallavanting in the fields near a small town that is several hours away from the nearest big city—which is where I work. The dad takes the child to the ER in the small town with an obvious snake bite, and the doctor there says “Eh it’s okay, she probably didn’t get envenomated.”
He didn’t even give the patient antivenin, which they had at that hospital. And instead of electing to send the child to us by helicopter, he sent her by ambulance. Several hours later, the patient showed up to our hospital coding. The child ended up dying. “Probably didn’t get envenomated?!?” What the heck kind of stupid nonsense idea is that??
If a tiny child gets bitten by a rattlesnake, you assume they’ve been envenomated and you treat them as though that had been. That means antivenin, physiological support, etc. It was all so completely absurd.
48. A Horrible Discovery
I was working nights and a patient came in for a nail bed repair under general anaesthesia. It was a slow night. A general anaesthetic is absolutely ridiculous for a nail bed repair, but he refused to have it done under local. As they’re anaesthetising him, he aspirates. So we do a chest X-ray to see if he’s got any spit or blood in his lungs.
Well, there was something we didn’t know. Prior to this emergency surgery, he’d been going to his GP for over six months and complaining about chest tightness. They’d put him on various different asthma medications, but none had any effect on him. The X-ray showed a massive dark mass in his left lung. We kept him asleep and transferred him to the ICU.
The dark space in his lungs was the normal lung, and the rest was whited out because they were riddled with tumours. His wife and three-year-old daughter were waiting for him on the ward. We had to tell them where he’d gone, why he’d gone there, and what was going to happen. He passed on from the lung cancer within the month. This man was in his late 20s and a non-smoker.
I couldn’t move past the situation for months after it.
49. From Bad To Worse
I had a shoulder replacement, and one of the doctors nicked an artery. They were panicking to try and find the nick, doing everything in their power. Yet whenever they saw it, it filled with blood. At some point, he got sight of it and jabbed at it with the clamps and finally got it. Problem was, there was a cluster of nerves directly behind the artery.
So after they fixed up the nick, they had to go through the process of checking if they damaged the nerves and if my fingers still worked. Thankfully, they did. The doctor tells me he’ll be telling that story to his students for years.
50. Anger Management
I was standing in on a total hip replacement with the most innocent, charming, polite surgeon. Then, stuff hit the fan and the screw wasn’t holding and his tool broke. He so elegantly says an entire string of curse words. Then he stops and stares in silence for about five minutes. After that, the rest of the surgery was “hand me the [bleeping] scalpel or hand me the [bleeping] forceps.” Every time I saw him after, I just chuckled a bit.
51. Don’t Call It A Comeback
I had kidney operation when I was about a year or two old. The kind surgeon managed to stitch me up with a 2cm-long piece of tube still inside of me. When they realized, it was a bit too late. I was screened annually to see if the tube inside of me didn’t cause any problems, which it did not for over a decade. Fast-forward to me being 14 or 15.
I was peeing when I suddenly saw something slowly slithering out of me. My first thought was that it was a parasite of some sort, and I freaked the heck out. Doctors, please search your patients thoroughly before stitching them up. Thank you.
52. Use Your Head
When I was in school, I had an instructor who took a job as Vice President of patient care at a big American hospital. She said there was a patient who had been on the unit for a year and the hospital was footing the bill. When they told her why, it was just about the worst thing I’ve heard. He was in for a brain surgery and they had removed a large section of his skull to access the brain.
Then they dropped it on the floor. They tried to clean it up and they apparently gave him lots of post-operative antibiotics, but he inevitably developed encephalitis or meningitis or well, probably an infection of the whole head.
53. A Nasty Tumble Made Worse
I work in EMS. We once got a call for a female with leg pain. When we arrived on scene, we were greeted by a truly gruesome sight. This woman’s leg was three times the size of her other one. It was blue and purple, and she had no pulse in her foot. She fell on ice a few days prior and the urgent care didn’t do any X-rays.
They told her she had a sprain and just gave her a walking boot. In reality, her tibia and fibula were both so badly fractured that they were cutting the blood vessels and muscle tissue. She lost her foot.
54. Down The Tubes
The nurse placed a feeding tube into a comatose ICU patient. Basically, it was a tube through the nose and down to the stomach so the patient can eat while in a coma. However, the nurse started the tube feed before getting an X-ray to confirm the appropriate placement. Well, the tube was in the wrong place. Due to some major misfortune, the tube ended up on the brain, and killed the patient.
55. A Dressing Down
A nurse went to change a surgical dressing per an order from the doctor, but misunderstood the order for how to dress it. Rather than ask questions after removing the surgical cover dressing, she cut the patient’s stitches in a midline abdominal incision and packed the wound with wet gauze…opening a brand new surgical wound and causing it to split open to the fat layer.
She then re-covered the wound with dressing, which the night shift nurse didn’t check, because the dressing wasn’t ordered to be changed at night and there was no reason to look beneath it. We didn’t notice until the next night either, because the next day shift nurse was busy addressing emergencies and ran out of time to change it. So the night shift nurse stepped up and found the wound completely gaping.
56. Tragic In Every Way
This is probably the worst story one can hear. My wife found a lump under her breast that was really concerning. It took her about two months to get a proper appointment to have it looked at. The doctor diagnosed it as a cyst and fibroadenoma. She drained the lump and it was fine. It grew back a week later and was bigger.
Finally, after being in terrible pain for weeks on end, the doctor said this is clearly not working, so we will do surgery and remove it. Upon going in for the check-up, thinking they’d take a look at the scar and healing, it turned out that she had Stage 2A Triple Negative Breast Cancer. The surgeon was absolutely floored.
That wasn’t the most upsetting part. While her fantastic main surgeon was on holiday, another male doctor told her, “any surgery would be merely cosmetic and it clearly didn’t bother her because he could touch the lump.” I almost laid that doctor out in the office. When she got the diagnosis, he apologized to both of us for being a jerk.
Despite doing eight months of therapy, including chemo and radio, her cancer returned seven months later and ultimately led to her death after it spread to her brain and spinal fluid. So many people told me, “Ah, breast cancer, that’s one of the easy ones! My *insert relative nobody freaking cares about here* had it.”
She switched gynos twice because they wouldn’t take it seriously. It’s been six months now and not a day goes by where I don’t wish I could have taken her cancer away. She was only 27 years old. It’s been six months since she passed, though I have been grieving for a while longer. Anticipatory grief, they call it. So, considering everything, I am doing well.
It was her birthday on February 28 and she would have been 28, so the week was quite solemn. But other than that, I have found ways to move forward with her, not from her. I miss her every single day, and will for the rest of my life.
57. All The Symptoms Were There
My mother-in-law had all the signs of stroke. Severe headache, vomiting, vertigo, vision problems, partial paralysis, etc. But she was sent home from the ER and told that it was an inner ear condition that would resolve on its own. When it did not get better, she saw her GP, who upon merely looking at her asked when she had had the stroke.
When he realized it was still untreated, he immediately sent her back to the hospital. There they finally recognized that she had had a major stroke! She could easily have passed and was in rehab for weeks. Their reaction was absolutely unbelievable. They then claimed that it must have happened after she was there the first time.
They claimed that her chart from that visit did not say that she’d had a stroke…and therefore she couldn’t have had one. So much wrong with that statement that I don’t even know where to begin…
58. Double The Fun
I saw a co-worker do this, but I had no hand in it, thank God. We make IVs for hospital patients. Well, she read the label of the IV wrong and put double the morphine in half of the amount the bag should have been. No one caught it along the way (tech, pharmacist, nurse) and it was hung and given to the patient. No one got fired, but everyone got talked to.
59. An Oldie But A Goodie
I recently had surgery. When I woke up from my vertical sleeve gastrectomy, the surgeon explained that the stapling instrument had failed and he had to close my stomach with stitches. I’m very grateful that my surgeon handled the situation and was honest about it. After all, it wasn’t so much his mistake as it was an equipment malfunction.
However, my husband, who was waiting for the “she’s all good” call from the surgeon, wondered why it didn’t come until like 90 minutes after it was supposed to. The operation was successful and resulted in a functioning gastric sleeve—even if it is old-fashioned.
60. A Massive Mistake
I once saw a young student from, I think, Pakistan. He was complaining about his neck feeling stiff. He went to a doctor some days before and he was told he was having “joint pains” that would pass with some common anti-inflammatory medication. When I visited him, I saw that many of the lymph nodes in his neck were swollen, which probably caused the stiffness.
Nevertheless, I had a terrifying suspicion. He told me they were not painful, which is not a good sign in this case. I sent him right away to have a chest X-ray. The results came back and showed a huge mediastinal mass, suggestive of lymphoma. Sadly, I don’t know what happened to him in the end. I really hope things worked out for him and that whoever took on his care after me was able to handle the situation properly.
61. Fuzzy Friend
I was working in an animal research lab, and my job was to make incisions and insert catheters into the hearts of rabbits through the carotid artery. I had a defective catheter with a sharp tip, and somehow I managed to have the catheter exit the carotid somewhere in the chest cavity of the rabbit. I had to step aside for a more experienced surgeon to take over from there because my confidence was shaken.
Luckily she was able to save the rabbit! For context, the research I was working on was for finding a cure to a disease called infective endocarditis. It’s basically where bacteria get into your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas of your heart. It’s extremely serious; almost half of all people who contract it pass, and it harms thousands of Americans each year.
Animal research in the US is taken extremely seriously, and the process to get approval for even the simplest experiments using animals is extremely rigorous. Our rabbits were fully anesthetized during the procedure, given pain medication for post-op, and treated with the highest standards of ethical care pre and post-op.
Please, before you judge, remember that animal research has saved hundreds of millions of human lives. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the animals that help us to better humanity, and it took me a while to get over that slip up that day.
62. Double And Triple Check
I was a scrub nurse for decades. My worst moment ever was being told we had left an instrument inside a patient. Now, that is our job—count, account, count again, account again and repeat. I had always prided myself on knowing exactly where all my instruments were at all times. Still, you have to realize that we can have hundreds of items out, but at the end of a case we go through the trays again and double, triple check.
So where the bloody heck had it come from? Even our sterilizing services department hadn’t alerted us that anything was missing, so what the heck? Turns out, the patient hadn’t been well post-operation and had a barium X-ray. Barium was put into the bowel through a tube, and the tube was then left in place, clamped, and the clamp placed on the abdomen.
Cover said patient with a sheet while the X-ray was done and HELLO one clamp showing on X-Ray. I saw the film and it was scary, but the surgeon and I said straight away it wasn’t one of our surgical instruments, and if they had just showed us straight away we could have avoided the panic. A day we never, ever forgot.
63. It’s Getting A Little Hard To Breathe
I’m a nurse. In this medical nightmare, the doctor was an anesthetist. The patient had her surgery (I can’t remember for what) and it all went well. She was awake and in recovery, but we still needed to give her medication through her IV line. As is standard practice, we flushed the line with ten milliliters of saline. Just as soon as we did that, the patient had a reaction that made our hearts stop beating. Almost immediately, she stopped breathing and we had no idea why.
We called the code and the anesthetist came running. He actually said, “Oh God!” when he realized what had happened. During the surgery, the anesthetist had given the patient rocuronium through that same IV line and he hadn’t cleared the line afterward. So, when we flushed the line, the patient got a dose of rocuronium that had been sitting in the line.
In case you’re wondering, rocuronium is a muscle relaxant. It’s used to inhibit the respiratory muscles to allow for intubation and ventilation while under general anesthetic. In layman’s terms, it paralyzes the breathing muscles so you can’t take a breath no matter how hard you try. You’d think it puts you to sleep, but it does quite the opposite.
This patient was wide awake but totally unable to breathe throughout the whole ordeal. Luckily, the anesthetist worked out quickly what had happened and easily reversed it. The patient was physically fine but understandably traumatized.
64. Arm, Meet Hammer
I broke my wrist once. I had to undergo surgery to have the broken bone adjusted so it would grow to be a nice and functioning bone again. It appeared to be an easy and uncomplicated procedure, but then two hours later, I woke up with a cast around my arm, which they never told me I would need after the surgery. The doctor assured me everything went fine, but a couple of weeks later, I returned to him to have the cast removed…
As soon as he took it off, my blood ran cold. The surgeon had a confused look on his face and I could see him with that “Oh God” look. He told me perhaps the surgery didn’t go exactly as planned. He hadn’t placed the two parts of the bone in a straight-line during surgery, so after a couple of weeks in a cast, my arm had healed in a funny and crooked way.
In the end, he had to rebreak my arm and put it in a bit more of a straight position. A few weeks and a wicked-looking scar later, everything was okay again!
65. After Me, The Deluge
I have a fun one. Many years ago I was working in surgical research. We operated on pigs because they are the closest things to humans. The experiment was investigating hemorrhagic shock and bandages/treatments to deal with that. Like, if you get shot in the femoral artery, what can stop you from bleeding out in seconds?
We tested quick clot bandages and synthetic blood, etc. So we dissect out the femoral artery on this fully intubated anesthetized pig. Usually the experimental procedure is: cut the femoral artery, wait 30 seconds, and then apply the quick clot bandages. Except this time we did a slightly different procedure. Instead of a full cut that bleeds into a big pool, we took out a small hole-punch.
It was like a putting your thumb on a garden hose. Total bloodbath in the surgical theatre. One poor guy looked like Carrie, covered in pig blood. Lesson learned. Cover the wound with a bucket before cutting.
66. A Hard Lesson
My dad is a vet and I’ve helped him on many farm calls. One time we were pulling a calf out of a cow that refused to push for God knows what reason. Then suddenly we heard a nasty POP and saw the cow’s hip drop. I am not sure exactly what went wrong, but I do know they had to put that cow down. After we left, my dad had to look at me and give me a hard lesson on accepting failure.
You can hate failure, it can make you feel not good enough, and it can tear you up inside and crush you. And nobody can tell you it wasn’t your fault or can make you feel better about it. But at the end of the day, life goes on. And all you can really do is accept it and keep moving forward. Although I didn’t follow my dad into the medical field, I do remember those words.
67. Hear No Evil
I’m an emergency room doctor. Many years ago while trying to straighten out some fractured forearm bones, I managed to dislocate the wrist. The patient was very likely headed to surgery anyway, but I tried so hard that I made it worse. I’ve also given activated charcoal to an overdose patient that then progressed to needing intubation, which is much more difficult to do when everything in the back of the throat is pitch black.
I once saw a kid with a runny nose the night before his parents had tickets to fly to Disney. Silly me, I examined his ears. Although he had no ear symptoms, he did have a bright blue piece of plastic in his ear. Therefore, I felt obligated to get it out. Kid is not cooperative. Sedation. Lack of success (multiple doctors tried).
In this situation, we usually discharge to go to a different clinic the next day, but they had morning plane tickets. I don’t recall if they rescheduled their plane tickets or went to Disney with asymptomatic ear plastic, but after hours and hours of fruitlessly messing around with me, I feel I probably ruined their Disney trip either way.
68. Learning Curve
I spent 13 years in practice as a surgeon. Thus far I myself haven’t had any major operative screw-ups. However, everyone who is a surgeon gets their training at some kind of academic medical center. The mentors at these places tend to be of two varieties. Type 1: The highly competent role models, and Type 2: Surgeons just barely competent enough to stay in practice.
The mistakes of Type 2 surgeons are frequently reviewed publicly for educational purposes by the trainees who also work at the same facility, all so they can call Type 1s for rescue help during the operation. By far the most common mistake made by Type 2 surgeons is doing operations on patients who are beyond all hope of recovery.
This frequently results in suffering for everyone involved, and many times a faster end for the patient with a terminal illness. A good example would be attempting to excise large, irremovable metastatic cancers wrapped around sensitive vital structures. Some Type 2 surgeons make careless mistakes, like how I once saw a cancer surgeon use the ultrasonic dissector to accidentally divide the external iliac artery.
Lots of times, bowel injuries are missed and the patient has to go back to surgery for a resection or repair. That’s super common because the bowel is pretty thin and fragile, and partial thickness tears can breakdown in unhealthy patients with a lot of previous surgery and lots of adhesions. Even great surgeons get leaks once in a while for all kinds of reasons, but most commonly overconfidence in a really sick patient’s ability to heal after a technically proficient surgery.
Sometimes timing an operation is the most critical thing—having good enough blood pressure, heart rate, oxygenation, and nutrition are just as if not more important for some types of surgery where functional organs are reconstructed rather than just being removed. There are some common sayings among surgeons, and one of these is, “it takes five years to learn how to operate, 10 years to learn when to operate, and a lifetime to learn when not to operate.”
69. Heavy Is The Head
While I was performing a hip replacement, I got into the wrong muscle and damaged the patient’s femoral nerve. They now have a permanent paralysis of their quad as a result. Mistakes like this can be hard to talk about, believe me. Every time you put on the gown and gloves, there is a small, needling part of the back of your mind reminding you that there’s a real chance you may be about to ruin someone’s life.
It may not be this time, it may not happen in any of the 12 other surgeries you have scheduled this week, or the 50 this month, or the 50 next month, or the 50 the following month…but it will happen. Major, life-altering mistakes are extremely rare, but with enough time and a big enough sample size, rare things happen all the time.
That’s the reality of being a surgeon. People put their life and well being in your hands, and at some point you are going to betray that trust and hurt someone. It is going to happen. There is no amount of preparation or care that can prevent it—if you chose this life, you have chosen a life where at some point you are going to lie sleepless in bed at night wondering, “I wonder how they would be doing now if they’d never had the misfortune of meeting me?”
70. A Dog’s Life
Veterinarian here, and we do quite a few surgeries. “Mistakes” likely happen all the time, from nicked blood vessels to skin or organ tears. In the veterinary world, I’ve certainly heard stories of male animals having an abdominal incision during a neuter, since someone thought it was a female for a spay. Wrong limbs can also be amputated.
Surgical instruments and sponges or gauze can be “forgotten” in patients. There are many surgical checklists to help prevent these mistakes, and I am sure it is even more developed in human medicine. Fortunately for me, the biggest surgical mistake is probably a suture slipping when I was removing an organ, which gave some internal bleeding.
71. Whoopsie Daisy
I’m not the surgeon, but I am a nurse in a hospital. Without going into toooo much detail, I had a patient who bled into her abdomen for 10 minutes during surgery without anyone noticing. The surgeon was focused on fixing a smaller bleed in another location.
72. This One’s Hard To Stomach
I’m not a doctor, but I have a story to share. I’ve been dealing with abdominal pain since I was a child. I’ve had countless ultrasounds, doctor’s appointments, and ER visits. I was always told it was in my head. Recently, I had surgery for something unrelated. During the surgery, they had to free my appendix that was stuck to my abdomen wall. Just the tip is healthy at this point.
So apparently, I had been suffering for years with a mild case of appendicitis, and my body was pretty much just absorbing my appendix. I will have to go back to get it removed in a later surgery, because it was so stuck that all they could do was free it. And they didn’t want to risk it at that point because it was going to cause more pain. So, that was cool to find out…
73. Forgetting An Important Detail
I’m not a doctor, but actually the patient. I had a doctor prescribe me birth control. While in line to pay for it, I was reading the paperwork that comes with it, and I learned that another medication I am on, permanently and every day, completely voids out any effect the birth control would have. I went back to the pharmacist and asked about interactions.
He informed me that I may have side effects. I asked which ones, and he said: “Pregnancy.” Pregnancy is not a side effect. It is a lifelong commitment. Then, I called the doctor and asked why she would prescribe something to me that she knew wouldn’t work. And her response was: “But you asked for birth control!” Like, yeah I did, but I wanted some that would actually work!
Silly me for not specifying that…
74. Third Opinion
I’m a dentist in the United Kingdom. While I was working as a locum in an emergency clinic, I had a man present with a mouth full of infections. He had wanted implants and gone to a private UK dentist, who refused to do them due to the patient’s heavy smoking and poor oral hygiene, which would mean the chance of success and good healing would be limited.
The patient didn’t accept this—so he went an alternate (and horrifying) route. He went online and found that he could go to Hungary and get the implants done for half the price, and have a holiday. He came back and, within a few weeks, most of the implants were infected and he’s sitting in my chair. We gave him antibiotics to clear up the infection.
Then we had to inform him that the implants would need to come out and that he would need to find a specialist dentist with the necessary equipment to get that done. He was not happy. He spent all that money only to have to pay again to have them all removed. No better off and at least ten-thousand down. He should have listened when the first person told him!
75. Anxious To Find Out
I have anxiety that can get pretty bad when untreated. I went to see my general doctor about it and tried to explain my symptoms. She told me it was heartburn. I tried to explain that I thought it might be anxiety and she yelled at me. She got upset and told me how “everyone is stressed” and how “these are stressful times, it’s normal.”
I was having heart attack symptoms and I’m far too young with no heart problems to be having a heart attack. I went to a new doctor and, before I could even finish explaining, she cut me off and said “Yeah, you’ve got anxiety.” I was out on meds and within the week I was feeling better. I don’t know what that first doctor’s problem was…
76. Butterfly Effect
I’m a patient, but I’ll tell you my story. I went in for an emergency appendectomy. When I woke up, I could never go #2. Turns out, the surgeon injured a nerve that caused my bowel to be paralyzed. I was on five laxatives a day for several years with no relief. My family doctor told me I’d be lucky if I could one day go to the bathroom once a week.
77. Not What Patients Wanna Hear…
Doctor here. I once had a new admission come to me overnight in the hospital, who was admitted by someone else the evening before. The patient very clearly had an out of hospital cardiac incident at a local casino. After it happened, they used a defibrillator on him which brought about return of spontaneous circulation.
The history was clearly described by the admitting doctor, however they called it “syncope” or passing out. They had ordered a cardiac stress test for the morning. I caught it early that morning. Ended up needing to go emergently to the cardiac catheterization lab and getting a stent to heart artery procedure, which was the cause of their heart stopping.
If the admitting doctor had actually done a stress test on this patient, it would have ended their life. And I have literally tens of stories like this. It feels like half the doctors I work with are morons and literally don’t care about the well-being of their patients. If you aren’t someone who can handle the kind of things that doctors deal with on a daily basis, this is not the profession you should be in.
78. Busting Out
I was NOT prepared for the day a patient exploded in surgery and splattered all over the entire operating team. Basically, a watermelon-sized tumor was being removed from the patient. It turned out, the tumor was more of a giant cyst. The surgeon didn’t open up the belly wide enough to facilitate the thing, so imagine someone trying to dig out a giant water balloon from an eight-inch incision with their hands.
The pressure on the tumor caused it to erupt out and upwards, spraying its contents on everyone and everything in the room. On the positive side, this made the removal of the thing A LOT easier. I do recall a lot of people screaming when it happened though. The patient came out fine!
79. Twist And Shout
Medical student here. I will be a doctor in May. I was working an ED shift when we found what was probably a missed testicular torsion. The previous doctor had told the patient that he probably had cancer. When he showed up at our ED, what he had was probably a dead testis missed at initial presentation weeks prior.
People with testes, especially young men: if you have sudden-onset excruciating pain, sometimes without activity, but often after or during activity, you’ve gotta go to the ER IMMEDIATELY. It’s one of the few things that would make a urologist lounging at home on the weekend jump off his couch and drive full speed to the hospital.
My patient experience was with a male, but indeed ovarian torsion is a similar emergency!
80. Quality Over Quantity
I started having horrible ankle pain when I would walk in grade school, and my doctor always attributed it to growing pains. I knew that this was not the case, and so I kept annoying him about it. After multiple attempts at diagnosis, including everything from knock knees to pigeon toe to just being weak, I finally went to a specialist.
He asks me to flex my ankle, and so I do. “No, all the way” he said, even though I was flexing as hard as I could. I could only flex my foot maybe an inch from its resting position. Turns out, I had incredibly decreased mobility of that joint due to shortened tendons. He diagnosed me within five minutes, after years of my doctors brushing me off.
After a few months of physiotherapy and a shoe insert, my pain decreased by a lot.
81. Happy Wife, Happy Life
I am 29 years old and have been having chest pain for the past three years. The first doctor I went to said that I was just stressing myself out thinking about it. My wife convinced me to go to another doctor, who took me seriously and did an echocardiogram and sleep study. Turns out, I have a pretty serious congenital heart defect that requires me to wear a pacemaker or risk dying.
The crazy part is that, up till 26 years old or so, I was in amazing, near Olympic-level shape. The doctor was stunned that I was still alive after explaining my workout routine from when I was younger. I owe my wife my life now.
82. Missing The Obvious
I found an obvious huge rectal cancer on a patient who was previously told over and over again that she had hemorrhoids. It made me so sad to know that it could have been caught and treated so much earlier, but they happened to get stuck with a doctor who either didn’t know what he was doing or just didn’t care. I hope the patient is doing well now.
I’m the patient. I had a breast tumor found by nurse at a county health department. She didn’t tell me about it. I found it while doing a self-exam in the shower a week later, because I’ve always been on top of that stuff. I didn’t go back to the doctor for months, because I figured the NP would have told me. Four months later, my doctor gives me the heartbreaking news. I’ve got Stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 30.
Lesson? Do your self-breast exams and don’t let anyone tell you you’re “too young” for anything serious.
84. A Tough Pill To Swallow
I’m not a doctor, but a nurse. Back when I was in college, I got to a point where I couldn’t swallow. It started with difficulty swallowing, progressed to me having to swallow bites of food multiple times and regurgitating it, and then got to where all I could swallow was broth soups and mashed potatoes with absolutely no chunks.
I went to the doctor multiple times, and was told every time that it was just acid reflux and part of my anxiety disorder. I lost 30 pounds, and I was only 120 when this started. I was just generally miserable. Finally, my grandma got tired of watching me be sick all the time, so she called the GI doctor herself. They said we needed a referral.
But she explained the situation and they got me in the next day. They did an endoscopy and found that my esophagus was 95% occluded at the gastroesophageal sphincter. For some reason, some of my primary doctor’s notes ended up in my discharge paperwork by mistake. I guess they had to contact her to get my information.
She had told them it was just acid reflux and basically that I was being overdramatic. She stated that she did not recommend them to do the procedure. Needless to say, I switched doctors. Screw that idiot. That was not a fun year…
85. Oh, By The Way…
A neurologist once sent a patient to our ED without informing her that imaging showed a glioblastoma, assuring her impending demise. He didn’t overlook the disease. He just overlooked the communication. So he knew her life was about to come to an end, and dumped the task of informing her onto a total stranger like me.
86. More Than He Bargained For
I’m a dental assistant. A patient once came in and his color was off. His jaw hurt, as did a tooth. He’d just come from the doctor who told him to see us. I was suspicious of a heart attack. I put the pulse ox on him and almost fainted myself. I grabbed our emergency high flow and yelled for the AED and for someone to call an ambulance. The guy was having a heart attack.
The guy lived and brought me a big heart-shaped box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. I’ve never been so scared or angry for another person. The dentist I worked for called the MD and said, “My 25 year old assistant just saved your patient’s life.”
87. The Opposite Of What You Were Supposed To Do
I’m a social worker. I once saw someone who claimed to have anxiety. He had prescribed benzodiazepines by his previous doctor and now felt like a zombie. I figured he had ADD after just five minutes, and the benzodiazepines had just made it exponentially worse. I cannot understand how people get things so wrong sometimes.
88. A Leg Down
My grandfather’s friend needed to have his leg amputated. Somewhere between him leaving the hospital bed to go into surgery and coming back out, someone had mislabelled the leg and they amputated the wrong leg. He went back into surgery three days later—he’s very old and they were worried about him going under once let alone twice—and they removed the other (correct) leg.
This is one of those stories that I couldn’t believe until I actually met the guy and realized he really does have both legs amputated, for no good reason other than negligence.
89. Let It Bleed, Gone Wrong
MD here. I was recently called over by a nurse who told me that a patient’s bandages were wet, as they were bleeding a little. The patient had recently had his leg amputated. We pulled his bandages off and found a spurting femoral artery. At this point, the patient passed out. The patient was immediately sent to theaters for an emergency operation. Close call for sure.
90. Standing In The Way
My grandmother had a lump on her tongue and, when she went to the doctor’s office, the person who examined her told her that it looked benign. He didn’t feel comfortable with ignoring it, though, so he said she should go to an expert lest it become malignant. A more senior doctor then decided against that and blocked the proposition.
A couple of months later, we find out that it is malignant and she needs half of her tongue cut out, plus tonsils.
91. Four Missed Chances
I had a pelvic exam for severe pain and the fact that, “something doesn’t look right down there, doctor.” The gyno missed the fact that I was having an organ prolapse. 91 days and four ER visits calling it a heavy period later, my female organs were no longer attached to my body but in a specimen cup in the trauma department.
Also, the whole thing ended in a hysterectomy to remove what didn’t completely detach from my body.
92. Coming In Handy
A patient was getting anxious about numbness in his hand. He said: “It’s getting more frequent and I don’t want to live like this. It gets me freaked out, like my hand’s not there.” They assumed the person was mentally ill and showing symptoms of panic attack, i.e. elevated breathing rate leading to tingling and numbness in hands.
They did a CT scan because I requested it. There was a lesion. They blew it off. An MRI showed that it was glioblastoma multiforme, which is an extremely serious form of cancer. This was completely missed by the ER physician assistant. The MD supervising them never spoke to me. Not even sure if they reviewed the case.
93. Rank Over Health?
While working as a Certified Nursing Assistant on an ICU step-down unit, I noticed my patient was acting strange. I asked her a few questions and got some questionable answers. I thought it might be weird, as she couldn’t really answer questions other than with “huh” and “uh huh.” Her gait was off too. It was like a trot rather than a normal walk.
On top of that, she was leaning over. I was training another CNA and I was like, “No matter what you do, if you see something, notify the nurse and then put it on the chart that you notified her.” Well, sadly, the patient was having a major stroke and the nurse was too far up her own behind and too busy on her phone to do a proper assessment.
As a result, the woman had to go to rehab and was not a candidate for any stroke “reversing” drips, as I had charted that she seemed “off” eight hours before. The only reason anyone “caught it” was because the night shift nurse insisted on viewing my bedside report. The nurse I had been working with yelled at me “STROKE??” As if I hadn’t been notifying her of symptoms all day.
94. A Game Of Inches
So this one guy was brought in with an ambulance for upper airway obstruction. We diagnosed what looked like advanced throat cancer and did a tracheostomy. After the operation, where you pull and push the neck like crazy, we checked his neck X-ray. Then this junior asked him when had broken his neck. Well, as it turns out, he had a brand new, unstable neck fracture.
Checking his initial x-ray, we saw that it had been there prior to the operation, but everyone had missed it. After questioning the patient, he said that on his way to the hospital, the ambulance was in a car crash. No one bothered mentioning it to us when he eventually came in. He only thought he had whiplash, but he was actually just a few millimeters away from permanent paraplegia.
Unfortunately, he passed on about two weeks later, due to the cancer.
95. See For Yourself
My mom told me the story of how I had to go to surgery after I accidentally cut my eye open with a stick and my doctor was trying to fix my pupil. Apparently, my pupil was in the shape of a football and he tried to make it “normal,” but instead he messed up and it made my vision worse. Now because of that, my vision is 20/100 in my left eye and it can’t be fixed.
96. The Rear View
Nurse here. A very panicked nursing assistant came running to the desk one day, saying, “You have to see this! I don’t know what this is!” She then brought me into a private room where she was giving the patient a bath. She pointed to an area on the patient’s buttocks. “What is that?” I leaned in for a closer inspection, and my face went white.
The patient then started to turn back around and said, “IS THAT MY EYE?!” Sure enough, my patient had a prosthetic eye that came out of the socket at some point and it became suction-cupped to her buttock. I left the room and had never laughed so hard in my life. Truly one of the most bizarre and hilarious moments in my career.
97. The Eye Doctor Is The Only One Who Can See
I’m not a doctor, but a friend of my mom went to an ophthalmologist for an eye problem. During his exam, he asked her a question that made her blood turn to ice: “So how long have you had MS?” That was the first time that she was ever diagnosed or even made aware of the possibility that she might have that. On top of that, she had been regularly seeing all kinds of doctors for her entire life.
Apparently, she had been battling various MS symptoms for a couple of decades without a diagnosis.
98. One Man’s Trash…
I work for pathology. An oncologist I met at the lab would tell me all of these horror stories, but one of them sticks out in my mind as one of the most horrific mistakes I’ve ever heard a medical professional make. Specifically, I will never forget about the one time a nurse threw someone’s donated organ transplant into the rubbish bin. Yep, really.
99. Two For One
I’m not a surgeon, but I did encounter a weird hospital mistake that’s too memorable not to share. When I worked for a funeral home, I once picked up remains from the hospital morgue (which is a fairy routine procedure) and then discovered an extra foot in there before I cremated the body. That was an interesting call to the head of that department.
100. Worse Than Crying Over Spilt Milk
I had a patient who was lactating, but not pregnant or breastfeeding. A previous doctor told her it was residual from her baby that had been weaned for 14 months. I sent her immediately for a brain scan. Well, it turns out that she had a brain tumor. She had surgery a week later to remove it and, thankfully, is doing very well now.
101. My Boss Is A Heartbreaker
I had a doctor who constantly ignored patients in serious pain. He thought all of them were faking it to get pain medication. After a senior director at Microsoft, who he refused to do an EKG on, died from a heart attack in our ER, it was the last straw. I went to management and told them what I had seen. Thank God they fired him. I couldn’t take it anymore.
102. Some Things Can’t Be Put Back
When I was in EMT school, we were told about a paramedic student (the instructor was a paramedic as well) who observed a stabbing call. They arrive at the bar and see a dude with a knife in his abdomen. Medic student takes lead and pulls the knife out, something you never do, as I’m sure you know. Senior medic loses his freaking mind at this dumbass, asking him what the heck he was thinking.
Student freaks out and, you guessed it, puts the freaking knife back in. The patient died as a result, student lost any chance of having a good job (not even just in EMS) and was charged with the death of the patient (might’ve been manslaughter I don’t remember). His entire life was ruined because he freaked out and made a mistake on a call, not a rookie mistake or a common slip-up, but in about half a minute, he ruined his life.
103. 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.
104. Feel My Pain
My friend had a horrible moment when he was going under the knife. Two minutes into surgery, the doctors noticed his pupils dilating or something. He said it was horrible, he could feel the scalpel cutting into his flesh, the agonizing pain, and the oxygen thing only gave him air every few minutes. They noticed he wasn’t under and fixed it. But then the dark truth came out.
Turns out, the anesthesiologist who put him under was his ex-girlfriend, though no one knew about it, and she likely did it on purpose. The surgery went well, the recovery was a bit longer than expected, but he’s all good now.
105. 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.
106. 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 mls, and nearly gave him 1.0mls. I needed a very large cup of tea after that.