My Doctor Failed Me: Wrong Diagnoses That Almost Ended Lives

July 18, 2021 | Scott Mazza

My Doctor Failed Me: Wrong Diagnoses That Almost Ended Lives

Every job has its share of competent people and not-so-competent people—but when that job involves saving people’s lives, proficiency and aptitude matter more than usual. That’s why it’s so shocking when people receive a diagnosis from one doctor, only to seek a second opinion from another and discover the initial finding was totally off the mark. These second-opinion stories can teach us all a thing or two about taking our health and physical well-being more seriously.

1. Stop, Look, And Listen

I'm an emergency doctor in the midwestern USA. The patient was transferred from some rural nowhere to our tertiary care facility. We’re a big hospital with every kind of specialist. The transferring physician described a 21-year-old male who had a rapid heart rate and breathing rate, low blood pressure, low oxygen, confusion, and a severe opacification on his chest X-ray on the right side. He was initially diagnosed with pneumonia.

They gave him a ton of fluids, started antibiotics, and put him on a ventilator, but he wasn't getting better. So they wanted to send him to us. We said sure, send away. An hour later, the gentleman arrived—he looked young, fit, and not the type to just drop from pneumonia. We rolled him onto our stretcher and our jaws dropped to the floor—we found a huge open wound in his back.

The X-ray found his entire right chest full of blood. We put a tube in it, gave him back some blood, and he had to go for surgery to fix the bleeding. Lesson: Actually look at your patient.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

2. No Air

Last month, I was about to take a long trip across the Pacific. One hour into the flight, they asked for a doctor. I volunteered myself. I saw this lady literally gasping for air, waving her hands because she couldn't breathe. I looked through the meds in the first aid kid. I listened to her lungs, only to hear faint wheezing and no air movement at all. I figured she was probably asthmatic.

They later grounded that plane because there were another sixteen hours to go and she was on the verge of being intubated. Later on, I got more of her story from a family member. What they told me was absolutely shocking. Apparently, she hadn't been able to sleep well for the past two weeks. Her doctor just gave her sleeping meds and told her that that flying was not a problem.

I asked the family why she couldn't sleep: "Does she wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air, i.e., a classic sign of uncontrolled asthma?" They responded, "Yes, how did you know?" I explained to them that sleeping meds were probably among the worst things she could have gotten, and the doctor almost ended her life by saying she could fly.

If only patients knew what the doctors missed or whatnot. Half the time, I really think it's like going to a bad auto shop and not realizing they're just making up half of the stuff. The same thing happens in medicine, except people's lives suffer because of it.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

3. Skin In The Game

Dermatologist here. I have seen probably five instances of “My doctor told me it was nothing” that were actually melanomas. A lot of times, people don’t want full skin exams. There are lots of perfectly sane reasons for this, such as time constraints, perceived cost, history of personal trauma, etc. However, I routinely find cancers people don’t know they have.

Keep this in mind if you see a dermatologist for acne and they recommend you get in a gown.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

4. No Need To Apologize

I can’t count how many “But I was told it was just a headache" cases I’ve seen. Of course, those patients are usually the nice ones who profusely apologize for “wasting our time”...until they find out a brain tumor showed up on their CT scans…

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

5. Take This Sitting Down

I saw a young Aboriginal girl with Sydenham’s Chorea, a condition that guarantees a prior case of acute rheumatic fever. ARF is really common in Australian Indigenous peoples, and in the long run, it causes cardiac valve dysfunction. It’s also really easily treatable with a specific antibiotic regime, although you do have to stay on it for years. The first doctor had told her it was just anxiety and that she just needed to sit still.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

6. Eye Of The Tiger

Eye doctor here. I had a patient who came in several months before their scheduled annual visit, which indicated to me that something could be wrong. But when she arrived, she had no complaints—she just wanted to get an update on her eye health before she got some new glasses. We decided to just run the regular gamut of tests anyway since she was already there.

She was a 50-year-old woman. It was a fairly normal exam. Perfect vision, healthy retinas, but something about her pupils really bothered me before I dilated them. I asked her if she had banged her head or had any trauma to that area recently. She said no, but then suddenly revealed a disturbing secret she had been concealing—she had this crazy history of an old meningioma (a type of tumorous brain growth) that she’d had removed a few years ago.

She had decided to omit this from her history with us as she didn't feel it was important, but we went and put it into the charts anyway. It turned out she got a CT done two weeks prior to her exam with me, which she said turned up completely normal. I told her she should tell her doctor about her pupils anyway, just to cover our bases.

Fast forward a few months: the patient showed up in my office ecstatic to tell me that my examination revealed her tumor had returned with an incredible vengeance. She had no idea as was totally asymptomatic, and the CT scan she had prior to seeing me showed what was very literally the size of a speck of dust which the radiologist dismissed as an "artifact."

On her return to her doctor, they decided to re-run the CT scan to cover their bases and they found a quarter-sized tumor. Within two weeks, the tumor had gone from the size of a dust particle to the size of a quarter. She was rushed into emergency surgery as the tumor was growing super fast and was close to a blood vessel, which could have caused a massive stroke.

She had it removed that day and returned to me after recovery to tell me. She is now a long-time regular patient I have been seeing for about ten years.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

7. It’s In Your Head

I'm not a doctor, but I'm glad my parents took me in for a second opinion when I was complaining about a bad headache. I left school one day and went to the hospital complaining about a bad headache. The doctor said it was "just a virus," and that I should just rest and take meds. I went home, laid down, took some Advil, and just carried on with my night.

At around 1 am in the morning, I was screaming on the floor. My parents took me to a different hospital and they ran tests. Eventually, they did a spinal tap and discovered a ton of white blood cells. Turns out, I had bacterial meningitis.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

8. You Mad, Bro?

I had a patient come in for therapy after his doctor yelled at him for being a hypochondriac. He told the patient that his symptoms were all in his head and accused him of just trying to fish for a disability. His symptoms were pretty obviously neurological, so I referred him for an MRI. To my shock, he had only ever had X-rays done. Sadly, I had to tell the 19-year-old man that he had multiple sclerosis.

With great satisfaction, I got to tell that doctor that he dun goofed and that I would be talking to our mutual chief of clinical services about the incident.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

9. Gaming The System

ER nurse here. I had a lady come in for simple pneumonia. Her 13-year-old son was getting bored, so I showed him some equipment. I connected a simple heart monitor to him just for fun, and when I saw the screen, my face went white—I discovered he was in a complete heart block. I printed a strip and showed it to the doc. Hmmm. We suddenly and unexpectedly got a cardiac patient.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

10. The New Normal

A 22-year-old guy came in to see me after seeing his primary doctor at another hospital. His mom was my patient and asked if I would see him, as I am an internal medicine doctor. He had told his doctor he had a headache. I did the usual full review of symptoms since he was new, and he also informed us that his left family jewel had a lump on it.

We did the exam and he was right. I knew right away that he likely had metastatic testicular cancer. One stat brain scan and an ultrasound later confirmed it. I asked him if he had told the other doctor about the lump, and he said yes. Apparently, the other doctor had just told him it was normal.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

11. X-Ray-ted

I took my son to the ER late one night because he was coughing and had a high fever. They took an X-ray, gave him ibuprofen, and told us he was fine. The doctor showed me the X-rays to prove it and gave me a dirty look when I asked what the dark spots were. I told her she was an idiot and took him to an urgent care facility four hours later.

The doctor who saw him was taken aback when immediately diagnosed him with pneumonia and confirmed it with X-rays. I flat out refused to pay for the ER visit and told them that if they persisted in trying to collect, I would press charges against their incompetence. They never called me again. I would like to thank all the fine medical professionals out there who actually do care about their patients.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

12. A Man With A Vision

I had a guy come in for a second opinion after the first doctor didn’t bother asking him about his medical history. Of course, I took his history and asked more questions as we went along. I remember telling him something felt off and that we needed to run a test, so I ordered a peripheral vision test. When I got the test back, I was shocked at the results—he presented with the most classic tumor pattern I’d ever seen.

Two weeks later, he went into surgery to get it removed. Then, a month after, the guy was back in my clinic thanking me. He was a totally different person—his personality was a complete 180 in that he was now energetic and happy.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

13. Passing The Buck

I’m a surgeon. Most patients come to me after having seen another physician who gave them a sketchy diagnosis. For example, I’ve been called to see more than one patient for appendicitis...even though those patients have already had appendectomies. I’ve also had cases of patients who never knew they had cancer, all because they trusted their doctor's word that the small bump they felt was "nothing to worry about."

It is always too far advanced for me to be of help, so I have to I being called so I can be the bad guy and explain everything? Yes. The answer is yes.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

14. Pain In The Neck

My girlfriend is an ER doc. A hippie-type guy came in a week after a bike accident. He'd been treated and released by another hospital. He was complaining of some neck pain. She immediately had him back boarded and ordered X-rays. The X-ray tech called her in and asked why he needed to run the scans since he had been treated across town already.

"Because his neck is broken. Okay?" She was right. If he had tripped on a doormat and fallen, he would have likely been paralyzed for life. I like to remind her of this one when she's had a hard night of fighting off substance seekers and dealing with unnecessary drama. It always lifts her spirits to be reminded that she has, at times, made a real difference in people’s lives.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

15. Going Green

The request for a second opinion came from an intensivist. I work in poison control and on this particular occasion, I had received a call from a very astute young doctor with a middle-aged female patient presenting with a vague 36- to 48-hour history of malaise, confusion, hypoxia from hyperventilation, and hallucinations.

On workup, she was noted to have pulmonary edema, i.e. lung fluid buildup, as well as metabolic acidosis, acute kidney injury, sinus tach, and signs of infection but no temperature. The initial diagnosis was sepsis. This keen-eyed doctor, pretty fresh out of med school, decided to do a salicylate level on this lady because the hyperventilation paired with metabolic acidosis and AKI was enough to suggest aspirin poisoning.

She had these suspicions even though the symptoms could just as easily be explained by sepsis as well. Nevertheless, the level came back high, which prompted her to phone me for a second opinion on how relevant the finding was in terms of the patient's clinical picture. Simultaneously, the patient's family investigated the property and located some pretty startling evidence supporting the doctor's hypothesis—numerous aspirin blister packs, suggesting she had been dosing herself for chronic pain, which was present in the medical history.

Chronic salicylate poisoning is insidious and has been referred to as a "pseudosepsis" in the medical literature, as it often causes similar features. Comparing a high level in chronic poisoning to the same level in acute poisoning, features are much more severe in chronic poisoning, i.e. pulmonary edema, hypoxia, AKI, etc. Basically, there was a disparity.

We recommended certain treatments (all hail sodium bicarbonate), and the patient made a full recovery after a two-week hospital stay. Whilst there was no question an infectious cause was present and contributory, I was impressed with the doctor's intuition and willingness to consider other causes. I feel like it greatly improved the patient's treatment.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

16. Counting On Mom

I originally went to the doctor’s because I was really tired. The doctor waved it off, but my mom insisted I should get a CBC (complete blood count). They found that my platelets were extremely low, which resulted in them running additional tests to find that I actually had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. To this day, I have no idea why my mom made me go back to get a CBC, but I’m grateful she did.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

17. We Hear You Loud And Clear

A bit of background. In my field of audiology, there are people who are licensed to diagnose not only hearing issues but balance disorders and other factors impacting listening and understanding. We also have another field that popped up when it was not considered ethical for us to treat those more serious hearing issues (i.e. with hearing aids), but they don’t need the same doctorate-level training.

Those guys are usually just barely out of high school or some college, depending on the jurisdiction. So I had a patient come in with a serious difference between his left and right hearing, and that in itself was considered a red flag because both ears are exposed to the same things over time.  There are very few explanations as to why one side would get so bad compared to the other.

The patient could hardly understand words on that bad side, whereas the better ear was pretty good overall. It just had some very minor hearing loss that was perhaps age-related. Immediately upon seeing these test results, the ENT and I agreed to send this patient for an MRI of the head. At that moment, we both knew that something was very clearly off.

The patient confirmed no MRI or medical treatment had been recommended to him in the past. He was only told to wear hearing aids by this lesser-trained hearing aid dealer, who had been working for a popular U.S. chain. The patient had been wearing these hearing aids already for a few years. The MRI results came back. Sadly, he had a massive tumor on the hearing nerve.

The hearing aid dealer is now being investigated for malpractice and a violation of state laws regarding red flags.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

18. What A Wonderful World

Psychiatrist here. I was the one who made the misdiagnosis in this case.

A 30-year-old man with mild depressive symptoms was in and out of the hospital fairly quickly. He was under pressure from his home life, due to living with four roommates who were making life a bit difficult for him. No life-threatening thoughts, but still not a good situation. He was cleared of all psychopathologies by me and two other doctors.

A few months later, he came back. He had the same symptoms; however, this time he talked about five roommates. It felt wrong, and I dug into his story. What I found out shook me to my core—he lived alone and was severely psychotic. I have no idea how he hid it so well from everyone. A few more details: the patient talked, dressed, and acted normally on the surface.

However, after admitting him for a longer period, we noticed he talked with his "roommates" often. He was single, had no contact with his family, and was somehow working. He had a routine job with little to no personal contact. After a few talks, he also claimed other people's thoughts were sometimes "thrown at him and sitting on his head," and he could thus read people's minds against his will.

The interesting thing about this patient was that his internal world somehow fit in the external world. His roommates sounded like they would be perfectly plausible human beings. They were not "shadow people," Vikings, 12-feet tall, etc. His only complaint was that they teased him by hiding his stuff, but otherwise, he ate with them, watched TV with them, and so on.

Normally, a person with paranoid schizophrenia (paranoid meaning all types of delusions) will have multiple symptoms, sometimes easy to see even for the untrained eye. The patients can dress, talk, and present themselves in odd ways, usually different from cultural norms. They can have incoherent speech, even make up words and phrases, and even separate themselves from reality.

For example, another patient of mine insisted that I was behind bars while medicating him. FYI, when we quickly "scan" a patient for psychotic symptoms, we basically look for inconsistencies in the patient’s experience of the world. The patients normally know "something is wrong" or "weird" or "different," but they often believe it is the world around them that has changed.

This is due to a discrepancy between what they experience, a failed assessment of the inputs (due to the thinking disorder), and testing hypotheses based on failed assessments that collide with the real world. This will activate defense mechanisms such as denial, wild explanations, accepting both "realities" at the same time, and so on.

An example might be a patient who says: "I am not sick, therefore my doctor must be a bad guy for saying I am. Bad guys are behind bars, so my doctor must be behind bars. But my doctor is sitting right in front of me at the same time, so he must have an identical twin or this must be an alternate reality." This is usually the way delusions are made.

To summarize: when we scan for psychosis, we look for inconsistencies between the patient's subjective experience of thinking, being, and acting and the objective reality accepted by the general cultural norm. This patient managed to live in a subjective psychotic world that just fit so well with the objective reality that he tricked several psychiatrists.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

19. What’s Hip With The Kids

My grandmother had her hip replaced, but the hip always hurt her. She waited a year, hoping it would go away, but it never did. She asked multiple doctors and did multiple X-rays, but the doctors said the replaced hip was fine. We finally made her go to a private clinic in my hometown, and the doctor saw that the replaced hip was fine and dandy. However, the bone around it was an entirely different story—it looked like it was a tad bit eaten by bacteria.

So the new doc did an operation, and there was so much pus in the leg it was insane. If my grandmother waited any longer, her blood would have become infected and she would have lost her life. I cannot think of a more critical time for someone to have gotten a second opinion. Thank goodness she went to the clinic when she did.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

20. Legging It Out

I was about ten years old when my parents took me to the doctor because I thought I had broken my leg skateboarding. He said it was a third-degree sprain and told me it'd be fine. I pointed out the lines in the X-ray and he said they were nothing. I somehow convinced my mom to take me somewhere else, and they confirmed I had multiple hairline fractures in my growth plate.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

21. Baby Face

This happened to my wife and I. She was three months pregnant and did an ultrasound. All normal. The baby’s heart rate was 99 and healthy. However, for some reason, the ultrasound tech forgot to measure something and the doc ordered a second ultrasound. The second appointment was about a month later, as my wife wanted to delay. She hated having to drink so much and not pee in order for the ultrasound to come out clearer.

I couldn't be with her for the second ultrasound; however, she called me tearfully with some gut-wrenching news—she said that the doctor told her she had to lose the baby for her own safety and health. She insisted on calling me to let me know before she did the procedure. Apparently, the baby’s heart rate hadn't changed since the first ultrasound a month before, and this was bad enough to put mom at risk in pregnancy.

I immediately flew to the hospital. I can't remember how I got there, but I crossed heavy traffic to the hospital in about ten minutes for what is normally a 20-minute trip. I parked on the curb, jumped out, and rushed to her room. Thankfully, nothing had happened to her yet. I just camped out there insisting on another ultrasound.

I kept telling the doctor that it was a copy-and-paste error. You see, the heart rate from the first ultrasound to the second was exactly the same. I knew...I just knew that the tech copied and pasted the first report and forgot to update the rate. I screamed bloody murder if anyone would touch my wife. Security was almost called until another doctor came in and ordered another ultrasound to decide the issue.

The second ultrasound showed that the heart rate was normal. My son is now ten years old, and I remember that fear and rage every day that I look at him.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

22. Please, I In-Cyst

My wife went to the ER for pain in her pelvic region. The ultrasound showed a mass, probably an ovarian cyst, they said. "It will pop in time. Leave it alone." She went to her family doctor about a week later and had to have surgery to pull it out. They did a biopsy on the mass. It was ovarian CANCER. She is now cancer-free, but what the heck??

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

23. Well, Eye Never

This guy was told he had pinkeye. Turns out, he actually had metal shards in his eye from welding.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

24. Seize And Desist

I suffered a moderate traumatic brain injury in October. The week after I got home from the hospital, I wasn't acting like myself. I was refusing to eat and it just didn't make much sense. My mom called the doctor a few times. They said it was normal, but suggested I come in if anything changed. She took me in a week later because I started slurring my speech and was unsteady on my feet—What they found was astonishing.

The injury caused my sodium levels to drop from normal to only 119. This, in turn, caused stroke-like symptoms, which were, in reality, a series of small seizures.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

25. Going Against The Boss

At my clinic, a lady came in for breast pain with a lump on her chest. For everyone’s safety, I was in the room during the exam. The doctor told her it was a sprained muscle and that it would just go away. When he left the room, I told her the name of one of our other doctors who specialized in women’s health. I told her she could not let this go.

She saw him and he referred her to radiology—that’s how they found out she had breast cancer. She later thanked me in a sweet card that she sent. If I hadn’t told her to advocate for herself, she may not have followed up.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

26. Off To A Bad Start

One of my sister's friends was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 10. They were advised to pack up their stuff and move across the country to be near a specialist (they would have to stay there for at least a year). They even had to hire a private plane so she wouldn’t get exposed to any sick passengers on a commercial plane. Well, before they left, they got a second opinion from another doctor who said it was just pneumonia.

They then decided to get a third opinion to definitively settle the issue. That one confirmed it once and for all—it was, in fact, only pneumonia and not cancer. Now, several years later, she is completely healthy and happy. She has never received any kind of cancer treatment, even though she has been tested for cancer regularly.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

27. Going Out Of My Head

I went to my family doctor with the worst headache of my entire life. She dismissed it, telling me it was a tension headache and that I should just take a Tylenol and lay down in a dark room. Over the course of the next month or so, I saw her a whopping total of 13 times, each time with worsening symptoms. First, it was just dizziness, then vomiting...then eventually, I could no longer see out of my right eye.

Every time I saw her, she told me it was just a tension headache or a “weird migraine.” All she would do was just give me a prescription for painkillers and send me on my way. The final straw was when I was no longer able to walk properly. I would try to take a step, but all I could manage was this weird shuffle. At that point, she finally, albeit still reluctantly, agreed to send me to a neurologist.

The next day, I showed up at his office and was in there for less than a minute. He took one look into my eyes and immediately called an ambulance. Turns out, I had hydrocephalus. My ventricles were five times the size they were supposed to be, and my brain was literally being squeezed out of my head. Go figure!

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

28. Seeing Double

I had a doctor in high school who was unconcerned when I suddenly developed vertical double vision. It was freaking out everyone in the emergency department. I also suddenly lost about 60 pounds for no reason. Then, a year or two later, I told him that my arm would fall asleep much faster than normal when I raised it to ask a question in class. Only then did he start to think that there might be something wrong with me.

An MRI was ordered. They found a huge brain tumor in my skull.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

29. Bathroom Break

I noticed blood in my urine and went to a family doctor. He said it was just a normal issue and that it would go away. Skeptical, I went to a urologist for a second opinion. After a bunch of tests, the most peculiar discovery was made—they found scar tissue built up in my urethra and that was causing inflammation. If left untreated, it would have caused the urinary tract to close.

So they removed the scar tissue and I cried while peeing for weeks after, even while on pain medication, until it finally healed. But at least I could still pee, and that was thanks to the second opinion.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

30. The Full Story

One phrase that I find myself repeating to patients is: "I don't really understand what your previous doctor was thinking here, but  in my experience, the correct way to approach this problem is this." The fact that the patient has gone looking for a second opinion usually indicates an urgent level of concern, and that changes your management.

One time, a doctor saw a patient complaining about persistent lower abdominal pain and he simply reassured her that it was probably nothing. He instructed her to come back only if symptoms continue. Unsatisfied with that suggestion, the patient sought a second opinion from another doctor a couple of days later with an increased level of concern.

The doctor then ordered an ultrasound that revealed she had ovarian cancer. The issue here is that both doctors were correct—giving every patient with simple symptoms an ultrasound is not economically feasible. I would hope that any diagnoses I've missed or mismanaged were picked up by another doctor and that they also gave me the benefit of the doubt.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

31. First Come, First Serve

A man in his mid-thirties walked into my office one day with what looked like a broken blood vessel in the front of his left eye. He went to his family doctor and was simply assumed that he got punched or hit or something. His concerns were dismissed, even though it was noted that he had high blood pressure. A prescription for medicine was written along with a follow-up appointment in a few months.

The gentleman saw me, hoping to get another opinion on the matter. I looked at him and immediately started my line of questioning: "How long has it been there? Do you have a headache? When you plug your ears with your fingers, do you hear a "whooshing" sound?" His responses made my eyes widen—I very quickly determined that he had a cavernous sinus fistula (CCF).

I sent him directly to the ER, with his family of four in tow, and he was on the operating table within an hour of arriving. They saved his eye and possibly his life that day. The best news: He was a kitchen guy at my local diner where I frequently eat, and they still treat me like royalty there when I come to eat. They all remember the time I saved one of theirs.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

32. You Ain’t Nothing But A Hound Dog

On New Year's Day, our little hound dog would not get out of bed. Her entire back was unresponsive and she would yelp in pain if anyone touched her. We took her to see the emergency veterinarian, which was the only place open for animals to get care during the holidays. We were there for six hours. The place was a madhouse. Eventually, the doctor checked out our puppy.

They took a bunch of X-rays and the doctor told us that there were no breaks, which meant there were likely lesions on our puppy's spinal cord. Our options were either a very pricey surgery and significant quality of life decrease, or to put her down and save her the pain. They give us some pain meds for her, and we took her home to think about the options.

The next day, we got into our regular vet's office. The dog was still limping and heavily favoring a leg. Our regular vet inspected her and asked what the other vet said. After hearing the ER vet's prognosis, our regular vet advised us never to go back to that clinic. He informed us that our dog likely banged her knee really hard on the bricks of our porch and was just being a baby about it. Two days later, our doggo was 100% fine.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

33. He Didn’t Have The Heart To Tell You

Former ER volunteer here. An elderly gentleman was brought in by his adult children who were concerned about his chest pain. He wanted to believe his primary doctor that it was just some gas or heartburn, but his son "just had a gut feeling" and made him go to the ER with everyone so he could get checked out. Turns out, that was the right decision.

A heart attack was imminent. Like, we weren't sure if our treatment would take effect in time to prevent it. We declared a code blue, all hands on deck. The place went from a quiet, empty ER to sheer chaos in a few minutes. There is no doubt in my mind that the son’s gut feeling directly saved the father’s life that day.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

34. Home And Away

The doctors they send overseas for our troops usually suck. Ask anyone. For the past four years, I've had abnormal pap results. Each year, they told me it was fine and that it hadn't grown or become worse. But no one would look further into it. They insisted I didn't need any other opinions. Since I've been busy with life and work the past few years, I decided they were right...because I'm an idiot.

Finally, when I got back home, my new doctor saw the results and became immediately concerned. She asked me if anyone had told me to do a biopsy. I explained what the previous doctors had told me. She shook her head and booked me an appointment with the dysplasia clinic at the first available opportunity. Turns out, I had cancer cells that, while not fully bad, put me at high risk for cervical cancer in the future.

They performed a LEEP procedure and successfully eradicated what could have developed into something much worse. I'm so thankful to my doctor for knowing what was up and taking action. She's awesome and I'm going to be sad when she no longer works in my area.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

35. The Lung And Winding Road

This actually happened a few weeks ago. My sister went to urgent care because she had a bad cough and was having trouble breathing. They said it was a virus and they gave her antibiotics. My mom took her to her primary doctor who confirmed it. 10 days later, she still wasn’t better, so my mom took her back and insisted that she get an X-ray.

The doctor said, “I don’t know why you brought her back in. It’s just a cough.” Turns out, her entire right lung was collapsed, which showed up on the X-ray. It had been that way for almost two weeks. The doctor called us and said, “You need to go to the ER right now.” They then began an emergency surgery in the ER. She was admitted to the hospital for a week and they performed another surgery on her two days later.

The doctor put a tube in her through her back to inflate the lung and another to remove excess liquid. For the rest of her time there, she had the tube connected from her back to a big plastic clear briefcase-looking thing that filtered all of the blood and liquid out of her lung. Her second surgery was because her lung wouldn’t inflate back up. The reason? Surprise! She had a big leak in her lung that they needed to repair.

She was kind of hilarious because, while on morphine, she kept dropping F-bombs, like “Where is the [expletive] nurse with my food??” Nevertheless, she doesn’t remember anything from the hospital anymore. She has Down Syndrome, and the cause of the collapsed lung was actually due to an incident at the Special Olympics. Her team of petite women played against very tall men with tattoos.

A man bumped into her and he fell on top of her. We are pretty sure that this is what caused all of the lung troubles. She’s predisposed to these kinds of injuries because of her Down Syndrome, and she’d had open-heart surgery at the age of two for a hole in her heart, so she was already vulnerable in that area of her body. Anyway, she’s a champ. She’s all better now and is excited because she’s been cleared to go to a special needs prom next Friday.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

36. Well, That’s Concerning...

I talk to a lot of maligned patients with legitimate medical issues who have been labeled as hypochondriacs and sent through for a psych workup, meds, and counseling. These are people with histories of all kinds of endocrine issues, like thyroid cancer and thyroidectomies, and they typically see a specialist once every two years about their condition without ever having their labs checked or med dosages fixed.

Other times, I deal with diabetics with poorly controlled sugars or people who've had bowel surgeries and take time-release meds (and wonder why they aren't working). The piecemeal system of healthcare in the United States today is really doing such a disservice to actual humans. So many specialists and no one piecing together the big picture.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

37. A Major Screwup

I have a story about a friend who was severely mismanaged. My friend has been going to her doctor complaining about migraines, severe vomiting, and dizzy spells for the past two years. Every time she went, the doctor would order blood work, then tell her she was fine. But then one morning, she woke up and she could barely stand.

She was extremely dizzy and had a bad migraine. She told her husband to go to work and not worry, as their neighbor offered to drive her to the emergency room. She didn't remember arriving. When she got there, she started acting erratically. They had to sedate her and once she was calm, they sent her for a CT scan of her head. That's when they made a startling discovery—there was a huge mass in her brain.

The hospital wasn't equipped to deal with that, so they sent her by ambulance to the nearest hospital that they could find, a four-hour drive away. This hospital immediately sent her for an MRI. It wasn't a mass. They could actually see the "mass" growing as they did the MRI. No, she was having a massive stroke...she was in immediate need of surgery.

They put in a stent and had to remove most of the left side of her brain, as it was all severely damaged. Afterward, she was in a coma for nearly 72 hours. They were uncertain if she would ever wake up, and if she did, if she would ever recover. Thankfully, she did. It took almost a year of physio, and speech therapy, among a few other things, but she has made almost a complete recovery.

The couple even had their first child eight months ago. Turns out that she’d had incredibly high cholesterol. With all the blood work that was done, her GP should have caught it. When she confronted him, he told her that her diagnosis was wrong; that she hadn't had a stroke and had made it up. She went after his license.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

38. Respect Your Elders

My son was about one month old when he started excreting small amounts of blood. It just kept getting worse. The pediatrician ignored us because we were new parents. On our second trip to the pediatrician, I refused to leave. I said, “Something is wrong and we aren’t leaving.” At that moment, his diaper filled with blood. The pediatrician freaked out and sent us straight to emergency.

The doctors there ordered several different bacterial tests. Just before they sent the test upstairs, a very old doctor came in. He asked us a few questions and told the tech to test for one more type of bacteria. That was the one. C-diff. 25% fatality rate when left untreated. Even worse in infants. Thank you, old man doctor. You saved my kid’s life!

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

39. Anything Is Possible

I'm a gynecologist. The number of times I've seen patients pregnant because some other doctor told them they couldn't get pregnant—so they didn't use birth control—is appalling. Usually, it's a family physician who gives the wrong advice. I'm not ragging on all family physicians, but it's just how it goes. I then have to explain that even if the patient has whatever condition that makes it unlikely for them to get pregnant, the odds are almost never zero. Maybe less than 1%, but still not zero, so of course, it can happen.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

40. From Bad To Worse

This woman came in through the ER with chest pain. She visited her GP two times that week already. He treated it locally with subcutaneous anesthesia injections. Turned out she’d had a huge myocardial infarction. We told her she needed immediate coronary intervention. The stress of hearing this caused further contraction of the closed coronary vessel and she had asystole right then and there.

After about two minutes, she jumped back on and we could eventually save her, although her heart was damaged afterward. Thankfully, the follow-up showed improved heart performance, so she’s got that going for her, which is kind of nice…

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

41. Pointing The Finger

When I was 13 years old, I had a growth on my thumb. It became so big that it affected my piano playing. I went to the doctor about it, and he diagnosed it as a wart...that had been there for nearly a decade. He used acid on it. That hurt and did nothing. He then used an electrical instrument to burn it. Again, it really hurt and still did nothing.

I eventually moved to the UK and one night, I was at a dinner party that a friend was hosting. She was a nurse, and many of her friends were nurses and doctors. One of the doctors, a surgeon, saw the 'wart' on my thumb and became very excited. He called over his wife, a nurse, to come to see it. He told me that he couldn't diagnose me because I wasn't in the clinic, but to make an appointment with my GP.

When I came in, I was diagnosed with a neurofibroma, a type of tumor that develops around a nerve. I had surgery to remove it. It was the size of a lima bean. Thankfully, it was benign, but no wonder the wart treatments hurt like crazy.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

42. Red Eye, Red Flag

This lady was referred to me after two weeks of being treated for a red, painful eye. The PA and MDs that saw her tried allergy meds and antibiotics, thinking it was allergic or bacterial conjunctivitis, or hoping it was a mild virus that would resolve on its own. But when I saw her, I took one look and immediately knew that what she had was serious—it was a herpes simplex infection in her cornea.

She was in pain and had been mistreated for two weeks. We got her on antivirals, but only after discussing that it was odd she didn’t have any active herpetic sores, yet had a really bad cough that the ER said was just pneumonia and would go away with antibiotics. I told her to get it checked with a pulmonologist because it didn’t sound like pneumonia and it wasn’t getting better.

I saw her three months later to monitor her corneal appearance and she came in using a wheelchair. Turns out, the pulmonologist was blown away that the ER had dismissed her. She had a really rare small cell lung cancer. The reason the herpes infection manifested in the first place was that her immune system was compromised.

She told me the pulmonologist said I’d saved her life because they caught it early. It’s been a bit over a year. She’s still undergoing treatment, but her spirits are strong and she’s optimistic. So is the pulmonologist.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

43. Spotted

A young mother brought in a six-year-old to the ER. She was super nice and apologetic because she thought that she was wasting my time since someone had already checked the kid out and wasn’t concerned. Apparently, her son had started to develop different spots all over his body and she had no idea why. My initial first thought was chickenpox, so I had some swords and shields up, ready to go for the anti-vax debate.

But she claimed that she’d had her son vaccinated at all stages up to that point. Upon closer inspection, they were massive clusters of warts. Not uncommon, but because of how rapidly they were growing, I ordered some blood work to make sure there wasn't an underlying cause. Kids' immune systems are pretty well equipped to handle that sort of thing.

And I'm really glad that she brought him in because he had a severely low white blood cell count, which revealed a primary immune deficiency disease.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

44. The Hospital Files

My friend who is a doctor tells me stories all the time. Two of them stuck with me. The first is of a guy in his late twenties who came in complaining about chest pain. The first ER doctor wrote him off. They ran an EKG and didn't interpret the results correctly because it was subtle. But when my friend got a hold of him, he realized he was having a heart attack.

The second story is about a 14-year-old girl. She was discharged from another hospital for being "combative." They brought her into my friend's hospital because her mom was persistent and what they found was shocking. Her liver enzyme count was 10,000! Normal is about 10 to 40 for AST. He put two and two together and immediately gave her acetylcysteine, a Tylenol antidote.

Turns out, the girl tried to take her own life. She was quickly flown out to a bigger hospital and was in the ICU for a month. He thought for sure she needed a new liver, but she lucked out. Between her age and it being caught just in time, the girl made a full recovery.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

45. A Private Mistake

Back in college, I noticed a pretty sizable, oddly-shaped lump in my private area. I went to the doctor the next day to get it checked out. They did a couple of scans on it and told me it was a “blockage” and that I just needed to relieve myself more often. After the next six months of pain down there, plus back pain and extreme fatigue, I went to the ER for it and it was immediately diagnosed as cancer.

I had to get it removed that day and found out it had spread to my lymph nodes. It had almost started spreading to other organs. Two major surgeries and six months of chemo later, I’ve been in full remission for seven years.

Strangest thing patient saidUnsplash

46. Getting In Line

Not a doctor, but my doctor said this to me. I had a PICC line. This is like a long IV that stays in your arm for a while for infusions. I had a complication that resulted in a type of allergic reaction, which caused an ulcer that got infected. That infection was dangerous as it could spread through a line very quickly and turn into sepsis because the line went right into my heart.

I was sent to the hospital by my infusion nurse, and the doctor at the hospital told me he didn’t have any knowledge about central lines. He sent me home without doing blood work or looking at the site. I went to a better hospital in a nearby city the next day, and the whole line had to be taken out. I was also put on a course of two antibiotics. The doctor there called the other one an idiot.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

47. Every Breath You Take

Not a doctor, but we took my baby brother to the ER because of extremely labored breathing. He became really cold and uncharacteristically calm. They couldn't find anything wrong with him and sent us home with just Tylenol. The next morning, we went to a sick clinic and they took him to an out-of-town hospital immediately. That's when things took a 180-degree turn.

They discovered that he had several different viruses and a double ear infection. He had to stay in the hospital for five or six days and be on oxygen. The doctors said he could've lost his life during the night he was sent home because the effort of breathing would have been too much so he would've just stopped. He's happy and healthy now, though, thankfully!

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

48. He Had A Lot Of Gall!

I was told by my doctor that my health issues were stress-related. Nevertheless, the second opinion found that my gallbladder was functioning at only three percent, so I had that sucker removed a couple of weeks later. What's worse is that I specifically asked the first doctor about gallbladder issues and he assured me it couldn't be that.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

49. A Tough Pill To Swallow

I went to a walk-in clinic because I couldn't swallow anything. The doctor pressed on my forehead and asked if it hurt. When I said it was tender, he told me I had a sinus infection and prescribed me antibiotics...which I still couldn't swallow. He then sent me on my way. After getting. a second opinion, I finally found out the truth—and it was darker than I could have ever imagined. Turns out I’d had a stroke and ended up spending three weeks in the hospital when it was discovered.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

50. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I was a 19-year-old male patient at the time. I’m 33 now. I felt sick for about a week, with flu-like symptoms. I didn't want to eat; I just felt bad all over. One day at work, I felt a very uncomfortable cramp in my abdomen, so I went to one of those 24-hour clinics. At that point, I was slumped over and couldn't stand up straight without an insane amount of pain. I was just generally uncomfortable and hating life.

After a few hours at the clinic, they told me: "You probably have kidney stones. Go home, drink fluids, and sleep it off." That seemed fine to me. I was ready to go home and take the doctor's suggestions. All was good. But my girlfriend at the time wasn't a fan of the diagnosis and drove me to the ER, against my wishes of course. After a few minutes at the ER, they confirmed that I was in greater danger than I initially thought...They determined that my appendix had ruptured and that I was going septic.

Apparently, I was pretty lucky to have lived. I did pick up bacterial pneumonia while in the hospital, so the recovery kind of sucked. Now, I just have a crazy seven-inch scar on my belly to remind me to not be afraid of going to the hospital when I'm sick.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

51. Welcome To The World

My dad is a pediatrician specializing in neurological issues. He was seeing one of his patients at the hospital and got dragged into the NICU unexpectedly by a nurse who insisted that a baby wasn't well. The attending doctor insisted the kid was fine, and that he was just tired from a difficult vacuum assist delivery. My dad could tell the baby wasn't okay and managed to talk the parents into a brain scan.

The NICU doctor insisted my dad was nuts to the parents. Little did he know his arrogance would cost him, big time. The kid had a brain bleed and was rushed to surgery. The baby would not have lived without the nurse bringing my dad in and the parents listening to him. The delay caused by the NICU doctor almost certainly cost the kid some brain function. I’m proud that my dad did the right thing.

Doctor's Second OpinionShutterstock

Sources: Reddit,


More from Factinate

Featured Article

My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.

Dark Family Secrets

Dark Family Secrets Exposed

Nothing stays hidden forever—and these dark family secrets are proof that when the truth comes out, it can range from devastating to utterly chilling.
April 8, 2020 Samantha Henman

Featured Article

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.

Madame de Pompadour Facts

Entrancing Facts About Madame de Pompadour, France's Most Powerful Mistress

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.
December 7, 2018 Kyle Climans

More from Factinate

Featured Article

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.

These People Got Genius Revenges

When someone really pushes our buttons, we'd like to think that we'd hold our head high and turn the other cheek, but revenge is so, so sweet.
April 22, 2020 Scott Mazza

Featured Article

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.

Catherine of Aragon Facts

Tragic Facts About Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s First Wife

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but very few people know her even darker history.
June 7, 2018 Christine Tran

Dear reader,

Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to Thanks for your time!

Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at Thanks for your help!

Warmest regards,

The Factinate team

Want to learn something new every day?

Join thousands of others and start your morning with our Fact Of The Day newsletter.

Thank you!

Error, please try again.