Medical professionals have to deal with a wide variety of patients and, let’s face it, not everyone is the brightest candle on the cake. From people playing doctor to self-medicating with home remedies, it is a wonder how some patients even survive.
Here Redditors share their experiences with some of the dumbest patients that have come their way. Undoubtedly, medicine should definitely be left to trained professionals.
1. She Had A Few Screws Loose
I was a surgical nurse who had a patient return to the OR who had some plates and screws put in their elbow for a fracture. The hardware was causing them discomfort, so instead of talking to her surgeon, she came up with a horrifying way to treat herself.
She tried to remove one of the screws with a knife and screwdriver.
I got the case for the wound clean-up and replacement of said protruding screw. She was one of the strangest patients I had.
2. A Throat Of No Confidence
I was an ER doc. I once had a 20-year-old and his girlfriend come in at 2 AM freaking out because “something had tore his throat open”.
He seemed fine. There was no blood, and his breathing was normal. I had him open his mouth and saw nothing. I didn’t want him to lose confidence in me.
Clearly, something had happened, so I was looking and looking.
There was nothing wrong with this kid’s throat. Finally, I said, “Look, it seems OK. What do you feel or see”? He replied, “I don’t feel it, but LOOK, IT’S RIGHT THERE”. I asked, “Where”?, as I was looking and looking.
It was his uvula.
Somehow this kid had gotten to the age of 20 without ever noticing his uvula. His girlfriend was also horrified. I told them it was normal, but they didn’t believe me. So I told them I was about to freak them out and showed him his girlfriend’s uvula.
3. Detached From Reality
I saw this young guy in the ER who had gotten into a brawl with some guys at a bar. When he woke up the next morning, he started getting some changes in his vision.
He said that it was like a “black sheet coming down” on his left eye. This is a textbook symptom of retinal detachment. It’s an emergency in ophthalmology because if it fully detaches, you get permanent vision loss.
You need to immediately go for surgical repair and then be extremely careful with that eye for weeks afterward.
You even have to keep your head down most of the time for the next couple of days to help the re-attachment process take. Well, this patient decided to do the worst thing possible.
Naturally, this guy went and rode roller coasters all day at the local theme park with his buddies.
He first presented to our ER two days later with permanent vision loss in that eye.
4. His Stupidity Fueled His Injury
I had a patient come in who had accidentally stuck a chainsaw in his leg the day before.
He managed to cut his fibula and partially cut his tibia. He put some diesel fuel on it, wrapped it in duct tape, and kept working. The next day he stepped off of something, and it snapped the rest of the way through.
He came in the front door with his leg flopping and bending where it shouldn’t be. To top it off, he rated his pain at a 6/10. He was a tough old man. We admitted him to ortho to clean out the diesel and necrotic flesh.
5. No Tea Or Sympathy
I had a patient who came into the hospital with breast cancer. She had a three-year-old kid and was in the middle of a divorce. Her cancer was not very advanced, as she had been recently diagnosed.
When my ER doctor asked her what treatment she was getting for her cancer, her response floored him.
She said she was doing alternative medicine—basically some sort of antioxidant tea and homeopathic medicines. He looked her in the eye and flat-out told her, “Alternative medicine is not going to help.
You’re going to die if you don’t get surgery, chemotherapy, or what an oncologist recommends. Look at your three-year-old and think how he will be left without a mother because you’ll be [gone] in a few years if you don’t get treated with Western medicine”.
I think no one had told her this flat out in those words because the look of horror on her face and her immediately agreeing to an oncologist consultation in the hospital said it all.
I still think there might have been better ways for him to tell her all this, but in the end, he might have saved her life by being so forward.
6. All Choked Up
A woman who I was taking care of while in labor was having heartburn, and she was sucking on a Quick Eze to get rid of it.
However, she was also sucking on the gas and air at the same time for pain relief, and she sucked so hard that she choked on the Quick Eze. We had to call a code blue because she couldn’t cough it back up.
We eventually sorted her out, and she was okay and went back to laboring. Then, she did literally exactly the same thing ten minutes later. We had to call a code again. This was one of the times I really wanted to be able to tell a person that they couldn’t take their baby home because they were too stupid to be allowed to have children.
7. This Bud’s For You
I had an old coot who was sweet but had clearly spent his adult years drinking away whatever brain cells he started with. He presented with a chief complaint of, “I can’t drink beer anymore.
Every time I drink one, I just throw it back up a few minutes later”. But that wasn’t the worst part.
It turned out Cooter hadn’t been able to eat actual food in months, was subsisting on pretty much just six-packs, and hadn’t pooed in over two weeks.
However, that didn’t bother him a bit until he couldn’t have his brews; then, it was an emergency!
He had a big tumor blocking the distal part of his left colon, and everything gradually got backed up all the way to his stomach.
That’s why he couldn’t keep his drinks down—there was just no more room at the inn. I fixed him with a colostomy, and he got better and left.
He refused chemo, and I figured he’d just go home and lose his life to cancer.
But then, almost exactly one year later, he came back to me with just about the same complaint—obstructed to the point of not being able to drink. Except for this time, it was because his colostomy had essentially retracted into his abdomen and the skin had nearly grown shut over it.
He was pooing out of a teeny-tiny hole in his skin. Even my oldest partners had never seen anything like it. Once again, Cooter wasn’t remotely fazed. He just wanted us to fix it so he could go home and keep drinking.
I did, and I haven’t seen Cooter since. I kind of hope he’s still out there, treating his cancer with Budweiser and just blissfully ignoring the Grim Reaper.
8. Chewed Out
I was a nurse for 20 years.
My husband had a very high pain tolerance and was always hungry, so one day, I met him for lunch. I was worried when he wouldn’t eat and said his lower abdomen hurt. I talked to a doctor friend of mine, and my husband was sent for an immediate CT scan.
He was sent home to wait for the results.
So, being who he was, he felt better and ate two chili dogs with Fritos. BIG MISTAKE. Of course, when the doctor called and told him to get to the hospital NOW because his appendix was about to rupture, my husband had to be kept in a holding pattern for 12 hours because he had eaten a big meal.
9. Hoarding Garlic
My sister-in-law was a GP. She had a middle-aged female patient come in complaining of discomfort, unusual discharge, and odors from downtown. She enquired about her history, but the patient claimed she has had no intimate partners for over eight years.
Ruling out the most common causes for such symptoms caused a little curiosity and an examination. The patient disrobed and presented with an overwhelmingly foul odor. The doctor was trying to remain professional and not throw up.
Seconds into examination, she removed a large clove of garlic, followed by two more.
After initially denying everything, the patient claimed she had forgotten all about them and had inserted them six weeks prior. She was worried about odor and had followed the advice of a Google search.
The haunted look in my sister-in-law’s eyes stayed with me.
10. Pee’d Off
A male patient was in for dehydration and other very routine issues. He had an indwelling catheter placed. Some men cannot wrap their minds around not standing up to pee.
So even though he couldn’t feel any urge to urinate, he stood up to pee. He felt the catheter, forgot why it was there, and promptly ripped it out. He was then left incontinent.
11. MIA For Some Mash
When I was in med school, we had a patient with a Zenker’s diverticulum. It’s essentially a weak spot in the esophagus that makes an outpouching where food and liquid get stuck. One could then regurgitate their food and aspirate, leading to pneumonia and other bad stuff.
We were the primary team, and surgery was going to take him back to the OR on Friday.
On Thursday night, he took off, and no one knew where he went. He came back Monday to the emergency department and got readmitted.
When we asked where he had gone, his response made everyone’s blood boil. He said there was a big food festival that weekend that he didn’t want to miss, so he went.
Instead of getting the surgery he needed, he left to go eat fatty and heavily fried foods, which literally could have ended him.
I used to work at an oral surgeon’s office. A patient came in needing a tooth pulled, and because the root was near the jaw, they needed to have it removed under anesthesia.
The patient did NOT want to pay the $350 for the anesthesia, so he decided to try and take it out on his own.
He used pliers and ended up breaking his jaw. We had to go and fix his jaw and wire his mouth shut, which ended up costing him $9,000 instead of $500.
13. Not Again
My sister was newly pregnant. We were out shopping, and I could tell she was in pain, and it was getting worse. She claimed it was just gas. I offered to take both carts to the checkout while she sat for a bit.
At that point, she was vomiting. I was pretty worried and told her I thought we needed to go to the hospital.
She insisted it was gas, and she had a doctor’s appointment the next day, so she would mention it. The next day, she had an ultrasound before her OB appointment.
Five minutes in, she called me and told me she didn’t know what was happening, but they told her to get dressed and not to move, and she heard them call an ambulance.
She had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy with internal bleeding.
She ended up being fine and got pregnant two months later with my nephew. However, she doesn’t learn. After weeks of her being sick and looking awful, I convinced her to go to her doctor—she had pneumonia.
14. Didn’t See That Coming
I had an itch in my eye one night and figured my contact had dried out.
I went to remove it, but the darn thing was stuck on my eye. So I started pinching hard, trying to get it off, and then my vision went all wacky, and my eye started to really hurt.
I gave up and went to the ER because I couldn’t see.
It turned out my contact had fallen out before the whole process started, and I had been scratching the life out of my eyeball.
I had to wear an eye patch and put in some very unpleasant drops for a week or two.
15. Alleviating The Problem
I had a stress fracture in my foot that had to be surgically corrected. I was given a 60-day supply of Vicodin.
My then-husband was a recovering addict who had me convinced that I was going to become horribly addicted if I took them for more than a couple of days. So, I began taking Aleve because it was stronger than Tylenol, and I only had to take one a day.
As a result, my foot was very slow to heal. A couple of months went by instead of the usual six weeks with little healing. I had to get a CT scan, and I was very worried because this small little fracture just wasn’t getting better.
My doctor asked what I was doing for the pain, and I told him about the Aleve. That’s when I realized the disturbing truth.
It turned out that NSAIDs interfere with bone healing. I cut out the Aleve, and my foot healed a few weeks later.
I had a client with a stroke who received TENS—treatment in rehabilitation with really low electric impulses to stimulate muscles and nerves. After rehabilitation, he was offered to get one of the things for home use completely free of charge.
He refused because filling out the one-page paper was too much work. He decided to just use what he had at home.
So, he tried using a transformer/transistor for this “therapy”. That completely destroyed the small amount of nerve function we had achieved in rehabilitation and screwed up his condition a lot.
17. A Six-Pack Is Not The Solution
I once had a man with substance issues who basically just enjoyed being in the hospital. He came into the ED and was admitted for cellulitis of his foot. He was also a super uncontrolled diabetic.
He had a foot ulcer that probed to the bone and had osteomyelitis (infected bone) in his foot as well. We kept him in the hospital for a few days to get this ridiculous infection under control.
Finally, he was stable enough to send home with close follow-up for wound care. He came back six hours later for the most ridiculous reason. The pharmacy had run out of the pain medicine he had been prescribed, and instead of taking his prescription to another pharmacy, he grabbed a six-pack instead.
He drank the whole thing and then drove to his sister’s house. That’s when disaster struck. While en route, he pooped himself such that he got poop in his diabetic foot ulcer. When he showed up at his sister’s house, she told him he was too sloshed for her to deal with and he needed to drive himself to the hospital, so he came back to us.
He lost the toe and part of his foot.
18. Headed For Disaster
A homeless man came into the emergency room with a small cut on his scalp. The doctor stitched it up. However, the man went back to sleeping on the streets.
He never came back for his check-up a week later. Then, six months later, he showed up—and we couldn’t believe our eyes.
He had an entire colony of maggots living under his scalp.
19. A Sore Spot
I had a patient who came in, and she thought she had scratched her eye, taking her contact out. When we looked, it was bad. She had a gigantic ulcer on her eye. Ulcers, if deep enough, will eventually scar.
Depending on where the ulcer develops will determine if there is any long-term damage done.
If her ulcer had been about .5 mm to the left, the patient would have lost some of her central vision.
She already had five ulcer scars in that eye and eight ulcer scars in the other. Apparently, this wasn’t her first rodeo. It turned out she would sleep in her contacts every night and throw them out about once every three months to save money.
A year’s supply of her monthly contacts was $120. That one office visit alone was about $100 plus about $200 for a tiny bottle of medication to treat the ulcer, not to mention a copay for her follow-up visits.
She had no backup glasses, and obviously, she couldn’t wear contacts with an ulcer, so she also had to pay to get a quick pair of glasses made, which was about another $400 setback.
Contact lens wear time is not set to make more money for eye doctors.
Your eye will literally develop a sore to tell you that it needs to breathe.
20. Case Closed
I was a workers comp adjuster and had a claimant completely disappear after surgery was ordered. Two years later, he got an attorney who demanded the surgery be approved now.
After months of back and forth, we approved the wrist surgery. But it still didn’t end well.
Two days after the operation, the authorities found him walking down a county road, blasted out of his mind on crank, ripping out his stitches.
The doctor dropped him, his attorney dropped him, and the state closed his case. The last I heard was he got out of prison, grabbed all his meds from home, and disappeared again.
I never followed up with the doctor and cringe to think what his arm looked like.
21. Chakra Con
I had a patient who was utterly ravaged by advanced cancer. Several doctors had told him and his wife that his condition was terminal. The patient seemed to understand when he was lucid, and his wife said she understood as well.
He was in hospice for comfort. One night he had trouble breathing, and the wife called for an ambulance, against the patient’s wishes.
Thus began a three-week pointless and painful ordeal that involved life support, dialysis, at least one round of CPR on a man whose bones were riddled with metastasis, and diarrhea.
His wife was adamant that he would get better through holistic medicine. On top of being in denial, she was dumber than dirt.
She filled the intensive care room with all sorts of new-age tchotchkes, like inspirational pictures and rocks.
She even refused pain medicine because it would dim his chakras. The wife left a crystal geode on the bed, and the crystal worked its way underneath the patient’s hip. The consequences were gruesome.
The patient developed a raging bed sore that never closed, was nearly always soaked in poo, and was a pain to dress. This was all done on a patient who wanted to leave this earth and was in already excruciating pain.
22. Quitting Was Not An Option
My mom’s boyfriend had oral and throat cancer. The guy had a stoma and no tongue and was still inhaling around three packs a day. My mother-in-law got diagnosed with stage three lung cancer and quit smoking and drinking for a couple of months.
As soon as the doctor said her condition was improving, she went straight back to puffing and partying.
It only took a few months for the cancer to get to stage 4 and spread to her liver, kidneys, and brain.
She smoked up until a couple of days before she passed, and even then, only because the brain cancer caused her to lose control of her limbs, and she physically couldn’t hold anything anymore.
It was so sad to watch.
23. Hippie Hijinks
I was a therapeutic radiographer. We use radiation to treat cancers. We tell patients to be careful with what products they use on their skin because they can react with the radiation and give awful side effects.
We had this one patient who was a total hippy. She was having treatment, and within a couple of weeks, we noticed her skin becoming very burned and breaking.
At the beginning of her treatment, we told her ONLY to use simple moisturizers and to ask us if she wanted to use anything else.
We asked her whether she was using anything on her skin. She was like, “I’M GLAD YOU ASKED”! She pulled a pamphlet out from her bag that was about this miracle oil that supposedly treats cancer.
She had been slathering it on every day, and because of this, the radiation was making her skin literally fall off. We told her to stop using it immediately and that if she wanted to use it, she’d have to wait until after treatment.
She got all heated and started telling us we were a product of the system and we didn’t want her actually to be cured of cancer by this oil because then we would be out of a job.
Then, she stormed out.
The next day we saw her handing out these pamphlets to every patient that walked into the department. She refused to continue with her radiotherapy, claiming that we were only harming her and that the oil was going to cure her.
We had to get security to show her out and get her doctor to sit down and talk to her.
We then had to take the pamphlets back from our patients and give a big PSA as to why what she was saying was nonsense.
We never saw her again.
24. Sweet Jesus!
A kid had undiagnosed diabetes and went into a ketogenic coma. He was peeing the life out of his body because of the abnormally elevated blood sugar levels. So, his parents saw that this kid was clearly dehydrating, and what did they give him to drink?
Soda. Sweet, glucose-loaded soda. You can imagine the rest.
25. A Real Eye Opener
I was an ophthalmologist. We once treated a patient who had a very severe corneal ulcer in his right eye. We tried everything to treat the ulcer—antibiotics, Aciclovir, antifungal eye drops, everything we could. The ulcer would not heal.
We asked the patient if he was using any other substance in his eye, such as corticosteroid drops or ophthalmic anesthetics.
We explained to him that he could never use these kinds of eye drops for his condition because they could make everything worse.
He would always be empathic, saying that he’d never do such a thing. We then scheduled a corneal transplant, even though it was a risky procedure, it was the last chance we had.
Then one day, I was talking to him, and he seemed very confused about the eye drops and their posology.
I asked him to show me all the eye drops he used to explain their posology, one by one. He took out a bottle of ophthalmic anesthetics from his purse. My stomach dropped.
I asked him how long he had been using those drops, and he said that since the beginning of the treatment, he started using them to get rid of the pain, which meant he had used those drops for basically eight months, every day, four times a day.
I asked him why he did that, even after we warned him not to do so.
He said, “I thought you guys were exaggerating”. Because of his crazy anesthetic use, he made a very simple corneal ulcer become a very severe one.
His eye ended up having a perforation after that, and a corneal transplant was performed. After the surgery, he stopped going to our service, so who knows what he’s doing to his own eye by now.
26. Sealed With A Tick
I was a nurse. One summer, I picked a tick off of my belly, rubbed some antiseptic on it, and went on with my life. Over the next few weeks, I had a consistent red circle where the bite had been, but I had been in the sun, so I didn’t think anything of it. After about a month, I started having a terrible stiff neck and ear pain daily, which I just kept brushing off to “sleeping wrong”.
I ran a 10-mile race and woke up the next day exhausted, aching, and with a fever.
Again, I thought I had just pushed myself too far. Twenty-four hours later, there were circular red rashes on my joints. I showed one of the doctors I worked with, and he asked me how long I’d had Lyme disease.
27. Valentine’s Day Of Doom
I messed up.
I knew all of the signs and symptoms to look for and would’ve told literally anyone else to haul themselves to the ER, but I was stupid and stubborn. It was Valentine’s Day, and I was sick. I had a fever, chills, fatigue, nausea, and general misery that had kept me home for the day.
I worked in the medical field myself, and it seemed that the entire region was being decimated by the flu, so no biggie. I had a weird twinge in my side that started a few days prior that I thought was probably a pulled muscle from too many back stretches at the dance studio, so I shrugged it off.
However, now it legitimately hurt with every step I took. I figured I would go to have it checked out later, but was in need of sleep, so I went to bed. I woke up with barely enough time to fling myself out and towards the hall bath, just in time to vomit more fluids than I thought I had consumed.
I also noticed the lack of the coughing or congestion that typically arrived with the flu, so I thought that maybe there was something else going on.
The pain in my side was right over my left kidney. I called my husband and explained the current circumstances, asking him to come home and take me to the doctor.
Because I was a stubborn paramedic who hated when people went directly to the hospital’s emergency room for ridiculously minor things, I went to an urgent care clinic near my house. I expected to have a PA confirm my self-diagnosis and tell me to tough it out with Flonase and Mucinex.
The PA took a quick look at me and told me to go to the hospital. I protested, but she was serious enough that I was actually considering going. I finally agreed to go just to make my husband more comfortable with the situation, but I fully expected that this was a waste of time and hours of my life I would never get back.
By the time we arrived, I’d accepted that I had pyelonephritis, a kidney infection, but I still felt the ER was too much. After triage and a preemptive blood draw for labs, I was taken to a room.
I didn’t even have time to change into the stupid, drafty, rear-baring gown provided before my nurse arrived to start a saline drip to treat my dehydration.
Several minutes later, I was talking with the physician about my signs and symptoms when there was a knock at the door, and a lab tech entered to hand-deliver my test results.
I watched her eyes widen as she read the CBC values, and then she announced, “Yeah, we’re gonna be keeping you overnight”.
She then ordered a second IV line, serious pain meds, and a massive dose of IV antibiotics and left me trying to figure out what had just happened.
I expected a patient transport tech to come to fetch me and take me upstairs to a general medical ward. Instead, an RN started to wheel my bed toward the elevator, which was really weird.
Nurses usually have better things to do than move patients between wards. At that point, I hadn’t been told anything about what was wrong or where I was going. I started to get somewhat nervous as I was moved into an intensive care unit.
I rationalized this by telling myself that they must be out of general med/surg beds, so I was being put into this room as overflow.
It was a huge room, and my nurse appeared to have only one patient—me. Within minutes, I was hooked up to every type of monitor I’ve ever attached to a patient and then some. I also had a transmitting cardiac telemetry monitor stuck to me.
My nurse went through the endless list of health history, lifestyle, and medication questions and asked my husband to bring my birth control pills from home.
I said, “Uh, is that really necessary? I mean, I’ll be home tomorrow”. She looked at me with both amusement and pity, then continued bustling about the room doing important nursing tasks.
It wasn’t the flu. She shattered my last layer of denial by showing me my lab results. My white count was 28.77, where a normal blood cell value is between three and ten.
I was so far past that, that I was in critical condition.
I was in septic shock in addition to renal failure and E.coli septicemia. Had I waited a few more hours to seek medical help, I’d probably have been toast. I couldn’t deny the seriousness of the situation anymore, I just felt too sick to even care.
After a sleepless night and an endless parade of nurses, CNAs, phlebotomists, X-ray/imaging techs, and a priest, I finally met my attending physician and a whole crew of residents.
I was exhausted, grumpy, and in pain, but apparently, I still needed to be lectured on how dangerously close to the end I’d gotten by waiting to seek help.
Afterward, we had a nice, round-table discussion of my treatment plan, how the antibiotics were working, and about how I was probably going to be just fine in a couple of days, but I was wrong again. The massive infusion of fluids and treatments to kick-start my kidneys caused my lungs to fill with fluid, resulting in a condition called ARDS, in which you can’t breathe.
The alveoli, those little sacs in your lungs that do the CO2/oxygen exchanging, were effectively flooded, meaning that no matter how much air I was gulping in, I simply couldn’t extract the amount of oxygen needed to live without medical intervention. I really didn’t want to end up intubated with a ventilator breathing for me.
So, my awesome attending let me try the less dramatic option of diuretics and staying awake to remember to breathe.
It sucked. It was, seriously, the worst, most miserable experience I’ve been through, but it worked. On the morning of day five in the hospital, I got transferred to a general medical ward.
It was blessedly quiet, at least until I dozed off, and my oxygen sats would drop again, and then the monitor would shriek me awake.
I was slowly weaned off of supplemental oxygen over the next few days and eventually got to go home on the condition that I’d sleep with a little extra oxygen at night.
The scariest thing about the whole experience was how it snuck up on me so stealthily.
Our working theory is that I must have had a completely asymptomatic UTI that progressed to my kidneys, but there was no way to know for sure. UTIs aren’t generally subtle, and if I’d even suspected I had one, I would have gone to urgent care for a UA and an antibiotic prescription.
I knew what to look for, and it still nearly managed to end me.
28. What’s Bugging Them?
We see a lot of people who get a common rash like eczema or some other unspecified dermatitis who very sadly convince themselves that they have bugs, worms, or other creatures in their skin.
They dig at their skin, pour bleach on themselves several times a day, or even cut into the skin to try to dig these nonexistent parasites out.
In doing so, they hurt, sting, itch, and suffer more.
Some even isolate themselves from family and friends, fearing they’ll spread a nonexistent infestation. It’s very sad.
29. Slipped Away Due To Snake Oil
I was an oncology nurse. I had a patient with a relatively treatable cancer fail to tell us about an herbal cure that his son bought for $300 a bottle.
He was taking it while getting chemotherapy. It wound up shutting down his liver and kidneys, being hospitalized for weeks, and delaying treatment, so the cancer spread.
His system was too weakened to resume treatment.
He lost his life because of the snake oil cure.
30. Wake Up, Stupid!
I had a patient who was found unconscious and brought into our hospital. Unbeknownst to him, he was a diabetic and went into a coma.
We got him straightened out and sent him home with insulin. A week or two later, he came into the ER for vomiting, dehydration, and blurred vision.
He hadn’t been taking his insulin since “only really sick people need insulin”.
31. It Was All Greek To Me
I was a nursing student and had a female patient with an indwelling catheter to help void her urine because she had fluid overload from heart failure.
I was at the nursing station giving my assigned nurse a report when I saw my patient walk up to us and start speaking to us in Greek.
It took me about two seconds to realize that she didn’t have her walker with her and another two seconds to notice she didn’t have her catheter with her either.
I walked her back to bed and saw the catheter attached to her bedpost with the balloon still fully inflated.
32. An Acute Case Of Stupid
I looked after a man diagnosed with high-risk acute leukemia. We gave him chemo, which basically destroyed his entire immune system and bone marrow.
He decided he simply could not give up smoking, so multiple times a day, he would leave his room and go down to the bottom floor for a smoke.
When you have no immune system, if you pick up the smallest of infections, they become life-threatening.
Sure enough, he got severe sepsis and had to stay in the ICU for a spell. But that wasn’t all. He also left the ward once with the chemo running IV. The cannula tissues and the chemo infiltrated into his muscle instead of the vein.
33. No Casting Any Doubt, We Were Stupid
When I was in college, my new roommate started the year with a cast from a summer injury. He had it on for a week or two and had about another six weeks to go when the semester started.
He met many new people those first few weeks, and he was getting annoyed being referred to as “cast boy”. He also came to the realization a few weeks later that none of the college girls really dug a guy in a big arm cast.
All those things led to him and me getting tipsy and cutting off his cast about five weeks into his six-week healing process. All seemed good until my buddy went in a few days later for the final check-in.
The doctor let him know that by taking his cast off a week early, he had completely messed up the recovery process.
He showed back up to school the next day with another cast that he had to wear again for another full six weeks.
34. System Overload
I had a patient come in totally altered, with a blood pressure of 73/45. It turned out he took his blood pressure at home and, seeing that it was elevated, decided to take his blood pressure medications.
The thing was, he had never taken these medications before, one being prescribed in 2016 and the other in 2017 by different physicians who didn’t know about the other prescription.
After we got his pressure up and he started talking sense, he started complaining of a terrible headache.
I told him, “Well yeah, you have a headache. You just under-perfused your brain for who knows how long. You should be thankful you don’t have brain damage”!
35. What A Crackpot!
I had a little old lady come in complaining of coughing up blood.
She was bringing up huge clots of blood every few minutes and had pain in her throat. I asked her if she had done anything for the pain, and she told me, “Well, I smoked some crack”. I asked her if she normally does that, and she said, “No. I’m a drinker, but I thought it might help”. Crack will not help—with anything.
36. Procrastination Almost Did Me In
I put up with appendicitis for five or six days before going to a doctor.
I couldn’t eat or sleep, was in constant pain, and vomited multiple times an hour, but I just thought I was ill and would be fine in a couple of days. My heart stopped as my appendix burst mid-surgery.
I shouldn’t have even been operated on, but a slot had opened up. If it were not for that, I would have lost my life in my hospital bed just because I thought I would be fine.
I had to spend a week in the hospital for a routine operation.
37. A No-Show Was Not The Way To Go
I worked in a cancer clinic. There was a woman who had a mammogram a few years prior that showed a small (<1cm) cluster of calcifications but no discernible mass or distortion.
She was instructed to come in for a biopsy but never showed up and never got another mammogram.
Years later, she came into our clinic with a primary complaint of unequal bust sizes and a right bosom “significantly firmer” than the left. Imaging revealed she had a 14 cm mass in her right mammary.
Essentially, that entire bosom was replaced by cancer.
The saddest part of this was that our oncologist believed that if she had done the biopsy years back, they likely would have either found an extremely early-stage invasive tumor or possibly only carcinoma in situ.
She likely would have needed a lumpectomy and radiation and may not have even needed chemo.
She would have had a very high chance of surviving to her normal life expectancy. She lost her life about three months after coming in.
The cancer had spread all through her body. She was in her early 50s; she left behind two teenage children.
38. Bleach Bungle
I was in the Navy, and this girl in our battalion got lime burns all over her hands from not wearing gloves and not washing her hands after handling fresh concrete.
It was a rookie mistake. After being treated the week before and given additional training on the dangers of chemical burns, she went to the doctor, saying her burns had gotten significantly worse.
Once he looked at them, he noticed that they were essentially raw all over and bleeding in spots.
When he asked her what had happened, she stated that, “My aunt is a doctor and told me to wrap my burns in bleach-soaked rags to heal”. The doctor was speechless. He didn’t know if her aunt was actually a doctor or if she had the bright idea herself and was too embarrassed to admit it.
39. Duped For A Doobie
Before I got into medical school, I worked as a healthcare assistant in an emergency department.
One day I was working in the resuscitation room (resus), where the sickest patients were looked after. One woman had been in resus for several hours and was very unwell, but she was absolutely itching for a smoke.
She kept pestering us to let her out to have one, to the point of threatening to pull out her IV lines and just walking out. We decided it would be an overall lower risk for me to take her out in a wheelchair and supervise her while she had a really quick smoke.
So I did.
I parked the wheelchair just outside the emergency department’s main entrance, so we were still nice and close and could rush back in if necessary. The woman whipped out the biggest spliff I had ever seen and lit it right up.
I was so embarrassed! There were other patients and visitors sitting right next to us.
She kept toking on it right until the end despite my pleas for her to stop. When I took her back inside, I don’t know what had happened, but the ED was FULL of law enforcement agents. I had to wheel her right past them all, both of us absolutely stinking of weed.
I could not leave that shift soon enough.
40. Here We Toe Again
When I was a newer nurse, I cared for a diabetic patient who was going to lose another toe. The patient knew the toe had been scratched and knew the risk of infection but couldn’t afford to go to the doctor for care.
They finally had to be admitted to the hospital, where said toe was amputated.
The patient’s exact words to me were, “Every time I come in here, I leave a piece of me behind”.
41. Time To See The Light
I was an optician and optometrist, and SO MANY semi-blind people refuse to get glasses because they don’t want to “spoil” their eyes. They come back six months later with migraines and complain about not being able to drive in the dark or read, and get angry because their eyesight is not getting better, although they’re always “training” their eyes.
It doesn’t work like that.
42. One Last Puff
My grandma was in the hospital for heart surgery, sharing a room with a guy who was waiting for a lung transplant. The guy was out on the balcony having “just one last smoke” when he was supposed to have quit months before.
The transplant surgeon came in and saw the guy puffing away.
He didn’t speak to him but left, took him off the transplant list, and booted him out of the hospital.
43. Herbal Hideaway
An old guy was in for rehab after some kind of orthopedic surgery.
He had been taking Warfarin for DVT prophylaxis. His INR (a clotting time test) was coming back as out of whack, time after time, despite dose adjustments, and nobody could really figure it out. I went into his room on some routine task and saw a large pill bottle on the dresser.
It turned out to be an herbal supplement containing, among other things, garlic, ginger, and ginseng, all of which interact with Warfarin to make it more effective. The guy’s wife took the pills home, and he was lectured, “Please run even over-the-counter meds past your doctor because you absolutely did this to yourself”.
After that, his labs normalized.
44. No Bones About It
My mom’s a nurse, and she told me about a patient she had who they were pretty sure had bone cancer. Her calcium levels were through the roof, and it was beginning to mess with her heart function, which was how she ended up on the unit with my mom.
Several days had gone by, and they couldn’t get her calcium to level out with any treatment and were having even more trouble finding where the cancer was.
The patient’s friend visited her, and my mom walked in to find them eating little chocolates her friend had snuck in as a treat. It turned out they were calcium choco; Ie chews.
This woman had been eating nearly a bag of those every day. She didn’t have cancer, and there was no lasting heart damage, but she did have a long and very stern talk about reading the labels on things and telling your doctor everything.
45. He Came Out Swinging
I was a theater nurse.
One day, I turned up for a night shift and looked through the theater window to see what case the evening folks had on the go. I saw a surgeon and a scrub nurse working away on some fingers at a hand table.
The rest of the patients did not arrive at the theater for another 45 minutes.
It was a pretty standard circular saw injury—an older guy who was doing some home handiwork had a momentary lapse of concentration. I took over from the evening scrub nurse, and we spent about two hours working on trying to salvage and reattach this guy’s fingers.
It was followed by another three or so hours trying to tidy up the damage and repair what we could after deciding the fingers were too badly damaged.
At about 4 AM, we’re finally done. His poor stumpy hand was wrapped up like a boxing glove, he was back on his bed, and the anesthetist was waking him up.
Sometimes patients wake up sick, sometimes they wake up peacefully, and sometimes they wake up crying.
This guy woke up swinging. He was rolling around in the bed, trying to get up, waving his arms about, shouting. Unfortunately, when you first wake up from an anesthetic, your body might be awake, but your brain isn’t keeping up, so telling him to lie down was like talking to a brick wall.
I will always remember looking at this delirious half-awake man on his bed on all fours, with a large portion of his considerable weight resting on his newly refashioned knuckles.
All I could think of was, “I am so glad we didn’t just put fingers back on that hand”!
46. He Was Dumb, Warts, And All
I was a Navy hospital corpsman. I was on deployment in Japan with a Marine artillery battalion.
On a relaxing weekend off, I was awakened around 3 AM to a POUNDING on my barracks room door. It was common practice for my Marines to come to find me should they require medical aid on our off time.
Aggravated by being rousted awake, I opened the door to find one of my jarheads standing there. My jaw DROPPED. His eyes were glassy and bloodshot, and he was completely sloshed, without a stitch of clothing, with the exception of the red hand towel he was covering up his manhood with.
He said, “Doc! Please help, I’m scared, and it won’t stop”. After a very brief exam, the problem was obvious. The red towel was actually white but had become soaked through with blood.
This young man had contracted a case of genital warts a long time before that night. Embarrassed to come to see us about it and thinking he would be in trouble, he kept it a secret.
Naturally, with enough time, his case worsened and grew, spreading over a larger area of his groin and clustering as this condition does. Warts are also very vascular, so they bleed easily and profusely. Having filled himself with liquid courage, this young Marine took it upon himself to apply a little home treatment.
He sat in the buff on the edge of the tub and went to work on himself to remove his many genital warts. His tool of choice was a pair of nail clippers. Blood was draining down the side of the tub before he got to the point he became desperate enough to reach out.
I wrapped a blanket around him and took him to our battalion aid station (BAS) just like that.
47. Playing Doctor Is Dumb
I was an ER resident and had a patient who came in for pain in his schlong.
He said it had been going on for two days, and he couldn’t feel the tip of it, and the shaft was very tender and painful. On examination, he had the top skin retracted, and it was so swollen it couldn’t be reduced over the tip. So, I asked him, “Did anything happen in particular when this first started”?
He said he had some mild discharge a few days ago and decided he needed to clean it off.
But it was what he used to clean it that as so disturbing. He took “the cleaner I use to clean the dashboard of my car” and rubbed it on the tip of his manhood because he thought it was sterile, like antiseptic.
This, of course, burned, and the tip of his junk blew up like a balloon.
This continued for two days. He said he could still pee, so he “didn’t think anything of it”. Then, he said that morning, he decided to try and reduce the skin, and it wasn’t working, so to decrease the swelling, he took Purell hand sanitizer and rubbed it on the tip again.
As he was doing that, his wife walked in, saw how deformed his schlong looked, and brought him to the ED.
He really did not know when to stop playing doctor.
48. Aspiration Situation
I did clinicals at an LTACH, a nursing home that can take trachs, catheters, vents, etc. A patient there was forbidden from eating orally because he could aspirate—but that didn’t stop him. He had a feeding tube but squirreled away candy bars, chips, and other non-perishables in his drawer.
Every day he ate something from his drawers, and every day there would be a code because he aspirated it. On my last day there, he drank Dr. Pepper and aspirated it to the point they had to take him to the hospital.
Last I knew, he had aspiration pneumonia and had to have a trach put in due to him not being able to get off the vent.
49. Donor Dilemma
When my grandfather was in his 80s, he had to have one of his knees replaced but was in great health otherwise.
When they did the surgery, there was an issue of him not having enough blood to circulate in his body, so he needed several transfusions. The doctors weren’t really sure why this was happening.
It turned out he and my grandma had gone to donate the day before his surgery!
50. No More Wire Hangers!
I had a patient whose throat was itchy. Coughing and hacking weren’t helping, so he tried scratching it with his finger.
When he couldn’t reach the itchy part, he decided to get a tool. He decided that using the hook of a wire coat hanger would do the trick. It seemed to be working, as he could finally reach the itchy spot, but then the hook got snagged.
His solution was to tug harder.
The guy ripped a hole through the back of his hypopharynx, the wall opposite the base of his tongue. Gas got from there into all the soft tissue in his neck, face, and chest. If you felt his skin, you could feel the gas moving around underneath.
It still makes my skin crawl.