When people study to become doctors, they always know they're going to be in for a rollercoaster of emotions, diagnoses, and medical issues. But when it comes to these medical practitioners of Reddit, they definitely did NOT sign up for the ridiculous plot twists that came their way. From operating table blunders to incredible patient behaviors, it's never a dull day in the ER.
ER Nurse here. I was doing CPR on a lady whose heart had stopped. They initially rolled her into the room unconscious and not breathing. This lady is pretty much gone. However, in the middle of doing chest compressions, her hands reached up and grasped my wrists, and then fell back to hanging off the table. We never got her back.
I took care of a lady who had end-stage renal failure, and was minutes away from passing and unresponsive in bed. My charting station was right outside her doorway, and while I was waiting for her only daughter to arrive, I was completing some of my paperwork, in full view of the door to the patient’s room. That’s when a terrifying thing happened.
The daughter finally showed up, very upset, yelling that she wanted me to help get her mother out of the elevator. We both ran to the elevator…that was empty. The daughter and I went into the room as her mother took her last breath. The daughter swore up and down that she rode in the elevator with her mother from the lobby to the 12th floor.
When they arrived at the 12th floor, her mother told her to go get the nurse to help get her back to her room, and she would wait in the elevator because she was too weak to walk back to her room.
I'm a nurse and I work in a pediatric ER. A young woman brought her baby in to be seen for vomiting. I ask her to put the baby on the scale. While on the scale I notice a strong odor of bug spray so I asked about it. Her response made my blood run cold. Mom: "A roach crawled into her mouth so I sprayed a little Raid in there." She said it in a matter of fact tone, like it was no big deal.
Queue up calls to the authorities, CPS and a 1:1 sitter for the child and the mom. When all was said and done the baby was fine and turned over to her grandmother so no worries there. I have no idea what happened to the mother. I don't believe she was intending to hurt the child. I think she was just completely ignorant.
My friend used to share stories of when she was a young nurse. She was checking out a patient and following protocol. This guy had been seen multiple times, and given an antibiotic for a lung infection. Again, a nurse and doctor had already seen this guy, and my friend was just supposed to do the last follow up before releasing him.
"What is this?" She asked. "A shirt, I keep them in my hole." WHAT? Turns out, dude had an abscess so big that he stuffed a T-shirt in it and forgot about it. At the time, it had gotten so large that he now stuffed three shirts in. He neglected to tell the doctor or get it checked out. By the time the last one was pulled out, the smell was so bad it cleared the room.
I was doing a C-section for this poor mom who’d been in labor for hours. The baby wouldn’t come out of the hole we’d made, so we applied more pressure—we soon found out that was a huge mistake. Suddenly whoooooosh, baby zooms out like a torpedo, covered in lubrication. She zips over the surgical sheeting, which has the texture of a Slip n’ Slide, and almost rockets straight off the table.
The nurse caught the baby’s foot and whipped her up in the air upside down like in old cartoons, but almost dropped her again. Thankfully, the midwife was ready with the towel and caught the baby to wrap her up. Mom and dad seemed to think this was normal practice and didn’t notice, but me and my colleague just stared at each other with a look of absolute horror.
It still makes me shudder to think how close the baby was to hitting the floor headfirst. Never happened before or since.
Whenever you admit a patient, you have to inquire about their Do Not Resuscitate status. I had one elderly patient who was severely demented and chronically ill. He was in and out of the hospital every month and barely holding onto life—basically a horrible, miserable quality of life. I asked the patient's family member about the DNR status. Their reply made me shiver.
She flat-out stated, "Oh, we want everything done for him because we really need his check." I didn't understand at first, but apparently the family was living off of his social security and could not have cared less about his pain and suffering or his wishes. I'm pretty sure that was the creepiest thing I've seen. These people were supposed to be his loved ones taking care of him, and they were using him like an inanimate object.
I’m a dental hygienist. The creepiest, most confusing twist I've seen is as follows: We had a new patient come in for a cleaning. He was around 3 or 4 years old, and the mom said he had never been to the dentist before. Not uncommon for what I see on a daily basis, so at first I didn't think anything of it. I did his cleaning, and then went to take his routine X-rays.
This is where it got weird. After looking at the X-rays, I could see that the child had already had a large amount of dental work done. He had around six fillings. When I sat back down at my chair, I asked the parents again if he had ever been to the dentist. They were both adamant that he hadn't, and also said there was no way a relative could have taken him without them knowing.
What the heck? How did this happen? Who took him? Where were the parents? Had they possibly been away for a long time and not known someone else took him to the dentist and had work performed? What if this wasn't really their child, and actually some kid they kidnapped? His insurance had no record of him having previous dental work.
I think about it often, but know that ultimately, I'll never get an answer.
My father is an ER doctor. One day, an old woman comes in with a headache. Attending sees her, sends her home with some Advil. You can tell where this is going. She comes back two days later with a stroke and chest pain. It is a massive stroke, so they get her on blood thinners right away. They send her in for a CAT scan, to check out her brain.
On the scan, they notice something odd. Do another scan: her aorta has almost completely dissected. This is the most blood-filled, high-pressure artery in the body, and blood thinners are the absolute last thing that an aortic dissection patient should be given. Commence freak out. They wheel her into emergency surgery to repair the aorta, but by then she's bleeding profusely.
Her heart stops shortly thereafter. Luckily, my father never personally prescribed the blood thinners, but apparently, that was a real tense twist. Her condition was fatal either way, but it was not a good day.
I'm a nurse. I work with geriatric patients, and there was this incident about three years ago. Before I explain, let me say that I DON'T believe in ghosts. Anyway, this one time I was working the night shift and I was super sleepy, so I decided to skip lunch because I wasn't hungry and go to my car and sleep for 30 minutes instead.
I got inside my car, covered myself with my sweater, set the timer on my phone, and immediately knocked myself out. Then I'm dreaming, but in my dream I'm still awake, just sitting there. Someone taps on my car window and I see that it’s one of my patients, we'll call her Dee. Surprised, I asked Dee what the heck she’s doing outside. Her answer was very strange.
She tells me she is looking for her daughter. I tell her to go back inside and that we will call her daughter in the morning. My patient becomes angry and starts banging on my car window. I kind of freak out and try to reach for the door handle to get out and calm her down, but I quickly realize I can't move. Let me add that I frequently experience sleep paralysis, so even though I am asleep, I realize what is happening.
I fight it and try squirming my body in an attempt to wake myself up. I finally manage to wake up and my heart is racing and my forehead is a bit sweaty. I sit there for about a minute, realize it was all a dream, and roll the window down to cool myself off. If I knew what was coming, I would have screamed my lungs out.
My break is over and I clock back in and see that my supervisor and two other nurses are huddled in front of a room. I am still by the station clocking in when they see me and call me over. I walk over thinking maybe something was wrong with the ventilator or the patient fell, but my supervisor tells me Dee passed while I was on my lunch break.
It took a couple of seconds for the message to register, and I freaked out internally. I got goose bumps, but didn't mention anything to my supervisor about the dream.
I work at a hospital. I was helping a patient in her bed in the ICU when she started getting all squirrelly. She didn't speak much English, but kept saying "stand, stand," so I helped her stand up. After standing for a few seconds, something told me to lay her back down. Before her head ever hit the pillow, her eyes rolled back and she was gone.
She had a massive stroke and was gone on the spot. She all but passed in my arms.
I’m an EMS. Call goes in for reports of a woman calling for help through her door. The address this lady is at has a big problem with elderly people wetting themselves or falling and needing help getting back into bed. We arrive as a four-man team and are joking in the elevator about how this is going be the one time it’s real and this lady really needs our help.
We hop off the elevator and use the master key to enter the room. What we saw was an absolute horror. I've never seen four grown men in stunned silence before, but darn if jaws didn't touch the floor. This lady has around 200 deep lacerations all over her body, several large kitchen knives are on the ground, and there’s a pool of blood covering most of the floor.
I'm ashamed to say it, but the shock of the situation made for some bad tunnel vision. We go right to work trying to help this poor woman, and don't think for a second about what caused it. The authorities arrive about five minutes later from our distress call and search the remainder of the apartment. One officer comes back out of a room white as a ghost.
He asks us if we knew what happened. We explain what we came across, and the officer, with the most poker face I've ever seen, stares me square in the eye and asks, "Were you guys aware he's been five feet from you this entire time?" My heart sank to my feet and I spent the remainder of the call in a bit of shock after realizing the danger we had been in.
Fortunately the lady made it fine, dude got detained, and I think he was pleading insanity.
My dad had triple bypass surgery in 2011, and right when they were about to close him up, the vent fell out of the freaking ceiling, contaminating EVERYTHING. My dad looked like a Smurf when he finally came out of surgery because they had disinfected him so much. The surgeon was an ex-army surgeon and he came out SEETHING.
He basically told us that if my dad suffered any sort of post-op infection, we would own the hospital. Luckily, my dad was just fine and is still with us, healthier than he has been in a while. From what we have heard, the maintenance crew was epically chewed out, and the story is still told at the hospital.
When I was a new nurse working in the ICU in a large teaching hospital, I came into work one morning to a patient who was admitted that night, sedated, intubated, and all. Long story short, by the end of the same shift his breathing tube was out and he was completely alert and oriented, so he was able to tell us what was going on.
He was an end-stage renal patient, meaning his kidneys didn't work and he needed dialysis, and he was only in his late 30s. He said he never made urine anymore and didn't need his catheter so he wanted it out because it was hurting. So I went to remove the catheter as I’d done about a thousand times on other patients. It was the start of a nightmare.
As soon as the catheter left, blood started pouring out of his you-know-what in a heavy stream. Turns out, the nurse who placed it on admission hadn't advanced it far enough, since there was no urine production to indicate correct placement. This had caused a massive amount of trauma. It would not stop bleeding. I had to hold this man's nether region "shut" to put pressure on it while my co-worker paged the resident. It didn't get better.
The doctor came in, looked at me with pity, and told me to just keep holding this 30-something-year-old man's junk in my hands to staunch the blood flow until urology could get there to assess. It just kept gushing blood every time I eased up to check. For over an hour total, I held it and tried to make polite conversation until the urologist arrived.
When I was on my OBGYN rotation, we had a patient who had to come in for an MRI scan. Usually before MRIs, you have to declare if you have any metal implants. Her reply made my jaw drop. She was like “Uh, yeah I do.” And then she pointed “down there.” Turns out, she had a bottle cap inside. And it was lodged in there for 12 years.
The bottle cap was so fused to the inside of her that we had to use bone forceps to break off the fibrous tissue that was encasing it. After we removed that cap, we found another two more inside. Fun times.
As a tech in Psych years ago, there was a 7-year-old kid sent to the floor because the mom didn’t know what to do with him. Sadly, it’s a common thing to happen, even if the kids don't have psych issues, so we thought it was just a routine case. Wrong. The mom was shaking and crying, and they had to take the kid into another room. She was genuinely afraid of her own son.
She had suspected something was wrong when she kept finding mutilated animals in the backyard, but never heard or saw coyotes or anything around. Then the neighbors’ smaller pets started disappearing. The boy also had an obsession with knives, hiding them around the house but denying anything when the mom confronted him.
Then when the two started getting into arguments, he would get really violent and hit her, push her down and kick her, and threaten to kill her. On multiple occasions, she woke up in the middle of the night with him standing beside her bed, staring her in the face. She put extra locks on her bedroom door to feel safe while she slept. But then there was the last straw.
She lifted up his mattress and found 50+ knives of all shapes and sizes under there. So she brought him to us. I remember talking to him, treating him like he was just any other kid who came through. He seemed remarkably normal…until you spoke directly to him. He had this way of looking right through you, or maybe like he didn't see you at all while you were speaking.
He would respond like a robot, like he was just saying words because that’s what we wanted to hear. And he would always put on this creepy, hollow-looking smile. Like all mouth and no eye involvement in the smile. Especially when he would get away with something, like taking another kid's markers and they couldn't figure out who had done it.
Still gives me chills laying here thinking about him. I had to get up and close my bedroom door. I believe I met a 7-year-old psychopath.
When I was an intern, we had a 22-year-old man with persistent abdominal pain, all studies negative. His symptoms were unexplained. His mother was constantly at his bedside, and his medical history, which was extensive according to his mom, included multiple hospital stays with no definitive diagnosis. Then I noticed a disturbing sign.
I noticed that he would frequently take ill after meals, which his mother brought from outside the hospital. It eventually became clear that he was a victim of Munchausen by proxy. His mother was making him ill. I'd had a patient with Munchausen's when I was in medical school (she was injecting her own waste into her IV), so I was particularly tuned in. Both cases were very sad.
I was a fourth-year resident and I was on call that day. Around 5 pm, I went to do rounds and as I got to the first room, I came in to find the first-year resident on top of a patient who had very recently had neck surgery. As I came closer, my blood curdled. The resident was kneeling next to the guy’s head with his hands and clothes completely covered in blood.
There was blood on the roof, on the sheets, on the bed, dripping onto the floor, you name it. I was instantly petrified. I knew his carotid artery was ruptured, and I’d never repaired one before. I am completely unqualified to help this guy! Someone, please HELP US! I was the senior resident, so I was the only one on call at the time.
Besides that, no one could get there in time to help this guy. He was bleeding out, so it was up to me alone to help him. So I took the guy to the OR as fast as we could and I opened him up, all of the time praying and telling myself “It's OK, I can do this, I can do this!” I was pooping my pants while everyone was looking at me to fix him.
I open him up and I see the freaking artery loose, spraying blood all over. I clamped it, put a knot around it, and that was it. We closed him up, bandage, and transfuse the poor guy, and I went to collapse on a stool.
I once had a patient chart on my desk that seemed a little fuller than most charts. When I opened it, there was a baggy stapled to the inside and filled with dead skin, cotton balls, and hair. The chart note said that the patient believed they had bugs crawling on their skin and brought in the baggy as proof. Except there was nothing there; it was just dandruff and hair.
She ended up calling several months later and I somehow got the call. She screamed at me about how we betrayed her because she came to us for help and we sent her away where she got a lot of medical bills that were stressing her out and making the bugs worse. I felt bad for the girl, because she obviously needed some serious help.
The patient was a young adult male in West Africa who was writhing and screaming in agony as he was carried in. He spoke a tribal dialect and I spoke ugly French, so it was basically impossible to get any information out of him or the friends who brought him in. I laid him on the table and did a rapid trauma assessment. The results horrified me.
When I stripped off his shirt, I saw a small patch of blackened tissue below his left nipple along the side of his ribs. It looked like a chemical burn to me at first glance. I realized that some of the skin had torn off the area when I removed his shirt, and when I touched the lesion to examine it, I could feel the skin separating from the tissue below it.
The technical term is "desquamating." It had a horrible odor like spoiled meat/rotting garbage mixed with 100 degree west African heat and 100% humidity. Putrid. His temperature was over 40C (104+ F) and his O2 saturation was terrible. The rotting garbage smell indicated anaerobic bacteria, and the disproportionate pain is a hallmark of necrotizing fasciitis, the infamous flesh eating disease.
I ran back to my room and grabbed the Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicine (highly recommend if you work over there in medicine) to double-check because I had never seen a case of flesh-eating bacteria in person before and didn't want to screw up the diagnosis and move things in a different direction if I was wrong about it.
Sure enough, everything matched up and the chief of medicine stopped by to confirm the diagnosis. He basically said, "Oh yeah we see these fairly frequently, people get a cut or a bug bite and then rub dung or dirt into it and the infection takes hold." The craziest part was the outcome. In the United States, patients with necrotizing fasciitis in one limb frequently die or suffer amputations of both arms and both legs—even in the best ICUs.
Here we were in the middle of West Africa at a remote bush hospital and this guy has it on his chest, which pretty much wrecks the standard aggressive surgical approach since you can't exactly amputate the chest. We loaded him up with high dose IV ampicillin a few times a day and his wife forced him to eat multiple bowls of porridge...miraculously he made a full recovery and left smiling 10 days later. I'm convinced it was the porridge.
I work in a nursing home doing activities and housekeeping. I answered a call light of a little old lady, and she asked me to remove a "large, Black woman" from her bed. Except no one was in the bed. Still, I asked the "lady" to get up so she could go to bed. Didn't think anything of until I talked to a nurse. Apparently, she had answered a call light the next room over.
The gentleman in that room had asked the nurse to have the "large Black, lady" to stop pointing at him and leave his room. He is bedridden and only gets up for meals. These two patients don't talk to each other. So there is someone there. It's made me watch things a little closer.
We had a case a couple of years ago that still gives me chills whenever I think about it. A younger girl goes to her family doctor in a small town outside of the bigger city where I live. She had persistent headaches, which just started a few days prior. No past medical history of anything similar or really at all about her that stood out as relevant.
Unable to diagnose or treat her headaches (which were rapidly growing more severe), she was sent to our hospital for evaluation. We ran her through the typical gauntlet of testing for common causes, still with no clue. Nothing came up on blood cultures either. At this point she was in the PICU rapidly deteriorating, with high fevers and periodic losses of consciousness.
After eliminating all the horses, we had to start looking for zebras...and quick. We collected a CSF sample for culture thinking it might be one of the rarer forms of bacterial meningitis. While this was cooking, since cultures usually take at least a few days, we tried again to get any other possible info from her parents...that's when we learned the whole story.
For the first time, they mentioned that they had visited a local waterpark a week or two before the girl’s symptoms started...and this was in the middle of summer. For any Peds doctor, or especially ID doctors in the room, those words made their hearts sink. Sure enough, the cultures came back, positive for Naegleria Fowleri, the pathogen responsible for Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM).
Up until that point, I don't think there was a documented case of a patient being diagnosed with PAM who survived. It’s the incurable brain-eating amoeba that lives in warm stagnant water and can enter through the cribriform plate at the top of the nose if the patient gets water up there...which happens all the time at waterparks.
Anyway, long story short, we basically cook up a drug cocktail as a sort of Hail-Mary attempt at fighting this infection, as nothing else in any other case had ever worked. In addition to this, we basically stick her in a Mr. Freeze chamber, lowering her body temp to below what N. Fowleri can usually survive. Unfortunately, most people can't survive it either. Except this story had a surprise ending.
For some reason, though in an induced coma the whole time, she steadily improved. When we took her out of the deep freeze and allowed her to wake up, it was incredible...She was alive with no apparent cognitive deficits, and the new cultures showed no growth of N. Fowleri. It's not too hard to figure out where this occurred, as it may still be the only successfully treated case in the US.
Several times over the years, we've had patients who were victims of violence where the perpetrator turned out to be a family member who'd been visiting them in the hospital the whole time. This was all while the patient was comatose and the said family member had not yet been named as a suspect. Some of the patients would go on to pass from their injuries.
It takes a lot to creep out a trauma team, but knowing you've been in a tiny room with a violent person and their victim makes you uneasy, even if you know you're never going to see them again.
I'm a nurse who works in an intensive care unit. I took care of a patient who had a history of esophageal cancer. A while back, he had surgery, got better, and eventually went home. Months later, he got pneumonia and came back to the hospital in breathing distress. He had to be put on a mechanical ventilator while he was with us.
He was stable; no blood pressure issues, heart rhythm looked great, breathing wasn't terrible, responsive and following commands. All of a sudden, his blood pressure suddenly drops and he lost his pulse. We called a code blue and began CPR. We brought him back after an hour and continued to run tests to figure out why he crashed.
None of the results of the labs or imaging were remarkable. 15 minutes after we had brought him back, his blood pressure drops again and he lost his pulse. We continued coding him for another hour until it was clear he couldn't be brought back. The doctor pronounced him dead, and his wife came in after the fact. Then she made a confession that drained the blood from my face.
She said she couldn't stop thinking about the conversation her and her husband had just before he had come in. Wife: "Honey, don't forget you've got an appointment with the home health nurse this Saturday." Husband: "Well, I won't be here this Saturday." Wife: "What do you mean you won't be here this Saturday? Where are you going?"
Husband: "I don't know...I just won't be here." This conversation happened Wednesday. He was admitted to the hospital Thursday and he passed Friday at 11:30pm.
A 13-year-old boy came in for a routine check-up and vaccines. At first, he was already acting like an angsty teenager, giving only one-word answers and pouting while his mother was in the room. At this age, I ask parents to step out of the room to ask personal questions. He answered no to everything, but after I asked, “Is there anything you want to ask me before I have mom come back in?” his whole story completely changed.
He started to tear up and shudder and talk about seeing bloody shadows in his periphery, and that he has been hearing voices for four years. He always thought it was literally his subconscious and everyone could physically hear their own voices. He only started to worry recently when his best friend passed in a car wreck, and now the voices were yelling at him he's stupid, it's his fault.
Then he said they were telling him to hurt me. They’ve been telling him to hurt others for weeks. I could not believe what I was hearing. I had a psych team see him immediately, and he was brought to a psych ward. The mother was shocked and had no idea. I saw him two months later, and he was a completely different kid. Sarcastic, but funny and interactive and happy. It was like night and day.
I my own medical plot twist moment happen…when I was a patient on the operating table. A couple of years ago, I was in labor for 28 hours, pushing for six, when my child started showing signs of distress. The baby had a slightly elevated heart rate. My midwife at the hospital told me the doctor was coming in to check to see if a vacuum assist could help.
She checks me. Then I see a horrifying sight. She immediately stands up with blood on her hand and says “We're going to the operating room NOW.” At that time, I started feeling that zoomed-out tunnel vision I know is shock. I had anxiety, but I figured she knew what was best. She did. We got in the OR eight minutes later, and when they opened me up, I heard the surgeon say, "Oh God. Look at this."
They saw blood in my catheter bag, and upon fully opening me up found my son was actually trying to come through my uterus. He had ruptured it. They got my son out. Those moments where he was stunned and not crying were an eternity. Then he cried and he was born a completely healthy baby. After I woke up and was back in my room, the doctor came in and told me what happened.
I knew a ruptured uterus sounded bad, but oh darn I googled and started having a massive anxiety attack. A ruptured uterus is extremely rare and often fatal. I read from the time it happens, you have about 15 minutes before you bleed out and the baby is gone. When I went back for my follow-up, my midwife let me know she had never once encountered that, and it was such a big deal for them that a few days after my birth, they all got together to discuss my case.
I was so incredibly fortunate I chose to labor in a hospital, and that the doctor just knew from my vitals and baby's that something was off. They just didn't know exactly what until they got me open. I can't even tell you how grateful I am for Dr. S. You saved my life and my son's life and our family will forever be grateful.
A long-time younger patient whose mentality was comparable to 4-6 year old would cover his head with the bedding when he went to bed. When staff playfully asked him what he was doing, he'd tell staff he was, "Hiding from the ghosts." He never identified the ghosts and did this for years, so staff always thought it was just the patient being playful.
At one point, this patient didn't want to do his normal routine like eat, drink, stay up to watch television, or use the restroom. While bathing, the patient said he was seeing ghosts and pointed. Staff replied, "What ghosts?" And the patient said, "My mom and dad. Goin'na take me home." Staff gently reminded the patient that his parents had already passed, and that they couldn't possibly take him out that weekend. Well, he might have been right after all.
Within 72 hours of telling staff he saw the ghosts of his mom and dad, that patient went to the ER, was admitted to the hospital, and passed. I was the one who had spent half the night in the ER with that patient. I had taken him to the ER before and for other routine medical appointments. This patient was known for being rather combative during such visits, but he was unusually peaceful the entire time the last time he went.
When I went to his memorial, I told the patient’s family that I thought he knew it was "his time" based on how calm he was. I didn't disclose the part about seeing ghosts of his parents shortly before the ER visit, though.
I watched a patient's heart stop on the monitor once. There are false alarms sometimes, of course. However, I was experienced enough to know that it was a true alarm. I called the nurse and told her she might want to check the patient. I remember her laughing nervously to tell me that she was talking with the patient at that very moment, so she could not possibly be dying.
I could even hear the patient talking to her cheerfully in the background. I double-checked the monitor and saw a few beats here and there and looooong lines. Just as I was advising the nurse to manually check the patient, I heard her drop the phone and go..."Oh no!" followed by the code blue alarm. That patient did not come back.
I worked in the dementia unit of a retirement home for a while, and I can tell you that it was by far one of the most interesting jobs I've had. It was sad in many ways, of course, but I think what some people don't understand is that we'd never known our residents before the Alzheimer's or whatever else. We just know and care for them as they are.
Even some of the most advanced cases are able to demonstrate that they are unique individuals who enjoy life and need love and belonging like everyone else. That said, strange things happened every day. I'd say the strangest and most unnerving would be what happened with a resident that I will call Nancy. Nancy had very advanced Alzheimer’s, to the point where we had not heard her say a word beyond incoherent mumbling for 6-8 months.
Every day, she would just pace the halls until it was time for bed. Pacing is a very common behavior with moderate to advanced dementia; in Nancy's case, she pretty much never stopped unless we made her come and eat or something. We would commonly try to walk with her and talk to her to keep her stimulated, but she would hardly ever even look at us. Just pace.
Nancy had a husband who also lived in the community—this home had a section for dementia separate from a normal assisted living facility. Her husband, whom I will call Wayne, lived in the other section. He would visit his wife every day, until he himself became so sick that he was confined to his room. When this happened, we started to grow worried.
Even though it sometimes doesn't seem like it, frequent visitors make a big difference to even our most advanced cases. Nancy and Wayne had been married for over 60 years. Even through her disease, Nancy still received some comfort through Wayne's daily visits. Well, Wayne passed early one morning. We have a policy that prohibits bringing negative energy where it would not do any good, so Nancy was not supposed to be told.
Later that day though, during her usual pacing, Nancy stopped. She stared into the upper corner of the room for several minutes, and then all of a sudden started screaming. Now, this isn't as alarming as it may seem; there are a lot of screams happening all the time in dementia units. But it made all the staff come around to see what was wrong.
She abruptly stopped screaming, and I swear by everything I hold dear she started repeating her husband's name. "Wayne Wayne Wayne Wayne Wayne" over and over again. Keep in mind, she had not said the smallest word in almost a year. I go up to her, touch her on the arm, and ask her gently if everything is ok. What she said back was terrifying.
Nancy looks straight at me, which was also very abnormal for her, and says "He's bothering me. Tell him to leave me alone." Then she goes back to staring into the upper corner of the room. Half of the staff just noped right out of there, while the rest of us tried to get her distracted by giving her a snack and a different activity.
From that day on, she started talking again. Not anything lengthy, but she would occasionally start trying to talk either to us or herself. Many times, she referenced someone she called "grandpa" and started speaking to him in an otherwise empty room. While this isn't an uncommon thing for our residents to do, the fact that it did not start until that incident the day her husband passed seriously gives me the creeps.
My trauma nurse friend told me she was caring for a patient who unexpectedly coded. She had to run out of the room for more supplies, and when she got to the supply closet, what she needed wasn't there. She let out a string of swear words and got supplies she needed from somewhere else in the hospital. The patient survived.
The next day, she was tending to the patient who said, "You know, you shouldn't use words like that." The patient went on to explain that she saw my friend, the nurse, swearing in the supply room. There was no way she could have. She was dead on the table down the hall. But the patient described exactly what happened as if she was there.
Dentist here. One time, I had an old lady come in with a porcelain crown in a bag. She asked me if I could re-cement it for her. I looked at her tooth and it was in pretty good shape. Looked at the crown, and realized that it had some brown gunk in it. That’s when she told me the most disgusting thing I have ever heard.
She reported that she had accidentally swallowed the crown and then had been extra "vigilant" as she sat on the toilet for the next couple of days. "It's okay, I soaked it in sterilizer for 24 hours," she told me. Without being rude, I surmised that the brown material must have been poop. Gross huh? Well, it gets even better than that…
In order to re-cement the crown, it needs to be clean on the inside, and at the time I didn't have our fancy sandblasting air abrasion machine. I had to do it the old fashioned way: with a drill. So here's a quick, practical dental lesson for you. A crown that has come off, sans fecal matter in it, has an incredibly pungent smell already, lovingly called the "under the crown smell."
It is a combination of skunk, old man pits and mothballs. As you drill it out, it produces heat, smoke, and dust. If you use water to minimize the smoke, it splashes all over you and then you stink like the aforementioned trio. So I elected to remove the poop and old cement without water so at least I wouldn't smell like a Stanley Steamer sandwich for the rest of the day. This was the wrong decision.
I took my diamond-impregnated crown drill and went to work on what I can only describe as a poop hotbox. My whole office smelled like someone had made a sacrifice to Pele the volcano God. Now, if you've ever sat next to a campfire, you'll know that smoke can make your clothes stink, thus the awesome strategy of not using water as coolant backfired and I wound up smelling like roasted dingleberries for the rest of the day.
Anyway, we re-cemented the crown and saved her $1,000 at the expense of our olfactory functions. Every time we see her now, we think of her poo-tooth headset.
When I was a student nurse, both my friend and I were working at a psych unit, and there was a patient who invited my co-worker to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons with him in his room after lunch. I requested that I go along too, because I didn't want something dangerous to happen, as you never know when you're working in a psychiatric unit.
The patient adamantly refused me being there and wouldn't even allow me to play with them later. My friend agreed, but I still felt a little uneasy by the request. I went over to his chart to look up information on the patient. Its contents shook me to my core. Turns out he was a convicted pedophile, and inside the notes there was a description saying, "prefers slim white males with blonde hair and blue eyes."
I realized this matched perfectly with how my co-worker looked, and I gave him the heads up that something weird might go on behind closed doors. Since safety is always a priority, he called it off and the patient threw a tantrum, needing to be restrained. The patient was a really big guy, too, and my friend on the other hand was easily less than half his size. We both avoided that floor from there on out.
When I was on an ER rotation during medical school, we got a call about a 23-year-old woman who was shot in the head, and who was already completely gone, but was reportedly five months pregnant. They were doing CPR until they got her to the hospital to see if the baby was viable. They got her in and did an ultrasound.
It turned out the baby was full-term, and they did a C-section in like under a minute and got the baby out. It was pretty surreal to see a baby delivered from a deceased person.
I’m a paramedic...so many to tell, but this one will stick with me forever. Rainy afternoon in the spring. The call was for a tipsy person randomly pounding on house doors. Normally, it would be an officer response, but they were swamped. We pull up to the house, no lights, no siren. Heck, I'm so burnt out at the time, I don't even get out of the passenger seat.
I just power the window down. "Hey!" I snap at the older gentleman on the porch, "What are you doing?" He turns from pounding at the stranger’s door and begins shuffling down the walkway toward our ambulance. I can see the elderly woman close the curtains, her nuisance addressed. "Man, I just got to lay down!" The guy says to me.
I look at my partner, and she at I. Henry Ford Hospital is six blocks away. Surely we can take the guy there? "Get in the back!" I snap at him. "And if you puke in my bus, I'll mop it up with your clothes." "But I got chest pains,” He says, holding his hand closed against the pelting rain. I roll my eyes, "Man, I do too. So let's go to Ford and both get checked."
The guy begins fiddling with his buttons, and I reach over from my seat to dial up the heater. When I look back, he's got his trench coat open, to show me exactly where it hurts. What I saw still haunts me to this day. Right in the middle of his sternum, vividly defined against his white sweatshirt, is a star-shaped POWDER BURN.
A big one. Point-blank-to-the-chest, hole-punched GSW. Oh my God. The next four or so minutes were a blur. Rushing out the door to grab the man as he was about to fall. My partner yanking the stretcher out, loading the patient, and loading him in the back. Scissors cutting clothes, oxygen mask going on. Yelling, "Go, go, go!!!" to my partner as she raced the six blocks to the hospital.
I really only managed to get one IV started during the three minute ride. He was gone 25 minutes later. When we rolled him in the trauma room, you could see an exit wound the size of a fist. The doctors assured us that the only thing that could have helped this man was if he fell into the OR after being shot. But that didn't bring me any peace, and it changed my life.
We probably spent 10 minutes talking to the man as he stood in the rain. For me, that was my out cue. I took a week off work, and resigned two weeks later.
I was the patient, and I'm pretty sure it was a bad moment for my OB-GYN. I was at the end of my labor and my daughter was stuck. I’d had two epidurals, both of which wore off. My doctor used forceps to try to get her out. I don't think she knew my epidural was as ineffective as it was, otherwise I don't think she would have shoved the forceps in like she did.
I obviously felt the forceps and started thrashing in pain. The doctor got scared and tried to take them out…but they got stuck. She had to wait for the next contraction to push them out. Then blood went everywhere. Most unsettling of all, she was on the phone with her lawyer while wheeling me in for my emergency C-section.
I’m a nurse. I was on call one night and woke up at two in the morning for a "general surgery" call. Pretty vague, but at the time, I lived in a town that had large populations of young military guys and avid substance users, so late-night emergencies were common. Got to the hospital, where a few more details awaited me: "anal abscess."
Needless to say, our entire crew was less than thrilled. I went down to the Emergency Room to transport the patient, and the only thing the ER nurse said as she handed me the chart was "Have fun with this one." Amongst healthcare professionals, vague statements like that are a bad sign. My patient was a 314 lb. woman who barely fit on the stretcher I was transporting her on.
She was rolling frantically side-to-side and moaning in pain, pulling at her clothes and muttering Hail Marys. I could barely get her name out of her after a few minutes of questioning, so after I confirmed her identity and what we were working on, I figured it was best just to get her to the anaesthesiologist so we could knock her out and get this circus started. It was the start of a nightmare.
She continued her theatrics the entire 10-minute ride to the O.R., nearly falling off the surgical table as we were trying to put her under. We see patients like this a lot, though, chronic users who don't handle pain well and who have used so much that even increased levels of pain medication don't touch simply because of high tolerance levels.
We got the lady off to sleep, put her into the stirrups, and I began washing off the rectal area. It was red and inflamed, a little bit of pus was seeping through, but it was all pretty standard. Her chart had noted that she'd been injecting IV substances through her bottom, so this was obviously an infection from dirty needles, but overall, it didn't seem to me to warrant her repeated cries of "Oh Jesus." I soon discovered how wrong I was.
The surgeon steps up with a scalpel, sinks just the tip in, and at the exact same moment, the patient had a muscle twitch in her diaphragm, and just like that, all heck broke loose. Unbeknownst to us, the infection had actually tunneled nearly a foot into her abdomen, creating a vast cavern full of pus, rotten tissue, and fecal matter that had seeped outside of her colon.
This godforsaken mixture came rocketing out of that little incision. We all wear waterproof gowns, face masks, gloves, hats, the works—all of which were as helpful was rain boots against a fire hose. The bed was in the middle of the room, an easy seven feet from the nearest wall, but by the time we were done, I was still finding bits of rotten flesh pasted against the back wall.
As the surgeon continued to advance his blade, the deluge just continued. The patient kept seizing against the ventilator, and with every muscle contraction, she shot more of this brackish gray-brown fluid out onto the floor until, within minutes, it was seeping into the other nurse's shoes. I was nearly twelve feet away, jaw dropped open within my surgical mask, watching the second nurse dry-heaving and the surgeon standing on tip-toes to keep this stuff from soaking his socks any further.
The smell hit them first. "Oh god, I just threw up in my mask!" The other nurse was out, she tore off her mask and sprinted out of the room, shoulders still heaving. Then it hit me, mouth still wide open, not able to believe the volume of fluid this woman's body contained. It was like getting a great big bite of the despair and apathy that permeated this woman's life.
I couldn't breathe, my lungs simply refused to pull any more of that stuff in. The anesthesiologist went down next, his six-foot-two frame shaking as he threw open the door to the OR suite in an attempt to get more air in, letting me glimpse the second nurse still throwing up in the sinks outside the door. Another geyser of pus splashed across the front of the surgeon.
The YouTube clip of "David at the dentist" keeps playing in my head—"Is this real life?" In all operating rooms, everywhere in the world, regardless of socialized or privatized, secular or religious, big or small, there is one thing the same: Somewhere, there is a bottle of peppermint concentrate. Everyone in the department knows where it is, everyone knows what it is for, and everyone prays to the gods that they never have to use it.
In times like this, we rub it on the inside of our masks to keep the outside smells at bay long enough to finish the procedure and shower off. I sprinted to our central supply, ripping open the drawer where this vial of ambrosia was kept. I was greeted by the worst thing possible. An empty box. The bottle had been emptied and not replaced.
Somewhere out there was a godless person who had used the last of the peppermint oil, and not replaced a single drop of it. To this day, if I figure out who it was, I'll hurt them with my bare hands. I darted back into the room with the next best thing I can find, a vial of Mastisol, which is an adhesive rub we use sometimes for bandaging.
It's not as good as peppermint, but considering that over one-third of the floor was now thoroughly coated in what could easily be mistaken for a combination of bovine after-birth and maple syrup, we were out of options. I started rubbing as much of the Mastisol as I could get on the inside of my mask, just glad to be smelling anything except whatever slimy demon spawn we'd just cut out of this woman.
The anesthesiologist grabbed the vial next, dowsing the front of his mask in it so he could stand next to his machines long enough to make sure this woman didn't expire on the table. It wasn't until later that we realized that Mastisol can give you a mild high from huffing it like this, but in retrospect, that's probably what got us through.
By this time, the smell had permeated out of our OR suite, and down the 40-foot hallway to the front desk, where the other nurse still sat, eyes bloodshot and watery, clenching her stomach desperately. Our suite looked like the underground river of ooze from Ghostbusters II, except dirty. Oh so dirty. I stepped back into the OR suite, not wanting to leave the surgeon by himself in case he genuinely needed help.
It was like one of those overly-artistic representations of a zombie apocalypse you see on fan forums. Here's this one guy, in blue surgical garb, standing nearly ankle-deep in lumps of dead tissue, fecal matter, and several liters of syrupy infection. He was performing surgery in the swamps of Dagobah, except the swamps had just come out of this woman's behind and there was no Yoda.
He and I didn't say a word for the next 10 minutes as he scraped the inside of the abscess until all the dead tissue was out, the front of his gown a gruesome mixture of brown and red, his eyes squinted against the stinging vapors originating directly in front of him. I finished my required paperwork as quickly as I could, helped him stuff the recently-vacated opening full of gauze, taped this woman's buttocks closed to hold the dressing for as long as possible, woke her up, and immediately shipped off to the recovery ward.
Until then, I'd only heard of "alcohol showers." Turns out 70% isopropyl is about the only thing that can even touch a scent like that once it’s soaked into your skin. It takes four or five bottles to get really clean, but it's worth it. It's probably the only scenario I can honestly endorse drinking a little of it, too. As we left the locker room, the surgeon and I looked at each other, and he said the only negative sentence I ever heard him utter.
"That was bad." The next morning, the entire department still smelled. The housekeepers told me later that it took them nearly an hour to suction up all of the fluid and debris left behind. The OR suite itself was closed off and quarantined for two more days just to let the smell finally clear out.
I was working on a medical floor and taking care of a man going through his first psychotic break. He would be pleasant and kind, then his eyes would fill with terror. He would just look at you, his eyes pleading for help, as he ripped his hair out and screamed, "I'm traveling though time!" During one of these moments, he jumped out of his bed and started bashing his head against a wall, screaming for help.
After two days, they were finally able to get him into the state psychiatric hospital. About two months later, I made a startling discovery. I read in the paper that he was found drowned in a small stream behind his house. I felt so sorry that the system had failed him.
I rotated at a hospital that was essentially a full time psych ward for folks who have pleaded insanity or were eventually transferred here because they could not become well enough to get home. The place was actually very nice, and it was nothing like you see on TV. It was essentially like a college dorm with six or eight wings total. But that doesn't mean there weren't monsters there.
I met many patients with many crazy stories, but one always will stand out. This young guy, about 25 years old, was there. He had these delusions just after college about some girl he had a crush on from his freshman year. She wrote for a popular magazine and he supposedly had these delusions that she was writing about him to make fun of him.
So he hunted her down in her hometown, attacked her, and tried to kill her, but she escaped. He then plead insanity and was placed here. I went up and talked to him as a little third year med student. I started asking about his delusions and what not. Then I made a chilling realization. It turns out, his father was higher-up in an international corporation worth millions.
The kid, who was hauntingly normal on the surface and incredibly creepy once you started digging, told me that he basically plead insanity only because his lawyers said to. He never had delusions. Never had hallucinations. Nothing. He basically thought the girl was hot in college, drove 400 miles to attack her, and then freaked out.
Hiis lawyers advised he plead insanity because as a soft, upper class kid, they knew he'd do much better in the psych hospital than in clinker. So there he was. Luckily, he'll likely spend longer in there than he would have behind bars, because generally that's how it works. But he seriously creeped me the heck out. His poor victim.
We had an 85-year-old man in for cellulitis or something, and everyone was documenting he was confused—in part because he kept talking about his mother; his mother was going to be so worried, he had to be discharged to take care of his mother etc. He became agitated and was actually getting ready to be dosed with Haldol because he was insistent he was going to leave to take care of his mother.
Note, the standard is to play along, tell the patient something like "Oh, we already called your mom, she knows you're here" that sort of thing, but he wasn't buying it. Finally, the nurse asks him if we can call his son to make sure the patient's mother is being taken care of (really, just to placate the patient), and the patient agrees.
We call the son, the nurse explains the situation, and the son informs us that the patient's mother is indeed alive at the age of 101, but that he is staying in his father's house assisting in her care. Poor patient was legitimately worried about his mom, and we all thought his infection (or just old age) was causing him to be confused!
A patient came in with an itchy rash that would not go away for weeks, and a new swelling of the mouth and tongue. She had "hives" all over her body and the only thing that had helped was repeated steroids. She was a mid 40s female who worked with dogs, so we assumed that she had a new allergy to pet dandruff, fragrance in a shampoo, flea medicine, or something along those lines.
We discharged her home with an appointment for the dermatologist to do a biopsy of the lesions. But that wasn't the last we'd see of her. Later that day, she turns back up in the Emergency Department with swollen lips, increased rash, and trouble breathing. She started having these problems 15 minutes after eating a roast beef sandwich.
Someone on the team remembered that she works with dogs and asked if she'd had any recent tick bites. Sure enough, she had been bitten by a tick a few weeks ago and identified a picture of a Lone Star Tick. Turns out she had developed an allergy to red meat after a bite from that tick. It's super rare and very weird, but she was happy to get a diagnosis.
My mom had to have a kidney removed due to her waiting for almost two years to go to the doctor about her pain in her back. The doctors found out it was a large kidney stone and that her kidney was infected and had lots of gross pus shutting it down. After draining the fluids through tubes, she was finally ready for surgery.
Cue last Wednesday, the day of the surgery, and she was ready to finally be done with it. They removed the stent and put in the tubes no problem, next was the kidney. Here comes the horrible twist. As they get ready to remove the kidney, they realized the kidney’s infection had spread to a portion of her lung and a major artery, making them fragile as toilet paper.
As the surgeon removed the kidney, he tore a hole in the lung, and even worse, he severed the artery. At that point, it was a race to save her life and stabilize her. I don’t remember much about how they fixed her up there, but they had to fly her to a different hospital and have a heart surgeon fix the severed artery in a more permanent fashion.
Anyway, the heart doctor saw the grave situation and said she’s got a 1% chance to make it. But he did such an excellent job that my mom is still alive and getting stronger each day. The moral of this story is: If you have insurance and are experiencing pain, go to a doctor as soon as you realize it. You may save your life, and also save some doctors from a moment like this.
Someone brings in a young man, about 25. His posture—stiff, hands in partial fists, turned out—indicated deep brain damage. According to the EMTs, his significant other had found him in bed with another woman, either passed out or deeply asleep. So the vengeful woman took a pistol and fired it 10 times from various angles.
The rounds were powerful enough to enter his skull and bounce around, but not to exit. All higher brain function was destroyed, but autonomic functions remained. We intubated him, but this caused the patient to fight against the ventilator with deep "coughs.” It was so haunting seeing him appear to live. I was pretty well protected by "clinical distance" at the time, but I must admit, this really got to me.
There was really nothing that could be done for him other than supportive care, and he passed a few weeks later of a massive infection.
I can't remember all the details though so bare with me. I'm at a big tertiary hospital, and had an elderly veteran brought to us one day after being found unconscious in a park. He had alcohol in his system and a quick look at his records showed that this was an ongoing problem with him. He was a sweet old man who was very grateful for our help, up until day 3 of his hospitalization. That's when things took a dark turn.
He developed pneumonia-like symptoms and became somnolent for a few days. Then, out of nowhere, he became very inappropriate—he begins grabbing the nurses and repositioning them, touching himself, and constantly licking his lips in a disgusting manner when anyone even looked at him. He went from a sweet old man to a deviant almost overnight.
We even had to wrap his hands up in bandages to stop him from touching himself and others. Oddly though, he hit on anyone and everyone (women and men) except for me. I guess I wasn't his type. We ended up diagnosing him with Kluver-Bucy syndrome, caused by HSV encephalitis (herpes). Symptoms include hypersexuality and hyperorality.
It's pretty rare and I haven't seen it since, but as you might imagine, it left a lasting impression on me. He improved with treatment though, and was incredibly embarrassed after finding out what he had done.
A man had agreed to be "mummified" in a rather extreme “intimate” bedroom practice. Essentially, he was placed in a full body plaster cast covering even his face, and was given breathing tubes through the cast. Other than that, he was fully encased in the cast with the exception of his toes and intimate areas. To him, this extreme degree of helplessness turned him on.
The normal practice was to use a cattle prod or some similar device. But in his case, either through ignorance or malice, he was directly connected to 220 volts with one probe. He had third degree burns over his entire area down there, deep burns on his foot and, from the smell, severe burns elsewhere. We tried removing the cast to see if any degree of resuscitation was possible, but by the time it was even partially off, it was clear he was quite gone.
All of us just stood there with our mouths open, utterly unable to say anything. The authorities came and they too were mute. I volunteered to remove the entire cast and render some level of post-mortem care. I found deep lacerations over much of his body, deep bruising, and quite a few other burns. We sent the body to the medical examiner, and I spent the rest of the shift trembling.
During my father’s residency, a gentleman came in with an infection he developed after having his gum scraped during a dental cleaning. The infection had gotten into his sinus cavity, and my father told his attending that the gentleman was going to die. They had a specialist from Harvard at the hospital at that time, and he called my father an idiot.
The attending corrected the guy from Harvard saying that no, my father was right and the guy was likely going to pass. He had seen 10 such infections previously, and each time the person didn’t make it. Apparently, there's a part of your face some physicians call the "Triangle of Death." The gums of your top teeth form the base, with the sinus cavities forming the arms.
Over the next two days, the infection spread to the guy’s left eye. Mr. Harvard said that they should take the eye, and hopefully, that would be enough to save him. My father said it's not going to make much of a difference and the guy should start working out his final affairs. Obviously not wanting to give up, the gentleman consented to have his eye removed. The end was tragic.
It didn't make a difference, and within three days of having his eye removed, the gentleman was gone. The infection went from the sinus and ocular cavities and through the blood-brain barrier.
We had a young fellow come in who worked as a landscaper. He showed up in the ER with severe GI distress. The diagnosis was almost entirely from history. Apparently, he forgot to bring lunch so decided to munch on some "wild carrots" he found while he was out working. This seemed really weird to me and also pertinent, so I did some research. What I found clicked immediately.
"Wild carrots" are often actually hemlock, AKA a poison. Not good for you. He recovered fine, though he did get a night in the ICU for observation.
I once saw a med student suck up a skin graft with a suction device. The skin graft is a very thin piece of tissue that was being carefully laid onto the wound where it was then to be sewed on, carefully, like a patch. The med student was using the suction to clean up the wound and accidentally sucked up the carefully-prepared graft entirely. Gone instantaneously.
I was working the night shift as a medic on call. I'm easily startled, so I already don't like night shifts. It's around 3 am, and I'm back on a ward where I started my night to see how an unwell patient from the start of my shift is getting on. I have a chat with the nurses at the desk, and they tell me he's much better, but that his chart is on the end of his bed.
No problem, I trot off to the bedside. In I go, pull the curtains round and, to not wake the other sleeping patients in the bay, I use my flashlight to check his chart. All looks good and I'm happy. I turn around, and suddenly in the dark I'm toe-to-toe with a hunched over old man, who has obviously noiselessly crept in behind me.
Well, I just about have a heart attack of my own right there. I jump back, scream, and knock over a drip stand. He starts to yell, and the nurses come running, someone wheeling the crash trolley. "Oh Doctor, that's just Albert, he likes to have a wander at night!" Think you could have told me that before I went into a darkened room?!
I had a patient transferred to our hospital for a major heart attack. When they arrived, I noticed they looked a bit red and asked them, other than the chest pain, what symptoms they were having. The person said that they had been having a rash for a few days as well as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Those symptoms go along with a condition called scombroid poisoning, which you get from eating old, dark meat fish.
I asked the person if they had recently been eating fish and sure enough, they had been eating salmon for the past few days. Assuming they had it, I treated them with Benadryl which fixed the rash, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. They were taken by the cardiology service to get a cardiac catheterization for the heart attack and the results came back normal.
Best I could tell, the condition stressed their body and made them tachycardic/hypotensive, which made their heart work harder. The increased demand on the heart + an already weak heart led to the heart attack. Also, was pretty awesome to see the EKG go from showing a clear heart attack to normal after being treated with Benadryl!
For months, I was going to the doctor every Wednesday, because after running just a mile I couldn't breathe. They checked my lungs and my heart and everything. Yet I still couldn't run the mile without collapsing at the end. All of my doctors told my mom that I was just doing it for attention and they saw this kind of behavior all the time.
I had a physical scheduled and my mom thought about canceling it. I had seen so many doctors already, why waste the time? She finally decided I should go, just to keep on schedule. My normal doctor wasn't there. He was sick and called in someone to take his shifts. She pushed on my stomach and asked if I was sexually active. My response made her panic. I said I was 11 and hadn't even started my period, and she rushed me to the hospital.
After a sonogram, they said they saw something. That night, I was having surgery. When I woke up, they told me they took out a three-pound, malignant teratoma. I'd have to start chemo right away. Being the sassy 11-year-old I was, I just smiled smugly at my doctor and said "I told you I wasn't lying!" I saw him recently, 15 years later. He still remembers me and apologized profusely for not catching it sooner.
I’m a female med student, and my first-ever patient had an inguinal hernia. I examined his lower abdomen and balls, and then I had to feel for the hernia. Except I was so nervous, I just started playing with his balls with my fingertips. Well, the obvious happened: He started to get “excited,” and I got so embarrassed I immediately left.
I was visiting a friend’s house when I was introduced to his dad who had no medical issues. He was a hard-working farmer, but looked a bit too thin. Something told me there was something not quite right, and so I asked him if I could examine him. I promptly discovered hard lymph nodes in several areas. Further investigations revealed he had disseminated cancer. He kicked the bucket less than a year later.
When I had mono, I was getting incredibly overheated and was drinking lots of water. I still felt incredibly dehydrated, so I contacted a nurse on call and told them that despite drinking liters upon liters I was still feeling dehydrated and my headache was getting worse. She told me to just keep drinking more water. This turned out to be near-fatal advice.
My symptoms kept getting worse, so I finally went to the doctor—who told me I almost passed from over-hydration. A few Gatorades later, I felt a million times better.
When I was in pharmacy school, I was doing my internal medicine rotation in my final year. My supervisor and I were doing med reviews in the ICU when one of the doctors said "Hey, you wanna see something cool?" They were trying to extract a foreign object from a guy's lung in one of the rooms. So we go in and watch for a bit.
There were about six people in the room. A tube was down the guy's throat. Little grippers at the end. Two doctors are watching a monitor and trying to control the grabbers and get it like a claw game. I watched for a bit, then after a while, I lost interest and went back out to what I was doing. A few minutes later I hear: "Got it!" *Cheers from the room* "Oh it's a tooth!"
The dude aspirated his own molar. The doctor walks out with his trophy in a jar, and it's a completely intact tooth, root and all.
A six-month-old baby was not getting bigger and dropping off the growth charts. The baby wouldn’t move and cried all day long. I couldn’t figure it out. I was making preparations to transfer the baby to the university hospital for admission. One of the clinic nurses commented that the baby's cry sounded like a cat. Ding, a bell went off in my head.
Cri du chat syndrome or cats cry syndrome. Very rare. I looked it up on UpToDate and the baby had a high probability of having it. I referred her to genetics and they confirmed it. The attending called me and marveled at my clinical skills. I chuckled and told him the nurse diagnosed it. Good news, the baby managed to stay somewhat healthy and functional.
Former nurse here. I used to work at a nursing home and definitely the weirdest twist I had was with this Alzheimer's patient. Incredibly difficult man, he would cycle between being basically zoned out and staring off and being very violent. A lot of times, he would talk to people who weren't there, or to inanimate objects, or he would say he couldn't do simple tasks.
For example, he'd claim he couldn't put on his shoes or go to the bathroom, but with a bit of a push he would get up and do these tasks with zero problems whatsoever. On this particular day, it's one of his calmer and more lucid ones. We're sitting out in the nursing home's patio area and looking outside and he leans over to me and whispers, "Hey, you know what?"
I ask what is it, and he tells me with complete seriousness, "Everyone thinks I'm really losing it, but I'll tell you a secret, I'm pretending. I'm just playing a game." He then laughed and said, "But don't tell anyone!" I side-eyed that guy for the rest of the time I worked there.
My grandfather was scheduled to have double knee replacement surgery when he was in his 70s. They go through a bunch of health screenings to make sure your body can take the stress of the surgery, and during one of these screenings, the cardio doctor found an aneurysm in my grandpa’s aorta. But then it took another terrifying turn.
This beast ran basically the entire length of his torso. The doctors were shocked he was still alive with that in his chest. He ended up having to have stent surgery in his aorta first, and then a few months later was cleared for his knee replacements.
I was the patient. I had a liver transplant and was having surgery to get a new bile duct stent. Well apparently, my anatomy is different than normal, and my lungs go more down my sides. So the doctor accidentally caused a nick. It had devastating consequences. When I woke up, I couldn't breathe. They did an X-ray and had to do a chest tube.
Apparently, he cried he felt so bad about it all. But it wasn't him being malicious or negligent, it was simply an accident.
I was working in the trauma unit one morning when I got an emergency call over the radio about somebody with arterial neck bleed from an unknown injury. Prior to arrival, I called down the surgeons and we all gowned up and were waiting for him in the critical bay. So in rolls this old guy with a 4x4 of gauze on his neck just sitting there, and EMS just rolling him in on a gurney.
Clearly in no distress. So we're assessing the guy and looking him over, half of the surgeons looking at me trying to figure out why I called them down. I remove the gauze... nothing obvious.. maybe a small dot of blood... but really nothing. So all of us are leaning in to get a better look, and all of a sudden one super thin stream of blood streaks out of this guy's neck all the way across the room and hits the wall.
All of us jumped back and half of us screamed. We all stood there looking at each other for a second before we all started laughing. Apparently this guy had been picking at something on his neck and hit a superficial arterial vessel. Scared the heck out of me!
An elderly lady came into my practice asking if there was anything she could be given to help her sleep, as the Irish terrorists in the flat below were keeping her awake at night. She was reassured that terrorists were not planning to blow her up, or Cannock, a small inconsequential town in the West Midlands, for that matter.
On the second visit, she insisted that they were going to blow something up soon and expressed paranoid thoughts. A full mental health review was conducted by the GP and the community psychiatrist. She came up clean. That's when we contacted the authorities, a couple of days later the flat below our patient was raided and found to be full of explosive equipment and real IRA members.
When I was on pediatrics, we had a young girl come in with a rash on the bottom of her feet. She was also having headaches and joint pains. We spent close to an hour interviewing the girl and her mother. Her history was essentially negative. Finally, as a last-ditch effort, I pulled out the weird questions you ask in med school.
I asked if they had any unusual pets, as we had already ruled out normal pets. They said actually they did just return a pet rat for biting her. They thought that this wasn't really relevant. Bam! Rat bite fever.
I took care of a lady once. She'd nearly perished of sepsis, and she'd had multiple strokes and coded multiple times in the ICU. They'd given her the medicine Levophed, which shunts blood from your extremities to your vital organs, but usually results in necrosis of peripheral tissues. This means when she came to me, her fingers and toes were all black.
Oh, and she wasn't quite right. And I've seen lots of crazy, but she truly unnerved me. She never talked, only whispered in this bright bubbly voice, like a little girl's, but she said awful things, like "Can you push me outside so I can chew my fingers off?" And she would smile all time. She also had some really bad bedsores from just basically being immobile for so long.
We had to dress her wounds daily, but she'd usually rip the dressings off pretty soon after we put them on. One night, I went into her room and saw a piece of what I thought was dressing on the floor. Upon closer examination, it was a chunk of her own skin. A partially healed skin graft to be exact. Still gives me shivers.
I was a certified nursing assistant for about eight years. I worked in a memory card facility. We handled everything, from the early stages of dementia to end-stage Alzheimer's. We had around 30 patients, all living together under one roof, and a normal night was anything but that. Yelling, combative patients, poop...So much poop. But when someone was dying, the other patients seemed to sense it and it was calm. So calm.
On this particular night, a gentleman who I had taken care of and built this amazing relationship with—I became what the family described as his unofficial grandson—was on his deathbed. I would come in and check on him to make sure he was comfortable and give him a dose of medicine for the pain. Did vitals on him each time and I could tell he was failing fast.
With his daughter and his son in the room, I knelt down on the bed and held his hand and said, “Bob, we are here for you. We love you and it's ok to go.” He ever so slightly turned his head and winked at me. It was something he would do when he would tell a joke or make a comment that went over the other patients’ heads.
He gripped my hand hard with his giant farmer hands. I cracked a joke about how I wish I was a young, beautiful nurse doing this, but instead you got a 6'4" guy. He chuckled. I checked his vitals and he was going. I was taking his pulse and could feel it slow. Then, nothing. I heard his last heartbeat. It was surreal. I could feel the emotions rising in me while I closed his eyes for him one last time.
His daughter knelt down and hugged me from behind and we both sobbed. After what seemed to be forever, we stood up and I made the call to have a doctor come and verify the time and to have the body removed. I wasn't in the right state of mind because I lost someone who I had become so close with. After all the craziness of the night calmed down and he was gone, I was sitting alone at the dinner table.
While I was there, two of our other residents walked up to me. This is the creepy twist. These two believed they were married and thought it was still the Reagan era, and even on a good day they were pleasantly confused. Well, they came out of the living area and sat down next to me. They said I did a good job. And that when it's their turn, they hope I'm there for them, too.
That moment of clarity from two people slowly losing everything to Alzheimer's. That moment struck me as creepy yet heart-warming.
Ordered an abdominal ultrasound on a refugee from Iraq via Syria, expecting to find gallstones because she felt full easily after eating and was having pain in her right upper quadrant. Instead of gallstones, there were two, 7 cm cysts in her liver. We later found out they were from a tapeworm.
Gastroenterologist here. I was removing a large polyp during a colonoscopy. I put the snare around the polyp, and it took an unusually long time to sever the base of the polyp—until, all of a sudden, blood started squirting from where it was removed. The screen quickly turned red with blood, and I couldn’t see a single thing.
The patient’s blood pressure started to drop. The patient, who was a dark-skinned Middle Eastern man, turned pale white on the stretcher in front of me. That’s when I felt like I was going to faint and empty my own bowels...the only thing I could think was “Oh God.” I gave myself a moment to breathe and control my emotions.
Once I cleared my head, I let my instincts kick in. We gave him fluids to bring up his blood pressure and put him a safe position to maintain blood flow of his brain, lungs, and heart while reducing the blood flow to his gut, where the polyp was. I then turned on the water jet and diluted the blood with as much water as I could, hoping to see more on the screen and eventually clip or cauterize the blood vessel.
As it turned out, the patient's blood pressure dropped just enough to stop the bleeding automatically. That gave me a short window to identify the vessel and clip it. The man lost 1/3 of his blood volume in less than 60 seconds. He was admitted, transfused, and discharged the next day. These days, if I anticipate a similar situation, I just refer them for surgery. I am not interested in being a hero like that again.
When I was an EMT, I had an experience with a young man who was crushed by a falling tree...Such a gut-wrenching day. The young man was due to marry the daughter of the guy who felled the tree just a couple weeks after the incident. But that wasn’t the worst part. Everyone in emergency that day knew the internal bleeding could have been stopped if it weren’t for one thing.
The supervising surgeon was a pompous jerk and refused to come in that day, leaving it instead to a less-experienced doctor. I hate that surgeon to this day for deciding that kid’s fate as we all squeezed bags of fluid and blood into him and exhausted ourselves believing he would make it. His life was worth more than what that doctor decided.
I miss helping people, but I never miss being helpless and losing these battles.
I worked as a mental health tech to get through undergrad. A 15-year-old female in the adolescent ward claims to have swallowed a staple. Eh, but whatever, as I’m taking her down to X-ray, I tell her about the dime I swallowed when I was a kid. It happens. Well, turns out she underestimated the number of staples by around a hundred.
Every printout given by the therapists had been a swallowed staple. She had gotten staples from the other kids. The X-ray of her abdomen looked as if it were a weird staple-y snow globe. And yet, somehow, she was back to trying to take psych ward staples a week later. Never did figure out how they removed them all.
Three years ago, my grandmother was in the hospital to get her brain tumor removed. Nine hours later, we got to see her—only for the surgeon to say, “It went well, for the most part, dropped the top of her skull though.” Just like that, he walked away eating his apple. We were all just standing there like ???????
I was working in obstetrics during a heatwave. This is important, as maternity wards are kept quite warm since newborn babies aren't good at regulating their temperatures. Mid-emergency cesarean, the scrub nurse assisting the operation starts feeling faint. This is unusual, as this scrub nurse worked in these theaters full-time, so this was her bread and butter.
I can only conclude it was the heat that did it. Anyway, she has to step out and someone far more junior had to take her place, it was the nurse’s first section ever. They were trying to assist with the instruments in the uterus when they fainted. I had to jump in and grab the back of their gown to stop them face-planting the open uterus, and then sort of gently tug backward to let them fall into me while someone else took over. Thank God the baby was already out.
The morning report was a good one today. We had a 59-year-old male come in with lower leg swelling. Within 3 days he becomes confused, febrile, and stiff. We put him in the ICU, thinking he had meningitis and got some CSF cultures and started antibiotics. Two days later, the cultures were still negative and he wasn't improving.
His wife then says this whole event seems similar to her husband’s mom. She had Creutzfeldt-Jacob syndrome and passed from it. It's a 1 in a million, literally, diagnosis and our tests are still coming back for it. Really rare case most doctors will never see.
I work in a dementia ward, so you must know how creepy it can be there at night. It’s around 3 am and it’s pouring rain. POURING rain. Thunder, all that jazz. My partner is on break and I'm sitting at the nursing desk. I hear a moan and assume it’s a patient getting agitated by the rain. Well, from the corner of my eye I see a figure in a white dress.
There are only men down that hall. So I look again, and there's this frail woman standing there just staring at me. It took me a second to register that one of the female patients snuck by me while I was doing rounds and was walking back to her room.
We had a good case a few years ago. An otherwise healthy, 40-year-old migrant worker from Central America started coughing up blood intermittently. Everything suggested tuberculosis: his history, chest X-ray looked like tuberculosis, illness script looked like tuberculosis...but his tests for it were all negative. We couldn't figure it out.
I decided to test his urine on a whim to rule out pulmonary-renal pathologies. Ding, ding, ding! Blood. Lots of blood. The patient never noticed it, and his kidney function was superb, so this was a tricky diagnosis. Turns out he had an illness called Wegner's. Kind of a sad story, because TB is largely curable, but with Wegner's he'll be on chemo for a very long time.
This fellow was at dinner with his wife and some friends when "all of a sudden" he slumped forward into his entree and went unconscious. I saw him as a hospitalist in the IMCU. Despite being unconscious, his labs and vitals were all stable and he appears to be adequately protecting his airway. The wife was initially understandably distraught and not able to offer the best of histories.
As the patient gradually began to wake up, I was able to put together a few facts. It was such a simple solution. The patient had pancreatic insufficiency and thus needed to take six pills with pancreatic enzymes before each meal. He also had a prescription for Ambien. They were both white pills...you can figure out the rest. He recovered fully without any long-term effects.
My first rotation as a medical student was psychiatry. I was really nervous, and made a flashcard for each psych condition and a list of diagnoses to consider. One of the patients being discussed on rounds was psychotic and thought the KGB was after him, but he was otherwise put together. He was really into doing art and was very, very religious.
I looked at my flashcard for psychosis and casually mentioned that we should consider temporal lobe epilepsy, which presents with religiosity and exaggerated artistic ability. An EEG showed that he had it.
I have a friend who is a doctor. He was doing a rectal examination using a camera, and all he could see was crazy psychedelic colors in this patient's rear. He was completely freaked out…Then he looked down and saw he'd pushed his tie in with the camera.
As a doctor, I've gone into the wrong room and started talking to the patient before, only to realize it's the wrong one after a bit. But probably worse than that is walking in and completely forgetting who the patient is and why they're in there. I just keep conversation going until I casually pull out my notes. Sounds awful, but easy to do when you've been up 25-30 hours and are following 15+ patients to remember each detail.
My mom was an ER doctor. One night, a guy came in who had tried to commit suicide. He had used a shotgun, but had stuck it under his chin instead of in his mouth and had angled it wrong. Apparently, he only lived about a block from the hospital, so he just walked over with holes in his face. He was in such a state of shock that he just calmly walked in and sat down in the waiting area.
When I was a nursing student, I was on surgery practicum. We had a guy in who needed an elbow repair. I was pretty useless in everything but emotional support, as I wasn't qualified, so was chatting to him before he went under. He admitted to having an (un)healthy substance habit. I informed the surgeon, who shrugged it off. This was a big mistake.
Apparently, I should have told the anesthetist, because this dude woke up mid-surgery and was trying to reach for his open arm that the surgeon was working on. Super horrific moment as we scramble to contain this guy's arm and stop it from touching anything sterile.
My dad was observing a surgery during his residency several decades ago, just when electronic monitors were becoming a huge deal. He noticed the patient's fingertips and lips were blue and tried to tell the surgeon, who informed him the patient was fine because the machines showed normal oxygen and blood pressure.
Dad responded by jumping on top of the patient and performing CPR while someone had the common sense to rush them to the ER. Best part is that a representative from the company that made the machines was there to observe this miserable failure.
I had a biopsy done on my neck by an ear, nose, and throat specialist. It went horribly. He jabbed it in just below my ear, then wiggled the huge needle around, took it out, put it back in, wiggled it around...just awful. I was left with an enormous yellow and green bruise all over my neck. The results were inconclusive. But it gets worse.
A month later, I went to see a really old doctor. He pushed on the spot in question. "Is this the bump you're concerned about?" "Yes, that's it." "That's your second vertebrae. That guy tried to do a biopsy on it?" "What? Yeah..." "What an idiot, sorry."
I was observing a hand surgery about a year ago at a teaching hospital. The surgeon was removing one of the carpals, which are the bones near the base of the hand, to be used later. A nurse was given the carpal to hold until it needed to be used. She ended up dropping the patient's bone right on the ground. The surgeon was not happy.
One of my dad's colleagues was doing a hip replacement way back in the day. Hip replacements aren't fun: They have to pretty much butterfly you like a boneless roast to get the top of the thigh bone clear of the ball-and-socket joint of the hip. They then saw off the ball end and attach the new stainless steel one, which is on a long stem they insert down the middle of the bone to keep it in place.
So the doctor has got to that stage, tapping the stem down the femur, when it jams halfway. Won't go down any further. Won't come out again. Can't saw it off, because bone saws won't touch hardened steel. Can't close up the patient and come back to it, because there's a foot-long spear stuck out the top end of his leg. Meanwhile, the anesthetist is saying they can't keep him under much longer. It was not a “successful” surgery.
Today I took care of a man who believed he had been bitten on the abdomen by a baby rattlesnake that had fallen out of his ceiling vent, crawled up his abdomen under his skin, up his throat, and was currently coiled and rattling in his brain. The actual diagnosis: methamphetamines. Just say no.
When I was a surgery intern, I was pulled to help out in a circus of a case. One of our older doctors was doing a simple liver biopsy on a patient and nicked her artery. Because the patient was already pretty sick, her tissue had the consistency of toilet paper—so every time they tried suturing the hole, the tissue just breaks apart, leaving a bigger, more leaky hole.
Pretty much all hands were on board. The chief residents were scrubbed in, the seniors were literally squeezing blood bags into the patient's veins, and us interns were runners, going back and forth from OR to the blood bank to transport blood and plasma. We ended up transfusing over 12 liters of blood, so the patient lost over two times her total blood volume during that surgery.
A vascular surgeon eventually swooped in and did a rather slick patchwork that fixed the problem. Even better: the patient was like a daughter to the surgeon. He literally saved this patient's life several times already, and they got really close over the years. She even named one of her kids after him. The poor guy broke down a few times during the surgery and was convinced that he had just killed his daughter.
The chief residents had to take over a few times when he was mentally not there. That was his last surgery...He retired the next day. Heck of a way to end a surgical career.
My father told me this back when I was younger. He had a 21-year-old patient who needed to have a penectomy. Yep, he had cancer of the penis. There were two plot twists for this. The first is a common thing: He wasn't fully asleep. The second, however, is funny and humiliating. So, they are just about to start the surgery.
Suddenly, one of the nurses who was there threw up and left. A test later, and boom! She was actually pregnant! Back to the surgery, though—halfway through, the other nurse leaves for a call about her father. So my dad is just standing there, the guy’s junk in his hand. He calls for help, but no one came to assist him again for 30 minutes, poor guy.
As a third-year medical student, I had a patient come in with four years of worsening balance issues and garbled speech. She had gotten a crazy work up at an outside hospital system with every sort of imaging possible, biopsies of random sites, and a number of very expensive tests. She was at our university hospital for the first time.
When I first entered the room, I reached out to shake her hand, and from her wheelchair she had to raise her head at me because she couldn't look up with her eyes. This was the first red flag. I also asked her if she had the sensation where one of her limbs would move without her controlling it, and she said yes, suggesting something called Alien Limb Phenomenon.
I diagnosed her with a very rare disease on the spectrum of Parkinson's plus syndromes, and my supervisors agreed. Unfortunately, it was a bad prognosis, but the family was consoled by the fact that at least they had a name for what was happening.
One day, I got called into a long, six-hour cardiac procedure to ensure a laparoscopic camera was working and able to record. The surgery was nearing the end, so I knew I was about to see something good—they wanted to record something big. Suddenly, the surgeon pulls out some kind of growth from inside this guy's heart.
This thing was the size of a chicken wing. It was growing through his valve, and I'm honestly amazed the patient was alive. Supposedly the only symptoms were shortness of breath.
A woman came in with severe opiate withdrawal and some shortness of breath. Because she was so insistent about how miserable she was, everyone sort of wrote her off as drug-seeking. The morning I rounded on her, I decided to do a thorough physical exam, just to be safe. I ended up so glad that I actually did the due diligence.
Lo and behold, I found a hard lymph node...it was so big that it was impossible to miss if you just did the exam. Immediately we got a chest X-ray and then a CT scan. After a biopsy, we learned it was lung cancer.
I have a coronary heart issue. I once watched a video of my surgery, as they are used as teaching tools at Baylor, and I convinced someone to let me see. At one point the surgeon, while holding my half-heart in his hand, says "Oops!" I couldn't pick out the mistake, but it certainly freaked me out at the time. I still think about that.
When I was in nursing school, I was observing a tonsillectomy and the power went out. Everything switched over to the backup generators, except for the suction—which is incredibly important for any surgery but particularly in the throat. They ended up having to connect a giant syringe to a length of suction tubing to suction manually while someone went to the other side of the building to find portable suction.
It was my wisdom teeth removal. All four were impacted, and they had to break out the heavy hardware. I'm knocked out, don't even know the dentist entered the room. I wake up, but not able to move, just eyes open awake but my limbs won't react to my brain. I can feel the dentist hammering a chisel into my tooth to break it for extraction.
My jaw is just coming undone on every hit. My eyes are wide open, jaw even wider with some evil metal contraption. I'm staring at the assistant begging for her to see me, and after about a dozen hammers to my jaw, she glances over and drops the suction, jumps up and shrieks. The dentist stops to look at her, then looks at me and I see him say "Oh God.” Next thing I know, I'm waking up post-surgery. What nightmares are made of.
I had a hysterectomy a week ago, and I begged the nurse for four hours while in recovery to please take the catheter out because it was painful and I felt like I had to pee. She kept telling me it was a normal catheter sensation, and I know that that's at least part of what was going on, but it felt like my bladder was going to burst. I just didn’t know how bad it would get.
About 10 minutes after she obviously begrudgingly took it out, I paged another nurse to help me go to the bathroom. She was in the middle of telling me it might take 20 minutes or multiple trips to pee because it's usually just sensation from the catheter making you think you have to pee—when I unleashed an absolute waterfall of urine.
I don't know if it was clogged, not put in right, or if I'm just weird and somehow my body wasn't going to relax enough to let me urinate through the catheter. I really wished she would have pulled it without making me wait four hours.
In dental school, I had an emergency patient come in complaining of sore gums. Upon examination, I found a massive calculus bridge behind her lower front teeth. She only had about 3 remaining lower teeth, but they were all connected with a whitish brown mineral deposit that was about the size of a golf ball. She had never had her teeth cleaned and she was probably 55 years old or so.
I basically performed an emergency cleaning. She could speak so much better afterward. Of course, I had to play it off like it was normal, but in my years of practice, I still haven’t seen a case that bad again. Get your teeth cleaned people. Even if you can’t afford every 6 months, once a year, or every other year is a heck of a lot better than never.
We were operating on the carotid artery of a patient. Mid-surgery, there was a gaping hole in his neck, and suddenly the patient woke up. “Easy fix,” I think to myself, and I start shouting at the anesthesiologist to put him back under…only he’d gone out for a moment. I had to hold the guy’s head with my elbow so he wouldn't move too much and hurt himself until the guy came back.
My uncle is a respirologist, and he was supervising lung surgery to remove a tumor. Well, when they opened the guy up, they all went pale. Turns out, the so-called “tumor” was actually a root ball. Some type of seed had gotten into the patient's lungs and started to grow. No one in the room had ever seen anything like it before.
I had an ingrown toenail, and it was supposed to be a quick fix. I was 14 and had my mom in with me. They let an apprentice do the surgery, and suddenly he goes “Oh God.” The doctor in charge just laughed and said "No risk, no fun." Turns out they messed up my toe, and I had to have four more surgeries to correct it. I cried.
I was the patient, and it was a kidney biopsy. I was pretty out of it, but still awake so they could talk to me, laying on my stomach as my kidney doctor worked behind me. He warned me, “You’re going to hear a click and it will feel like Mike Tyson punched you in the back.” “Ooookayy?” I hear, click, feel the punch, then hear, “Oh, GOD. Get on the phone now.”
A nurse came up near my face to calm me, and maybe keep an eye on me. I don’t really remember everything. Apparently, the doctor had nicked a blood vessel, and I was bleeding internally at an alarming rate. I got to spend the night in the hospital and peed what seemed like pure blood for about 24 hours. Never try to fit your kidney biopsy in on a Friday before the doctor leaves for vacation.
My friend had a horrible moment when he was going under the knife. Two minutes into surgery, the doctors noticed his pupils dilating or something. He said it was horrible, he could feel the scalpel cutting into his flesh, the agonizing pain, and the oxygen thing only gave him air every few minutes. They noticed he wasn't under and fixed it. But then the dark truth came out.
Turns out, the anesthesiologist who put him under was his ex-girlfriend, though no one knew about it, and she likely did it on purpose. The surgery went well, the recovery was a bit longer than expected, but he's all good now.
I’m a biomedical scientist, and my officemate was a medical doctor working on his PhD. He once did an appendectomy and cut into this person’s abdomen—only to find no appendix. He started freaking out. The support nurses in the room, however, started snickering at him because they knew right away what the problem really was.
Occasionally, they see someone with a rare genetic disorder where all their left-right asymmetries are reversed. This patient’s appendix was on the other side.
I had a lady come into the ER listed as “Multiple Medical Problems”. This usually means diabetes and the issues stemming from it, or maybe bleeding issues from another issue or maybe odd blood tests results at a clinic. I hadn’t seen the patient yet, but the doctor came to the nurse’s station asking who had room 15. I jumped up and followed him into the room.
I walked in and saw what I thought was a corpse. Then the patient’s eye swiveled over to look at me. She truly looked like one of the people they found in a concentration camp. I could see every bone, and her body was twisted in a decorticate position with her jaw locked open. Then the smell hit me: rotting flesh and body fluids. I struggled to keep a neutral face and not gag.
I tried to place a blood pressure cuff on her arm and her skin just started flaking off in my hands. I gagged. The doctor started removing her clothes to examine her. Her feet were black to the ankles. Her hip bones were poking through her skin and were black. The skin around her ribs was worn away to oozing muscle fibers.
Her calves were incredibly swollen and the skin was splitting like ripped pants. I removed her Depends, and there was excrement coating her entire genital area. Then the doctor went to remove a large bandage on her lower back. Her entire sacrum was exposed and the bones were BLACK! The skin around it was a black liquified mass.
It smelled like nothing I’ve ever smelled. I can’t even describe it. The doctor told her family I would clean up her ulcers and wounds in preparation for surgery (liar, no surgeon would operate on her). I had no idea how to clean dead bone tissue and liquified skin (they don’t cover that in nursing school). When I went to clean her sacral area, all the liquified skin separated and oozed all over the bed. I really struggled to keep myself together.
Afterward, I needed a moment in the supply closet to cry it out for a second. I had no idea the human body could break down so much without dying. I still think about that woman sometimes, and what led to her living like that. It still breaks my heart. My guess is that she had some sort of traumatic brain issue or a stroke.
Family members were taking care of her, and I think they were treating her absolutely horribly. I think as her skin deteriorated, she developed terrible pressure ulcers that never healed. The swelling was probably due to starvation and a lack of protein in her diet. I’ve had nightmares about her face since then. Once, I dreamed she crawled into bed with me.
I freaked the heck out and ran into the hallway. My toddler walked out after me, rubbing his eyes, asking why I ran away.
I was at the doctor's office for a physical exam before my freshman year of college. The doctor was this assertive and intimidating female, and it came time for the hernia check. Now, for my whole life, this procedure has always involved the doctor cupping my private area and asking me to cough. However, I guess they only need to feel just above the private area these days as opposed to the area itself.
I was not aware of this fact at the time—and it led to the most mortifying experience of my life. So, I'm sitting on the exam table, and the doctor asks me to unbutton my pants for the hernia exam. I was completely ignorant to the fact that they didn't need to actually come down. She then turned away to go get a glove. At this point, I pulled my pants down to my knees. She walks over with a perfect poker face and calmly places her hand on my lower stomach and asks me to cough.
She checked both sides twice. The entire time, my privates were needlessly exposed. She never said a word about it or even acknowledged that fact. I guess I got lucky to have that particular doctor on that particular day. If someone a little more emotive had been the one checking me, I might never have lived down the embarrassment.
I saw a patient who was concerned because she was still lactating, despite the fact that she stopped breastfeeding her twins two years ago. She said: "sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and find my husband sucking on the breasts. He says he's trying to drain the milk for me." I had to explain to her that breastfeeding her husband will lead to continued Lactation.
Registered nurse here. I see some crazy stuff, but one thing that stands out was the time I was admitting a guy to the hospital. I can't really remember what for but he was diabetic, had heart disease, and was generally unhealthy. Anyhow, I'm at the computer going over some admission questions with him and his 10 family members who are crowded in the room with him.
A few minutes in, he starts complaining that he's thirsty. He needs something to drink right now. So I get on my phone and call the nurse assistant, and ask her to bring in some ice water. As soon as the words are out of my mouth the whole family screams: "NOOOO! NO WATER! HES ALLERGIC TO WATER!" Well, this is going to be a problem.
Turns out the guy had been drinking nothing but Sprite and sweet tea for years, because of his "water allergy." The next question his wife had was “Where are we all supposed to sleep?" The whole family, 10 people, were planning to stay at the hospital with him. You can't make this stuff up.
Used to work the desk in an ER. One day, we had a fellow brought in via EMS after a car wreck. After a while, a lady came to the desk and said, "My husband is here, he's just been in a car accident." I checked with the unit, they said he could have visitors, so I let her go back. I went on with my day and didn't think much of it...at first.
About 20 minutes later, a different woman came to the desk and said, "My husband is here, he's been in a car accident." I knew damned good and well that we only had one MVA back there, but I asked her for the patient's name, figuring maybe she'd come to the wrong hospital. But she had not. Now, it's not my place to judge other people's lifestyles.
I myself am polyamorous and know a number of people who all refer to one another as husband and wife, though there are more than a regulation number of players on the field. So, I do my job. I called back and said, "There's a visitor here for room X, may she come back?" The unit clerk gave the ok, so I opened the door and let her back.
This man was not polyamorous. Instead, he was leading a double life of Bruce Wayne proportions. He wasn't just sleeping with two different women. He had two sets of children. He had convinced both that he was actually married to them. And neither had any idea the other existed. There was, how you say, a mild kerfuffle.
In the end, the women joined forces against him and walked out planning their respective divorces. It was just amazing to me that this guy's whole life was blown up by a minor fender bender that wasn't even his fault. Dude looked just absolutely haunted when he walked out of that hospital room. And rightfully so.
I had a doctor that constantly ignored patients in serious pain. He thought all of them were faking it to get pain medication. After a senior director at Microsoft passed from a heart attack in our ER that he refused to do an EKG on, I went to management and told them what I had seen.
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
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