Doctors have a really tough job. They hold people’s lives in their hands, and their split-second decisions and diagnoses can completely change patients’ futures. This also means that sometimes, they make colossal mistakes that they can never go back from. Here, doctors and patients share the worst screw-up diagnoses they’ve ever given or gotten.
1. Do Panic
My mom was always exhausted. Like, she’d have a bath and get so worn out from it that she’d sleep on the bath mat when she got out. She went to her doctor and he told her, “Oh, you’re just depressed, go get a haircut!” She did. but she was still exhausted. So she went back to the doctor, but he just continued to tell her she was just depressed.
He told her to get a hobby; that it was all in her head, etc. He never sent her for blood work or referred her to any specialist. Months later, she went back. That’s when everything changed. Her regular doctor was on vacation and the physician relieving her doctor took one look at her eyes and nearly gasped. He said, “It’s your liver. Get these blood tests now.”
Some blood tests and a liver biopsy later, she was told she had autoimmune hepatitis and was three months from dying. After she improved with medications, she went back to the original doctor and said, “I didn’t need a haircut.” 27 years later she still suffers from lingering effects; though, all things told, she was super lucky.
2. A New Lease On Life
I’m a lawyer. I had a client who was given a devastating diagnosis of an extremely rare heart condition. The doctor told him he had six weeks to live. He contacted me to make his will and set his affairs in order. Thankfully, he sought a second opinion with an extremely well-known cardiologist who was intrigued due to the rare nature of this heart condition.
THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH HIM. HE WAS FINE. This poor guy and his family were so tortured over this; so devastated and terrified FOR NOTHING. He actually called me to tell me all of this, and he seemed to be still in a joyous mood, but I imagine anger comes at some point when you take stock of what you went through.
I don’t know how a doctor screws up that massively, or if somehow my client’s results were mixed up with someone else’s. Hopefully, it’s just the former.
3. Soon You’ll Get Better
Well, when I first started feeling sick in my first year at college, I had a non-productive cough, night sweats, trouble sleeping, and I had lost some weight. The school nurse gave me some Claritin. All of those symptoms only got worse; plus, I was incredibly fatigued. My lymph nodes swelled up and I had pretty bad backaches.
My doctor took a chest X-ray and prescribed antibiotics for pneumonia. At this point, I had almost failed out of school because I was only managing an hour or two of sleep per night. It took until spring break for me to go see a pulmonary specialist. He could instantly tell that it wasn’t pneumonia. Then, it suddenly got worse.
He told me I had stage 4B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My first PET scan showed cancerous cells in lymph nodes in all four quadrants of my body. By then, I had lost about a third of my body weight. The cough, weight loss, and back pain were my swollen lymph nodes pressing on my lungs, stomach, and my back. They gave me my first round of chemo and I genuinely felt the worst I’d ever felt.
I felt so awful that an IV mixture of (carefully measured) toxins was what gave me improvement. I went home and ate a whole pizza. Chemo got worse but it worked, so I guess I can’t complain too much.
4. Not So Mellow Yellow
I was the patient. When I was in college, I went to the doctor because I was peeing razors. It progressed pretty rapidly and by the end of the week, I couldn’t walk or even sleep. The doctor asked me about my bedroom life when I went in for a consult. I told him the truth: That my girlfriend and I had only been with each other, and we had been together for many years.
He sort of scoffed at that and told me it was likely chlamydia that was bothering me. He had a long, condescending speech about safe intimacy with me and sent me home. That was that. Well, a week later my urine tests came back. Turns out I had the worst bladder infection they’d ever seen. I had to have a camera shoved up there, multiple rounds of antibiotics, and to this day I struggle to urinate due to the irreversible damage the infection caused. Thanks a lot, doc.
5. A Pain In The Neck
I did college gymnastics. In my senior year, I had an accident in practice and landed on my neck. I went to the hospital and got X-rays, but the doctors told me that I was perfectly fine. Nothing could be further from the truth. I walked around in utter pain for the longest time.
Weeks later, still in pain, I went to another doctor and got a new set of images. Guess what? My neck was broken in three places and was majorly dislocated. I had a multi-level fusion surgery days later—but the story doesn’t end there. I found out my initial X-rays the first time around got swapped with someone else’s in the ER and I was originally diagnosed based on someone else’s images.
This was revealed long after my surgery when I went to get my records for insurance purposes. My files had someone else’s medical records and images in them. Because of the time I spent walking around with my neck injury, I had to have a posterior surgery instead of an anterior surgery, which is way more invasive. It gives me major issues to this day.
6. More Than Skin Deep
One day, I went to a dermatologist for a nasty rash on my hands and face. The doctor insisted it was eczema even though I’d never had eczema in my entire life. He also refused to do any testing or take a biopsy, and just prescribed me a standard steroid cream for eczema. The rash spread and got horribly worse. It was all up my arms and all over my face.
It was itchy and painful, so I went to a different dermatologist and explained the situation. They took a biopsy, finally. Yep, it was a bacterial infection and the first doctor’s steroid treatment made it ten times worse. I was a minor at the time and I don’t know why my parents didn’t go after the first doctor in court.
7. Home Sweet Home
My husband had a situation where he almost completely kicked the bucket because of a misdiagnosis. To preface this, we were young at the time—in our mid-20s—and living in a college town. My husband had horrible pain; he was on the floor on his hands and knees and everything. We went to the ER and the doctor barely looked at him.
He just told him to stop drinking and he would be fine. So we went home, but the pain was still getting worse. At one point, he started vomiting all over the place. We decided to drive 1.5 hours to see our primary care physician back in our hometown to get a second opinion. Within 15 minutes of walking into the office, my husband was rushed to emergency surgery.
Apparently, his gallbladder had completely ruptured and he was going septic. It was a total mess and he almost passed, all because of a lazy misdiagnosis.
8. Fear The Worst
My mom went into a walk-in clinic and told the doctor she had really bad headaches all the time. She was a stay-at-home mom to me, who was 10 years old at the time, and my sister, who was six, so it was written off as stress and she just got a prescription for pain pills. Two weeks later, her headaches suddenly became migraines.
The doctor then gave her a stronger prescription and told her to try to reduce her stress. But at that point, things already took a huge turn for the worse. A few weeks went by and she could no longer get out of bed. She threw up everything including the meds and was completely disoriented. My dad was a truck driver, so he was never home and couldn’t help her at that time.
I was taking care of my sister and my mom all by myself. We went back to the doctor and this lady had the audacity to say that my mom’s case was the weirdest migraine case she’d ever seen. She told her to take warm baths and just keep taking the meds. Two months went by and my dad came home. When he saw the condition of my mother, he was shocked.
My mom was so sick she would regularly urinate herself. The house, which was being kept up by me, a 10-year-old, was in total disrepair. My dad’s response was chilling and completely unexpected. He simply said he wanted a divorce. That night, we found out she had stage 4 lung and brain cancer with a tumor the size of an egg pressing on her brain, as well as many others scattered throughout. I still haven’t forgiven that doctor for not taking my mom seriously.
As far as my mom goes, she fought hard for two years to beat her cancer, but she eventually passed in November 2010. I was 13 and my sister was nine at the time. And that wasn’t all. My dad fell out of a tree about a month after her diagnosis and shattered his heel. He became disabled because of the back surgeries it required.
He was a monster while I was home. All I remember from my younger years was walking on eggshells, constantly being accused of things I didn’t do, and being watched like a hawk 24/7. I suspect he is bipolar and has severe PTSD, but you know how older people feel about treating mental illnesses. As for us, it sucked not having our mom growing up.
She talked every day about how she couldn’t wait to beat cancer and leave my dad so we could all have the life we deserved. I think we turned out fairly well. I’m 23 now—I have a family, I’ve moved far away from all of those memories, and I have committed to breaking my father’s awful cycle and loving my children the way I wish I would have been loved.
I do wish I knew the doctor’s name now. Even though I know that it wouldn’t bring back my mom, I still want to ask her if she finally started believing her patients. I think the fact that my mother was a stay-at-home mom and had previously lived in poverty had a lot to do with the doctor not taking her seriously.
I wish no harm on the doctor, but I haven’t forgiven her for not saying something about going to the ER. Life is short. I learned that by watching my mom give up on every dream she had because she knew she’d pass soon. Go do scary stuff because who knows what’ll happen tomorrow.
9. A Swing And A Miss
I went to a walk-in clinic because I couldn’t swallow anything, not even liquids. The doctor pressed on my forehead and asked if it hurt. I told him it kind of did. He then said that I had a sinus infection and prescribed me antibiotics (that I couldn’t swallow) and sent me on my way. Turns out, I had had a stroke and ended up spending three weeks in the hospital.
10. Don’t Sleep On This
I’m the patient in this story. One day, I went to a sleep doctor because I was constantly tired, so much so that I was basically falling asleep while standing up and such. It was serious stuff. The doctor was like, “Well, you’re overweight, so it’s definitely sleep-apnea.” I did a sleep study, but it came back negative for sleep apnea. I thought we’d go down different avenues…but I was so wrong.
The doctor was like, “Well, I’m still positive it’s sleep apnea because you’re a fatty.” So he sent me home with a sleep apnea machine for a month. After a month of using the machine (which records your sleep apnea events every night) and having zero improvements in any of my symptoms, I went back to him.
His response? He said, “Well if this isn’t working, I can’t help you. You obviously have sleep apnea since all tubbies have sleep apnea, so you must not be using the machine properly.” So I dropped him like a fresh turf and went to get a second opinion. A new sleep doc and a new sleep study. Then I finally got an answer.
He said, “Yeah, this is textbook narcolepsy. You have all the symptoms and the sleep study proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt.” I told him about the other doctor and he said, “This is obviously narcolepsy. Your previous doctor was a moron.” Unlike the other quotes in this story, that one is an actual, direct quote. I’ll never forget the look of disgust on his face when he said the word “moron.”
11. Hiding In Plain Sight
My doctor told me that my health issues were stress-related. Well, the second opinion I got determined that was not the case at all—instead, my gallbladder was functioning at 3%, which is super low. I had that sucker removed a couple of weeks later, and everything got much better. What’s worse is I specifically asked the first doctor about gallbladder issues and he assured me it couldn’t be that.
12. Baby On Board
My sister was about two weeks away from giving birth when she suddenly started feeling excruciating pain and vomiting. I called her midwife in a panic. The phone call made my blood run cold. She refused to speak with me despite my sister clearly not being capable of speaking as she sat on the floor next to the toilet, crying and puking.
Finally, she took the phone and her midwife told her that it was probably just a virus. Her suggested remedy? “Eat a popsicle.” Eventually, I was able to convince her to go to the ER. She was immediately rushed to the operating room for an emergency C-section. Her placenta had erupted and my niece was born not breathing. That poor baby suffered several seizures and even died for a short moment before she was resuscitated.
She is now 15 and has cerebral palsy due to going for so long without the oxygen she needed.
13. Supplementary Opinion
A doctor diagnosed me with MS. Well, I eventually sought out a second opinion, and turns out my case was just a vitamin deficiency. Pretty darn different from MS, if you ask me. I spent $15K in medical bills only to have all symptoms subside with some nutritional advice and supplements. I’m still rightfully salty about it.
14. My Sister’s Keeper
My sister was suffering from terrible headaches and minor seizures for a while. One particularly bad night, we went to an urgent care clinic. They told us that she had an anxiety disorder and just needed something to calm her down. We got a second opinion at the ER and it turns out she had stage four brain cancer. I miss her every day.
15. Forgive As A Family
My aunt had been having what we now know was absent seizures for years. We were part of the problem. Sadly, we all just put it down to her alcoholism and her pain medication addiction. She was forgetful, clumsy, and scatterbrained; but again, a raging alcoholic. One day, my brother stopped by to check on her and she was sitting up but completely non-responsive.
We rushed her to the ER. A week later, we got the diagnosis back. Glioblastoma. She passed 11 months later. The only thing that saves us from the guilt of ignoring her symptoms for so long is that the neurosurgeon said NOTHING we could possibly have done would have extended her life. We tried all sorts of remedies after the tumor was found and removed, but there was nothing we could really do.
Nothing she did was the cause of it, thank goodness. We miss her every day, but there was nothing we could have done. If anything, she at least didn’t spend years of her life anticipating her own mortality. Sometimes you just have to appreciate the little tiny silver linings.
16. Testing, Testing
When I was 11, we thought I had Lyme disease. The doctor refused to test for it because the bull’s eye rash on my ear was squiggly in one area. Six months later, I had excruciating pain in my hip. I was 11, very athletic, and had to be pulled off all my sports teams because whenever I tried to run, I’d fall and burst into tears.
My doctor examined me again and, without telling us what he thought was wrong, asked my mom in a grave voice what kind of health insurance I had. My mom flipped out and kept asking him what was wrong. He told my mom that my leg was calcifying (turning into bone) and that we’d need to amputate it. We left, switched doctors, had an appointment later that week, and demanded they test me for Lyme.
It was positive. My mom also has nerve damage and has had a slew of misdiagnoses, from MS and cancer to issues with blood vessels in her brain.
17. Faking It
My freaking doctor sent me home because he was convinced I was faking an illness. Oh, did I mention I was freaking two years old and was complaining that my stomach hurt? See, my mom had got me an emergency appointment with our family doctor for that same day—he took one look at me and declared that I, as a two-year-old, was faking the stomach pain for attention.
He ended up just blindly giving me a prescription for antibiotics. Two days later, I was still in pain. Another twist was in store. I turned blue, according to my mom, and passed out. She rushed me to the emergency room. The ER doc took a five-second look at me and had me rushed off for emergency surgery. My appendix had exploded.
Quite literally too; it was in shreds inside my body. The ER doctor said that our family doctor should have known what was up. He said at the time it was just inflamed.
18. Shut My Mouth
I’m a dermatologist. I was reading a patient’s notes and found out he had been diagnosed with deadly skin cancer and was booked in to have his whole upper lip removed. Obviously, this would leave the patient quite disfigured. On a whim, he’d booked in to see a dermatologist at our hospital…who advised it was just a cold sore. He prescribed some medication and the problem was resolved.
19. The Bearer Of Bad News
I’m a surgeon. Most patients come to me after having seen another physician who has diagnosed them with something and being told to see a surgeon. I’ve seen several patients who were diagnosed with appendicitis….even though they’ve already had appendectomies. I’ve also been called in for multiple patients who very obviously had previously undiscovered and very advanced cancers.
Those cases are always too far advanced for me to help out on, so I have to wonder: am I being called so I can be the bad guy and explain everything? Yes. The answer is yes.
20. Close Call
I’m a midwife and I was the one who gave a second opinion. The first diagnosis was given by the woman’s family doctor. She came into the antenatal clinic and said that she had a headache she couldn’t seem to shake. She’d called her general practitioner the day before and she had told her to take two Aspirin and have a bath to remedy the situation. What she didn’t know almost ruined her.
Whenever any pregnant woman complains of a headache, especially one that won’t go away, it sends alarm bells ringing as it can be a symptom of pre-eclampsia. Sure enough, the woman also reported seeing blue spots, exhibited a blood pressure of 220/180, and had a huge amount of protein in her urine. I got her to lie on her side in the room I was seeing her in and I raced to get a more senior midwife.
It wouldn’t have been more than 60 seconds until the two of us returned to the room—just in time to see her start having an eclamptic seizure. We called a Code Pink (obstetric emergency), which then escalated to a Code Green (alerting the operating room that we were coming down immediately for an emergency cesarean). The woman gave birth under general anesthetic 20 minutes later.
I still start sweating when I imagine what could have happened if she hadn’t come into the clinic that day.
21. A New Perspective
This is my mom’s story. She used to work at a non-profit clinic that would give free healthcare to people who didn’t have insurance. This guy came in one day with his teenage daughter saying that he was between jobs and the insurance for his new job hadn’t kicked in yet, but his daughter was having her yearly case of pneumonia and just wanted her antibiotics.
He was really arrogant and rude, saying stuff like, “She has a CUBAN doctor she usually goes to.” My mom is Mexican and I live in an area where most Latinos you see are Mexican. My mom, staying calm despite wanting to bite the guy’s head off, examined his daughter. She noticed his daughter’s fingers were clubbed. This was an unsettling sign.
See, it was indicative of a serious, chronic respiratory issue, and not something temporary like pneumonia. She asked if she could run a few tests just to be safe, and at first, he was huffy about it, but he eventually agreed when my mom told him it wouldn’t cost him anything but a bit of time. A few days later, the clinic called her out because this girl didn’t have pneumonia.
She had cystic fibrosis. The girl was transferred to a hospital where she could actually start receiving treatment for her condition. Thankfully, it was a minor case—if it was anything more serious, she honestly could have been gone by that point, My mom probably prolonged this girl’s life expectancy by a huge amount with the diagnosis.
Her regular “Cuban” doctor had been regularly misdiagnosing her with vitamin deficiencies and pneumonia. Later, the father called my mother and thanked her for helping his daughter. My mom was going off in her head (“What about her Cuban doctor huh, buddy?”) but was polite and wished him and his daughter well.
22. It’s Not What It Looks Like
My wife was given the diagnosis of a UTI and the doctor told me it was probably due to an STD. Since we’d been married for 25 years, I was obviously concerned about this. Well, it actually ended up that she was anemic. After large doses of iron and a hysterectomy (heavy flow), she was fine. Sounds weird, I know, but it really did happen. 34 years later and we are still in love.
23. A Leg Down
My uncle-in-law went to multiple doctors about leg pain and trouble walking. He’s a big guy, and every doctor told him in more or less condescending ways that his issue was that he needed to lose weight. After five years, he finally got someone to MRI him, and they found out the whole sordid story. It turned out he had a grapefruit-sized tumor in his leg.
He, unfortunately, passed about six months later because it metastasized. Screw all those doctors who wouldn’t believe he was in pain.
24. Take Another Look
As a kid, a substitute doctor diagnosed me with asthma when I couldn’t see my regular physician. Cue the nebulizer and inhaler and all that. The whole time, I kept saying it felt like there was stuff in my lungs. A week or so went by and nothing got better, so I saw my regular doctor and they did a chest X-ray. Yeah, I had pneumonia the whole time.
Another one that comes to mind is when I vomited so hard after surgery that I had a pseudo-aneurism near my femoral artery. I immediately knew something was wrong. I went into instant shock. My girlfriend yelled for the nurse, and the nurse said, “It’s probably nothing,” to which I replied, “It’s something…get a doctor.” The surgeon came in, immediately saw that I was in trouble, and started putting pressure on my femoral.
My memory is foggy due to bleeding out internally, but I made it. Had I listened to that nurse, I would have been a goner right then and there.
25. The Truth Comes Out
As a child, I had a lot of trouble with abdominal pain. My mom kept taking me to the doctor’s office and he kept dismissing it, saying there was nothing wrong. This went on for a long time until I was doubled over in pain outside school one day. My mom asked me if it was hurting and I told her it always hurt, but that it was really bad at that particular moment.
She took me straight to my doctor and demanded it got looked into further, figuring a five-year-old child shouldn’t be living in constant pain. A few scans later, I was immediately whisked into surgery. My mom still can’t bear to think of me being wheeled into the operating room when the doctors did not even know exactly what was wrong or what they were going to do.
The plan was to open me up, figure out the exact issue and go from there. The answer was gruesome. I had an extra growth on my kidney which was all infected, and an extra ureter that was infected the whole way along. The doctor who had continually fobbed my mom off as a panicking parent actually ended up making a house visit to apologize.
26. Look And Learn
My dad had a lesion on his leg that wasn’t healing. The dermatologist prescribed different antibiotics (pills and ointment) but nothing was working. He also did two skin grafts that didn’t work. This went on for at least two years, and it was really stressful for my father. Then, my dad got a new dermatologist from the same hospital.
She realized that he never had a biopsy!!! It took her less than an hour to diagnose the skin cancer. The surgeon scooped all the cancer out (and did another skin graft) and that was it for a while. Since then, he’s got a lot of other skin cancer lesions but at least now he knows what it is.
27. Never Seen One Like That Before
I went to the ER for some crazy stomach pain, and the doctor there said it was due to my thyroid being super inflamed. There was just one big problem with that answer. The thing is, I don’t have a thyroid. I was born without one, and I take meds every day because of it. I tell her this and she says, “No, that can’t be true, your thyroid is enormous” and sent me to do an ultrasound.
Lo and behold, it was not there. She refused to believe this and asked my primary doctor to explain my seemingly crazy anatomy. He goes, “Yeah, he doesn’t have a thyroid.” But honestly, that’s not even the most ridiculous part of the story. Turns out, what she thought she saw was actually my Adam’s apple, which I guess is sort of big.
28. The Save Of The Century
The BEST request for a second opinion came from a CVS minute clinic. A young, healthy law student went to the minute clinic presenting flu-like symptoms. They did a swab test on him and it came back positive. His clinic vitals were notable for a heart rate of 140, which is a bit high but not CRAZY high.
The guy was young and healthy like I said. It would have been pretty easy to dismiss him. However, the minute clinic told him to go to the ER as he needed an EKG. So the guy did exactly that and he found out a horrifying truth. Turns out, he had a life-threatening arrhythmia that he needed to be shocked out of. They took a look at his heart and it was giant; barely moving.
He had insane myocarditis and needed cardiac surgery. I can’t say all minute clinics are the same, but man that was a great save.
29. See No Evil
So my local doctor diagnosed me with a kidney infection and a urinary tract infection. He told me all my other symptoms, like the huge lump in my armpit, were all part of a cold I’d had. Skip to three months later—I was at a walk-in clinic due to not being able to move without pain. When the doctor there examined me, and his face went as white as a sheet in an instant.
He saw the lump and gave me a look of: “How the heck has this not been diagnosed?” Anyway, it was late-stage cancer by that point…but I’m all good now!
30. True Lies
There was one year when I was getting constant UTIs. Now, usually, this is due to intimate activity, but I’m not actually active. Anyway, my doctor was away for the school holidays, and I stupidly thought I could last a week until she was back. Nope. Two days later, I could barely move from the couch as I was in so much pain.
So, I called a doctor and he did a home visit because it was a holiday. This doctor refused to hand over the script until I acknowledged that I was being intimately irresponsible. When I told him I was a virgin— an embarrassing and potentially dangerous statement to make with a strange man in my house while I was home alone—this jerk LAUGHED his butt off.
He said, “No you’re not. Nobody is at this age. Stop pretending to be all innocent.” He then slammed the prescription on my coffee table and walked out. I called the office to complain and he did get reprimanded. But oh my God, was I embarrassed.
31. Not Horsing Around
My grandmother fell from her horse one day. Not a terrible fall, but from the way she landed, she wanted to get it checked out. She felt like she’d really jolted her neck and spine. Her doctor looked things over, then gave her one of those soft neck cushion things before sending her home.
A couple of days later, she decided to get a second opinion. No real reason; she just hadn’t felt that the neck cushion was helping. The second doctor took one look at her X-rays and freaked out. He told her they needed to get her immediately into a brace to immobilize her spine. Basically, she’d broken her neck with the same injury that had paralyzed Christopher Reeves, but she wasn’t paralyzed because the vertebrae hadn’t dislocated.
The second doctor said that anything that did dislocate it (another minor fall, twisting wrong in bed) would mean she could be permanently paralyzed from the neck down. She wore this intense metal brace that kept her spine in place for a few months and came out totally fine. She lived another 15 years after that. But I think about that story often—the second doctor saved her mobility and freedom.
32. A Bun In The Oven
I’m a gynecologist. The number of times I’ve seen patients pregnant and upset (or happy) because some other doctor told them they can’t get pregnant (so they didn’t use birth control) is appalling. I then have to explain that even if the patient has whatever condition that makes it unlikely for them to get pregnant, the odds are almost never 0%. Maybe less than 1%, but still not zero. Of course, it can happen.
33. The Big Sick
I went to the same doctor for two years in high school. In the time that I knew him, he diagnosed me with pleurisy, shingles, tonsillitis (despite having no tonsils), and malaria. Five different diseases within two years for an otherwise healthy 16-year-old girl. My teachers would read these medical certificates and say, “Two weeks off for malaria? Very unfortunate…” Clearly, they weren’t buying a word of it.
It was ridiculous. I specifically remember, with regards to the shingles diagnosis, telling him that I have psoriasis and that I think it just popped up randomly on my ribs. He said, “No no, it’s shingles…which is quite rare for a young person like yourself to contract it!” I was going to fight him on it, but he gave me two weeks off, so I just left it at that. The dude clearly just found a medical license on the street and claimed it as his own.
34. A Mouthful Of Problems
When I had my wisdom teeth taken out, it was pretty brutal. Like, they had to completely put me under, dig deep into my jawbone, and reposition the teeth before pulling them out since they were coming in sideways. It was just the worst-case scenario by wisdom tooth surgery standards. The next couple of days after the surgery, I was in a lot of pain, which seemed normal.
But then, I soon realized I had some growing hot lump on the side of my jawbone. Me being an idiot, I tried to dismiss it, telling myself, “Oh, it’ll go away.” Well, it didn’t. My mom caught sight of it and took me back to the guy who did my surgery. The dentist dude took an X-ray and, without even examining it or asking any questions, he said I was fine.
He thought it was probably just scar tissue and told me to leave. I thought, hey; well, he’s smarter than me so, I guess he’s right. My mother, however, did not think this. And so off we go for a second opinion. While we were headed over to the other office, my nightmare began. The hard lump in my jaw BURST open and blood started leaking EVERYWHERE in my mouth.
It was so gross. My mom immediately turned around, drove me back to the dental surgeon, barged into the office, and MADE the dental surgeon look in my mouth. The dental surgeon muttered something about women seeing things that weren’t there but prescribed me antibiotics and more pain meds anyway.
It ended up taking me an entire month to fully recover and I ended up having to drop out of a college course due to missing so many classes.
35. What A Headache
One day at work, I had a bad headache and blurry vision. At some point, I lost the vision in one eye, but by the time the EMTs got there, I could see again. They said, “You seem fine and don’t need an ER, but go see your doctor anyway.” I went to the doctor and he didn’t even take my blood pressure. He just said, “You obviously had a stroke” and told me if I didn’t lose weight, I’d be gone within a year.
I was only about 30 pounds overweight but had low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and was extremely active. I then found a neurologist who did actual tests and said that there were no signs of a stroke. Apparently, because I had a history of migraines, I had what is called a “complicated migraine,” which can act like a mini-stroke but doesn’t last or leave any traces. That was over 30 years ago.
36. Doom And Gloom
My mother had severe back pains for a few weeks and already planned for an MRT a month later. But in addition to the back pain, there was a tingling sensation in her legs. They drove to the ER which was located in supposedly the best clinic in town. Once she got there, they told her not to worry and to just wait for the MRT.
Well, a few days later, she became incontinent. This time, they got an MRT and saw a tumor next to the spinal column. They wanted to operate on the tumor and remove parts of it…two weeks after she had initially felt something was wrong. This seemed strange to my parents—was like no one really cared about my mother. They decided to switch to another hospital, but by then, a week had already passed.
My mother got an emergency operation that night, but the tumor had already caused lasting damage to the nerves. Thanks a lot, first hospital! Later, there was another incident. The doctor thought that she had tumors in her lungs. When the results arrived, another doctor came to my mother and blurted out: “You should say goodbye to your relatives. You won’t see them again, since you have just a few weeks left.”
Later that day, my father consulted the first doctor, who was completely surprised about this. “No, we already knew that there were tumors and I already told you how I plan to treat them.” That was two years ago. My mother is still alive and the treatment still works. Screw you, second doctor!
37. Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
I just left a medical practice partly because a woman brought her eight-month-old in for a second opinion. The owner of the practice had seen the rapidly enlarging sacral soft tissue mass that the mother first noticed about six weeks prior. He told her not to worry about it. I checked his notes and I was shocked. They just read, “Plan: ignore.”
There was a new rapidly enlarging cystic mass on a baby’s sacrum. Basically, it looked like a small plum under the skin at the top of her bum crack. Without any investigation, my colleague dismissed it. I was appalled, but the mother was obviously relieved. Of the many not-so-great judgments I’d seen from him, this was one of the worst.
I realized I couldn’t work in a clinic where I’d be stepping on other doctors’ toes whenever I questioned their judgment. The baby had scans done and was eventually referred to a pediatric surgeon, but unfortunately, I don’t know the outcome because I’m working elsewhere now.
38. A Bundle Of Pain
My father got a call at work from a neighbor. Apparently, our mother was curled up on a ball on the floor, crying and unable to stand due to pain. My father rushed home, carried her to the truck, and took her to the ER. The ER doctor just said, “Oh, it’s probably nothing. We’ll just put her under observation.”
During this time, my grandparents had arrived, and my grandmother thought the whole thing was rather worrying. My mother had the most incredible pain tolerance, so for her to be hurting like that meant some stuff was going down. My grandma called her doctor, who proceeded to scream down the phone for them to get her to another hospital immediately.
They did, and she was taken straight into the OR. It was a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. She survived, and family lore has it that it took four security guards to drag my father off that ER doctor the next day. A year later, I was born, which was a whole other load of craziness itself.
39. Life Comes At You Fast
My family friend is an airline pilot. He went to a doctor for his six-month physical. The doctor noticed some unusual bruising but thought nothing more of it. He simply told him to “go get that checked out.” He happily signed off on my friend’s First Class Medical. It unraveled so quickly after that. My friend went to another doctor and found out it was a very aggressive and late-stage cancer. He was gone within three weeks.
40. A Pregnant Pause
This happened to my mom 20 years ago. I believe she was close to 36 at the time. She was having severe abdominal pain, and if my mom admits to being in pain, then you know it’s bad. Her family doctor was on vacation, so my dad took her to the emergency room where the doctor told her she was just constipated.
She went home, but the pain got worse. She went back to ER a couple of days later, specifically asking the same doctor from before if it could be an ectopic pregnancy. He laughed at her and sent her home. Well, she ended up in the ER for the third time and got that same stupid doctor, who accused her of lying to get pain medication.
She had to wait a week until her family doctor came back. Just over the phone, the family doctor could tell something was wrong and told my mom that she wanted to see her first thing in the morning for tests. It was too late. My mom didn’t make that appointment because during the night, her fallopian tube ruptured and my dad found her unconscious on the floor downstairs.
He rushed her to the hospital and they found out that she was something like 10 weeks along with an ectopic pregnancy. Our family doctor apparently was screaming at the other doctor in the hallway because of his incompetence. Thank God she survived.
41. A Long Convalescence
When I was about 10, these red spots started appearing on my legs, so my family took me to the hospital. They immediately diagnosed me with an extremely rare disease that apparently caused my veins to burst open. They told my family I had about two weeks to live. I sat in the hospital for those two weeks, got some extremely high doses of antibiotics, and no one told me anything.
My parents would visit crying, but they were allowed only 30 minutes of visitation time a day since I was in a special ward. Fast forward to two weeks before my birthday. My parents convinced the doctors to let me celebrate “one last time” and my family threw a big party. Lots of my friends came and everything. At some point, a few other kids and I were running in the grass and I accidentally stepped on a bee.
I got stung and since I’m slightly allergic to bees, they rushed me to hospital. I could hear the nurses scream at my family something along the lines of, “Now you’ve done it, you’ve killed your son.” I got a lot more injections and IVs that day, and all of them expected me to pass. My aunt, at this point, got extremely suspicious.
She got someone else from out of the county to diagnose me. Turns out, all those red spots were allergies. Three days later, I was out of the hospital. My family was ANGRY. Really, really angry with the staff, and I think a few of them lost their jobs. For me, those two weeks of antibiotics completely screwed up my immune system and for the next half-decade, I got severe colds and illnesses.
42. Tearing It Up
I watched one of the biggest screw-ups ever. My sister is very tall, very thin, and very fit. She was in pre-season for her WNBL season, so she had been running medium distances. Suddenly, she had a sudden sharp pain in the left side of her chest, along with radiating arm pain and shortness of breath. She called an ambulance and was rushed to the hospital.
They did all the tests and determined there had been no heart attack. They said she simply tore a muscle and sent her home. Welp, a week later, she was still in pain and she swore she heard a hissing sound in her chest. She saw our family doctor. He listened to her chest while she breathed in and out. He then said, “You’ve torn your lung.”
She was the perfect candidate for a torn lung. Tall, thin, fit. Her doctor was amazed the hospital didn’t hear the tear. How do you miss a torn lung in a perfect candidate for a torn lung?
43. The Solution To All Your Problems
I am the patient, and I am in the middle of this. I don’t actually know how it’s going to affect me yet. I have always had headaches. In fact, it led me to develop a pain medication addiction, though I’m better now. As anyone with chronic headaches knows, you can always tell when some pain is even a little bit different than normal pain.
One day, I started getting headaches that felt different than usual, so I went to a local doctor. They are free, but most of them are really rushed and don’t really care that much. The doctor who I ended up seeing basically said, “I used to be a physiotherapist and I think this is muscle pain. Get some physio and work on your posture.” I have worked on my posture for years as a remedy for my ongoing headaches, to the extent that people at work have asked if I was a dancer because I held my spine so erect.
So I didn’t think it was that. And you know that saying: “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”? I didn’t really trust an ex-physio when he immediately said it was physiological without even asking me where the pain was, or what it felt like, or whether it was new. So I got a second opinion.
I later saw an optometrist for my annual check-up. She took one look at my imaging and immediately got me to take some extra tests I hadn’t had before. Then, she gave me a referral to an ophthalmologist. She said, “Please go see this doctor as soon as you can.”
She looked scared. I said, “What is it?” She said to me, I kid you not, “Have you recently started having headaches on the right side of your head behind the ear?” I replied, “How did you know?” She said, “You have a retinal hemorrhage in your right eye.” Two days later, the ophthalmologist confirmed the hemorrhage. He took more tests.
Eventually, he told me he suspected glaucoma and gave me a referral to get an MRI. I got the MRI a month later and it revealed that I actually have a brain aneurysm. It’s small, but it’s pressing on my optic nerve and affecting my vision. When I eventually went back to my first doctor, I took GREAT PLEASURE in telling him about the retinal hemorrhage, the increased intraocular pressure, the glaucoma suspect, and the aneurysm.
He just said, “Oh well, I suppose that might be causing headaches.” We’ll see. I hope if I can get this aneurysm looked at, my new headaches might subside. I am going to see a neurosurgeon soon. Fingers crossed!
44. Young, Not Dumb
I have Crohn’s disease. Because of it, I was severely malnourished when I went through puberty, so I’m a bit shorter than doctors predicted I would be and I look very young for my age. In my late teens, I would get really awful flare-ups of Crohn’s and would have to go to the ER. About 75% of the time when I went to the ER in my town, they immediately assumed I was just faking it.
Usually, after one of my parents dropped me off at the door and went to park the car, I would have to argue with the front desk ladies and the security guard, since they were always skeptical. They would tell me, “Oh I’m sure you’re fine, why don’t you head on home?” It would take my parents coming in and yelling at them to shut them up.
I understand how scary it feels to be in so much pain and having no one believe you. I have a running theory about ageism when it comes to pain management in hospitals. I remember one time I was once admitted and, by coincidence, my roommate was a 40-year-old guy with the exact same diagnosis as me. I got to see the huge difference in care between us.
At one point, the head nurse pulled all my pain medication from me and actually said to me, “When I’m here, the drugs stop.” My roommate got great treatment the whole time, though. Rest assured, after this stay, my parents had made many calls to supervisors, department heads, and people who dealt with lawsuits to severely complain about my treatment.
I was very sick at the time, so I was really in no condition to fight for myself.
45. Gimme More
When I was in labor with my first son, the anesthesiologist gave me an epidural, as requested. However, things quickly got complicated. I was rushed out to have an emergency C-section. They got me prepped for it in less than five minutes and started cutting. I could feel everything and I started screaming. At first, they got kind of eye-rolly. Then, the doctor let out a “whoops.” They forgot to up the epidural for a C-section.
46. A Rash Of Problems
I had a small rash that wouldn’t go away, so I went to see the doctor after a long while of hoping that it would just disappear on its own. He said it was ringworm and gave me an antifungal, but the rash got worse. I went back and he gave me an even stronger antifungal. Still, the rash spread, and this time it was all down my arms. I went back to the doctor to get a referral to a dermatologist.
The dermatologist took one look at the rash and said, “That is contact dermatitis.” I had changed soaps and it irritated my skin, giving me a little rash. The doctor’s stupid antifungals, in the meanwhile, were making my skin go crazy. I just stopped using soap for like a week and it was fine, but I had skin discoloration for like a year.
47. Breathe Easy
Years ago, I had a respiratory infection that kicked my asthma into overdrive. At the time, I didn’t have a primary care physician because I didn’t see the point, so I’d just go to urgent care for everything. Despite my peak flow meter reading being at 50% and telling the urgent care doctor that I’d had to sleep sitting up the night before—a huge red flag that the patient isn’t properly oxygenating—it did not go my way.
When I asked for a breathing treatment, the doctor said no. He simply said, “I’m sending you home with prednisone since your O2 is at 97%.” Note that our bodies are really good at compensating for bad lungs, so if an asthmatic has a low O2 saturation, they should’ve gone to the emergency department an hour ago. I eventually did get a primary care physician and I know now why I have one.
I eventually told my regular doctor about that urgent care doctor who wouldn’t give me a breathing treatment, and my doctor got SO angry. It made me feel very vindicated. And as a postscript, I had to go back to that urgent care the next day, where a different doctor gave me a breathing treatment because he wasn’t a total idiot.
48. You Tried, You Failed
“She’s depressed because of work.” No, ma’am, she has schizophrenia. “She has a borderline personality disorder.” Did you mean, “She is female and insisting there is something wrong when you want to write her off?” Also, what she has is a brain tumor, so thanks for playing, goodbye. “He has anxiety.” Nope, he has OCD, I’m not sure how you missed it because it’s not subtle.
There’s a reason I got the heck out of that job.
49. Eye See What You Mean
I’m a doctor—an ophthalmologist to be exact. Recently, a young guy came to my office. He said he went to urgent care four times in 16 months or so for “pink eye.” They convinced him it was just a coincidence that he got it four times. Well, the guy had blepharitis. Very common. Cracks me up.
50. At My Wit’s End
When I was a kid, another child in my class was institutionalized for acting out. Turns out, the kid wasn’t actually crazy, just upset at being constantly mistreated by the adults he lived with. When the mistreatment stopped, she stopped getting upset.