Every medical professional has seen their fair share of difficult patients—but some of the most memorable visits involve the moment when it becomes abundantly clear that the person in front of them is totally faking their symptoms. Sometimes it’s just for attention…but sometimes, it’s way more sinister.
I had a mother come in and insist that her child had Silver-Russell syndrome. It's not that easy to fake, as it's a bunch of metabolic conditions mixed with congenital abnormalities.
The kid was small, but not that small, and he didn't weigh much. All of this, with a right arm length 2 cm more than the left side, were borderline criteria for Silver-Russell. We did genetic testing, which came back negative—but 30% of cases are negative.
There was one more deciding factor—the "soft" criteria of hypoglycemia. Once she heard about this (she’d printed out 30-40 articles on the disease), that’s when she went off the deep end. She came back with the kid in a coma. But then, when the kid was in the hospital, he was never hypoglycemic. He went home, and came back in a coma a few weeks later. Again, as soon as he was eating normally at the hospital, he wasn’t hypoglycemic.
Yeah, she had starved her child into comas repeatedly for the diagnosis of Silver-Russell. On top of that, she was in a wheelchair when at the hospital. Once I had enough of her lies, I walked into the room after only knocking once. She was walking around normally and jumped into the wheelchair as soon as she saw me.
I believe it was for money since in Canada/Quebec, you get money when your child has a genetic disability...god, if I could’ve, I would have slapped some sense into her.
When I was about 7 or 8, my older sister found out she needed glasses. My parents and sister kept talking about how detailed the leaves on trees looked after getting glasses and before it just looked like a green blur. Well I wanted to be cool and get glasses too so I peeked up and said: "What leaves? The trees just look like a blur to me".
Flash forward to the eye clinic, there I am being asked to read the eye chart by the eye doctor—who was a family friend. I knew if I read it accurately they would know I didn't need glasses, so I lied, trying to fudge the results, as the doc kept flipping different lenses.
Finally he flips to one and says, "This one should work for you". I read the whole chart and immediately after he sticks a pen right through where the lenses should be. I was super humiliated and the doctor just laughed but my mom was so mad.
I was a lying little jerk and I got it good that evening.
My husband is a firefighter and EMT and he told me about a time when they were called for a man seizing. When they got there a guy was lying face up on the floor not moving and then started faking a seizure. So they came up with a plan to expose him.
They stood there saying things like "Oh wow. This is a bad one. But if they did “X” then we should really be worried”! and the patient would suddenly start doing X behavior. Apparently, this went on for a while, until he miraculously woke up in the ambulance asking for opiates.
My husband is a urologist. ER called with a patient who is reportedly writhing in pain from kidney stones. The patient brought with him a stone he passed for analysis. My husband walks in, sees one of the hospital’s regular pill-seekers, and takes a look at the sample. He quickly realized that it was a pebble guy picked up in the parking lot.
I was an intern in a busy trauma ED when a guy walks up the ambulance bay and screams he needs to be seen immediately. They take him back and ask him what happened—and the story he told was bizarre. He says he was in a car accident last night going "100+ mph" on the interstate but did not go to the hospital because he was worried about his friend, the driver. But now he's losing feeling in his legs and has severe back pain and needs to be seen.
So of course the story is super fishy but we put him on a backboard/collar and get some X-rays of the chest and pelvis (our protocol for any severe trauma). The radiologist who is stationed in the ED flags me and asks me a question that made everything click into place. He was wondering when our patient got a CT scan. He showed me his pelvis x-ray and his bladder is super bright: It's filled with the iodine contrast agent they inject in your veins when you get a CT, which is then excreted by the kidneys over the next few hours.
So we confront our patient about why he didn't tell us about being seen at another hospital and getting a CT. He launches into a rambling explanation about concussions and amnesia. He has, of course, also exhibited several other pill-seeking behaviors in his short time in the ED. He decides to leave against medical advice…but not before asking the nurse directions to the nearest hospital, presumably to try the same trick.
My wife's a district nurse, she drives to peoples’ homes changing dressings, giving medications, etc, etc. Her job has her dealing with many people such as gang members and people on home detention, but the worst in her opinion, the people you never trust even a little bit are the methadone patients. According to her a lot of them will try anything to get a little bit more.
She had one not long ago that was being extremely talkative, almost like he didn't want her to leave the house. Then he started showing her every little lump and bump, wanting her to make sure they weren't infections or anything. Although he wasn't making her uncomfortable, she did think it was strange for him as he was normally very quiet and wanted the nurses gone ASAP.
When she got back to her car, the back window had been smashed in, but all that was missing was her sharps container and the lockbox the meds were kept in. It didn't take a genius to figure out what was going on So she walks back to the house, looks in the front window and sees the patient and another guy sitting on the couch trying to open her lockbox and emptying the sharps container on the floor.
She called the authorities at that point. Some of the needles now on the floor were from an HIV+ patient she had earlier in the day, but she sat in the car until the PD arrived—that’s not a situation you want to get in the middle of.
I had a patient fake Guillain-Barre syndrome—ascending paralysis. She ended up in the ICU and I was her nurse. I was a new grad and had to put a catheter in her bladder. She had to pretend she couldn't feel a thing and I could see the pain in her eyes. Later, I found out the devastating truth.
It turned out she got into a fight with her husband and as he was walking out of the house she fell on the floor to make him stay. I don't think she meant to take it so far…but she didn't know how to back out.
There are some fun ones in psych—but I’ll always remember one patient. She went into her room and, in a very obvious stage voice—just loud enough for us to hear her in the main area—started saying random, unconnected sentences/phrases. Then she immediately came out, walked straight up to us, and asked, "How do I know if the voices are real”?
She would act perfectly normal when she thought we weren't looking, but as soon as we walked loudly up to her door she'd start "talking to herself" again. Yeah, no. That's not how psychosis works. Good try though.
This just happened last week, strangely enough. I've been a nurse for 4 years now, and this is probably the worst I've seen it.
This young adult comes in with seizure-like activity. We're a neuroscience floor, so we get these a lot. Complains of severe abdominal pain related to her seizures, apparently. They run multiple CTs and MRIs that come back clean. We put her on a 24-hour VEEG machine (video EEG for those who don't know). She reportedly has 100s of seizures throughout the night, with full body convulsions, drooling, upper extremity contractions, and will not respond to verbal stimuli. Post ictal, she's not lethargic, just confused. Doesn't know her own name, the place that she's in, or what time it is, but the rest of her neuro assessment is benign. No bladder incontinence during, had perfect control of all limbs.
She screams for pain meds when she's not having seizures, but is for some reason refusing everything they offer her. Tylenol—nope. Percocet—makes her feel weird. Lidoderm patch for her abdomen—it gives her sores in her mouth. I guarantee if a doctor dropped the D word, she would have been all over that.
After 24 hours of being there, $1,000s worth of tests being run all coming up negative, the doctors had no choice but to send her home. She became agitated and seizing again, while the doctor is basically explaining that she's faking it. That was the final nail in the coffin for him.
He says, "I'll wait”. She immediately stops. Security had to roll her out, with me in tow, because I was too paranoid that she would throw herself on the floor before leaving and demand to be readmitted. They recommended an outpatient psych consult for her, which made her even angrier. Lord knows, maybe the seizures felt real to her, but she didn't need a special kind of help.
EMT here. The one that sticks out is the most textbook example.
We get called out to a residence at 2 am (because of course, it's always 2 am). Guy says he's having 10/10 finger pain and gingerly holding his hand in the air. Says there was no trauma, just started suddenly and it's unbearable.
So we load him up, take him the 25 minutes to the hospital. Entire time he's holding his hand in the air. But we had a full conversation, talked about football, never once did he complain about pain.
We wheel him into the ER and literally the second we walk through the door, this guy starts writhing in pain. Says he can't sit still the pain is unbearable, he has to stand up, screaming at the nurse to help.
Then he turned to the nurse and said: "I had this same issue at a different hospital two weeks ago. They couldn't tell what was wrong. They gave me morphine but that didn't work so then they gave me Dilaudid. That worked. So maybe you should just start with Dilaudid tonight". And then he went back to moaning in pain.
The nurse and I just looked at each other. We put him in a bed and I drove the 35 minutes back to the station. I highly doubt he was given any pain meds that night—it was just a colossal waste of everyone's time.
This gentleman called 9-1-1 from a restaurant claiming he had a migraine and was unable to see properly. He was literally two blocks from a hospital.
I've had migraines, I'm sympathetic. On the way to the call, I was planning my treatment plan so he would be more comfortable during the wait in the emergency. When we pulled up, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
He was waiting outside, in full sunlight, waving at us. Thanked us politely for coming "to his rescue". Sat in the well-lit ambulance, chatting up a storm, making inappropriate jokes, and laughing. Stating the whole time he has 10/10 pain from a migraine, and that only Percocet works to reduce the pain. He has them frequently, and wouldn't you know it, he's run out of his prescribed medication, and his doctor is on vacation.
The chef from the restaurant he called from came out and asked for his information. That’s when the story got even more hilarious. Our patient was "unable to pay his bill, due to the pain”. He conveniently had no ID he could leave with the restaurant, and only had his debit card with him. He promised to come back, once he was feeling well enough to tap his PIN into the machine, but right now he couldn't. The chef knew 100% the guy was full of it, but couldn't do anything.
As someone who has had a vomiting, shaking, vision effecting, migraine in the past, he did nothing to convince anyone he was in actual discomfort. I actually would greatly prefer if he had said, "I ate a meal I can't afford, and I'm addicted to painkillers, can you please take me to the ER”. Honesty would have gotten him better treatment from everyone involved.
I am an EMT, and I got called for an unconscious intox at a bar. We get her out to the ambulance and she shouts "I'M HAVING A SEIZURE"! She starts waving her arms around. I tell her "People who have seizures generally don't announce it first”.
Her response? "You're being very judgmental, I was getting ready…in case I had a seizure”.
You gotta stretch, I guess.
Well, I'm not a doctor or nurse, but I am a disability attorney. I've seen a few obvious fakes. My favorite was at this hearing office that's a single courtroom sort of tacked onto the back of one of the satellite offices. Judges come down from the main office every so often to do hearings there. However, the entrance is around the side of the building so people often go in the front of the building and sit there waiting, even when I tell them it's around the side.
So, I have this client that did exactly that. She's claiming disability in part because she can't walk more than a few steps without falling over in extreme pain. Uses a cane or a walker to get around everywhere. Of course, none of this is in her records. She originally claimed it was because she couldn't afford to see a doctor so I believed her.
Well, it gets close to her hearing time and she hasn't arrived, so I go out to the parking lot to give her a call. No answer—her phone is already off. I figure that she went in the front entrance. As soon as I start heading toward the front of the building, I am greeted by the most ridiculous sight.
She is running around the side of the building. Cane in one hand. She doesn't even notice me in the parking lot. I go back in to talk to her ahead of the hearing. Suddenly she can't walk anymore.
Yeah there are a ton of cases where people can do short bursts of walking or even running but can't do sustained standing/walking to hold down a light exertional level job, but this wasn't that. This was straight-up faking it for the hearing. Now, luckily, she had other (mental) things that were going on with her which were actually pretty well documented, but it was still pretty funny seeing the miracle cure come running around the side of the building.
We had an employee that was "allergic to everything" and a huge hypochondriac. She was such a headache that we ended up moving her desk waaaaaay away from pretty much anyone else so she would stop complaining. One day, a lady walks by with a strong perfume, and our lovable hypochondriac falls out.
Predictably, EMS is called, and by this point our employee is laying on the ground rolling her eyes back in her head. Scary stuff—if you didn't know she was literally insane.
So EMS arrives and they come over, put the O2 meter on her finger, and she's choking through her speech when they're asking her if she can breathe or not. O2 saturation was at like 97% or something like that. Medic goes "Ma'am, there's no reason why you should be having trouble breathing right now”.
They hung around for another couple minutes, then bounced.
She was a nurse on disability and would fake seizures, which are really hard to fake. She would hold her breath and shake and roll around on the bed. Her O2 saturation dropped to the 70s from not breathing—and maybe the sensor wasn't picking it up well as she was shaking. That’s when we gave her an ultimatum.
We told her we'd intubate if she couldn't protect her airway and she would miraculously stop seizing. She never acted postictal and could remember the whole seizure and everything that was said. The worst part?
She told me she would call my manager since I said during one of her "seizures" we didn't need to give her Ativan.
I had a male patient, 30 years old, unconscious and completely unresponsive for six hours. This guy was totally dedicated to his act. I initially approached it as a stroke, but when the blood pressure, ECG, reflexes, pupils, etc, all are normal, so I start checking pain sensation. He slowly began to open his eyes and groan as I asked him to tell me his name, but the moment his Achilles' tendon was pressed, he suddenly sat up, stated his name, and declared himself cured.
As a resident, I had a patient who had a blood clotting disorder, but also who was addicted to IV pain meds. He figured out how to get admitted for an extensive workup for a possible blood clot in the lung and IV pain meds for his "chest pain".
He came in all the time, but it was very difficult to block the admission, because he actually did have a risk of this problem, never took his blood thinner correctly, and his symptoms always bought him a couple of days at least while we ruled out a clot and got his blood levels where they are supposed to be. But it meant he had accumulated >30 high resolution CT scans of the chest over his life, as part of the workup, which is not good for you.
I had this one question I used for patients I thought might be faking it. I would ask it to people who tended to come in complaining of every serious sounding symptom they could think of: "Does it ever hurt behind your eyes when you pee”?.
I was very salty at that point, and this guy was a nightmare when he ended up on your service, and it really bothered me that this guy was buying himself a lung tumor with all those PE protocol CTs just to get a day’s worth of IV pain meds and Benadryl.
With him, I started asking the "pain behind your eyes when you pee" question like it was extremely important, and quickly he started answering "yes", and I acted like it was an extremely serious condition that warranted evaluation—once it was clear I couldn't avoid the admission anyway.
I considered it one of my greatest achievements in residency that he one day showed up in the ER with "pain behind my eyes when I pee" as his chief complaint. I heard a colleague talking about this crazy dude who came in demanding to be admitted because he had excruciating urination-related eye pain. Made my day.
I had a female patient, 17 years old, who complained of respiratory distress and convulsions. Everything's normal on admission, and she's conscious but refuses to eat. Her parents are worried out of their minds, and every few minutes she has a “fit” where she would just basically shake from side to side.
She let slip to a nurse that she didn't want to go to school that week, so she was faking an illness. Since she was refusing to eat, the attending wrote up an order for a nasogastric tube (which was inserted and then removed by her in a matter of minutes), and we prescribed her sugar pills because her parents wouldn't let us transfer her to psychiatry or discharge her. She finally left after four days.
I had a male patient, 21 years old, who was admitted with inability to speak for last two hours and respiratory distress. Lungs clear, but we hook him up to oxygen for a few minutes. After he's taken off, his father comes running and drags me over, saying his sons tongue refuses to go back in after receiving the oxygen.
I look at the kid and he's seriously just lying there with his tongue poking out like a child. I tell them to push it back in. A few hours later, the dad tells me the boy is convulsing. I go to see without making my presence known and he's lying there just fine. The moment I ask the mom how he's doing, he starts “convulsing”. Think of an odd version of the worm, but on his back. Later, I found out the hilarious truth.
We finally got the story behind it, and basically the kid was mad because his dad took his phone away and this was his way of “punishing” his dad.
My disability firm fired a client who went to a clinic with her husband and son. When she was not examined as thoroughly as she felt was appropriate, she started acting the fool in the hallway outside the doctor’s office and had an "episode”.
Her son recorded the whole thing. She was claiming fugue states or some weird garbage. While she's pretending to pass out/be out of breath/dizzy/weak, she is purposefully hyperventilating but also wailing for an ambulance and DIRECTLY LOOKS AT THE CAMERA multiple times, like checking to see if son is getting it.
The doctor’s staff calls an ambulance just to get her out of there. Before they get there, she "passes out”. The paramedics come and rub her sternum which she obviously physically responds to but refuses to open her eyes. They then drop her hand over her face to see if it will smack her and she lets it fall to the side of her face onto her shoulder.
We watched that video like three times to get over the disbelief that anyone would pull such nonsense and note the obvious signs of faking it. We fired her as a client, but said we could reconsider if she entered mental health treatment for six months and didn't get any better. We never saw her again.
My sister-in-law used to have "seizures". She got in a minor car accident once and afterwards in the hospital the doctor told her she may have had a mild seizure during the accident. My brother was worried about leaving her and their son alone so she was staying at my parents’ house while he was at work.
Suddenly she was having regular "seizures"—but there was just one problem. It was only when she had an audience. I only witnessed one of them but it was ridiculous. It was the day before Thanksgiving and my whole family was at my parents’ house—me, my sister and other brother and our spouses.
We're all talking and she suddenly starts shaking all over, slides herself off the couch to lie on the floor, jiggles about a bit more and then goes still and pretends to be unconscious. My dad called an ambulance and she was still "unconscious" when they arrived. They started talking to her and asking her questions like "Can you hear me"? etc. She would nod her head in answer to their questions.
I remember the EMT being like "Huh, that's weird that she's answering". There was another time shortly after that when she was at my parents’ house and one of my dad's friends came over and while he was there she had another "seizure" and rolled onto the floor. My dad’s reaction was unforgettable.
He’d had enough drama at this point so he just walked outside with his friend. When he came back inside she was sitting on the couch like nothing happened and never mentioned it.
My mom said my brother came to her one morning saying he was sick and asked her to feel his head. This was how she decided if we had a fever and were therefor allowed to stay home. My mom told him sternly to get ready for school. He didn't realize that he'd had grate marks on his forehead from pressing it against the heater.
My partner at work is an administrator with an ED nursing background. She was called in to the ED one night last year to deal with a patient who was complaining of severe headaches and nosebleeds but was refusing to go for any kind of examination in favor of being admitted. They are pretty sure at this point that she is looking for pain meds as she refused to even lie in the bed. My friend left the room and was standing a few feet outside the patient's glass bay talking with the charge nurse when she noticed the patient turn around and hunch over. She subtly stopped the conversation so they could observe. What they saw was so disturbing, it’s unforgettable.
The patient turned around with more blood on her nose and blood on her fingers from where she had been reaching into her underwear and smearing period blood all over her face to fake a nosebleed.
We had a teenager admitted with unexplained "seizure" activity. Her mom & boyfriend were beyond concerned & stayed at her bedside. How she was even admitted in the first place is a mystery. Anyway she started "seizing" and her family called a rapid response—basically it's an emergency but not a code blue.
The rapid team responds & the on call physician was a delightful asshole. The situation was explained as we're going down the hall and he says "Someone give me a flush".
We get in the room ad he says in a soothing tone "It's okay Jane. I'm going to give you some medicine to help. It should work pretty quickly”. That saline quelled her seizure pretty much immediately.
Another paramedic piping in! One day I went out to a "no tell motel" at about 3:30 pm for seizures. When we get there a 25-year-old guy sitting on the bed, and his girlfriend describes "his whole body shaking, it stopped just before you got here". He's completely alert and oriented (people who have seizures generally take a while to “wake up”), and they describe a vague seizure history, with no diagnosis or meds.
He hands me his drivers’ license for ID—even though, if you have a legit seizure the first thing they do is take your drivers’ license away. We finally walk him out to the ambulance and the girlfriend asks if she can come too. I tell her of course, and the real reason comes out.
Apparently, she's on a pass from the same hospital we're transporting to and has to be back by 4pm. There's only one unit that does passes like that...psychiatry!
My son's uncle was pretty much bedbound, to go to the toilet he had to use a walker and it would take him about 10 minutes to slowly get himself to the toilet at the back of the house, he had the whole family waiting on him hand and foot for years.
We were visiting once and my son, a baby at the time, fell asleep in the lounge. I didn't want to move him so I stayed behind reading a book while the rest of the family went out. The house was really quiet.
I heard Uncle get up and watched him march past me with no walker and no mobility issues. He certainly jumped a foot in the air when I said hi, his face was a picture!
We had a patient. He had just committed a heinous crime, no question, it was on video, tried to run from the authorities, crashed his car, and broke his leg. I have seen adult babies before, but this guy took the cake.
I think he thought being unable to walk would keep him out of jail, so this perfectly healthy, 20-year-old man would not even try to walk with crutches, cane, walker, anything. I wanted to read him to the ground but was with a mentor and about four officers and held my tongue.
We get called to a local Waffle House for a seizure. We walk in to find a man lying on the floor, not moving, but breathing. We start talking to the waitress, asking what had happened. While talking to her, we occasionally look down at the patient, and find him with one eye barely cracked open, watching us, when he sees us looking at him, he closes his eye. This happens a few times. Then the authorities show up and find out what's going on.
One of the officers asks the waitress, "Did he (patient) eat here”? "Yes, he did”. "How much is his bill”? "Fourteen dollars”. At this point, the officers roll the patient over and find his wallet, the guy has a $20 bill in it. One of the officers takes out the $20, gives it to the waitress, and tells her, "Keep the change”. You could see the anger in the patient's face when he realizes he's not getting out of paying his bill. He ended up faking a seizure on the way to the hospital.
My mother was the school nurse when I was in high school, but she's been a nurse my whole life. She's told me a few good stories. But I was lucky enough to overhear one of the students trying to fake an illness to get out of class.
The kid, we'll call him Derrick, was a loser. White trash, moody, and destructive. Not my favorite classmate. But I was laying there when I heard him come in and start his routine of attention seeking.
So my mom runs through all the basics, temp, blood pressure, etc. Well, Derrick finally just cuts to the chase, obviously frustrated with the procedure, "Look Mrs S, something is seriously wrong here and I'm not faking it this time", he screeched, defenses already 10 feet high.
She asked: "OK Derrick, what's the problem this time”?
"Well, earlier this morning, I started feeling sick, so I went to the bathroom to throw up. After I was done I looked at the toilet...(dramatic pause) and there where over a dozen whole baby carrots...(another pause, this one I think was for any gasps that might be coming) AND I DON'T EVEN EAT CARROTS”! He was basically shouting at this point.
Well, after about a 10 second pause and what I'm guessing was the hardest straight face my mother ever had to keep, she came up with a legendary reply.
She said, still fighting back laughter, "Well Derrick, your body is producing carrots at an alarming rate. Weird that it only seems to happen during gym, though. Here is a Gatorade and a hall pass to get back to class, see you tomorrow”.
He left, stunned to be written off so easily and we had a good ol' laugh.
"And I don't even eat carrots”! has become a family favorite catchphrase.
I had a guy trying to fake stroke symptoms. Claimed he couldn't move his leg, doctors examine him and he insists he can't move it. Five or ten minutes later I look in the room and he is walking to the bathroom.
When he sees me, he immediately starts limping and acting like it’s hard to walk. Pretty sure he was discharged shortly after.
We get called to a fall in the women's bathroom at Wal-Mart. We walk in, and the manager is FREAKING OUT. We go into the bathroom to find a white female face up on the floor. I'm guessing she weighs at least 350 lbs, there were two friends of hers standing in there with her. I ask her what happened, she says she slipped on a puddle and fell, hurting her back.
I look all over the bathroom floor, there's NO water on the floor. I ask the manager AND the patient's friends—"Do you see water on the floor”? They all said, "No”. I then tell the patient, "There's no water on the floor, ma'am”. She says, "I'm lying on top of it”.
We're going to have to roll her to her side in order to get a backboard under her and pick her up, I explain that to her. As we roll her to her side, I check her back for any obvious injuries, I then check her clothing AND the floor she was lying on—nothing was wet. I have the manager (who was grinning from ear to ear at this point) and the patient's friends look. "Do you see water on the floor? Are her clothes wet”? They all said, "No”.
We then roll the patient onto the board, pick her up, and place her on a stretcher. At this point, I knew exactly what to say to end the ridiculous charade.
I tell the patient, "I'm going to be writing up paperwork for this call and your treatment. Part of what is going to be written up is the fact that you said you slipped on a wet floor, and that no water was found either on the floor or soaked into your clothing. This is standard, I have to write up what I'm told in addition to what I see. What you need to understand is this—if you happen to decide to take Wal-Mart to court, they can request a copy of my run report, and it's going to show what you said and what I found. They can also summon me to testify, and if they do, I'm going to tell them what you told me and what I saw, the manager saw, and what your friends saw. That being said, do you want to keep dragging this out and go to the hospital, or do you want to just get up from my stretcher and be done with it”?
She chose to get up and leave.
My dad works in A&E (accident and emergency) and gets a lot of people wandering in for attention.
So one time a guy is driven in pretending to be unconscious, the same guy who'd pulled this the week before—but they're not allowed to turn these people away. My dad, knowing this, says something like "Hey, isn't this the jerk from last week”?
The guy then miraculously wakes up and starts hurling insults and has to be held back. Charming…but makes for good stories at least.
I’m a student nurse, but this happened when I was at the gym. The guy next to me fell off the elliptical, somehow got his foot trapped between the foot pedals and went sideways. The surprisingly inept PTs—personal trainers are usually well trained in first aid—were freaking out and this guy is really hamming it up. Talks of calling an ambulance are thrown about. I offer to step in.
"AHHHHHH MY ANKLE" He's on the floor grabbing his leg. I kneel next to him.
"Hey bro”, I greet him. He's so surprised that I'm there—I came up from behind—that he forgets to groan. "How much does it hurt on a scale of 1-10”?
"Erm…8" he says. I look at his ankle. There's a scratch on it the size of a penny and superficial, hardly any blood. Little red around the scratch, ankle not swollen. I ask him if he can point and flex his foot and rotate his ankle, which he can do with zero difficulty, not even a grimace.
I figure he's probably hamming it up because it's embarrassing falling off a machine in front of everyone, so I get him an ice pack, tell him he'll be fine, and tell the trainers not to call an ambulance—but the story doesn’t end there.
His sister comes to pick him up in her car and he limps out on the wrong leg.
I had an elderly man who was in his early 70s (long term smoker) who came in with shortness of breath, trouble breathing, and a little bit of a cough and occasional production of blood tinged sputum. That last one is a bad sign.
He also complained of a little bit of back pain he'd been having that started about a month ago after he was helping his son move. When asked to rate his pain he said 2/10 ("not too bad").
He has no other history, always had good blood pressure, no cholesterol issues, no diabetes...has a little bit of anxiety/depression, unmedicated.
So we check him out. Reduced breath sounds all across, more so on the left lower side. Tenderness to palpation in the lower back, he jumped when we touched it, and said it was about a 3/10 when we touched it.
I check his vitals, his blood pressure is 180/85 (this happens with severe pain), he has no fever, and his heart rate is in the 120s (also happens with pain).
I get scans and labs. He has three broken vertebrae, probably pathological (caused by cancer) a pleural effusion (it was malignant, as in, caused by cancer), and a few masses in his left lung. Guy had stage 4 lung cancer that spread to his back, caused his back to break, and he said he had 2-3/10 back pain.
Either he was set on fire in his childhood and then beaten with 2x4s filled with nails then rolled in broken glass...or he was faking not having pain. This is someone who we would describe as a "minimizer".
Not the typical story you expected, I guess.
He got his surgery, and the next day wanted to leave the hospital because he had to do some paperwork and pay his bills. He didn't take any of the pain meds offered to him, except at night to help him sleep.
I hope he's still alive, was a really nice guy.
My mother-in-law is a family doctor. I went to her practice to drive her home and was sitting in the waiting area. The place is emptying out and I'm there alone. The receptionist goes downstairs to get a coffee cause that's the last patient and she just has to do paperwork when they come out.
Then this haggard looking guy wheels in in a wheelchair while she's gone. He wheels over beside me. He's coughing and sounds like and looks like he’s not gonna make it much longer.
Anyway, last patient walks out before the receptionist is back.
A few minutes later out comes my mother-in-law and sees this guy. Her reaction was surprising.
She says immediately, "Mr so-and-so, please leave". He starts on some crazy mumbling ramble about how "he's in so much pain, and he can't even walk anymore”, and a bunch of other stuff, but I remember explicitly the "I cannot walk anymore" statement.
So of course, she says something like, "If you do not leave I'm going to have to call the authorities". I’ll never forget what happened next.
The guy jumps out of the chair (“can't walk”) and runs at her. Now it wasn't super fast by my standards, but he was going to mess her up by what I could tell.
Thankfully, I was able to get up and sort of semi-tackle him against a wall before he got to her. But the guy was strong. I couldn't actually believe what I was seeing.
So anyway, Doctor Mother-in-Law locked herself in the reception office that's glassed in. Apparently, this kind of thing happens more than just once, which is scary. Anyway, she does that and I let the guy go and he didn't seem like he was going to mess with me but I kind of think in retrospect I probably should have kept him tackled or whatever, in case he had something on him, but I thought I was invincible.
Anyway, he swears at her for a while through the glass and started banging on it. And it was as if I wasn't there. I thought he might come at me, or try to hit me, but no he was just boxing the glass in front of him. But the story doesn’t end there.
The one funny part was the secretary opened the door to come in and saw the guy and spilled her coffee and ran like the devil away. The look on her face was priceless. But lunatic man was oblivious.
Anyways, maybe like five minutes later a couple of officers did show up and weirdly the guy kind of calmed down when they did. They cuffed him and took him away and then we did reports and like an hour later I was able to finally drive her home.
But she said the guy just wanted pain meds, and she saw that a lot. I still thought it was crazy he "couldn't walk".
We had a lady when I was in nursing school who had been in the hospital a multitude of time for various (actual) neurological conditions. On top of this, she had borderline personality disorder and was extremely manipulative. She had had a full neuro exam on so any occasions she could actually mimic a problematic exam and make you believe that she was having a stroke or some other issue.
Problem was, on an occasion I witnessed, she'd forget to be consistent with the side that she was feigning weakness or paralysis on. So she'd sit, only move one side of her face, one side of her body, talk funny because she would only move one side of her mouth (since the other was "paralyzed"), etc, but then would forget and move a finger or something on the side that was supposed to be paralyzed.
One time I had a patient who was complaining of severe abdominal pain and the symptoms of cholecystitis. Typically we would do a CT but based on his reported medical/surgical history and allergies we were limited in the tests we could do. He was refusing the tests we could offer. He was from another town and didn't have a physician we could get records off of. His blood work and vital signs were normal. It was all very suspicious but they admitted him to the ICU until we could figure out an action plan.
I'm doing his admission and he says he knows that it's his gall bladder because he's had issues before. He keeps apologizing for being so dramatic but he's never felt such bad pain. The resident orders him a concoction of the good stuff until the intensivist makes it up to the floor to see him.
Finally the physician walks in. I notice he has a particular gleam in his eye. I give him a report and then he does his assessment. The patient writhes in bed while the doctor asks him questions and palpates his stomach. The doctor says it sounds like a bad case of gallstones and cholecystitis. The patient agrees and asks for something for the pain.
The physician responds, "Yeah for gall bladder troubles like yours I would recommend it”. The patient stopped writhing and smiled. That’s when the doctor revealed what he knew. He said, "However, you don't have a gall bladder, I remember I took it out a few years ago when I worked at X hospital. It's nice to see you again”.
The patient's smile turned into the most disgruntled look I have ever seen. He sat up in bed, removed his IV, gathered his things and made for the door. I chased him down the hall telling him he was leaving against medical advice. His response was, "Leave me alone. Obviously, you know I'm fine”.
Firefighter/first responder here, I once had a call for a "vehicle that struck a power pole" at 2 am on a major street. We arrive on scene to find a telephone pole snapped in half and a car that had crossed 8 lanes of traffic to hit this pole straight on. We found the "patient" lying on the ground next to her car, laying on her back with arms crossed across her chest clutching her phone.
Right next to her were her shoes laid perfectly next to each other by her feet. As I approached her I could see her squint one eye trying to see what I was doing. I know she was faking by all of this and called an officer over to "help hold C-spine".
I called her name with no response so next step was painful stimulus, grinding your knuckles into the sternum is an acceptable way to check. The second I said "I'm going to give her a sternum rub" she was awake. Right when we finished packaging her for the ambulance I noticed a man talking to the officers, obviously inebriated. That's when I noticed she smelled like she’d had a few too. It turns out the woman called 9-1-1 to report her own accident and the husband told the officers they were out tying one on, got in a fight, and she decided to leave even when he told her not too.
It was a fake attempt to take her own life to make him feel bad—so he pressed charges for grand theft auto and totaling the car.
Former EMT in rural VT here, we had a call for an unconscious woman found on the side of the road. This was in the middle of January as well so time was pretty important. We swerved down the roads of the village and into the mobile home park, probably saw at least two cars on the side of the road due to the road conditions.
We arrive to the middle-aged woman lying in a fetal position on her left side just outside her home. Her family was at the door and refused to speak with us or provide any information. She had a pulse and was breathing normally, like she was in a coma. We literally ripped her from the ground since her clothing was beginning to stick to the Icy gravel. We load her into the stretcher with the help of two officers.
As the ambulance was pulling out of the park, my crew chief sat in the captain's seat next to the woman on the stretcher. Before I jump into the next part, I just want to paint a picture of my crew chief, he was a retired Navy SEAL that spent years in submarines, and ended up just gaining muscle after he left there. His biceps were the size of my thighs.
Anyway, the ex-SEAL gave this woman the hardest sternum rub that I could ever imagine. Here whole body was just liquid during this, and she did not even flinch. He told me that he only did it for 10 seconds but my mind swears it lasted minutes.
After this failed attempt, my crewmate started an IV to get fluids in. Her lips were a bit cracked, suspicious for dehydration. When the 18 gauge went into her left AC, I swore that she gritted her teeth. None of the other members of the crew noticed anything.
As I was the least experienced EMT at the time, I had the phone duty and spoke with the officers from the scene. That’s when I begin to find out what’s really going on. They explain that the family has had issues with the woman—she lives outside the house, transient—and that she has a history of just faking so she could receive possible stimulants from her friends that typically carry stimulants for their personal use (typically Adderall).
We arrived at the hospital by the time I got off the phone with the officers and didn't get a chance to notify anyone. Once we got into the emergency department, a nurse came right up to the stretcher and asked if we managed to get a temp. We only got a single tympanic temp at the start of transport which was a solid 37 C.
After transferring the woman to the hospital bed, the nurse suggested a rectal temp for a more accurate reading. After hearing this, the lady literally just shot up, jumped out of the bed and walked toward the exit. Security got her and the lady pretended that she was "sleepwalking"…and she normally treats this at home with her friend's Adderall.
My mom's an ER nurse and she said once some crazy lady came in and complained that she had the whooping cough. And whenever she coughed she followed it with a loud "whhhoooOOOP”!
I'm an audiologist, and it's fairly common to have people fake a hearing loss. With adults, it's commonly for worker's compensation/benefits. Children do it for attention or to get out of school for a day.
They are fairly easy to spot...patients will come in, conversing with me very normally, but the audiogram will show a profound hearing loss. I have tricks to make them slip. I like to lower my mic volume to a normal range and mention that they dropped something when they're in the booth, they instinctively reach for it, forgetting that they shouldn't have heard it because of their "loss”.
My favorite is when testing kids that are clearly faking, part of the test requires me to have them repeat words. So I present them at a normal volume and the kids are REALLY straining to hear them…then I slip in funny words like "buttcrack" and watch to see them smile because they clearly heard it.
I work at a veterinary office. I once had someone bring their dog in, claiming the DOG is in excruciating pain…when they're clearly the one looking for pain pills. It’s funny on numerous levels.
First of all, animals don't fake pain. if anything, they go out of their way to mask it. Secondly, if you're not an established client, no vet is prescribing anything without doing a complete work-up, which can easily cost $300 or (significantly) more. Finally, most K9 pain meds are fairly mild and only prescribed in small amounts—a week's worth—so even if you get what you want, you've got probably enough in the bottle for one or two good highs, if that.
We get called to a 13-year-old having a first-time seizure. We get on scene, and the entire family is freaking out, except for the father. I walk into the room where the kid was—OBVIOUS FAKER. I turn to dad and have him go outside into the hallway, I tell him the boy is faking, and I ask if anything unusual happened today.
That’s when I get the real story. The father tells me he found weed in the kid's room, and he was getting on to him about it when the kid started "seizing”. I reassured the father that his son was NOT seizing, and he asked if we could take him to the hospital "just to be safe”. I said no problem.
We pick the kid up and put him on the stretcher, and as we head outside to the ambulance, he exhibits more behavior that shows he's faking. Inside the ambulance, I tell the kid that I know he's faking and ask him to stop, but he keeps on.
The hospital we take him to doesn't have board-certified Emergency Department physicians; they use General Practice and Internal Medicine physicians (a LOT of smaller hospitals do this). I bring the kid in and give a patient report to the internal medicine doc and the RN, and I say the kid is "faking his seizure activity”. The doctor had a problem with that—"You can't possibly tell that he's faking”.
I assure him that, yes, the kid is faking. I explain the situation that led up to him faking, and that I could prove it. The doctor says, "I'd like to see that”. Well, I had a plan. And, the RN knows EXACTLY what's going on and what I wanted to do; he's all for it!
So I say to the kid, "We need a urine sample from you, and we need you to wake up to do it. If you don't wake up, we're going to shove a tube into your nether regions, run it all the way into your bladder, and take a urine sample from you. Please, just wake up and give us a sample”. Nothing from the kid. "Okay, Bob, if you don't wake up in 10 seconds, we're going to start prepping you to get the tube shoved into your you-know-what. Ten, nine, eight, FIVEFOURTHREETWOONE”!
His eyes opened wide as saucers before he realized we caught him. He then closed his eyes, started blinking, looked around the room, and said, "What happened”? The RN was laughing, and the doc was a little mad.
I had an employee tell me their spine couldn't stay straight and when they tried to sit up they'd flop to the left or right. Followed that up with telling me they found out that this was due to one of their lungs being deflated. You know... Because your lungs hold your spine straight. A highlight of my career when he finally quit because he "just wasn't about that cubicle life".
This patient comes in saying she has terrible abdominal pain 10/10. I say okay...and start to examine her. She immediately starts screaming the moment I touch her belly. But look, I've seen patients in terrible pain, and nobody has ever yelled in pain with their eyes open. She wasn't even tensing or anything.
It was a really sad case though, she has a history of coming in saying she was pregnant when the urine and blood test was clearly negative. But then she took it to a disturbing level.
In one case she even tried to steal a pregnant patient's urine. She got caught pretty fast. She was on psych follow-up, not sure what the diagnosis was but my guess would have been Munchausen's. Anyway, we sent her home without pain meds.
I heard this from my ER physician friend. A known malingerer comes into the ER claiming to be paralyzed on one side of her body and demanding stroke meds. My friend examines the malingerer and asks, “Hey, how did you get that bruise under your arm”?
The malingerer lifts up her “paralyzed” arm to look for the non-existent bruise.
My friend is very clever.
ER doctor. I had the worst person in the world with fake seizures that could only be cured by Dilaudid. Seizures aren’t treated by opiates. This lady was insufferable and she knew all the rules she would make sure her enabling husband (IQ 50) came in so she had a driver so she could get pain pills.
If we didn’t give her any he would shut that place down screaming and threatening, while she would spy the parking lot to see which doctors were working and would believe her. Well, one day I had it.
She had brought her son (IQ normal) to the ER and she started fake seizing and screaming. I just let her go. Then she got threatening so I called security and I was the first person to ever get her removed. She then proceeds to walk out the doors with her son and not fifteen minutes later she is back in the ER as a trauma, full collar and all.
She says she’s going to sue me, that she went outside, had a seizure, fell, and is in more pain. So I stop her right there and walk to security around the corner. I know just what to do. I get the security tape. She very clearly looked around, made sure no one was looking, then gently laid down in a mangled position. In the video it looked like her son said “Forget this” and he literally walks away and walks several miles home.
I went and cleared her from her c-collar and backboard after calling the authorities. They came and didn’t do anything. She was back two days later.
We had a woman that claimed she couldn't get up after a fall in her house. We arrived to her entire house being locked, so we called through a window that was cracked to see if there was any other way inside besides breaking through her screen. She proceeds to stand up, go to the front door, unlock the door, walk back to where she was and lay back down.
We did a generic checkup and there was clearly nothing wrong. When she said she didn't want to go to the hospital and we were about to leave, she stopped us and asked us to call Comcast for her since we "are the EMS and are a higher priority".
An ex of mine told me a story about a dude that had a window wiper handle stuck up where the sun don’t shine. He told her it was because he had one laying in the shower, slipped and fell onto it. It never occurred to her that it might have not been an accident.
I had this teenage girl, probably 16, come in saying that her wrist was broken. Her mom was behind her rolling her eyes after every time she would tell me how bad it hurt. She then proceeded to “flop it“ in an attempt to show me how bad it hurt when she did that. She said it was clearly broken and she would need a cast. I said I would take her back and let the doctor do some x-rays and do their thing.
The mother asked to talk to me outside of the room—and she revealed the truth about her daughter. She told me her daughter’s friend recently got a cast and her daughter was notorious for being overly jealous. I just responded by saying that if they were anything wrong, it would show up in the x-ray. Guess what? She didn’t get a cast and threw a fit.
Last I saw her was her crying and throwing a temper tantrum outside of the waiting room and being dragged out by her very embarrassed mom.
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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