Why do we like medical TV so much? Because hospitals are a hothouse of DRAMA. But who needs to boob tube? These real-life medical horror stories, shared by the doctors, nurses, and patients of Reddit, are crazier than any show, and they’re actually real.
1. Little Red Dots
When I was about 16, I started having these little red irritated spots show up on my arm. My mom was immediately like, “You have psoriasis, just go tanning.” So I tanned for about a week and they just got worse. Now I had them all over my body. I even had spots on my eyelids. I went to the doctor finally, and he made a gruesome discovery.
It turned out I had ringworm. Even worse? By tanning, I was basically rubbing them all over with the lotions and incubating them while I tanned.
2. The Root Of The Problem
My husband and I were messing around and he chased me through the kitchen. When I took a hard left turn, he lost his footing and fell on his side. He’s a big dude, so falling is a bit more traumatic for him. He couldn’t put pressure on his leg and he knew immediately he was hurt pretty bad. He was able to crawl to the couch, and once he settled in, he said he wasn’t in too much pain.
He decided to sleep on the couch that night so he wouldn’t have to go upstairs. We made an appointment in the morning for the ER so we wouldn’t have to sit there all day, but they didn’t have an opening until 2 pm, so we just hung out at the house. He was in a decent amount of ambient pain, but it didn’t seem too urgent. Once we got to the hospital, however, we found out the shocking truth.
He had broken his hip, breaking off his entire ball joint from the top of his femur. The nurses said they couldn’t believe that he was able to sit up and sleep on it, which implied that we should have come the night before—and probably by ambulance. It required surgery with some hefty bolts to put it back into place. But the crazy part is that, apparently, a healthy 30-year-old man breaking his femur from standing is highly unusual. That’s when we found out that there was an even more terrifying cause behind it.
After several tests and an MRI, it turned out he was in the early stages of osteoporosis. Even craziest? It was due to a pituitary tumor in his brain. So we discovered a benign brain tumor all because the dude was wearing slippery socks.
3. A Heavy Burden
I went to the doctor to get a note for a day off work because I didn’t feel so great. The doctor poked me in the stomach and said, “That’s not normal,” then sent me off to have a scan…which took me two months to get around to. Two weeks later, I got a letter from the doctor asking me to come in. When I got there, the doctor went off at me for not coming in sooner…
He told me to go home, pack a bag, and make my way to Royal Brisbane Hospital immediately as it might be cancer. Some more scans later and it was determined not to be cancer, but a four-kilogram cyst. My only symptom was an enlarged stomach and the “You’re getting fat” comments from my mother.
4. Not One, But Two
My oldest son was 11 years old and he needed a physical for youth tackle football. He had complained that his ankle hurt during the middle of baseball season so she asked if he could take off his shoe. When he did, she immediately pointed to the side of his foot where there was a strange bump and informed us he had a broken foot.
I didn’t believe her because he had the same thing on his other foot as well. So she took a look at the other foot and said, “Oh…he has TWO broken feet.” She then sent us over to get X-rays from the hospital. I was laughing in my head, thinking it was so crazy that my son, who not only finished playing in a baseball tournament but had also been running and jumping at the swimming pool literally an hour before, had two broken feet.
After the X-rays were completed, my smile quickly faded as the doctor was right. That’s when we learned about how completely flat feet can be damaged with stress fractures that go undetected. He was put into a cast for eight weeks and was made to wear special shoes and insoles for the rest of his life. His feet are still deformed, but it has never slowed him down.
5. Jack Of All Trades, Indeed
It was my first year out of my family practice residency. The specialists like to sneeringly refer to us as jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none. Anyway, I was on call from the ER, and a normally unshakable ER doctor was beside himself. He had a very pre-term mom in active labor and the fog outside that day prevented us from flying her out to a well-equipped hospital.
He was the only ER doctor, and the transferring facility wouldn’t take her into transport without a physician on board, so they called me in. En route, I was trying to coach her to breathe through the contractions. Then disaster struck. She felt something coming out—it was the baby’s foot. We were in the back of an ambulance when this happened.
We delivered the baby about a minute or two out of the hospital. When we got there, they were expecting a mom in pre-term labor, not a micro-preemie. One nurse met us in the ambulance bay, took a look at me holding the baby with a blanket and oxygen, and said, “Follow me.” We ran through the hospital and turned on an incubator.
The pediatric doctor wasn’t present at that moment and the baby’s heart rate was low, so I proceeded to intubate her. That was 12 years ago. She survived and is doing great. I wrote my program director at 4 am that morning when I got back home thanking him for all the training. I think I used 100% of my training that night, and it still didn’t prepare me for everything.
6. Bedside Manner
Nothing I learned in medical school could have prepared me for the first time I had to tell someone their loved one didn’t make it, I was not ready. Though they covered the basics of it, no one really told us how to break the bad news to someone. No one told us how impotent we’d feel doing it, or the fact that we wouldn’t be able to answer their panicked questions…or what it’ll be like knowing that there’s nothing we can say to family members that will truly bring comfort.
There’s also nothing on how shocked or even angry you’ll be when some people don’t really care about their mom going downhill, or how ashamed you might feel when you look back and realize that you’re becoming numb to it all yourself. Yeah, you probably had to click through some presentation on the five stages of grief at some point and listen to a generic lecture on what NOT to say, but until you’ve stumbled through it a few times, you’re winging it, and probably poorly.
7. A Quirky Defect
When I was a medical student, a patient and his brother came in together. The patient was just there for a post-op visit after a hernia repair. Turns out, after inspection, he actually had another baseball-sized hernia. Somehow, that’s not the craziest part. His brother, on the other hand, LITERALLY had a football-sized hernia visibly coming out of the left leg of his shorts.
It looked like an inguinal hernia, and he was able to use it as an armrest. I asked him if that bothered him at all, and he just straight up said: “My brother’s hernias were painful but this isn’t, so I thought it was just a quirky defect.” I hope he was lying to save face, but we recommended he get it taken care of.
8. A Little Too Late
I’m a nurse with twenty years of experience and a master’s degree. This lady had a non-healing, large wound on her left chest area for six months and painful axillary nodules that she had for six years prior to the wound. Any non-healing wound is immediately assumed as cancer until proven otherwise. Well, this lady had stage four, untreatable cancer—all for a heartbreaking reason.
She just wasn’t taught that cancer was treatable. The patient told us, “I wish they could do something for breast cancer, and cancer in general.” Clearly, she was not informed about how most women with painful nodules should come in ASAP as the cancer is most treatable when detected early. She died three weeks after her diagnosis.
She was sedated for about two weeks and five days after diagnosis because that’s how she wanted to go. At least she wasn’t in pain, and was pretty much asleep for all of it.
9. Hearing Voices
Psychiatrist here. One of my first patients was a female college student who couldn’t sleep because of the voices that constantly talked to her. Apparently, she felt forced to answer them at all times. From what she was saying, I gathered that depending on the particular voice, she was either being cautioned about people or situations or outright pushed towards violent acts.
The voices started appearing when she was 16 if I remember correctly, and we met when she was 20. For four years of her life she believed that it was normal to have such voices in one’s head, because, as she explained, many people talk to themselves. To some extent, she was right; but I had to explain to her that most people really talk with themselves and there are no other identities in them.
There’s just an internal dialogue to clarify or resolve issues that bother them in their own privacy, so to speak. She was later diagnosed with schizophrenia.
10. Not Quite A Baby…
Nurse here. We had a 67-year-old woman who thought she was pregnant. I’ve got to say, she did look pregnant since her abdomen was full; similar to those pregnant women who look like they’re carrying a basketball when they are at the end. But she was 67. Turned out, it was a 37-pound ovarian cyst, and it was the largest one I had ever seen in my career.
I asked if I could watch the surgery. That thing came out all in one piece, and I’ll never forget the sound it made. This was at a community hospital many years ago, before HIPAA, so naturally, the lab announced that anyone who wanted could come down to the lab and view this incredible thing before it was dissected by pathology.
The line at lunchtime was so long you’d think they were giving away free concert tickets.
11. A Life Spared
My psychiatrist saved my life! I have always had heavy and irregular periods, so when I had bleeding that didn’t go away for a month, I pretty much just kept on keeping on. Eventually, a doctor referred me to the emergency department because of the constant blood loss, and all I was told was “You’ve got endometriosis.” So for five months, I had a heavy period, with doctors just dismissing it.
Eventually, my roommate called an ambulance when I passed out in the shower. The doctors did a blood test and I was admitted overnight for a blood transfusion. Fun fact—blood transfusions make some people nauseous, which is not a fun way to find out you’re allergic to an antiemetic! A few weeks later, at about the six-month mark, I drove for an hour for my regular appointment with my psychiatrist.
He took one look at me and freaked out. He told me to proceed directly to the ER. So I did and was promptly admitted to the ICU with a bilateral pulmonary embolism. I was hours away from suffocating to my end. Turns out, all the birth control that the original doctors had been giving me to shut me up and get rid of me had caused massive clots.
The doctor that looked after me and ultimately saved my life wrote a paper on why it’s stupid to ignore a nulligravida (never pregnant) woman in her mid-20s with severe dysfunctional uterine bleeding.
12. How Incompetent
I had all the symptoms of a GI bleed, including vomiting blood that looked like coffee grounds. I went to the ER, had an NG tube put in, and spent the night in the ICU. They scoped me the next day and determined I had three minor erosions, then they released me with a script for antacids. I thought I would be okay from there, but I felt awful for the next two weeks.
I was tired, weak, and dizzy, but I dismissed it all because it was “just three minor erosions.” Two weeks later, my doctor sent me in to have my blood drawn. My hemoglobin was at 4.6 and my hematocrit was 15.1, which is critically low…like “How are you still standing” low. Long story short, I was rescoped at this new hospital and they found a two-inch tumor in my stomach.
It was a very rare tumor that usually doesn’t happen to people under 40, and I’m 33. I had a total of five tumors and half of my stomach removed a few days later. Where my GI found the “erosions” was basically right where my two-inch tumor was. I don’t get how he missed it, but he found what he was looking for, and that was that I guess.
All I know is I’m not paying the $7,200 bucks that the hospital wants from me. How they missed a two-inch mass baffles my mind. I’m still waiting on the bill for the week-long stay and the surgery in the second hospital.
13. Show Me Your Teeth
If you have a patient in labor (or in any painful procedure) who wants to hold your hand, only let them hold two fingers. They can’t squeeze them too hard and break the bones, yet they still get the comfort of human touch. I’ve had patients in labor pinch me, pull on my clothes, and squeeze my two fingers as hard as possible. Some are just panicked, but some seem to be angry and want to hurt someone.
I always calmly ask them to stop with the pinching or pulling on my clothes because that really isn’t helping them. These are often people who have refused an epidural because they are afraid of needles. While I understand that, I myself refuse to go black and blue. I always teach the new nurses or students the two-finger trick.
Which reminds me: Several years back, I had a couple in for a delivery. I asked what method of pain control they preferred. Their response was bizarre. They looked at each other, giggled, and then he said, “She bites me.” I asked for clarification, and apparently, during her first two deliveries when the contraction pain became unbearable, she would take his hand and literally bite the heck out of his knuckle.
They were both hip to this plan and oddly proud of it. Fast forward to a couple of hours—the labor was getting well advanced. I looked up while doing an exam and saw her clamp her teeth on his calloused knuckle. She appeared to be biting with full pressure. He made a bit of a face but not a sound. Soon after, we ushered their youngest into the world.
When the contraction would start, she’d take a lung full of air and push to the count of 10 while biting the heck out of her man. It worked for them, so who am I to judge, but it made me somewhat uncomfortable.
14. A Downhill Spiral
I was the patient. I had a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass in April of 2017. After I went home from the surgery, the expectation was that I would be on a liquid diet for a week, and then slowly start reintroducing soft foods, etc. I even used a check-in app that reviewed how I was feeling, just to monitor if something was wrong.
Two weeks in and I still couldn’t keep down an ounce of protein shake. My husband at the time was getting frustrated with me because he thought I was being deliberately difficult. While he was gone to a city three hours away by plane, I woke up in the middle of the night heaving and dry vomiting. My mother drove me to the hospital in the middle of the night where I spent the next 12 hours having every test imaginable run on me. That’s when doctors made a gruesome discovery.
It turns out, within 24 hours after my surgery, my intestine that was reconnected at the “Y” junction had actually come apart (it was leaking anastomosis, if you want to look it up). Everything I’d tried to eat had just been draining into my abdominal cavity. I was septic and had four large abscesses. After emergency surgery, I spent 10 days in the ICU recovering before I went home.
The surgeon told my mother that if I’d been even 24 hours late getting to the hospital, I wouldn’t have made it. Side note: less than two months later, my husband left me.
15. That’s A Good Call
One time, I got food poisoning. I’d never had serious food poisoning before, but my boss who I was at a conference with had. After clearing myself completely in a very short period of time, I told her I would probably miss the next day. She asked if I needed anything and I said, “No-no… I’m just trying to drink water but I can’t keep it down…I’ve put all my pillows on the bathroom floor so I can stay close to the toilet.”
She brought me ginger tea and asked if they could take me to the hospital. I declined and tried the tea which also came back up. After a while, I was still heaving and I could hardly get up, so I finally let her and a co-worker drive me to the hospital. But I felt so stupid—who goes to the ER for food poisoning? They stabilized me in the ER after a few hours and ran some tests.
They told me then I could go home if I wanted, or stay the night in the hospital if I preferred. I’m really not the type to worry about my health and I always assume things will be fine, but some instinct told me to stay. I felt terrible when they wheeled me over to the hospital and I told them that. The next thing I knew, I was on a hospital bed surrounded by med staff. I had a life-threatening seizure.
16. More Than Just A Headache
I’ve always had headaches, almost daily. About 10 years ago, I started seeing weird auras that would take up my whole vision, and then I’d get a terrible headache that would make me want to end it all. Maybe once a year that would happen. About three years ago, we got really good insurance. Then, I got several auras in a row, and I started to worry that it was a detached retina or something.
So I went to an ophthalmologist, who dilated my eyes and looked around. He suggested I see a neurologist, and maybe they’d do an MRI. Meanwhile, I had a stomach ache that lasted for a few days—very odd for me, since I don’t really get them. But it woke me up in the middle of the night, and I had another aura visual—but no headache.
I saw the neurologist a week later and boy did he like talking about how fat I was. I had three kids in three years, so naturally, I became squishy—not morbidly obese, but I did have some mobility issues. Deal with it. They were able to get me in for the MRI that day, and despite being claustrophobic, it wasn’t terrible.
I walked out to the parking lot, and they called me back in. When I got in, she told me I’d had a stroke, and they needed to admit me to the ER. The office was at the hospital already, so she literally just walked me through like two doors, and I didn’t even have to wait in the lobby. I spent three days being poked and prodded.
I never really saw the big deal, it was just a stomach ache and dancing lights. I’m doing a lot better now.
17. Painless Yet Severe
When I was 14 years old, I started getting an upset stomach one night and it wasn’t just another bellyache. Maybe a little bit more intense, but I slept through it pretty well. The next morning, my parents got me an appointment with the doctor to see if I was okay. We got through it all, but we had to wait at one point, and it was taking quite a long time.
I told my mom, “We should just go home, it’s probably nothing…” and then the next thing I knew, I needed surgery. When I was talking to the doctor before the surgery, he explained that my appendix had burst, and he said I just had a very high tolerance to pain. In fact, he was surprised I was able to sleep through it.
He also explained that if I didn’t have surgery when I did, I wouldn’t have made it. I can see now why a lot of people think that having a high tolerance to pain isn’t necessarily a good thing.
18. One Exam Is All It Took
I had been suffering from debilitating pain basically since I was 14 years old. They were worse around my periods and would kind of dull down afterward. I was told this was “normal.” When I turned 18, I started searching for answers because the pain was getting worse. I went to seven different doctors in six years. It was constantly being dismissed as “normal” period pains.
One doctor even tried to tell me it was irritable bladder syndrome. I was no medical student, but even I knew that was not a real diagnosis. I was on all kinds of different birth control and pain medications which did not help. At 23, I was finally able to see an OB-GYN who specializes in pelvic pain. She barely even touched me before she was saying, “Oh my! You have endometriosis.”
She scheduled me for my first laparoscopic surgery in January. During that surgery, not only did they find that I had the highest and rarest severity of endometriosis with complications, but they also removed several golf-ball-sized cysts that were ready to rupture. She told me I must have a really high pain tolerance because I should not have been able to walk upright into her office that day with everything that they found and removed.
The most amusing part of it all was that before seeing the specialist, I had three ultrasounds and several other exams, but none of them detected or even bothered to look for endometriosis or PCOS. It was that simple pelvic exam that saved my life.
19. Poker Face
Sonographers have to keep a poker face a lot of times when they see something very alarming or sad on the screen. Luckily, most people have no idea what they are looking at, but they’re not allowed to give any results to patients since doctors deliver the bad news. They simply have to stay neutral. A couple of months ago, I had an ultrasound done and was talking with the sonographer about how happy I was to be having a baby.
I’ve lost many people this year and I needed some good to happen. Then I saw her face, and my blood ran cold. It wasn’t super obvious, but I knew. My baby’s heart wasn’t beating, and I didn’t see any movement. She pulled away and told me that a doctor would call me that day. It was awful for me. I remember calling my doctor a few times that day because I wanted to know those results right away.
When I finally got it, I broke down. But I still feel really awful for her. She didn’t say much, but I could really see her heartbreak too. Their job is a lot harder than most people would imagine.
20. An Unholy Terror
I had a 60-year-old female patient show up for a same-day appointment to establish care from out of state. She had no medical records and she denied having any history of taking medications. She never smoked, drank, or anything. Midway through the exam, she started telling me that she was seeing “evil lines” all over her house at all hours of the day.
She said that she was unable to cross the lines and was therefore unable to access certain parts of her house like her bathroom. She claimed to hear voices coming through the walls and feel shadows at night. She also thought her neighbors were hexing her all the time.
At some point, she started talking about the occult and freemasons ruling the world. Then, suddenly, she stopped mid-sentence, stared at me without blinking, and asked if I could perform an exorcism. Err… Sorry. I missed that section in medical school.
21. There’s A Butt
The complaint in the man’s file was rectal pain. I immediately thought hemorrhoid, abscess, or a fissure. When I saw Mr. Rectal Pain, he told me he had pain down there but had no other symptoms. I got to the examining part it was normal looking. At that point, I had to proceed with a rectal exam. The result made my jaw drop.
I digitally examined him and he instantly said, “Ow, there’s something sharp in there.” Out came a fishbone. It was big too, like two or three centimeters long. I asked the patient about it and he was like, “Oh, I had red snapper a few nights ago.” I put the fishbone into a specimen cup and started parading through the emergency department showing everyone what I just “fished” out of some guy’s butt. Oh, and there’s a coda to this tale.
I told this story to my colleague and he proceeded to tell me how in his residency they did rectal exams on all trauma patients. One time, one of his fellow residents went to perform one and the patient said the exact same phrase: “Ow, there’s something sharp in there.” But instead of a fishbone, it was a hypodermic needle. You can’t make this stuff up.
22. Look Out Below
As a student nurse, I observed a cesarean section when the mother had preeclampsia. The mom was awake with an epidural in place and a screen was in front of her. All went well at first. Her uterus was sewn back up and I was starting to relax…until the surgeon asked the medical student at the foot of the bed to step aside. That’s when I witnessed an absolute horror.
The doctor reached in and pumped the uterus twice and hard, forcing the remaining after products out of her fast. The wall wasn’t that far from the foot of the bed, and the student had definitely been in the line of fire. The patient nor the husband didn’t seem to notice, but when the medical student and I looked at each other, she just said, “Whoa.”
23. Do Panic
My mom was always exhausted. Like, she’d have a bath and get so worn out from it that she’d sleep on the bath mat when she got out. She went to her doctor and he told her, “Oh, you’re just depressed, go get a haircut!” She did. but she was still exhausted. So she went back to the doctor, but he just continued to tell her she was just depressed.
He told her to get a hobby; that it was all in her head, etc. He never sent her for blood work or referred her to any specialist. Months later, she went back. That’s when everything changed. Her regular doctor was on vacation and the physician relieving her doctor took one look at her eyes and nearly gasped. He said, “It’s your liver. Get these blood tests now.”
Some blood tests and a liver biopsy later, she was told she had autoimmune hepatitis and was three months from dying. After she improved with medications, she went back to the original doctor and said, “I didn’t need a haircut.” 27 years later she still suffers from lingering effects; though, all things told, she was super lucky.
24. A New Lease On Life
I’m a lawyer. I had a client who was given a devastating diagnosis of an extremely rare heart condition. The doctor told him he had six weeks to live. He contacted me to make his will and set his affairs in order. Thankfully, he sought a second opinion with an extremely well-known cardiologist who was intrigued due to the rare nature of this heart condition.
THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH HIM. HE WAS FINE. This poor guy and his family were so tortured over this; so devastated and terrified FOR NOTHING. He actually called me to tell me all of this, and he seemed to be still in a joyous mood, but I imagine anger comes at some point when you take stock of what you went through.
I don’t know how a doctor screws up that massively, or if somehow my client’s results were mixed up with someone else’s. Hopefully, it’s just the former.
25. Soon You’ll Get Better
Well, when I first started feeling sick in my first year at college, I had a non-productive cough, night sweats, trouble sleeping, and I had lost some weight. The school nurse gave me some Claritin. All of those symptoms only got worse; plus, I was incredibly fatigued. My lymph nodes swelled up and I had pretty bad backaches.
My doctor took a chest X-ray and prescribed antibiotics for pneumonia. At this point, I had almost failed out of school because I was only managing an hour or two of sleep per night. It took until spring break for me to go see a pulmonary specialist. He could instantly tell that it wasn’t pneumonia. Then, it suddenly got worse.
He told me I had stage 4B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My first PET scan showed cancerous cells in lymph nodes in all four quadrants of my body. By then, I had lost about a third of my body weight. The cough, weight loss, and back pain were my swollen lymph nodes pressing on my lungs, stomach, and my back. They gave me my first round of chemo and I genuinely felt the worst I’d ever felt.
I felt so awful that an IV mixture of (carefully measured) toxins was what gave me improvement. I went home and ate a whole pizza. Chemo got worse but it worked, so I guess I can’t complain too much.
26. A Massive Mistake
I once saw a young student from, I think, Pakistan. He was complaining about his neck feeling stiff. He went to a doctor some days before and he was told he was having “joint pains” that would pass with some common anti-inflammatory medication. When I visited him, I saw that many of the lymph nodes in his neck were swollen, which probably caused the stiffness.
Nevertheless, I had a terrifying suspicion. He told me they were not painful, which is not a good sign in this case. I sent him right away to have a chest X-ray. The results came back and showed a huge mediastinal mass, suggestive of lymphoma. Sadly, I don’t know what happened to him in the end. I really hope things worked out for him and that whoever took on his care after me was able to handle the situation properly.
27. Trust Your Gut
When I was in training, I saw a child suspected of having meningitis. While I was new to pediatric medicine, I had a gut feeling just by looking at the four-year-old patient that he was too sick for it just to be a regular child sickness. The thing that tipped me off was the child having a slight delay in the pupillary reflexes.
After seeing the child, I asked the head pediatrician to do a lumbar puncture to investigate the spinal fluid for signs of infection. She said there was no need and that all signs pointed to some airborne virus that was roaming around at that time. An unnecessary lumbar puncture can scar children for life and whatnot.
While I didn’t agree, I mistakenly doubted my own assessment and assumed the doctor with tens of thousands of hours of experience would surely know better than me. I shrugged and wrote everything down in the dossier. I then asked the pediatrician to read my evaluation afterwards. I went home after an exhausting evening, having worked almost 14 hours straight.
Three days later, the child came back with a fulminant meningitis that had taken a bad turn. When discussing the patient, she remarked that she noticed a bizarre pupillary reflex in the patient. So not only did she discount my suggestion of doing a diagnostic lumbar puncture, she also apparently did not read my evaluation of the patient three days earlier.
I learned to never doubt my gut feeling and it has led me to some outlandish diagnoses sometimes. It’s scary to think that some doctors don’t even bother to really pay attention to what’s going on when dealing with patients.
28. The Eyes Don’t Lie
Once, when I was a medical student on surgery rotation, in trauma, we had a patient come in after he fell on the street and bonked his head. Well, apparently, he had fallen once earlier that day and was discharged when the trauma workup at the other hospital was negative for injuries. We examined him and noticed that his eyes were kinda yellow.
So, as part of our trauma workup, given that he couldn’t give a great story and we couldn’t be sure as to what happened, we CT scanned his abdomen and made a gruesome discovery. We saw that his common bile duct was like three times normal size. You could drive a truck through it. About that time, we checked his next set of vitals.
His temperature was 103 degrees Fahrenheit. The guy was floridly septic from ascending cholangitis, which is why he was falling down. Big miss and that is an emergency.
29. Not What Patients Wanna Hear…
Doctor here. I once had a new admission come to me overnight in the hospital, who was admitted by someone else the evening before. The patient very clearly had an out of hospital cardiac incident at a local casino. After it happened, they used a defibrillator on him which brought about return of spontaneous circulation.
The history was clearly described by the admitting doctor, however they called it “syncope” or passing out. They had ordered a cardiac stress test for the morning. I caught it early that morning. Ended up needing to go emergently to the cardiac catheterization lab and getting a stent to heart artery procedure, which was the cause of their heart stopping.
If the admitting doctor had actually done a stress test on this patient, it would have ended their life. And I have literally tens of stories like this. It feels like half the doctors I work with are morons and literally don’t care about the well-being of their patients. If you aren’t someone who can handle the kind of things that doctors deal with on a daily basis, this is not the profession you should be in.
30. It Burns!
I was once given someone else’s medicine…while in the hospital…via an IV. The nurse realized after I had finished the bag that she screwed up—but that’s not the worst part. Then she hid the bag in the garbage. The night nurse brought it to my attention because he was confused as to why someone else’s used IV bag was in the garbage can in my private room.
I was on a severe liquid restriction at the time too, so there was an extra couple hundred milliliters of fluid that I should have not had. A few other things happened during that time in that hospital, too. I was left in my own excrement while in a coma for hours. That resulted in it eating away and breaking down my tissue on my coccyx.
I was restrained and severely burned as a result. They didn’t use the pads like they’re supposed to, or ask family. My skin blackened. I almost lost my hand. Oh, I should explain that I was restrained because I was coming in and out of the coma. I tried to scratch an itch and accidentally pulled out my nose feeding tube.
My PICC line was pulled almost completely out and I was given a lot of potassium. Now, if it’s pure potassium, it will burn. Since I was on a fluid restriction, it couldn’t be mixed with saline. My arm would swell and burn red. It was so painful. But they kept on doing it. It took about a week before someone realized “Well, this doesn’t look right.”
31. Too Close For Comfort
My mum is a nurse. I was 15 and had fallen on my wrist while playing football in gym class at school. The school nurse, who was friendly with my mum through nursing circles, said to keep an eye on it during the evening. Later that afternoon, I’m in agony. But my mum wasn’t having any of it. She said if it was hurting, then I was old enough to bike to the doctor’s myself.
I tried to explain the importance of brakes and wrist usage. After enough whining, she finally takes me to the doctor and then on to the hospital after they said it was broken. She sat very sheepishly in the waiting room after hearing the prognosis. Fast forward three years later. My stepbrother comes back home for the weekend from school, with a sore wrist from getting into a fight.
Same “quit whining, it’s fine” response from her. He goes to the school’s health center. When he gets back, he is taken to the hospital for surgery and a pin put in place. Based on these stories, some might think that my mother is an awful mother and nurse. Total opposite, she’s been a fantastic mum and now grandmother and is very highly regarded locally for her nursing.
But as other kids of medical professionals have mentioned in posts, there’s something about how they react to their own kid’s medical issues. It seems that any medical logic switches off when it comes to their own kids. I’ve met a ton of people who have had very similar occurrences with medical professional parents, and it’s been good to talk to them and share a laugh at the stories.
32. Getting The Real Story
I started taking my daughter to the doctor for abdominal pain when she was 12 years old. It was excruciating, can’t-function-level abdominal pain. We tried tracking pain cycles. Nothing seemed to add up. Doctor after doctor, specialist after specialist, they all literally told her it was in her head. To the point where, on top of the rest of what was going on with her life, it caused her to develop some massive mental health issues.
At the age of 19, she ended up in the ER again for abdominal pain and they saw a cyst on her ovary. A few weeks later, she had scheduled for surgery to remove it. After a surgery that lasted a couple of hours longer than a cyst removal surgery should have, we finally discovered the disturbing truth. The surgeon came out and said: “That is the worst case of endometriosis I’ve ever seen in my entire career.”
Granted, she was a gynecologist, but those are heavy words. At the age of 21, after having exhausted all avenues for controlling the endometriosis, she had a full hysterectomy. Even prepping for that surgery, with a surgeon that specializes in endometriosis and is the best in the field, the nurses and anesthesiologist said they were warned that this is one of the worst cases ever seen.
I so badly want to go back to all the doctors and ERs that I had taken her to and say “Look, she wasn’t faking it!” Simply so that it’s something they can take into consideration and maybe the next kid won’t be in the same position my daughter was.
33. An Inexplicable Decision
The two-year-old patient and their dad were out gallavanting in the fields near a small town that is several hours away from the nearest big city—which is where I work. The dad takes the child to the ER in the small town with an obvious snake bite, and the doctor there says “Eh it’s okay, she probably didn’t get envenomated.”
He didn’t even give the patient antivenin, which they had at that hospital. And instead of electing to send the child to us by helicopter, he sent her by ambulance. Several hours later, the patient showed up to our hospital coding—and the worst happened. The child ended up dying. “Probably didn’t get envenomated?!?” What the heck kind of stupid nonsense idea is that??
If a tiny child gets bitten by a rattlesnake, you assume they’ve been envenomated and you treat them as though that had been. That means antivenin, physiological support, etc. It was all so completely absurd.
34. Asleep At The Wheel
There was a story pretty recently in the hospital I work for, where a cardiologist in the ER was doing a rather difficult nightshift and started feeling light-headed, dizzy, and fatigued. Those shifts are pretty intense. They can sometimes last more than 26 hours, sometimes multiple times a week. Because of that, nobody thought much of it when this doctor said he wasn’t feeling well.
The doctor in question went to catch a quick nap in the staff room. People passed by him in the staff room every once in a while, but they just assumed the poor guy was exhausted and let him rest. They all saw him lying there though, and didn’t do anything about it. Later, they realized the disturbing truth. Believe it or not, even surrounded by all those doctors, the poor guy was dead for several hours by the time someone realized that something wasn’t right.
35. Eyeing The Problem
When I was a kid, my eyes were hurting and my dad kept taking me back to the same eye doctor, who insisted that the problem was that I wasn’t cleaning my contacts properly. He just kept giving me harsher and harsher chemicals to wash them in. It got to the point where I couldn’t open my eyes fully in a room with the lights on, even though I hadn’t worn contacts for months.
Finally, after a year, my mom forced my dad to take me to a different doctor. This doctor literally met me in the waiting room, looked at me with his naked eye, and said: “You have a raging eye infection.” A month of medicine and the infection was gone, but there was so much scarring and damage that it was about 20 years before I could wear contacts again.
This was more than two decades ago and it still bugs me to think about.
36. Not So Mellow Yellow
I was the patient. When I was in college, I went to the doctor because I was peeing razors. It progressed pretty rapidly and by the end of the week, I couldn’t walk or even sleep. The doctor asked me about my bedroom life when I went in for a consult. I told him the truth: That my girlfriend and I had only been with each other, and we had been together for many years.
He sort of scoffed at that and told me it was likely chlamydia that was bothering me. He had a long, condescending speech about safe intimacy with me and sent me home. That was that. Well, a week later my urine tests came back. Turns out I had the worst bladder infection they’d ever seen. I had to have a camera shoved up there, multiple rounds of antibiotics, and to this day I struggle to urinate due to the irreversible damage the infection caused. Thanks a lot, doc.
37. A Pain In The Neck
I did college gymnastics. In my senior year, I had an accident in practice and landed on my neck. I went to the hospital and got X-rays, but the doctors told me that I was perfectly fine. Nothing could be further from the truth. I walked around in utter pain for the longest time.
Weeks later, still in pain, I went to another doctor and got a new set of images. Guess what? My neck was broken in three places and was majorly dislocated. I had a multi-level fusion surgery days later—but the story doesn’t end there. I found out my initial X-rays the first time around got swapped with someone else’s in the ER and I was originally diagnosed based on someone else’s images.
This was revealed long after my surgery when I went to get my records for insurance purposes. My files had someone else’s medical records and images in them. Because of the time I spent walking around with my neck injury, I had to have a posterior surgery instead of an anterior surgery, which is way more invasive. It gives me major issues to this day.
38. More Than Skin Deep
One day, I went to a dermatologist for a nasty rash on my hands and face. The doctor insisted it was eczema even though I’d never had eczema in my entire life. He also refused to do any testing or take a biopsy, and just prescribed me a standard steroid cream for eczema. The rash spread and got horribly worse. It was all up my arms and all over my face.
It was itchy and painful, so I went to a different dermatologist and explained the situation. They took a biopsy, finally. Yep, it was a bacterial infection and the first doctor’s steroid treatment made it ten times worse. I was a minor at the time and I don’t know why my parents didn’t go after the first doctor in court.
39. Home Sweet Home
My husband had a situation where he almost completely kicked the bucket because of a misdiagnosis. To preface this, we were young at the time—in our mid-20s—and living in a college town. My husband had horrible pain; he was on the floor on his hands and knees and everything. We went to the ER and the doctor barely looked at him.
He just told him to stop drinking and he would be fine. So we went home, but the pain was still getting worse. At one point, he started vomiting all over the place. We decided to drive 1.5 hours to see our primary care physician back in our hometown to get a second opinion. Within 15 minutes of walking into the office, my husband was rushed to emergency surgery.
Apparently, his gallbladder had completely ruptured and he was going septic. It was a total mess and he almost passed, all because of a lazy misdiagnosis.
40. Fear The Worst
My mom went into a walk-in clinic and told the doctor she had really bad headaches all the time. She was a stay-at-home mom to me, who was 10 years old at the time, and my sister, who was six, so it was written off as stress and she just got a prescription for pain pills. Two weeks later, her headaches suddenly became migraines.
The doctor then gave her a stronger prescription and told her to try to reduce her stress. But at that point, things already took a huge turn for the worse. A few weeks went by and she could no longer get out of bed. She threw up everything including the meds and was completely disoriented. My dad was a truck driver, so he was never home and couldn’t help her at that time.
I was taking care of my sister and my mom all by myself. We went back to the doctor and this lady had the audacity to say that my mom’s case was the weirdest migraine case she’d ever seen. She told her to take warm baths and just keep taking the meds. Two months went by and my dad came home. When he saw the condition of my mother, he was shocked.
My mom was so sick she would regularly urinate herself. The house, which was being kept up by me, a 10-year-old, was in total disrepair. My dad’s response was chilling and completely unexpected. He simply said he wanted a divorce. That night, we found out she had stage 4 lung and brain cancer with a tumor the size of an egg pressing on her brain, as well as many others scattered throughout. I still haven’t forgiven that doctor for not taking my mom seriously.
As far as my mom goes, she fought hard for two years to beat her cancer, but she eventually passed in November 2010. I was 13 and my sister was nine at the time. And that wasn’t all. My dad fell out of a tree about a month after her diagnosis and shattered his heel. He became disabled because of the back surgeries it required.
He was a monster while I was home. All I remember from my younger years was walking on eggshells, constantly being accused of things I didn’t do, and being watched like a hawk 24/7. I suspect he is bipolar and has severe PTSD, but you know how older people feel about treating mental illnesses. As for us, it sucked not having our mom growing up.
She talked every day about how she couldn’t wait to beat cancer and leave my dad so we could all have the life we deserved. I think we turned out fairly well. I’m 23 now—I have a family, I’ve moved far away from all of those memories, and I have committed to breaking my father’s awful cycle and loving my children the way I wish I would have been loved.
I do wish I knew the doctor’s name now. Even though I know that it wouldn’t bring back my mom, I still want to ask her if she finally started believing her patients. I think the fact that my mother was a stay-at-home mom and had previously lived in poverty had a lot to do with the doctor not taking her seriously.
I wish no harm on the doctor, but I haven’t forgiven her for not saying something about going to the ER. Life is short. I learned that by watching my mom give up on every dream she had because she knew she’d pass soon. Go do scary stuff because who knows what’ll happen tomorrow.
41. Don’t Sleep On This
I’m the patient in this story. One day, I went to a sleep doctor because I was constantly tired, so much so that I was basically falling asleep while standing up and such. It was serious stuff. The doctor was like, “Well, you’re overweight, so it’s definitely sleep-apnea.” I did a sleep study, but it came back negative for sleep apnea. I thought we’d go down different avenues…but I was so wrong.
The doctor was like, “Well, I’m still positive it’s sleep apnea because you’re a fatty.” So he sent me home with a sleep apnea machine for a month. After a month of using the machine (which records your sleep apnea events every night) and having zero improvements in any of my symptoms, I went back to him.
His response? He said, “Well if this isn’t working, I can’t help you. You obviously have sleep apnea since all tubbies have sleep apnea, so you must not be using the machine properly.” So I dropped him like a fresh turf and went to get a second opinion. A new sleep doc and a new sleep study. Then I finally got an answer.
He said, “Yeah, this is textbook narcolepsy. You have all the symptoms and the sleep study proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt.” I told him about the other doctor and he said, “This is obviously narcolepsy. Your previous doctor was a moron.” Unlike the other quotes in this story, that one is an actual, direct quote. I’ll never forget the look of disgust on his face when he said the word “moron.”
42. Baby On Board
My sister was about two weeks away from giving birth when she suddenly started feeling excruciating pain and vomiting. I called her midwife in a panic. The phone call made my blood run cold. She refused to speak with me despite my sister clearly not being capable of speaking as she sat on the floor next to the toilet, crying and puking.
Finally, she took the phone and her midwife told her that it was probably just a virus. Her suggested remedy? “Eat a popsicle.” Eventually, I was able to convince her to go to the ER. She was immediately rushed to the operating room for an emergency C-section. Her placenta had erupted and my niece was born not breathing. That poor baby suffered several seizures and even died for a short moment before she was resuscitated.
She is now 15 and has cerebral palsy due to going for so long without the oxygen she needed.
43. Incompetent Intern
I was in a multi-vehicle accident on my way to work and got what I thought was whiplash. I have a high pain threshold, so the interning doctor in the ER said that if I wasn’t screaming, I wasn’t hurt. When I told him I was really in pain, he started doing the “Can you feel this” prick test. When I couldn’t feel anything, his expression changed. After about five minutes, my ex walked in and screamed that I was bleeding.
I had a white shirt on, so it may have stood out, but this intern was so convinced I could feel something, he jabbed me repeatedly with a syringe needle until I looked like I was in a slasher movie. A nurse dragged him out and later when my attorney reviewed the medical notes, it said that I had a violent nosebleed. I had damaged my C5, C6, C7 vertebrae, and had a bulge on my spinal nerve. I had serious damage and the guy thought I was faking.
44. Who Am I?
I woke up from a coma and while I was in the ICU recovering, I had some really weird situations occur. One, in particular, stands out. I was having a lot of trouble sleeping, so I was watching a lot of television. One night, I put on Jamie Oliver’s 30-Minute Meals. I fell asleep, woke up, and for some unknown reason, I had the strangest thought: “I am one of Jamie Oliver’s sous chefs, and I am currently working on his next cookbook.”
I have NO idea why I thought this. I got out of bed, walked to the nurse’s station where my ICU nurse was folding blankets, and her back was towards me. It was around 3 am and the ICU was pretty dark. She wasn’t expecting me to be standing in the middle of the hallway. When she turned around, she nearly jumped out of her skin—I was just standing there like a zombie.
I told her about Jamie Oliver and the cookbook. After about 10-15 minutes, I woke up or snapped out of it, and I was SO embarrassed. She ushered me back to bed and had a good laugh. She told me it was pretty normal for people in comas and the ICU with head injuries to have very vivid dreams and hallucinations while totally awake.
45. Fourth Of July Fright
My wife worked as a psych nurse at a hospital. She was working on the floor on the 4th of July when I got a call from one of her co-workers telling me she had been harmed by a patient. She took a pretty good sucker punch and was down in the ER to get checked out. I headed over to the hospital to see how she was doing.
I was sitting with her as she was laying in one of the beds when I heard this awful wailing. I turned around and my jaw dropped—there was a kid in his mid-teens with blood on his arm running down, staining his clothes and the gurney. He had blown his hand to shreds playing with fireworks. The screaming was extremely unnerving. My wife was okay, but that poor kid was not.
46. Not Getting The Picture
My sister had her gallbladder out. It was a totally routine surgery, yet two days later she woke up at 4:00 in the morning in searing pain. She went to the ER by ambulance. I’m a nurse, and I met her there. The ER doctors were all apparently convinced that she was a pill-popper and did not even conduct a physical exam beyond taking her vitals.
They injected her with a calming medication to shut her up, because she was just yelling “Help me! Help me! I’m dying!” over and over again. They did eventually do an MRI, but said it was negative and sent her home. She didn’t want to leave and insisted that something was terribly wrong. Their reaction chilled me to the bone.
They said they would call security and have her thrown out if she didn’t leave. At this point, I’d like to mention that she had no history of substance use or heavy drinking. She continued to get worse at home, and the next day went to a different hospital. They did a workup and found that the metal clip that closed off the bile duct had cut right through the tissue.
She had a large bile leak that was literally burning all her abdominal organs. She had to have three surgeries to fix it and was hospitalized for nine days. She was left with chronic pain from adhesions and chemical burns. When the new hospital finally acquired the MRI from the original ER visit, she was told that the leak was small but clearly visible in that image.
So those people failed to realize that the issue really was something serious.
47. Coming In Handy
A patient was getting anxious about numbness in his hand. He said: “It’s getting more frequent and I don’t want to live like this. It gets me freaked out, like my hand’s not there.” They assumed the person was mentally ill and showing symptoms of panic attack, i.e. elevated breathing rate leading to tingling and numbness in hands.
They did a CT scan because I requested it. There was a lesion. They blew it off. An MRI showed that it was glioblastoma multiforme, which is an extremely serious form of cancer. This was completely missed by the ER physician assistant. The MD supervising them never spoke to me. Not even sure if they reviewed the case.
48. Off To A Strong Start
I’m not a doctor, but the patient. When I was born, I was my dad’s third child. He had two from a previous marriage. He knew something was wrong with me because of the way I was breathing. Apparently, I was taking very rapid, short breaths. When I was three months old, they noticed there really wasn’t any change in that.
The first hospital that he and my mom took me to, they said that there was nothing to worry about and that babies just breathe like that sometimes. But my dad was 100% certain that they were wrong. They took me to a second hospital, and they said there was definitely something wrong with me. But they didn’t have the technology to help, since it was back in 1986.
They recommended us to a third hospital, which was a couple of hours away. Finally, the third hospital took me right in and performed surgery on me that day. Turns out I had five holes in my heart. They tried to go through my rib cage, but it didn’t work. They had to crack my sternum and go directly through my chest. They took my heart out of its body and patched the holes.
I’m doing wonderfully medically today, and I am forever in their debt. Not financially, though, thanks to some helpful children’s charities!
49. A Horrible Discovery
I was working nights and a patient came in for a nail bed repair under general anaesthesia. It was a slow night. A general anaesthetic is absolutely ridiculous for a nail bed repair, but he refused to have it done under local. As they’re anaesthetising him, he aspirates. So we do a chest X-ray to see if he’s got any spit or blood in his lungs.
Well, there was something we didn’t know. Prior to this emergency surgery, he’d been going to his GP for over six months and complaining about chest tightness. They’d put him on various different asthma medications, but none had any effect on him. The X-ray showed a massive dark mass in his left lung. We kept him asleep and transferred him to the ICU.
The dark space in his lungs was the normal lung, and the rest was whited out because they were riddled with tumours. His wife and three-year-old daughter were waiting for him on the ward. We had to tell them where he’d gone, why he’d gone there, and what was going to happen. He passed on from the lung cancer within the month. This man was in his late 20s and a non-smoker.
I couldn’t move past the situation for months after it.
50. Twist And Shout
Medical student here. I will be a doctor in May. I was working an ED shift when we found what was probably a missed testicular torsion. The previous doctor had told the patient that he probably had cancer. When he showed up at our ED, what he had was probably a dead testis missed at initial presentation weeks prior.
People with testes, especially young men: if you have sudden-onset excruciating pain, sometimes without activity, but often after or during activity, you’ve gotta go to the ER IMMEDIATELY. It’s one of the few things that would make a urologist lounging at home on the weekend jump off his couch and drive full speed to the hospital.
My patient experience was with a male, but indeed ovarian torsion is a similar emergency!
51. Quality Over Quantity
I started having horrible ankle pain when I would walk in grade school, and my doctor always attributed it to growing pains. I knew that this was not the case, and so I kept annoying him about it. After multiple attempts at diagnosis, including everything from knock knees to pigeon toe to just being weak, I finally went to a specialist.
He asks me to flex my ankle, and so I do. “No, all the way” he said, even though I was flexing as hard as I could. I could only flex my foot maybe an inch from its resting position. Turns out, I had incredibly decreased mobility of that joint due to shortened tendons. He diagnosed me within five minutes, after years of my doctors brushing me off.
After a few months of physiotherapy and a shoe insert, my pain decreased by a lot.
52. Third Opinion
I’m a dentist in the United Kingdom. While I was working as a locum in an emergency clinic, I had a man present with a mouth full of infections. He had wanted implants and gone to a private UK dentist, who refused to do them due to the patient’s heavy smoking and poor oral hygiene, which would mean the chance of success and good healing would be limited.
The patient didn’t accept this—so he went an alternate (horrifying) route. He went online and found that he could go to Hungary and get the implants done for half the price, and have a holiday. He came back and, within a few weeks, most of the implants were infected and he’s sitting in my chair. We gave him antibiotics to clear up the infection.
Then we had to inform him that the implants would need to come out and that he would need to find a specialist dentist with the necessary equipment to get that done. He was not happy. He spent all that money only to have to pay again to have them all removed. No better off and at least ten-thousand down. He should have listened when the first person told him!
53. All The Symptoms Were There
My mother-in-law had all the signs of stroke. Severe headache, vomiting, vertigo, vision problems, partial paralysis, etc. But she was sent home from the ER and told that it was an inner ear condition that would resolve on its own. When it did not get better, she saw her GP, who upon merely looking at her asked when she had had the stroke.
When he realized it was still untreated, he immediately sent her back to the hospital. There they finally recognized that she had had a major stroke! She could easily have passed and was in rehab for weeks. Their reaction was absolutely unbelievable. They then claimed that it must have happened after she was there the first time.
They claimed that her chart from that visit did not say that she’d had a stroke…and therefore she couldn’t have had one. So much wrong with that statement that I don’t even know where to begin…
54. A Tough Pill To Swallow
I’m not a doctor, but a nurse. Back when I was in college, I got to a point where I couldn’t swallow. It started with difficulty swallowing, progressed to me having to swallow bites of food multiple times and regurgitating it, and then got to where all I could swallow was broth soups and mashed potatoes with absolutely no chunks.
I went to the doctor multiple times, and was told every time that it was just acid reflux and part of my anxiety disorder. I lost 30 pounds, and I was only 120 when this started. I was just generally miserable. Finally, my grandma got tired of watching me be sick all the time, so she called the GI doctor herself. They said we needed a referral.
But she explained the situation and they got me in the next day. They did an endoscopy and found that my esophagus was 95% occluded at the gastroesophageal sphincter. For some reason, some of my primary doctor’s notes ended up in my discharge paperwork by mistake. I guess they had to contact her to get my information.
She had told them it was just acid reflux and basically that I was being overdramatic. She stated that she did not recommend them to do the procedure. Needless to say, I switched doctors. Screw that idiot. That was not a fun year…
55. More Than He Bargained For
I’m a dental assistant. A patient once came in and his color was off. His jaw hurt, as did a tooth. He’d just come from the doctor who told him to see us. I was suspicious of a heart attack. I put the pulse ox on him and almost fainted myself. I grabbed our emergency high flow and yelled for the AED and for someone to call an ambulance. The guy was having a heart attack.
The guy lived and brought me a big heart-shaped box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. I’ve never been so scared or angry for another person. The dentist I worked for called the MD and said, “My 25 year old assistant just saved your patient’s life.”
56. The Opposite Of What You Were Supposed To Do
I’m a social worker. I once saw someone who claimed to have anxiety. He had prescribed benzodiazepines by his previous doctor and now felt like a zombie. I figured he had ADD after just five minutes, and the benzodiazepines had just made it exponentially worse. I cannot understand how people get things so wrong sometimes.
57. Elastic Heart
A patient came into the ER presenting with very serious heart pain that caused him to pass out frequently, sometimes daily. Apparently, he just thought it was because he was overweight. We had to explain that passing out for no reason is not normal and that he should have told his doctor about it. The problem itself was sort of on and off, so initially, we didn’t know what was up because his vitals all looked good.
When none of the meds we gave to him helped, we ended up sending him to the hospital. His heart rate was dangerously high for a pretty sustained period of time (like 45 to 60 minutes), so he started passing out due to a lack of oxygen. Turns out, he had been suffering from minor heart attacks, not realizing how serious they actually were—but that’s not the worst part.
This had been happening to him since he was at least a teen, if not younger, and his parents never thought to bring him to a doctor about it.
58. A Nasty Fall
I came off my bike during lunch break at a real slow, walking pace after the wheel jammed on a gutter. I went over the bars and had a nasty landing. My right wrist swelled up almost instantly, so I isolated it, thinking it was a probable Colles’ fracture. Then, I proceeded to walk the 1.5 km back to the office in cleats; that is, carbon fiber shoes that have no flex in the soles. I had to push the bike too.
I was in a lot of pain, so I went to the hospital for scans. The triage nurse assessed me and came to the same conclusion I did. I was given an ice pack while waiting for the doctor to look at the X-rays. I was in tears the entire time the films were being done and I don’t normally cry either. The only comfort from the radiology tech was “There’s a reason why you’re crying, but I’ll leave that to the doctor.”
It turns out, I had sustained bilateral radial head fractures and a broken left wrist. The swelling in my right lower forearm was a reaction to the broken radial head. I spent eight weeks in akimbo slings plus three months of occupational therapy to teach my biceps how to bend my arms again. Nowadays, I only have 90% bone strength in those joints.
59. And Just Like That…
My father felt a loud pop as I was helping him out of bed. This wasn’t unusual and my father thought he just pulled something. However, the pain didn’t subside for weeks. I dragged him to the GP, and then to the hospital for a scan. The “pop” turned out to be the back of his rib totally separating, as the bone was mostly powder—and the reason why was awful.
He developed lung cancer from his bad habits as a young adult and it had grown through the back of his lung and into his ribs and spine. He was in palliative care from then on. At least he got to say goodbye to his cat Tilly—I brought her into the hospital and he let her loaf on his chest with her bum in his face for one last time.
60. Will It Ever End?
My best friend was the patient. She was diagnosed with a hernia and was set to have surgery a year later because it wasn’t so bad that she needed to have emergency surgery. Eventually, she decided to go to her home country, because she felt she was being mistreated by the health care workers in her US town. She was scheduled to have a pre-surgery check-up, and then the surgery two weeks later.
Well, when she went for the check-up, she got taken to the table without anesthesia. While she was being operated on, she could see what was happening, which was frightening enough. Then, they uncovered the root of the problem—she had a birth defect that ended up causing a massive cyst to grow. She was in great danger. She had trouble walking and had to take a flight back the day after.
She is doing much better now, but she recently got diagnosed with another hernia on the other side.
61. Secondary Complication
In my freshman year of college, I had a really bad sore throat for a few days. I thought nothing of it and just took a ton of Tylenol until it went away. About a month later, I noticed the joints in my fingers were extremely sore and I could barely make a fist. Next, it was my wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, etc. It reached all my joints and muscles.
It was even painful to lift my eyebrows or touch my scalp. I couldn’t roll over in bed. I literally just lied in bed for days and cried. Finally, my mom, who lived about four hours away, came and took me to the doctor. I couldn’t believe the diagnosis. He said I had something called post-streptococcal arthritis. Turns out, I had strep throat a month prior and because I didn’t treat it with antibiotics, it spread through my body and caused arthritis in literally all of my joints. He prescribed a steroid and pain killers and said good luck!
Man, I’ve had a lot of medical problems in my life but this one was the worst by far. It took another three months for me to start feeling normal again and a full year to get completely back to normal. Nowadays, I catch strep throat extremely easily and I get it at least four to five times a year. If I don’t get it treated within two days, my arthritis flares back up again.
62. My Blood Loss Scared The Doc!
I was going in to have surgery. I was supposed to be a five-hour outpatient; however, they hit an artery during the procedure and didn’t know it. I was in recovery bleeding internally, and no one knew until they tried to sit me up. All the alarm bells started going off, and the nurse started screaming at me to keep my eyes open.
The scariest thing for me happened later. I was in an overflow room because the hospital was full. The resident came over to check on me because I was in pain and pushing the call button. I knew at this point that the artery finally sealed itself but they had estimated that I had lost three-quarters of my blood supply.
I was in horrific pain and could barely move. Someone had to turn me, in order to help me become comfortable. So the resident read my chart and was looking down at me, and I will never forget the look on his face. He was terrified looking at me. I’m sure to this day he thought I was not going to make it.
63. The Patient Next Door
I was about 12 years old when I got bitten by a poisonous spider. I had to go to the emergency room for treatment. The guy behind the next curtain had been shot and impaled, and the knife was still in him. When the nurses opened the curtain, they didn’t realize that my dad and I were in the next area over…So I saw the guy scream, holding a knife in his gut.
64. The Girl And The Machine
As a child, I was hospitalized a lot due to heart issues. One day, I was out in the halls, waiting for the playroom to open up. I was about eight at the time. There was a girl on my floor who walked with a huge machine that pumped her heart for her. She was also walking around with what looked like her mom or older sister.
Suddenly, the scariest thing happened—her machine started beeping, and the nurses rushed in. They were speaking German since this was at a hospital in Berlin, however, I didn’t speak German; only Russian. The look on her face before she collapsed was absolutely horrific. Her eyes went almost blank and her lips started to go blue. It still haunts me.
65. Not A Sight For Anyone’s Eyes
My father had terminal cancer. Towards the end of his life, we had to take him to the emergency room. We got him checked in and as we were waiting for him to be seen, we heard several ambulances. When we found out what happened, our blood ran cold. Three teenage kids had all blasted each other during some argument.
There was so much blood. I had never seen anything like that in such close proximity. All I kept thinking was that these boys had mothers, fathers, and siblings. They were rushing all three in for surgery. It was a disturbing sight.
66. Up And Awake
I had surgery planned for 1 pm. It was a four- to six-hour surgery, with a recovery time of about another two to four hours before I would be discharged. I was a teenager at the time, so my parents took me in. They wanted me in at 9 am. I wasn’t able to eat anything from 8 pm the night before, and my surgery got pushed back to 4 pm, so I had gone about 20 hours with no food or drink.
I was in shape, but I was feeling rough. The surgery went well, but my body was exhausted from the lack of nutrients, as well as from the operation. It was late, and my mom and dad had gone downstairs to get some food now that I was okay and in recovery. The nurses had told them that I would be out cold for at least another hour.
But there were a couple of things that my parents didn’t know. Apparently, I had woken up during surgery and made contact with the anesthesiologist. I tried to say, “Is it over? Why am I awake?” But it was muffled from the breathing tube. The anaesthesiologist freaked out and said, “Uh, he’s awake. Like really awake.” I began moving, not by choice, which caused the surgeon to nick an artery.
They had to hold me down to keep me still. They got me back under. I woke up a few minutes after they left. It was dark and silent, and I was alone. I got up and there weren’t any monitors attached to me. I was hurting, but I began looking for a nurse. The hallway was dark, and I couldn’t find anyone. I was getting spooked and started feebly asking, “Is anyone there?” Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, a nurse yelled, “Oh my goodness, baby, what are you doing out of your bed!” Luckily, all ended up fine.
67. Tonsillectomy Terror
I had strep every month for weeks at a time as a toddler, so when I was four, I had to have my tonsils removed. I remember being separated from my mom for what felt like FOREVER when I was being prepped before surgery. I was just SCREAMING the entire time. I had never seen an operating room before, or doctors and nurses with the entire PPE getup.
I thought I was being abducted by aliens. I woke up alone and was terrified at the realization that I couldn’t speak. I just cried and whimpered in my little crib-like hospital bed until a nurse wheeled me to see my mom in the recovery room. I was so relieved to see her that I threw up as soon as I laid eyes on her.
68. Contemplating The Possibilities
After going out to drink one night, I blacked out. I didn’t have much to drink, so I was either given something or had a bad reaction to hops. I’m still not sure. The next day, I threw up nonstop for about 14 hours. But it got even worse than that—when every muscle in my body was cramping bad enough that I could barely move and my heart started acting real funny, I called an ambulance and went to the ER.
My parents had to come, and the three of us were sitting in the room. At that point, I was fine. The doctor walked in and said, “We got some tests back. Your white blood cell count is a little high. It could be leukemia,” and then walked out without another word. That moment, when we were sitting there contemplating the fact I may have leukemia, was terrifying.
Luckily, it turned out that I don’t have it.
69. The Scent Of Searing Flesh
I had developed a blood clot behind my knee after surgery a few years ago. I was at the hospital when they found it, so they wanted me to stay until a specialist could check me out. I was laying in a bed for hours and heard a lot of talking and preparation going on, but there was no one checking on me, and was wondering what was going on.
Then I overheard some of the peripheral conversations between the staff, EMTs, and officers about a patient that had just arrived. Their discussion was chilling. A young woman with a history of psychiatric issues stood in a kiddy pool in front of her house. She doused herself with tiki torch oil, then lit herself on fire. The hospital I was in was definitely not equipped to handle burn victims, so they had the entire staff ready to help care for her until they could find an appropriate hospital to take her.
From three or four beds away, I could smell the seared flesh. I could hear them pump her as full of painkillers as they dared, mostly through her feet, and the whole time she was screaming bloody murder, as I don’t think the meds helped much. I can’t imagine what the burn unit she was transferred to looked, smelled, and sounded like.
70. A Mother’s Cries
I was in a car accident with my mom. A large van ran the red light at a four-way intersection and T-boned us. The accident was so bad they took us all by ambulance to the emergency room. The people who hit my mom and me were in the room next to us. The woman was heavily pregnant. She explained to the doctors that something felt off for many weeks before the accident, but that her doctor said the baby was fine.
When the ER doctors did an ultrasound, they were shocked—apparently, her baby was no longer alive, and it wasn’t due to the accident. They figured that the baby had been dead for WEEKS. I’ll never forget that woman’s screams. It was heartbreaking. She kept screaming, “Get it out of me, get it out of me.” I’ll never forget that moment.
71. A Surreal Experience
I had to go to the ER for seizure-like symptoms. However, I had been in medical lockdown during the pandemic because my asthma was out of control. Over the summer, my doctor had said, “You can’t get sick, do you understand? Your lung functioning can’t drop any further. You have no wiggle room left.” However, seizures are an emergency, so I reluctantly went to the ER and sat in the waiting room.
Ten minutes later, my worst nightmare walked in—it was a COVID patient. She announced to the front desk that she had been diagnosed and was having trouble breathing. She was instructed to take a seat and wait. Now, with all the social distancing, there were limited seats available. The only one left was exactly six feet away from me. There was no place left for me to go.
I listened to her cough, wheeze, and struggle to breathe for about half an hour, absolutely terrified that I was going to get sick. I was called back for some tests and was given a bed in the non-Covid area, but it was in the hall. The hospital was so full that all of us non-Covid patients were crammed together in one ward.
I was right by the doors that led into the COVID area and watched doctors in full hazmat suits walk around. I kept thinking it looked like a movie in there. Then, a trauma patient was brought in and wheeled into an observation room. The curtains were pulled, but it was a glass-walled room, so you could still see inside. The sight was absolutely horrific.
There were a lot of nurses and doctors running in and out. There was so much blood, it was pooling on the floor. The patient was yelling. Not screaming, but making deep, loud, animal-like groans that said they don’t have the air or energy for a full scream. All of us who were stacked up in beds along the wall, tried not to look because it felt like we were witnessing something private.
However, the groans carried across the entire ward. It was terrifying. I could see some of the other patients trying not to cry. I got out a couple of hours later, but I don’t have the words to describe the entire experience. It was surreal and I had never been so afraid in my life. Afraid for myself, afraid for the patients, afraid for the doctors, just afraid for everyone going through it.
72. Am I Going To Look Like HIM?
When I was three or four years old, I had to have emergency abdominal surgery for a blockage. The scariest thing was seeing my parents as they were stopped at the double doors while I was rushed into the surgical area. My mom was crying on my dad’s shoulder, and my dad looked very concerned. To top it off, there was a guy wheeled next to me being prepped for surgery. There weren’t any curtains between patients, at least not at this hospital.
But what really traumatized me was what came next. The guy next to me was an elderly man, unconscious with tape all over his face. I had no idea what the tape was for—probably just to hold an intubation tube or something—but in my mind, it looked like they carved his face up and used tape to put it back together. It scared the daylights out of me! I didn’t know what they were going to do to me. I thought I would end up looking like that guy.
73. A Game Of Inches
So this one guy was brought in with an ambulance for upper airway obstruction. We diagnosed what looked like advanced throat cancer and did a tracheostomy. After the operation, where you pull and push the neck like crazy, we checked his neck x-ray. Then this junior asked him when had broken his neck. Well, as it turns out, he had a brand new, unstable neck fracture.
Checking his initial x-ray, we saw that it had been there prior to the operation, but everyone had missed it. After questioning the patient, he said that on his way to the hospital, the ambulance was in a car crash. No one bothered mentioning it to us when he eventually came in. He only thought he had whiplash, but he was actually just a few millimeters away from permanent paraplegia.
Unfortunately, he passed on about two weeks later, due to the cancer.
74. Rank Over Health?
While working as a Certified Nursing Assistant on an ICU step-down unit, I noticed my patient was acting strange. I asked her a few questions and got some questionable answers. I thought it might be weird, as she couldn’t really answer questions other than with “huh” and “uh huh.” Her gait was off too. It was like a trot rather than a normal walk.
On top of that, she was leaning over. I was training another CNA and I was like, “No matter what you do, if you see something, notify the nurse and then put it on the chart that you notified her.” Well, sadly, the patient was having a major stroke and the nurse was too far up her own behind and too busy on her phone to do a proper assessment.
As a result, the woman had to go to rehab and was not a candidate for any stroke “reversing” drips, as I had charted that she seemed “off” eight hours before. The only reason anyone “caught it” was because the night shift nurse insisted on viewing my bedside report. The nurse I had been working with yelled at me “STROKE??” As if I hadn’t been notifying her of symptoms all day.
75. Supplementary Opinion
A doctor diagnosed me with MS. Well, I eventually sought out a second opinion, and turns out my case was just a vitamin deficiency. Pretty darn different from MS, if you ask me. I spent $15K in medical bills only to have all symptoms subside with some nutritional advice and supplements. I’m still rightfully salty about it.
76. My Sister’s Keeper
My sister was suffering from terrible headaches and minor seizures for a while. One particularly bad night, we went to an urgent care clinic. They told us that she had an anxiety disorder and just needed something to calm her down. We got a second opinion at the ER and it turns out she had stage four brain cancer. I miss her every day.
77. Forgive As A Family
My aunt had been having what we now know was absent seizures for years. We were part of the problem. Sadly, we all just put it down to her alcoholism and her pain medication addiction. She was forgetful, clumsy, and scatterbrained; but again, a raging alcoholic. One day, my brother stopped by to check on her and she was sitting up but completely non-responsive.
We rushed her to the ER. A week later, we got the diagnosis back. Glioblastoma. She passed 11 months later. The only thing that saves us from the guilt of ignoring her symptoms for so long is that the neurosurgeon said NOTHING we could possibly have done would have extended her life. We tried all sorts of remedies after the tumor was found and removed, but there was nothing we could really do.
Nothing she did was the cause of it, thank goodness. We miss her every day, but there was nothing we could have done. If anything, she at least didn’t spend years of her life anticipating her own mortality. Sometimes you just have to appreciate the little tiny silver linings.
78. That Poor Kid
I suppose I have one for this as a resident doctor. It was a horrible ordeal to witness. We saw a kid in the emergency room for difficulty walking. He had been slowly losing the ability to walk over months, and also had random unexplained projectile vomiting episodes. Looking at his records, he had seen his doctor several times and the doctor had X-rayed one hip, then the other hip, then gave some Zofran.
We find out through the exam that he is blatantly ataxic. He had bad coordination and couldn’t even stand up. He failed all our bedside neurological examinations for cerebellum function. It was obvious to me, and I’m not even that good at this yet. So, we did a CT scan. And sure enough, there was a big huge tumor in his cerebellum. It was obstructing fluid drainage in his brain too, raising his intracranial pressure and causing vomiting.
We had to call in the neurosurgeons overnight for an emergency drain, and he went to the ICU. Later, he had more surgery for the tumor. My supervisor got pretty emotional about it actually. The kid had really declined further over the last few days before his parents brought him to see us, which is what initially prompted the visit. So he looked really bad for us, though I’m not sure what he looked like before.
To any med students reading this: 1. Do an exam. 2. It’s okay to cry sometimes.
79. Reverse Psychology
A couple of years ago, I was on overnight call at a VA hospital. It started with a relatively routine call asking to transfer a patient to our psychiatric unit from a community hospital emergency department for the treatment of psychosis. He was an older guy, I want to say early 70s. He had come in acting strange and delusional.
His son-in-law had told the ED staff that he had received care with use for psychiatric issues before. I asked them to fax the transfer packet, a bundle of the assessments already performed there, and I started looking at his chart in the meantime. However, what I found was that he had not actually been admitted to our psychiatric unit.
He had been seen by our psychiatry consulting team for delirium while he had been admitted to the medical floor for decompensated heart failure. For anyone unfamiliar, delirium can occur with pretty much any severe illness, where your brain basically isn’t functioning properly due to the physiological stress your body is under.
Sometimes, it just manifests as confusion or disorientation, but sometimes it can get more dramatic, with delusions and hallucinations. From what I saw in his chart, he had no actual primary psychiatric issues and had only been seen by the consult psychiatrist while he was delirious. So, I get the transfer packet for this guy.
Not only has there been no cardiac workup for this guy, who has a known history of heart failure, but there aren’t even any records of vital signs on him. The only labs are a pretty unremarkable blood count and electrolytes/kidney markers. These chemistries are also not too abnormal, but I notice that his urea nitrogen is a little elevated.
This is generally a sign of poor perfusion through the kidneys, as reabsorbing this urea also helps the kidneys reabsorb every last bit of water they can when the body is dehydrated. However, dehydration and low blood volume is only one possible reason why the kidneys might see reduced perfusion. Another possible reason is a lot more sinister—it would be if someone had uncontrolled heart failure.
So I call the outside emergency room and tell them that I will not accept this patient onto our psychiatric floor without at least a basic cardiac workup. I tell them his history, that he has only had psychiatric symptoms in the context of delirium from heart failure and that the little bit of data they actually sent me points to that again recurring.
They tell me okay, they will get the labs and vitals that I requested and reach back out to me. I didn’t hear back from them after this, and I assumed that they had found evidence of cardiovascular decompensation and reached out to the medicine floor to transfer him there instead. So I am going about my night, and a couple of hours later I get a call to come evaluate someone in the ED.
I am down there and using one of the computers at their desk when I hear one of the ED doctors mention something about a patient coming into medicine from the same hospital. For anyone unfamiliar, transfers to the VA pass through the ED first, despite this literally being illegal to do in other hospitals. I don’t understand the reasoning behind it, but it’s what they do.
Curious, I ask if it’s a guy coming in with decompensated heart failure. Their answer was absolutely infuriating. I am informed that not only is it the same guy–who will probably be getting a psych consult for delirium—but that he had ACTIVELY BEEN HAVING A FREAKING HEART ATTACK IN THEIR ED without them so much as noticing.
Needless to say, I was pretty upset that this outside ED had tried to send this guy to our psych unit, where it is a lot harder to get other medical treatments, without even getting vital signs on him or realizing that he was having a heart attack. I tell this story to medical students who are rotating through psychiatry all the time to try to hammer home the point that just because someone is acting bizarre doesn’t mean that you can just throw the “psych patient” label on them and ignore everything else.
80. Too Little, Too Late
My best friend was in her late 20s and was feeling constant irritation in her stomach. She went to see several doctors over the course of almost three years, and they all dismissed her saying she just had an irritable bowel. She would try a new diet every few months, but nothing helped. One day, she calls me and tells me she broke her ribs.
She didn’t know how it happened, but she started having horrible pain and her doctor said her ribs must be fractured. Long story short, it wasn’t fractured ribs. At some point when the pain became too much to bear, she went to the ER and got a CT. The results were absolutely devastating. It turns out that she had stage four colon cancer with four-inch tumors in her abdomen that were compressing her organs and causing the pain.
It took her life a few months later. She’d been seeing doctors about her symptoms for three years. If just one of them had taken her concerns seriously and sent her to get a colonoscopy, she’d probably still be alive today. It’s disturbing, but sadly not surprising, to see that there are so many similar stories to this one.
If you feel like something is off with your body, trust your instincts, and don’t listen to doctors who try to tell you otherwise! The cancer may have taken her life, but the real reason for her passing was apathy.
81. This One’s Hard To Stomach
I’m not a doctor, but I have a story to share. I’ve been dealing with abdominal pain since I was a child. I’ve had countless ultrasounds, doctor’s appointments, and ER visits. I was always told it was in my head. Recently, I had surgery for something unrelated. During the surgery, they had to free my appendix that was stuck to my abdomen wall. Just the tip is healthy at this point.
So apparently, I had been suffering for years with a mild case of appendicitis, and my body was pretty much just absorbing my appendix. I will have to go back to get it removed in a later surgery, because it was so stuck that all they could do was free it. And they didn’t want to risk it at that point because it was going to cause more pain. So, that was cool to find out…
82. Forgetting An Important Detail
I’m not a doctor, but actually the patient. I had a doctor prescribe me birth control. While in line to pay for it, I was reading the paperwork that comes with it, and I learned that another medication I am on, permanently and every day, completely voids out any effect the birth control would have. I went back to the pharmacist and asked about interactions.
He informed me that I may have side effects. I asked which ones, and he said: “Pregnancy.” Pregnancy is not a side effect. It is a lifelong commitment. Then, I called the doctor and asked why she would prescribe something to me that she knew wouldn’t work. And her response was: “But you asked for birth control!” Like, yeah I did, but I wanted some that would actually work!
Silly me for not specifying that…
83. Anxious To Find Out
I have anxiety that can get pretty bad when untreated. I went to see my general doctor about it and tried to explain my symptoms. She told me it was heartburn. I tried to explain that I thought it might be anxiety and she yelled at me. She got upset and told me how “everyone is stressed” and how “these are stressful times, it’s normal.”
I was having heart attack symptoms and I’m far too young with no heart problems to be having a heart attack. I went to a new doctor and, before I could even finish explaining, she cut me off and said “Yeah, you’ve got anxiety.” I was out on meds and within the week I was feeling better. I don’t know what that first doctor’s problem was…
84. Walking The Walk
I’m the patient in the story. When I was a toddler and started walking, my extended family noticed that I would waddle a lot. My parents didn’t really notice it because they grew used to my funny walking, but my grandma and my aunts that saw me so much less often insisted that I had a limp. So, my mother asked our pediatrician about it and he reassured her that it was nothing and would fix itself as I was growing up.
One year passed and it didn’t fix itself. In fact, it got more noticeable. My mother asked my doctor again. She asked for an x-ray to make sure everything was fine, and the doctor bit her head off for wanting to expose me to the rays. He insisted it was nothing, but referred us to a specialist anyway. The specialist suggested that my parents put some wool around my leg that had the limp.
Because wool would warm it up and speed up the growing process. Right. My dad finally had enough. It was summer and my regular pediatrician was on holiday. His partner visited me because the limping had since become really bad and my parents wanted another opinion. The new doctor measured my legs. There was a four or five centimeter difference between the two legs.
They sent me to a specialist at a children’s hospital to get it fixed right away. I had severe dysplasia. So severe that my right hip didn’t have a socket for the femur bone. Three years and three surgeries later, as well as after months of physiotherapy to learn to walk again, I was normal. If the second doctor didn’t catch it, I would have grown up disabled.
That doctor split up with his work partner, i.e. the first doctor who couldn’t even be bothered to measure my legs. The second doctor is now my daughter’s pediatrician.
85. The Family Jewels
My 13-year-old son complained to me that he was unbearably itchy down there. I figured probably sweat, so I told him to wash the area thoroughly and make sure to dry well. A couple of days later, he said it was still itchy and getting bigger. Bigger? He said there was no pain or anything, but it was still itchy and swollen. I still didn’t think it was anything more than a sweat rash that maybe needed some ointment.
But when we went to the doctor, we were sent off for an ultrasound. The scan showed zero blood flow to the area, so he was immediately transferred to the emergency room. He went in for emergency surgery where the urologist removes one necrotic mass. It had become randomly twisted and passed at least a week prior. The swelling was a major infection setting in, which also caused the itchiness and swelling.
He had no pain whatsoever and the doctor said that was amazing. For most boys, torsion feels like being kicked in the nuts continuously, and by the infected stage he was in, he should have been screaming and crying from the pain. If we had waited any longer, he could have developed sepsis. He had a follow-up surgery a month later to insert a replacement part and to stitch his remaining one in place so it doesn’t happen again.
86. A Hairy Situation
This one was actually from back when I was a medical student, but it’s still the weirdest thing I’ve seen. It was my last rotation in medical school before graduating and starting residency. I had completed all my requirements and just wanted to take a few interesting electives of things I hadn’t seen yet. This was a dermatology rotation at the VA.
The rotation had been interesting and chill, and I was seeing my third-to-last patient as a medical student. The guy came in and the resident asked him why he was there. He said, “I have hair coming out of my hand.” I figured he meant a weird mole with some hair coming out, but this guy (who was probably in his late thirties or early forties) said, “No, the hair is coming out from under the skin.”
The resident asked him what he did for a living and he said he was a barber. Apparently, it’s not too uncommon for hair to poke through the skin, especially for barbers who cut men’s hair. It’s short, thin, and can be kinda pokey after all. It was sort of like getting a sliver, but with hair. But the guy said, “No, it’s a lot of hair, look!”
He held up his hand, making a fist, and there were several hairs poking out from between the knuckles of his pointer and middle finger. I stared in confusion, and the resident grabbed some tweezers to pull out maybe a half dozen short black hairs. The guy said, “Yeah, I already pulled out like 50.” That’s when the resident’s face dropped.
We numbed up the backside of his hand between the first and second knuckle and made a little incision. We were shocked at the mass of hair that we uncovered. We started pulling out GOBS of short black hair. A chunk of 20, a chunk of 30, etc. At some point, she got the magnifying glasses out with an attached light and said, “Oh my gosh, there are still more in there! Sir, do you know how all this hair got into your hand?” His answer was so disturbing, it’s unforgettable.
The guy said, “Oh it probably came in through there!” He flipped his hand over to reveal a HOLE in the palmar aspect of his hand’s skin. It turns out, the dude had cut himself like TWO YEARS before this, and it had never healed properly (he was diabetic), so he just kept cutting hair with this open wound on his hand. Probably every day, a few hairs got stuck in his hand. For two years.
Now those hairs had tunneled through the webbing between his first and second fingers from the front of his hand and out the backside. We spent like 30 minutes MILKING his hand and fingers while more and more hair came out. She said, “There’s no way I got it all out, so you have to come back every two weeks for a few months for us to keep removing more hair from your hand.”
87. The Saga Of Private Idiot
I was a combat medic in the Army. After basic schooling, I showed up to my first duty assignment. Now, as a fresh little private, I expected my job to be more oriented towards combat medicine, hence the job title. That’s when I got my first taste of “Don’t get your hopes up.” There I was, expecting to settle in when they told me I’d be pulling medical coverage for a 15-mile ruck march.
At that point, I had a couple of thoughts: 1. Do people really walk 15 miles? 2. What the heck is medical coverage? 3. I don’t even have an aid bag, how do I treat people? I got the typical response of “figure it out.” I basically started looking for the friendliest faces in my medic platoon, but mind you—most of this platoon got back from Afghanistan a few months prior and they were already exposed to live combat casualties.
That meant there were no friendly faces. When you are the new private, you are underneath the bottom of the barrel, so NO ONE likes you. Long story short, after a few push-ups and stuff, I got the aid bag. I went over my notes, trying to prepare myself for gore and broken limbs. But no, this is where I truly got in over my head. It turns out, the main casualty any medic will see is a heat casualty. Apparently, the one thing these soldiers just didn’t do…was drink water. Not one person drank water and because of this, guys would drop like flies.
So let’s fast forward a bit. The ruck was happening, and a few miles in, I finally got my first casualty. I hopped out like Captain America with my little cool guy shades on and my helmet unbuckled, thinking I looked cooler than I actually was. In school, they covered heat casualties in about five minutes and I was asleep in class for most of the time.
So there I was, freaking out on the inside. I still tried to treat my casualty as best I can. I brought out the ice sheets, placed him in the shade, the whole shebang. I eventually got him in the truck, removed his clothes, and performed an exam. Naturally, at that point, I was feeling good about myself. “He’s still alive so we good.” And then I got to the one question that messed me up more than anything.
“Did you get a core temperature?” No, no I did not. This process is simple, but in training, you don’t really get the full experience. See, this task requires you to spread their cheeks, maintain steady eye contact with the eye of Sauron, and insert a thermometer while holding back your own vomit.
We called it biting the silver bullet. Everyone knew about the notoriety of the silver bullet, but I was the one who had to bite it. As I was gliding it down the booty crack, I felt it give in. In my limited experience, I thought this was the bootyhole. Wrong. It was not. It was rather, what I call, a phantom hole. Everyone looked at me like I was the dumbest man to ever exist. “THERE’S ONLY ONE…HOW DO YOU MISS?”
As this exchange was occurring, the casualty was just writhing back and forth in pain because I kind of forced it in there pretty hard. I was trying to convince him that I had to go for round two, and after a fruitful conversation, I tried again. I finally got it in the right place. I just left it there for a bit while I started to do paperwork. After about five minutes, my NCO was yelling at me again.
“WHY THE HECK IS THE THERMOMETER STILL IN THERE?”, I sputtered out, “SARGE, I THOUGHT WE HAD TO CONSTANTLY REASSESS!” Yeah, Private Idiot, you don’t have to leave it in there. Needless to say, I had to write an apology letter for tormenting this innocent victim. For God’s sake…they never taught THAT in school.
88. Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde
Some people talk while under anesthesia. Some people even scream. Honestly, it gets so bad sometimes that I used to go home in tears, especially after treating very vocal patients. The only thing that helped was when patients would wake up and tell us, “Thank you so much. That went so fast.” Post-operative checks a week later when I could see the patients were still doing well helped too.
I remember asking the doctor over and over when I first started, “Are you sure they’re under, are you sure they’re numb?” Now, after a few years’ experience, I understand how much local anesthetic he used. The patients were likely numb for a few hours post-treatment.
89. A Twist Of Fate
Sometimes, even when you do everything you’re told to do, tragedy happens. You are going to have an elderly patient who you know won’t make it, but there is little you can do about it other than lessen the damage. There is going to be a patient’s family member you get a little too close to and you will feel hurt when they blame you for something.
You will trust your superiors and possibly get thrown under the bus for it. I had an instance where I had a new patient who arrived on my day off. The nurse gave me a very quick report about him when I came back and I was told that although he would be a little resistant, he wasn’t combative. In fact, he was purposefully placed with me because I was pretty calm and often chatted with my patients.
We were short-staffed, as always. I had another nurse assisting me to transfer him, but the nurse had to leave to get an oxygen canister for him…and she never made it back. My patient got a little restless as we were waiting. I couldn’t move him in his wheelchair as he was hooked up to a mounted canister, and I also couldn’t leave him alone.
While I was standing there, he pulled a shocking move on me. I wound up getting punched in the eye without any warning. My glasses broke and I was stunned. I pulled the call light, but…nothing. I looked out the door but there was nobody there. I wound up using a phone to call the front desk and beg the nurse to come down because he hit me and I didn’t want to be there alone.
It still took her 15 minutes. At that time, I started to realize something was seriously wrong. At some point, I went to the doctor myself. It turned out, I had a concussion, a minor cartilage break in my nose, plus a black eye and vision issues. It’s been a few months now and I’ve lost central vision in that eye and I have started getting spots and floaters in the opposite eye.
They’re going to probably take my license soon. I’ve seen several doctors and specialists who are at a loss and don’t think they can do anything. I’ve been told surgery wouldn’t do anything because the rods and cones are pretty much gone in that eye. Plus, I have migraines daily now. I wanted to go to school to be a nurse. I’m not even 30 and now I have to give up on my dream.
Protect yourself. Little things can change your entire life.
90. Picking Up The Pieces
Nurse here. They don’t teach you how to maintain honesty when your doctor skirts around a cancer diagnosis. I’ve had a few cases where a physician avoids questions and instead just tells the patients and families to wait and see what pathology shows. The doctor will then usually spend 30 seconds in the room giving vague information, then immediately leave me to pick up the pieces.
Patients often ask, “In your opinion, what did the doctor mean when he or she said this?” And my response is almost always straightforward—that when it presents like that, it usually means cancer. I want to be honest with them. I make sure to spend the next 30 minutes educating the patient and offering resources on what the next steps would be.
91. The Woman Who Knew Too Much
My twin sister is a nurse. She most definitely didn’t learn how to care for her own dying mother in nursing college. Our mother passed from cancer, and we nursed her until the very end at home. I was very thankful that my sister is a nurse and knew what to do, but the minute my mom passed, my sister could not be in the same room.
She had already seen so much tragedy as a nurse before, but nothing could prepare her for her own mother’s passing. I think my sister questioned her choice of being a nurse after that. To me, I was seeing my mom finally being released from all the pain she was feeling. For my sister, she knew what was happening below the surface.
She knew how my mom’s lungs were giving in, and that her heart was failing. The thought that she knew that hurt me inside as much as my mom’s passing did. I have a lot of love and respect for my sister.
92. Seeing Green
When I was in my early twenties, I took someone to the emergency room one time with a badly infected wound. When I told the middle-aged doctor that it was an infection, he chuckled and said, “don’t be silly. I’m sure you just mean that it’s inflamed.” I said yes, but it was also infected. He just rolled his eyes at me.
The nurses and other doctors chuckled. But then when the doctor looked at the wound, he said, “oh man. That is really badly infected.” After that, he wouldn’t make eye contact with me. I didn’t know why he had to argue with me and make me feel dumb in front of everyone.
93. The Rear View
Nurse here. A very panicked nursing assistant came running to the desk one day, saying, “You have to see this! I don’t know what this is!” She then brought me into a private room where she was giving the patient a bath. She pointed to an area on the patient’s buttocks. “What is that?” I leaned in for a closer inspection, and my face went white.
The patient then started to turn back around and said, “IS THAT MY EYE?!” Sure enough, my patient had a prosthetic eye that came out of the socket at some point and it became suction-cupped to her buttock. I left the room and had never laughed so hard in my life. Truly one of the most bizarre and hilarious moments in my career.
94. He Was Itching For Some Help
I was in the hospital following a motorcycle accident. My hospital roommate, who was beside me, had been in an 18-wheeler accident. He was complaining that his back itched and someone finally came in and rolled him on his side. When they turned him over, their faces dropped—his back had pieces of glass stuck all over it. I still don’t know how that was overlooked.
95. A Rash Of Problems
I had a small rash that wouldn’t go away, so I went to see the doctor after a long while of hoping that it would just disappear on its own. He said it was ringworm and gave me an antifungal, but the rash got worse. I went back and he gave me an even stronger antifungal. Still, the rash spread, and this time it was all down my arms. I went back to the doctor to get a referral to a dermatologist.
The dermatologist took one look at the rash and said, “That is contact dermatitis.” I had changed soaps and it irritated my skin, giving me a little rash. The doctor’s stupid antifungals, in the meanwhile, were making my skin go crazy. I just stopped using soap for like a week and it was fine, but I had skin discoloration for like a year.
96. Feel My Pain
My friend had a horrible moment when he was going under the knife. Two minutes into surgery, the doctors noticed his pupils dilating or something. He said it was horrible, he could feel the scalpel cutting into his flesh, the agonizing pain, and the oxygen thing only gave him air every few minutes. They noticed he wasn’t under and fixed it. But then the dark truth came out.
Turns out, the anesthesiologist who put him under was his ex-girlfriend, though no one knew about it, and she likely did it on purpose. The surgery went well, the recovery was a bit longer than expected, but he’s all good now.
97. Ain’t Gonna Happen, Bud
I’m an ICU nurse, the last two nights I’ve been taking care of a large strong man going through withdrawals. It involves four-point restraints. This morning I was trying to put elbow pads on him and he swung at me, but of course, the restraints prevented this. He was furious as I just stood there and slow blinked at him.
98. That’s No Scratch
I’m a nurse, but I was working in the ER when a guy came in for a scratch on his neck and “feeling drowsy.” We start the usual workups and this dude’s blood pressure TANKED. We scrambled, but he was dead within ten minutes of walking through the door. Turns out the “scratch” was an exit wound of a .22 caliber rifle round.
The guy didn’t even know he’d been shot. When the coroner’s report came back, we found that he’d been shot in the leg and the bullet tracked through his torso, shredding everything in between. There was really nothing we could’ve done, but that was a serious “what the heck just happened” moment, and for a good while we thought we had made a fatal error.
99. Welcome To The World
My dad is a pediatrician specializing in neurological issues. He was seeing one of his patients at the hospital and got dragged into the NICU unexpectedly by a nurse who insisted that a baby wasn’t well. The attending doctor insisted the kid was fine, and that he was just tired from a difficult vacuum assist delivery. My dad could tell the baby wasn’t okay and managed to talk the parents into a brain scan.
The NICU doctor insisted my dad was nuts to the parents. Little did he know his arrogance would cost him, big time. The kid had a brain bleed and was rushed to surgery. The baby would not have lived without the nurse bringing my dad in and the parents listening to him. The delay caused by the NICU doctor almost certainly cost the kid some brain function. I’m proud that my dad did the right thing.
100. And This Is Why We Wash Our Hands
Sometimes, surgeons are the ones in for an unpleasant surprise. My father is a physician and, although he’s not a surgeon, he did some surgery while in medical school. He told me a story about a patient he had once who had necrotizing fasciitis—a.k.a. a really nasty flesh-eating disease. I almost wish that he hadn’t told me this story. It’s like something out of The Walking Dead.
The patient had gotten a cut while gardening and never cleaned the wound properly. My dad told us that he had to peel back layers just to get at it. First, he peeled off the bandages that the patient had self-applied. Then there was a layer of holy book pages that he also had to peel off. Layer upon layer, bandage upon bandage.
Finally, beneath all that, was the wound itself. No amount of med school training could have prepared my father for what he saw. The wound was covered in maggots. Apparently, they were eating the dead-tissue generated by the disease. He said that once they removed the maggots, they were able to begin the surgery to remove the infected areas.
Oddly enough, this patient had the maggots to thank for keeping his appendages intact. Because the maggots had eaten away the dead and infected flesh, my dad and his team didn’t have to amputate the patient’s limb. After this operation, though, my dad decided to not pursue surgery and focus on becoming a specialist.