It’s not always easy to follow advice, even when that advice comes from a medical professional who has our best interests at heart. But take care: there’s a reason they have a medical degree and we don’t. These stubborn patients found that lesson out the hard way—and the results were terrifying. Here, medical staff members share their patients’ closest calls and most dangerous rebellions.
1. Fatal Flaw
When I was in medical school, I had a gentleman in his late 60s come in for chest pain. We found he had suffered a large heart attack, but he refused surgical treatment because he wanted to bring his car home and planned on taking an ambulance back to the hospital. Apparently, he was in the parking ramp and it cost $20 a day to park, so he didn’t want to pay.
He came back by ambulance and my worst fears happened—he went into full cardiac arrest with no pulse and quickly passed away. The doctor had to call his son and explain what happened. The son was like, “Yeah that sounds like dad, he’s always been cheap.”
2. Hear No Evil
This happened so often it was almost a non-issue. We would basically just shrug our shoulders and say, “Welp.” I had a patient who kept adjusting her insulin dosage against my advice because she was terrified of having her feet amputated like her mom. She had several occasions of dangerously low blood sugar as a result…one of which put her in the ICU.
I also had a lady who had the opposite problem: raging diabetes but in deep denial, so she would never take her insulin. She was in the ICU multiple times for diabetic ketoacidosis. I also had a ton of patients on dialysis who skipped treatment for whatever reason. Most of the time, their reasoning was disturbing—they just didn’t feel like going.
They would come in with their electrolytes all messed up and would have to get emergency dialysis inpatient treatment. I had a billion old fat men with chest pain for weeks refuse to come into the hospital to be evaluated for cardiovascular issues and either pass away at home or come back a week later with extensive issues. Some people just don’t listen.
3. A Vicious Circle
Not a doctor, but I have worked in the addictions field before. Too many clients have passed away or will because, despite the repeated warnings from their doctors that they have almost no liver function or that what they’re drinking is giving them all sorts of brain damage, they continue to drink hard. But a lot of these guys feel like they have nothing to live for but the bottle. It’s really heartbreaking.
4. You Know I’m No Good
I was working on a general surgery unit as a new nurse. An elderly diabetic patient ran over her second toe with the bedside table and her nail was ripped off. She was incredibly mean and didn’t want anyone touching her. I tried to explain the severity of her injury, especially because she was an uncontrolled diabetic and already had compromised circulation to her feet.
She still refused to let me treat the wound. She also refused care from the physician. There was really nothing we could do other than a gentle cleansing with antibiotic ointment and sterile dressings, which she eventually relented to. She was refusing everything else despite not being demented or disoriented. We just had to respect her wishes.
She had overall poor hygiene and still refused more than just the bare minimum care days later. All of her objections would eventually lead to the worst-case scenario. When she came back to the hospital, she needed to have her leg amputated. That toe was now gangrenous and everything below the knee had to go. The doctor told her she likely would have been fine if she didn’t refuse treatment.
Except, after her amputation, she again tried to refuse care. We did what we had to do and eventually she was discharged back to the nursing home where she came from. Reportedly, she still sabotaged her own healing several times by introducing new infections to her wounds via neglect and carelessness. I saw her obituary in the newspaper a few weeks later.
5. A Mistake Of Magnitude
I had a throat cancer patient. We offered him surgery to remove the tumor and it was actually a fairly conservative procedure. He left because he didn’t want a “mutilating” surgery. Instead, his daughter-in-law had been studying magnet therapy and she was “quite good with it” (his words). He came back a year later, it was all too late—he was out of reach from any treatment.
His cancer was so advanced that there was nothing we could do for him.
6. Built To Spill
We had a college student come into the ER with a wonderful case of appendicitis. He needed to get surgery ASAP, as surgery is way easier and safer if done before the appendix ruptures. He called his parents to let them know, and their response chilled me to the bone. They told him to refuse because he had a test later in the week and they didn’t want him to miss it.
He left the ER “Against Medical Advice” despite all of us telling him that if his appendicitis got worse and ruptured, it could definitely be fatal. The kid luckily came back about 10 hours later after it ruptured. He got the emergency surgery and the amount of time he got to spend in the hospital probably doubled, so I’m sure he missed his test anyway.
7. Faking It
I had a repeat patient as a medic who would always call for a severe allergic reaction to shellfish every other month or so. She always had an allergy and I knew her reactions were getting worse. After a year of this silliness, my crew and I stayed in the hospital ER with her and talked at length about the situation.
Beforehand, she’d always stay mum about how it kept happening. But she finally told me the truth and what she told me made my jaw drop. She told us that she comes from a patriarchal culture and her father always made this amazing seafood soup. If she didn’t eat it and “force her body not to reject his gift to the family,” she would lose her car, phone, or whatever punishment her father deemed necessary.
We pleaded with her to do whatever it took to show him it was deadly and to also carry her Epi-Pens with her. Fast forward a few years later when I went into nursing and joined that ER. There she was, back at the hospital with a bloated face. Turns out, she had gone off to college in another state and hadn’t been home for a while, so she visited her folks for a holiday.
Of course, she had the soup…Despite hitting herself with the Epi-Pen when her throat started tightening, the reaction continued. Her mom, who I had never seen before, told me she tried to eat it fast and rushed to the bathroom, where she was found on the floor. The medics couldn’t tube her in the field, so they tried medical management until they could drive her to our ER.
The doctor performed a tracheotomy at the bedside and she went to the ICU. It took a week for her to recover and I was told by the ICU nurses that her father “finally got it” that her allergy was a real medical condition.
8. An Unclean Cut
I’m not a medical professional, but my aunt is and I’d like to share her horrifying story. She once had a patient, a young guy in his early 20s, who had very poor hygiene. He didn’t shower regularly, didn’t brush his teeth, wore the same clothes for days on end, etc. One day, he came in with a nasty rash on his lower abdomen that was starting to show signs of infection.
My aunt provided antibiotics and extensively stressed to him to improve his hygiene, otherwise, it would just keep coming back. Well, as the story goes, he didn’t pick up the prescription and apparently choose to just keep putting A&D Gold ointment on the area. He would live to regret this so, so much.
She later found out he ended up in the ER after going into shock at work. Turns out, he ended up getting gangrene in the area and it had spread to his scrotum, which had to be removed.
9. Keep Calm And Carry On
I’m a nurse. I had a very polite and lovely patient try to remove all of his chest tubes and IVs after his motorcycle accident. He was obviously delirious from the pain medications and the head injury, but he was still a nice guy. I left him in the care of my co-worker for my lunch, and 10 minutes into my lunch break, I saw him stagger past the breakroom door.
He was trailing blood everywhere, but that wasn’t even the worst part—a couple of seconds later, he collapsed. He said he needed the bathroom! I don’t know how the heck he pulled his own chest tubes out. Removing them always makes me cringe, but he did it himself! He was put back to bed, this time in the ICU, and he got some more sedation.
Even though ripping it all out set him back a couple of weeks, he was still eventually discharged. He later came to say hi and thanks on the way out. The happiest delirious patient I ever had. What a bloody trooper.
10. Kiss And Tell
We had a mom in the NICU who would constantly kiss her premature baby on the mouth. Several nurses educated her around why that’s not safe for the baby, and thankfully documented their teachings. This was during the cold season, and it became even more concerning when the mother was coming in with related symptoms like coughing, sneezing, and obvious congestion.
She still continued to kiss the baby right on the mouth. The baby was almost ready to go home by this time, but things took a turn for the worst—the baby got extremely sick and ended up on a ventilator. It had quite the extended stay with many, many close calls.
11. Nothing Hurts Like Family
Family members can do as much damage as a non-compliant patient. I have had family members un-restrain an intubated patient even after being told why it wasn’t safe when the nurse wasn’t looking. I remember one patient—his family encouraged him to extubate so he did, but there was one major problem…he was too fragile to survive it…so yeah. Congratulations, you just ended your loved one’s life because the restraints bothered you.
I’ve also had family members cough in an immunosuppressed patient’s face. It probably added a month to their ICU stay. Poor lady.
12. Eat Your Vitamins
My wife is a labor and delivery nurse. When a baby is born, they give it a vitamin that the baby can’t produce for the first 6 months of its life; I think it’s Vitamin K to help with blood clotting. Obviously, if the baby doesn’t get this, it’s potentially lethal, as they can bleed out internally. Welp, one mother didn’t want their kid getting the vitamin—a sentiment she would soon regret.
The baby ended up meeting a heartbreaking end in the NICU. There was no way to know if the lack of Vitamin K was a factor, but I think most medical professionals would point to it being part of the reason. The cause was related to a bleeding issue. I don’t recall the cause of the bleeding or what the specifics of the issue were, but the lack of Vitamin K likely played a role.
13. The Failure Of The System
The caretakers at the facility where the patient was living made things so much worse. I used to visit the various board and lodge facilities in my area for adults with mental illnesses. I’d meet with clients to discuss their mental health, help them get job interviews, therapy sessions, and also set up their medications for the week if they were unable to do it themselves.
Most of these facilities were places for people who had left the hospital and were deemed stable enough to have the freedom to come and go as they pleased in a shared living situation, much like a dorm. Despite having a place to stay, they were usually pretty poorly supervised by the mental health staff workers there.
I often hated these places because, while they were ideal for some people who were truly getting back on their feet, they were way too lax for many of the sicker, more isolated patients who were not at all well and slipping under the radar. Many times, they were not watched closely enough to take their medications as directed; which, by the way, was one of the requirements for keeping their housing.
There was one man with paranoid schizophrenia who was extremely quiet and kept to himself. I had met with him a few times and he seemed to be going downhill in his appearance. I urged the facility staff to closely monitor him and his medication intake, as I saw in his logs that he often skipped coming in to get his medication at all.
I was told that they were going to be sitting down with him to remind him of his living agreement and that he had 30 days to be med compliant or else he’d be kicked out. I was also told that his psychiatrist was aware of his situation and that they were thinking of sending him back to the hospital that week. Apparently, this never happened. The consequences were devastating.
He acquired a knife and used it to slice up his roommate in the facility while his roommate slept. He carved him from mouth to ear and pierced him in the stomach several times. The man survived the attack, but the man who had gone off his medication claimed the roommate was poisoning him through the window AC unit.
For anyone with a violent incident like that on their medical report, it is incredibly unlikely he will ever be able to find a better rehabilitation house ever again that will accept him. The system basically screwed over two people that day, as the man who was hurt was already there for PTSD…As you can imagine, it not only scarred him physically for life but exacerbated his problems with more trauma.
14. It’s Just A Flesh Wound
My grandpa is the patient. They told him at the hospital, “Come straight back if you have any chest pain.” He didn’t go back and he paid the price—dearly. He ended up getting a blood clot in his brain, which caused three strokes, hemorrhaging, two more minor strokes, a paralyzed left arm, and Broca’s Aphasia. It completely ruined his life.
My grandpa had an old-school mentality. He worked as a school crossing guard, grew all of his own vegetables, fed the birds, built tables, biked six miles on the weekends, walked everywhere, and was still able to play darts despite his eyesight being that of a visually impaired gnat, just because he knew the board so well. He went from that to living in a care home and being unable to talk.
Has he lost his stubbornness? Nope. He won’t do his rehabilitation, and so even though he could get his speech back to some degree, he doesn’t want to do the therapy. Using communication cards humiliates him, so we’re left trying to decipher random eyebrow movements so we can guess what he’s trying to say. One of these days, I swear on my own bloody eyelashes, I’m going to shake him until his teeth rattle.
Him and his brothers. They’re all the same. My uncle, who is my grandpa’s younger brother, didn’t go to the hospital at all and was found on his bedroom floor, whimpering. He had flipping sepsis.
15. It Could Happen To You
I’m not a medical professional, but I used to get allergy injections to build up my immune system because of the crazy amount of allergies I had. I would get these injections every week, and I was instructed by my family doctor and the allergist to wait in the waiting room 30 minutes after the injection in case I received a reaction.
Well, one day, I decided I didn’t want to wait anymore. This was also because I had already gone a few months without a reaction, so I left immediately after my appointment. Well, that ended up being the worst decision I could have ever made. I went into anaphylactic shock not even 10 minutes later. It was crazy because I didn’t even know what was happening at first and I also didn’t know how to use an Epi-Pen at the time.
16. Don’t Go Alone
I was the assistant manager of a group home. We had a resident who had epilepsy and was also very reclusive. He would get agitated if we came into his room or even knocked on the door. However, our policy said he had to be checked on every 30 minutes because of his seizure risk. That wasn’t being done, so I brought this up to the manager.
She said she was aware but it was okay to bend the rules because he would get really upset when we checked in on him. I really wasn’t comfortable with her answer, but I was young and assumed she knew better than me. When I was on duty, I checked on him every 30 minutes and he would yell at me, but I didn’t let it bother me.
About six months later, after I had been reassigned to another group home, I was met with shocking news. He had a seizure while he was alone in his room and was found cold and lifeless a day later. Now I’m older and a little smarter. When I find a problem like this, I stick with it and don’t let people talk me out of it. Not again. Rest in peace. You’re gone but not forgotten, and you deserved better.
17. Starved For Sense
This patient was supposed to have starved for eight hours for her morning-scheduled breast surgery. During the procedure, we were treated to the most disgusting sight—she regurgitated what can only be described as a partially digested English breakfast, with identifiable sausages, egg, beans, and possibly black pudding, up into her unprotected airway as she attempted to inhale the lot.
We managed to prevent the majority of it from going down, but she needed care for a day or so for her lungs to recover from the stomach acid.
18. Too Little, Too Late
The patient had vague abdominal symptoms, so I recommended a CT scan. He refused because he was afraid of radiation. He also refused a colonoscopy, so all we could do was an ultrasound, which found nothing because he was fat and abdominal ultrasound is a difficult, inconclusive examination anyway. A year later, he was admitted again, and this time. he couldn’t refuse a CT. That’s when we diagnosed him with a life-changing illness—we found massive colon cancer. He’s probably gone now.
19. Know Thyself
The horrible patient was me, and I got very, very sick. I went for a mini-vacation in Batam, Indonesia where our villa had a private pool. Throughout our 48-hour stay, I spent more time in the water than out. Any time I wasn’t in the water, I was in our air-conditioned villa room with just a damp T-shirt over my swimsuit.
In the daytime, it was blazing hot, and at night it was super windy because we were near the sea.
I am also asthmatic. While it’s mostly under control, I usually get a tight chest feeling when I am ill. I fell sick after the trip: runny nose, cough, etc. I am also a healthcare professional—I studied life sciences and diagnostic testing, so I am hardly bothered when I get sick and can take care of myself.
Eventually, most of the symptoms went away and I was left with just a cough. The week after the vacation, I was still having that “cough,” but I ignored it. One day, we went to play paintball and I completely overexerted myself running, ducking, crawling, what have you. After the game, we went to a friend’s place to have lunch and chill. I fell asleep but woke up coughing with the feeling of something being stuck throat.
I thought it was phlegm, so I went to the bathroom to cough it out…but nothing was happening. I lost track of time and apparently, I was in the bathroom coughing away for about 30 minutes. My friends asked if I was alright and I just kept saying, “Yeah, it’s just a cough, I think there’s some phlegm stuck and I’m trying to get it out.” Clearly, I wasn’t really in my right mind even then.
Finally went to see a doctor the next day. Turns out, my condition was more serious than I initially thought—I was having a very serious asthma attack. I just couldn’t recognize it because I hadn’t had one in many years. The worst thing is, this was the same doctor who told me to always carry my inhaler around JUST IN CASE, but I just wasn’t diligent about it. Even now, my friends will yell, “IT’S JUST A COUGH, I’M FINE” whenever I make even the smallest cough or sneeze.
20. Better Safe Than Sorry
Once, I was the only doctor on duty in a rural village with diminished medical supplies. The village is called Shinafiyah and it lies in the desert in southern Iraq. A four-year-old child came to what was supposed to be an ER with diarrhea and some dehydration. They didn’t have tap water and they drank directly from a nearby river.
From what I gathered, it seemed that the child had cholera. Cholera has a unique reputation in medicine that I will skip here for the sake of your appetite. I strongly urged his father to keep him longer for observation, but he refused. A few hours later, he came back and the child was very ill from severe dehydration. He was also drowsy…but that wasn’t the worst part.
He looked like a rotten wooden doll with the sunken eyes of an old man. I couldn’t get an accessible vein for IV fluids and I didn’t have a central line set. I had to cannulate one of the large veins of his neck and he barely made it. Cholera wasn’t usually seen there, so I had to make some calls and provide some samples to be tested about 200 miles away and send the child with an ambulance after he was stable.
21. Your Own Worst Enemy
I had a patient signed out by another ER doctor at a shift change pending a chest X-ray. The X-ray showed aortic dissection, meaning this guy should’ve been gone already, and I had no idea how he was even still alive. This being a small hospital in the middle of nowhere, we called the closest big hospital to transfer this guy.
The ambulance showed up for the transfer, but we were met with the totally unexpected—the guy suddenly decided he was not going. Apparently, he had enemies in that city and they’d track him down. After a standoff in the ER hallway involving security, officers, EMTs, multiple doctors, nurses, and a very scared scribe (a.k.a me), the guy got on board with the plan.
Later, we found out from the EMTs that he tried to jump out of the ambulance en route to the other hospital. Once he arrived, he left immediately against medical advice. No clue what happened to him after that, but darn, the dissection was INSANE.
22. Inside Out
I worked in ER admissions throughout college. A teenager and his parents came in one day because he went over the handlebars on his bike. The staff wanted to keep him in observation overnight, but his parents refused even after they offered to put him in a recovery room that was near the ER (and normally only used during the day for outpatient surgeries).
They came back the next day and how he looked shook us to our cores. He was white as a ghost. It turned out he had punctured some part of his digestive system in the fall and, I think, had some internal bleeding. It’s the only true emergency surgery I saw in the four years I worked there when the staff actually ran to the OR with a patient. He was lucky to survive.
23. A Little Tickle
I’m not a medical professional, but my dad had a really serious cough and I told him he had to get it checked out. He ignored me for weeks and just kept coughing away. At some point, he started coughing up blood and I essentially forced him to go to the doctor. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis which was scary enough, but then the doctor revealed an unsettling truth— if he had left it any longer, he would have been a goner.
Most of the time he had the cough, he was overseas—he gets paid to work in places like India, China, Korea. We FaceTime regularly, so luckily, I wasn’t around him very much for most of the duration of his cough (or presumably when he first caught it). It was maybe a day after he came home after being abroad that he coughed up blood.
I later found out that I guess I’m really lucky I wasn’t around him a lot, because I probably would have caught it otherwise.
24. Bet Your Life
Eye doctor here. I had a patient who came in and during her evaluation, I determined that her diabetes was out of control by the look of her retinas, which required immediate intervention. I sent her straight to the retina specialist who then scheduled her for an OR. She decided that day not to go in because she had work and couldn’t afford to take off any days.
She was cleaning houses and the sprays made her sneeze, causing massive hemorrhaging in her eyes due to their weakened vascular state from diabetes. The consequence of this was absolutely shocking—she went immediately blind and got into emergency surgery that day. It took months of recovery and injections to reverse some damage and she now (years later) has functional vision again.
Her kidneys were also failing her and she had no idea. This kicked off a massive lifestyle change and a chain of doctors’ appointments that saved her life. All starting from an eye exam. Of course, I understand the economic reasons to have no-showed for her surgery—it was an awful situation, but the reality is that she had to choose: go blind, or go to work.
The specialist was even willing to curb the cost of her emergency surgery due to her extenuating circumstances. She chose to go blind. Modern medicine thankfully saved her, but the decision she made was objectively the wrong one. You can’t make much money blind either. Hindsight, however, is 20/20, and she was taking a gamble.
25. Bargaining With Fate
Paramedic student here. We had a patient who was morbidly obese and couldn’t get out of his house. He decided after about four days of uncontrolled chest pain to call it in. We got there and found evidence of an upcoming heart attack, but he refused care and wanted us to leave. About 45 minutes later, we got a call from the building he lived in—we got chills up our spines from the news.
We got there and he was in full-blown cardiac arrest. This man was so obese that we couldn’t get him through the door. We even had to knock out a wall and lift him down off the second story with a lift…all the while my paramedic lead and I were bagging him through a tube. Lots of firsts on that call. I’ll never forget it.
26. Cut Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face
This patient came in with an abdominal bleed. The doctor was in the middle of surgery and the current patient’s vitals were good, so we monitored her until the doctor is finished with his surgery. Two hours later, the OR sent for the patient, but she refused. Her reason made me shake my head.
She said that if the doctor could make her wait for surgery, then he could wait for her…as if it was a game of petty revenge. Nothing worked to change her mind. After several rounds of doctors and nurses educating her and begging her, the surgeon came down to see what was going on.
After speaking with her for a while, he came out of the room and said, “Keep monitoring her and don’t feed her—she’ll come one way or another.” Several hours later, I was taking a set of vitals and talking with the patient when she just flatlined in the middle of a sentence. Luckily, she came back right away. It’s safe to say the incident shook her to her core.
After she felt a little better, the patient apologized profusely and signed consent for her surgery. We rushed her to the OR. It just boggled my mind that she almost did herself in. Some people have more bitterness than brains, apparently.
27. The Girl Can’t Help It
My friend told me a slightly overweight homeless woman doing substances and her butt had a necrotic spot. She came in with sepsis but was somehow still standing and talking with what he could only describe to me as near full-body organ failure. They stabilized her and she somehow survived, but her life was forever changed—at that point, she was missing half of her butt. Then, two years later, she came back again with her foot rotting off.
It was the same condition but on the leg. They amputated it and she survived again…except two weeks later, she was pushed back in on a wheelchair, drooling, and nearly gone from an overdose. They put her in the ICU and her son came to visit her. At this point, the hospital staff and my friend knew her by name.
Apparently, she hadn’t seen her son in nearly a decade. He convinced her to promise to try to clean up for her grandchildren. Less than 24 hours later, she overdosed again, inside the hospital bathroom, having somehow snuck her kit in.
28. You Are What You Eat
I had a patient who was NPO (not allowed to eat) because he had a bowel obstruction. He didn’t like that we weren’t feeding him, so, unbeknownst to the nurses, he called up Papa John’s and ordered some garlic knots. He ate the entire box, then his ignorance came to punish him—he vomited them up, aspirated his vomit, went into respiratory arrest, and coded.
We did CPR and got him back. He had some underlying lung issues so we never could get him weaned off the ventilator. He spent a month in the ICU and was eventually discharged to a long-term care facility with a tracheotomy on the vent.
29. A Long Way Down
I reported to a car accident on the highway when I was working as a medic. The guy involved in it was fairly messed up. He adamantly refused treatment and transport. Instead, he signed himself off and started walking down the slight decline off the road where his car had come to rest after the accident. Yeah, bad idea.
He made it about 10 feet from the back of the ambulance until he lost consciousness and tumbled the rest of his way down the decline. What started off as a smack on his head and a few cuts turned into a broken left arm, serious concussion, and a nasty gash on his head.
30. Action And Reaction
I’m a resident doctor. During my coronary care rotation, I saw some stuff. In this case, I told the patient, “This heart attack was a warning. The most important thing for you to do, regardless of what medications we give you, is to stop lighting up. I know it’s very difficult, but we can help you quit.” The patient replied, “Yeah, I’m gonna think about it.” That ended up being the wrong answer.
He came back a few years later for another heart attack. This then became a regular occurrence. Sadly, unless a patient genuinely wants to quit, it’s a difficult habit to break and it often takes major consequences before people realize the dangers…even more major than a heart attack, apparently.
31. Delicious, Not Nutritious
The patient wasn’t necessarily the one ignoring doctors, but the family. This patient was extremely overweight and unable to swallow properly because of it. Also, being diabetic, he was put on a strict diet while in the hospital. In the middle of the night when the patient should have been sleeping, the family would wake him up and feed him KFC, chips, cakes, and other things the patient should not have had.
The result of this was so, so sad—the patient just stopped breathing. During CPR, he aspirated the fried chicken they consumed about an hour before. We were unable to bring him back. But somehow it got even more disturbing than this—the family had a “picnic” in the waiting room while we were coding the patient. That was a bad day.
32. The Price Of Freedom
I’m not a doctor, but my fiancée’s grandmother was in the hospital for surgery and shared a room with a man who had some sort of tube in his gut. He wanted to take it out so badly but they wouldn’t let him do it. The staff kept telling him: “YOU WILL DIE IF YOU TAKE THAT TUBE OUT.” Eventually, his stubbornness would cost him—Apparently, he didn’t care and he left anyway. Not sure what happened to him. I bet he was a goner.
33. Hard To Accept Help
I work as a medic in an ambulance. I got called in for a female who was short of breath. She was in her 50s or 60s, and when we got to her, it was obvious that she was having a really hard time breathing. Her oxygen saturation said it all—it was 60%, when normal levels are 95% or higher. We gave her oxygen and got her loaded up, but then the weirdest thing happened—she didn’t want to go.
We did everything to try and get her to go, but she absolutely would not. We explained that she wouldn’t make it if she didn’t go, but she still refused. So we reluctantly took our oxygen off and left. Two hours later, another crew was sent back for a person who was full-on not breathing. They never got a pulse back.
34. What A Nut
I had a guy come in with an allergic reaction to peanuts. I told him hey, no more peanuts because each allergic reaction will get worse and worse. I sent him home with a prescription for an Epi-Pen just in case he is accidentally exposed to peanuts, and I also advised him to follow up with an allergist. THE NEXT DAY, he was back—but something was very, very wrong.
He was barely breathing and his vital signs in the dumpster. His wife was with him and she told me he filled the script for the Epi-Pen, gave himself the shot ahead of time, and then ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He went through with that decision despite my strict instructions for him to stay away from peanuts. His wife said she also told him not to do it, but he didn’t listen.
The guy ended up intubated and with chest tubes on both sides because his allergic reaction was so far along. He was in the ICU for two weeks because they couldn’t wean him from the ventilator, either. Last I heard, he had permanent lung damage and is on a bunch of medications just to get through the day. All for a PB&J.
35. Not Worth It
My grandmother fell and broke her hip. She had it repaired and was in a skilled nursing facility during her recovery. Now, she also had emphysema. Accordingly, she roomed with another older woman with emphysema and as I understand it, she was told repeatedly about how there was only one place outside that she could light up, and everywhere else was off-limits.
Yes, she had emphysema and flatly refused to quit even as it progressed. One night, her situation suddenly turned into total nightmare—she got up and went into the bathroom in the middle of the night, lit one up she was on oxygen (which she wasn’t accustomed to), and quite literally blew up the room. She had third-degree burns over 25% of her body and she received a bunch of grafts for them. She remained in the burn unit of the ICU for a while until her heart gave out one day.
Visiting her in the hospital was the most traumatic thing I’d ever seen. It’s been about 15 years now. I miss her all the time.
36. Self Care Is Important
My friend’s family member simply over-regulated his diabetes. The miracle of insulin was just so great that he ate whatever he wanted and only took insulin whenever his blood sugar got too high. Well, here’s why you don’t do that at home, folks—His body lost all means of blood sugar regulation. He let a manageable case of diabetes degrade into a constant seesaw of eating too much sugar, taking insulin to stay alive, and eating more sugar when he took too much insulin.
Sometimes he would literally ask someone to go to the store for a Gatorade or a candy bar because he couldn’t get off the couch. He passed away a few weeks ago, after having called the ambulance from his car after taking a solo trip to a fried chicken joint. He was gone about 10 minutes before anyone arrived.
37. A Pregnant Pause
My mother is a nurse practitioner. She had a patient who wanted a pregnancy test done in the lab. She had taken multiple home tests, all of which came back negative, but she was very convinced she’d gotten pregnant after having unprotected intimacy while visiting her family in El Salvador six months earlier. My mother tried to convince her that a test given at the clinic wasn’t needed and that she was most certainly not pregnant.
This incident had occurred so long ago and she was clearly not six months pregnant. My mother also pointed out that the lab fees would be expensive. But the woman still persisted. She collected some saliva and just pretended to send it to the lab. The woman was very relieved when my mother called the next day to tell her she wasn’t pregnant. But there’s a kicker to all this…
The woman was 90 years old.
38. Cast Away
I had a patient come in stating that he couldn’t bend his knee. I asked him to remove his trousers so I could examine his leg. After he removed them, I nearly gasped. I saw that the reason that he couldn’t bend his knee was that he had a plaster cast around it. Checking his notes frantically, I learned he had been sent numerous letters asking him to come in for removal of this plaster cast.
As he hadn’t attended any of the outpatient clinics, the hospital had assumed that he had removed the cast himself. Well, I guess not.
39. Young At Heart
My cousin had cystic fibrosis, but she always wanted to feel normal and live as her friends did. She would regularly not listen to her doctors about medication and would fight against new procedures to avoid having to deal with an extended hospital stay. She was such a smart girl, but things eventually took a turn for the worst—she passed in her sleep at 22 years old when she could have had at least another decade.
Seeing some of the improvements and innovations in treatments for CF in the years since gives me hope for the kids growing up with it now. Please listen to your doctor. Days or weeks of inconvenience are far better than decades lost down the line. I miss her every single day.
40. Cutting Your Teeth
Six years ago, we had a female patient in her late 20s who wanted to have a dental implant done. We told her she needed a sinus lift for her body to really accept the implant, otherwise, we could very easily perforate her sinus with the implant. She kept saying no to it even after we explained everything to her.
We eventually draw up the consent form and said we needed her to sign. She would basically agree to let us perform the procedure against her best interests. In addition, if any problems arose in the future, we would still be able to help her, but we would not be liable in any way, shape, or form. After a bit, she ended up signing the document and even took a picture of it.
We did the surgery. It was just one implant, so it was a 30-minute job for us to do, not a big deal. It was a successful operation and initial stability was achieved with no perforation of the sinus membrane. A healing cap was placed on it to prevent her from playing with it, and she was required to take antibiotics for two weeks as well as maintain her dental hygiene before she returned in six months.
A month later, she called us up and said she was having a really sore throbbing pain on her cheek, which either meant a pinched nerve or a serious infection. We prescribed amoxicillin. Two months later, she called back and said that her implant fell off and she was intending to sue. Apparently, greenish-yellow pus was oozing out of the failure site, which indicated peri-implantitis as the cause.
Still, the infection should have ceased by now. At this point, we started to get suspicious, so we got the dental association involved. Nonetheless, we offered to treat her infection for free and replace the implant for free, but she didn’t reply. Three months after her scheduled appointment, we finally heard from her again. I’d never been so horrified.
She called back crying after she heard the news from her ophthalmologist that she was now at risk of going blind in one eye. Another physician said she had a major infection along all the major nerves on one side of her face, a massive amount of pus in her nasal and optical sinus, pus squirting out of the corners of her eye, and possibly even an infection at the lower parts of her brain. That’s when she confessed everything.
She admitted to us that she never bought any of the prescriptions. She regretted all of it, and couldn’t stop crying over the phone. We wanted to help her still, but she hung up and we couldn’t call back. We don’t know what happened to her, but we hope to this day that she’s OK.
41. A Head Case
We had an older patient in his late 60s who fell and hit his head. He was on anti-platelet medications for an irregular heart rate. He was reportedly stable when we were called for the fall, but we told him that because he hit his head and was on that medication, the risk of internal bleeding was very high. A CT scan was necessary at that point.
He ended up refusing, and even signed off against our medical advice. Fast forward several hours and the family called us back. What they told us made us shake our heads in disappointment. The patient was unresponsive, and at that point, we were certain that he had massive intracranial bleeding. He passed away that very night, but it could have been completely avoided with a little caution and responsibility.
42. Joy Ride
I had a middle-aged neighbor in the lower apartment of our duplex. He was on oxygen continuously due to extreme COPD and he had severe memory loss, so he complained about everything all the time. The icing on the cake was that his “girlfriend” would light up like a chimney. I put girlfriend in quotation marks because I’m fairly certain that she was a predator who was only after him for his money.
Anyway, I was working in the garden one afternoon and he came flying into the garage. He parked his car and stumbled toward the door. He made it about four steps before throwing me his apartment keys and shouting at me to run inside and grab a new tank of oxygen. I was so confused until it hit me—he went out to test drive a new car…and completely ran out of air.
He was in the apartment for about another six weeks until social services moved him into a home. I hope they took his driver’s license away, too. I never saw him again.
43. Parental Advisory
I used to work in the mental health field on a hospital diversion unit. This teenage girl got admitted to my unit because she tried to end herself in a bathtub. As soon as she got admitted, she started convincing her parents to pull her out, since she could be discharged with parental permission. Against my advice, the parents pulled the girl out of the unit early. They soon learned their mistake in a brutal way.
Within the next few weeks, she successfully completed what she started in a busy part of town. It was a big story in the local papers, and that’s how I found out.
44. Lend A Hand
I was assured by a patient who underwent major head and neck cancer surgery that he had a safe home plus family help waiting for him after we discharged him. After all, he’d need it, with new medicines and wound care. Days later, I came across a shocking news report on the TV—he was found unconscious in a shed with no electricity and no running water in—get this—his cousin’s back yard. It was really sad. Some people suck.
45. Free And Clear
I’m on dialysis and one of the nurses told me about past patients who, after kidney transplants, just will stop taking their anti-rejection meds after a few years because they think they don’t need it anymore. It’s really frustrating for the nurses because the patients who do this full-on ruin their second chance at life and put themselves right back in the same position as before.
46. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
I am a psychotherapist who has worked extensively with addicts. Most of them don’t take the advice to quit their substance of choice, but one particular case comes to mind with this question. Not only did I impress upon him how important it was for him to stop drinking, but so did his psychiatrist and PCP. His PCP eventually fired him as a patient because he wouldn’t listen.
The guy was jaundiced, in liver failure, and looked like a walking grim reaper. He lived longer than any of us expected him to, but death was out to get him—he finally passed last year because of the damage he did from his heavy drinking. I should clarify that we worked at an inpatient behavioral health hospital during the time I treated him, and we would treat him with detox therapy and medications.
We would do this in every admission, which was approximately once per month over the course of the four years that I worked there. We tried our best to support and help with whatever we had. We didn’t just tell him to stop and then go on our way.
47. A Dry Spell
I had my second C-section and my surgeon had to leave before I could be discharged, so the other surgeon gave me my discharge orders. He had just come back from having to re-sew a woman’s abdomen back together because she broke a very important rule—she decided to stand up and pick up her 5-year-old on the same day that she left the hospital.
Well, he let me know under no uncertain terms that I had better not pick up anything over 8 lbs or stand up while holding anything or we’d have words. Man, he was scary, but he also had to push this woman’s guts back in and see her terrified child covered in his mom’s blood, so I guess his demeanor was justified. Anyway, I did not pick up anything heavier than my child for two weeks until they said I could.
48. Sleep Tight
I have one. It’s not about a patient, but rather, a patient’s family member. I had a patient in the ICU for some respiratory issue. He had chronic pain and some mental health issues at the baseline, but worst of all, he had this co-dependent girlfriend who was always VERY present at his bedside all the time.
She was constantly worrying that he wasn’t getting enough pain medication or sleep. We kept reassuring her that we were giving him his medications and not to worry. The day he transferred out of the ICU, I was working a night shift and heard a code blue paged overhead.
It was for him. He had gone into respiratory arrest. Fortunately, he was found right away, intubated, and resuscitated. Back to my ICU he went. After some digging, we discovered the blood-chilling truth. We found out that his girlfriend was worried he wasn’t going to be able to sleep, so she bought some Seroquel on the street and gave it to him.
He was already on his home dose of Seroquel and opioids, plus some additional opioids for the acute pain he was dealing with. The sedation from that extra Seroquel in conjunction with the rest of his medications tipped him over the edge. Once he woke up, he was mortified and asked that his girlfriend not be allowed to visit him anymore.
Of course, this presented a different problem. I had to call her and tell her she was not allowed to visit him anymore and that hospital security had been alerted. She was…not happy. The lesson: If someone is hospitalized, WE WILL PROVIDE THE APPROPRIATE MEDICATIONS. You do not need to bring in extra medications. We got it.
49. Photo Finish
I had an accident when I was around 12. I fell from a fair height into a body of water and onto my back, then got trapped. After that, I started to get strange, horrendous leg pain. It would creep through my legs, just burning and tingling. It would last for hours or sometimes a whole day, then just slowly disappear.
My mom took me to the hospital once because it happened while I was at school and they freaked out at how much pain I was in. The ER doctors told me to get out because it was just leg cramps, and my mom told me it was because I crossed my legs too much. Seven years later, I finally went to a specialist.
He sent me for CT scans…and found nothing. He then referred me to a neurologist and was instantly sent for an MRI. What they found was horrifying. They saw that I had torn my spinal cord in the original accident and the intense nerve pain was from a build up of fluid in the gap of the cord. It’s uncommon, but not rare. Watching doctors Google your condition in front of you with a “what the heck” expression on their faces is pretty chilling.
50. Eerie Premonition
My dad tells a story of a morbidly obese woman who came into his clinic. After an exam, he told her simply: “If you don’t make drastic changes to your lifestyle and diet and start losing weight, you are going to meet a terrible end.” She shrugged it off, but that was a big mistake. She was gone within the week. Her family tried to sue because my dad was clearly “a witch doctor” and cursed her. It was sad all around.
51. It’s All Fun And Games Until…
This guy lost an eye as a result. This young kid was about 20 years old and had bad diabetic complications. He had eye surgery to remove blood and scar tissue from inside his eye, and we told him to take it easy for a few weeks. He went to Six Flags theme park, but here’s the thing—rollercoasters are bad. His retina completely detached and his eye got soft, so we had to remove it.
52. I Do What I Want
We told this patient, “Please don’t get up on your own!” He didn’t listen. He got up on his own and pulled out the line that was going into his jugular, which led directly to his heart. The result was gruesome—he proceeded to bleed all over everything until he passed out. He almost died that day.