In this day and age, when people feel something is wrong with their bodies, they often turn to the internet first before they seek the expertise of a medical professional. While "Dr. Google" can sometimes be a helpful resource, attempts to address one's own health issues without the guidance of a doctor can have dire consequences. The following stories are of patients who downplayed the severity of their conditions, only to be hit with a hard-to-swallow reality once they finally saw a health expert. Read on for some shocking accounts...
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 horrible 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 the Royal Brisbane 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. Unorthodox Wincing
I got a new OB-GYN and went for a check-up. I braced myself for the horrible pain, and she immediately stopped. As it turns out, extreme pain down there ISN'T normal, but I'd just had three other OB-GYNs who apparently didn't care that I cried in pain every time I was checked. She called it vulvar vestibulitis, but the most commonly used term now is vulvodynia.
Apparently, there's no known cause, but some doctors think it may be due to having too many nerve endings in the area. I am doing somewhat better now thanks to some physical therapies and a lidocaine ointment that I can apply beforehand.
6. 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.
7. Tainted Smile
I work at a dentist’s office. A patient came in for an exam, concerned that a part of her tooth was chipped off. On examination, it was not a chip, but rather a piece of calculus, which is the build-up of hard tartar that covers your teeth over time when you don’t brush them. It can be small deposits, or in this case, an entire “bridge” covering her actual teeth.
She thought the calculus was tooth material and was quite shocked to learn we were actually unable to see her real teeth. We gave her an extensive cleaning to remove it all.
8. 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".
9. The Denial Is Strong
As a teenager, I was listening to my best friend complain about her bad periods. She snapped at me and asked why I didn't care that she was in so much pain. I basically told her that we all go through it every month: "Everyone bleeds through tampons every hour or so. Everyone hurts all the time. Everyone gets the few moments where it's so painful you can barely stand. Everyone does this for eight days".
She looked at me like I was crazy and said no, that's not normal. I argued and said it's exactly how it is for me...it sucks but what can we do? She gently assured me that what I had just told her was not normal and that I should probably see a doctor.
10. Wrong Self-Diagnosis
We learned of a medical case involving a man who had a rash on his foot. He googled it and decided it was eczema or some similar inflammatory disease, so ordered and applied a steroid cream. For those who don't know, those kinds of steroids act by dampening the immune system—the overactivity of which is the cause of diseases like eczema and psoriasis.
However, he, in fact, had a fungal infection and was just reducing his body's ability to fight it off. If I remember correctly, by the time he got to the doctor's, he needed it amputated.
11. 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.
12. 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. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. Never Ignore The Symptoms
My pregnancy was really painful. I was the only woman in my family besides my mother who went through this, and even she didn't get sick at all while pregnant. I thought it was normal that I couldn’t stand straight or go farther than ten feet from the bathroom, or that I spent days on the bathroom floor unable to keep anything down to the point where I would lose track of days.
My fiancé begged and begged for me to go to the ER because of all the pain I had. It turns out, I had an acute UTI that was ready to spread to my kidneys. They told me if I waited any longer, I would have miscarried. The thought definitely makes me hold my baby tighter.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. 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.
22. 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.
23. Simply Counterproductive
Nurse here. At a get-together with friends (where the drinking got out of hand), I had a friend burn himself in the oven while making pizza, then try to cauterize that burn with his lighter. Fun fact: you cauterize wounds, not burns.
24. Quack Medicine
I'm a pediatric nurse. This one couple brought their child and he was feeling really weak. After the general admission questions, we discovered that they were into natural treatments. When their infant child developed tummy problems, they decided to give her a bottle of honey water to help with that. The baby was diagnosed with botulism.
25. 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.
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. 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.
29. 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.
30. Get It Off My Chest
A 40-year-old woman, who was a successful business owner and fully insured, had been taken to the ER by her sister because she was complaining of chest pain. She was asked to put on a gown for an EKG. I will never forget the sight. Her skin literally looked like a green hamburger. Sadly, she did not seek care sooner because she said she was embarrassed by the appearance and odor.
I followed her care as best I could. She went through a bilateral mastectomy, radiation, and chemo. She survived another three months before she passed.
31. Beyond A Burp
I had been having a problem for about two months where I'd feel some pain or pressure in my chest, specifically in my left lung. If I bounced a bit or tried to take a deep breath, I would normally need to burp which made the pain disappear, so I always thought that I had just swallowed some air or something had gone down the wrong pipe or whatever. No big deal, I thought. I was so wrong.
Over time, it got worse and worse. I would burp more, and once or twice per week, I would have a splitting pain which made me unable to turn on my left side. I also couldn't sleep at all and was just tossing and turning most nights. I had waited a total of 23 hours from when the pain first started to when I notified my mom "I might have to go to the ER".
Turns out, I had a collapsed lung—not partially deflated, but completely collapsed. It was bad enough that it was pressing up against my heart and disrupting its rhythm. Two operations later, I was okay, and through the glory of healthcare, the total hospital bill I had to pay was only $25.
32. A Hero's Weakness
I have what’s called Haglund's deformities in both of my feet. Essentially, I have bones growing from the back of my heels through my Achilles' tendons. Every time I walked or ran, it would rip and tear a bit more, forming scar tissue called a bursa. I would only feel the pain after I had finished running, and the only time I was running was when I was playing rugby.
I had this for close to 20 years. I always thought it was normal as I never really looked at anyone else’s feet in great detail. When I tore all the ligaments in my knee, the doctor saw the lumps and told me that the only way to get rid of them would be to cut through my Achilles, grind the bone away, and then reattach my Achilles. As I would have to learn to walk again, I essentially just chose to stop playing rugby...
33. Necrotic Neglect
My mom is an RN and she was just telling us about this lady she met while working in the ER a few years ago. This lady was morbidly overweight, diabetic, and bed-bound. She called 9-1-1 because she was worried about a smell coming from her bottom half (again, she was morbidly obese and could not bend over far enough to see what was going on).
She got seen by a doctor who checked her feet out. The doctor apparently said they were as black as a chalkboard and almost completely dead, which was going to result in her losing her feet. When the doctor asked why she didn’t have anyone checking in on her, she said she never thought to bring it up to her kids as she thought the tingling and diabetic pain was normal.
34. Aging Too Fast
I remember saying once in college that if my hands hurt this much now, I’m going to end myself when I develop arthritis. It turned out, I already had it. I was recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and hypermobility. The hypermobility is not as severe as EDS, but it’s notable. Just this year, I’ve dislocated a couple of fingers, my wrist a few times, and both kneecaps.
One was a full dislocation that had me on crutches for a few weeks and constantly subluxated. My doctor thinks the inflammation is newer, but that I’ve been dislocating my joints for years. I genuinely thought everyone was in as much constant pain as I was, and that they just managed it better and coped more efficiently.
35. Forget About It
I have a ridiculously high pain tolerance. The joke goes that I might lose a couple of limbs and it will take me a while to notice. I had some minor pain around my lower stomach and back. I didn't think of it much—I assumed it was some minor GI issue. I took paracetamol and honestly forgot about it. This went on for several days.
Later that week, I suddenly started feeling seriously ill. Cold sweats, chills, fainting... I thought I might have somehow messed up the medications or something. In the ER, it took just a couple of tests to figure out I had a severe kidney infection, and considering the severity, it had been going on for at least a month. I only felt minor discomfort for the last few days of it.
36. One Wild Night
Last October, after a wild night, I fell into some bushes by the side of the road. Lack of sobriety was definitely a cause, though I always wonder if I'd been pushed. Anyway, it wouldn't be so bad except for some reason, the sidewalk I'd been on was elevated by about 1/2 meter from the base of the bushes. There was a concrete patch (which I later discovered to be a manhole) right where I landed on my right shoulder.
I got up, checked that I had full hand and finger mobility, and if I could bend my elbows. I couldn't lift my arm above my head without some pain, but I figured I should be fine. I cleaned myself up, got home, and went on with life as normal. The next two days it was a bit rough trying to lift my right arm, but after that, it was more or less okay. I dismissed it as a muscle strain.
10 days later, I picked up my daughter and felt a searing pain in the shoulder where I had fallen. It still wasn't so bad, but since it hadn't gone away after 10 days, I thought I should probably get an X-ray done. I had actually gone to see a doctor who asked me to get one done, but it slipped my mind. So fast forward to the X-ray scan—and I heard what you never want to hear. The X-ray technician exclaimed, "Oh!'" right after the first one.
Then, I heard a muted phone call between him and the doctor I had seen earlier that day. When I was dressed and came out, the X-ray technician told me he couldn't believe I'd been walking around for 12 days without pain. My clavicle and collarbone were broken. On the right side, the bone was kind of tilted upwards, and it was totally separated from the left.
By the time I got surgery to get the collarbone fixed, almost four weeks had passed since I fell.
37. Eye Spy
Over the course of about three and a half months, I was treated for a sinus infection six times and then misdiagnosed with migraines—I have a family history of them. I would get these headaches that started in my face and trickle down all the way to the base of my skull. It wasn't until I was referred to an eye doctor, just to make sure that my headaches weren't being caused by my eyes, that the "Oh man, this isn't normal" moment happened.
During a routine eye exam, the doctor discovered that my optic nerves were swollen. She finished her exam, then very carefully explained what it could be. She then made an emergency appointment for an MRI. It turned out that I have intracranial hypertension, which means I make too much spinal fluid, and when it doesn't have any place to go, it can back up into my skull.
Less than a week later, I had to have a spinal tap to drain the excess fluid. I had more than one neurologist's jaw drop when they found out that my pressure level was at 33. The swelling in my optic nerves was so bad that by the time I finally saw the doctor who made the diagnosis, my vision was so screwed up that I couldn't read a book.
My mom had to fill out the paperwork because I couldn't see it well enough to fill it out on my own.
38. The Childbirth Equivalent
I was diagnosed with acid reflux, not understanding how people dealt with the pain and discomfort. Jump forward a few months—I started dry heaving one morning (after throwing up everything including sips of water) and I decided to go to the ER. One look and they assumed it was gallbladder issues. They gave me some pain meds, but they didn't help much.
Well, an X-ray and CT scan later, it was determined that I had acute pancreatitis. Apparently, the pain is about equivalent to childbirth, or so I was told. A few days later, after pancreatitis resolved, the doctor wanted to send me home for outpatient gallbladder removal. I argued that I was not leaving without the surgery. The next day, they removed my gallbladder in pieces because it had gangrene onset. Had I left the hospital, who knows what could have happened.
39. Luck Of The Draw
I’ll state up front that I’m a rather large girl and have been since I was a kid. I'm always tired and I pretty much get called lazy by anyone who knows me. I can never miss meals or I will get so tired that I would fall asleep on my feet. Growing up, I got told constantly that I was attention-seeking and just needed to lose weight, etc. Well, they were all horribly wrong.
I had multiple blood tests done and they showed I had a slight increase in the size of my red blood cells, but nothing explained why I was so tired. Years later, after noticing some spots appear on my body from my feet to my neck, I started to swell to the size of a balloon. I was told multiple times it was just scabies, so I started peeling off skin in multiple layers right down to the fatty layer.
Later on, the hospital decided that it was a bit more than scabies. Three weeks of pain later, I found out that I had multiple auto-immune diseases. One of them was rooted in a vitamin B12 defect, whereby my antibodies stop the binding of B12 in the stomach, causing pernicious anemia. The reason I am so tired all the time is that my blood cells cannot transport as much oxygen around the body.
I also have a slight gluten sensitivity that was beginning to transform into lactose sensitivity. All my specialists thought my case was very unique. "You’re in your 30s; why was none of this diagnosed as a kid?" Yeah. I wonder why. As for the spots, the doctors at the hospital still have no idea what the heck started that. They just think it’s some variant of a common skin disorder.
40. Letting It Fester
My mom is a medical assistant in a pediatrics office. About two years ago, a lady came in with a gash in her heel. The lady had thought the tingling was a bad sign and that she should get a check-up...but mind you, the gash had been open for weeks. My mom undid the wrapping the lady put on her foot and there were maggots eating at the lady's flesh inside her foot.
My mom and another medical assistant had to dig them out from this lady's foot. The night she told me this, I was dumbfounded by how stupid this woman was not to go to a doctor once she got the gash.
41. Saving Money At What Cost?
I had traveled internationally and started having bad stomach problems. I have IBS and assumed my change in diet while traveling triggered the symptoms. I considered going to a doctor but was worried I’d get stuck with a huge bill for a foreign ER visit over probably nothing. I made it through a few more days feeling thoroughly horrible and somehow made it through the two long flights and long car ride home.
Thankfully I had an aisle seat for both flights since I was constantly getting up to use the bathroom. I arrived home on a Sunday evening, and the following Monday was a federal holiday, so my doctor was closed. My insurance charged a lot to go to urgent care, so I figured I’d wait until the following day to go to the doctor. At that point, I was still thinking it might be IBS, but also starting to think it might be food contamination.
When I saw the doctor, she immediately prescribed a strong antibiotic as well as an anti-nausea medication so I could keep it down. I got my test results back a few days later, after I was already feeling better, and discovered I spent a week with E. Coli and campylobacter (another foodborne virus). Had I known how sick I was and how quickly antibiotics would help, I would have gladly paid the premium to see urgent care or even the foreign ER.
42. Love The Skin You're In
I'm an ER doctor and there’s one case I’ll never forget. I had a patient come in for a cast removal literally YEARS after it had been put on. She had just decided it wasn’t worth taking off. Her leg skin was literally growing OVER the top of the cast and then down it. Once we finally cut the cast off, she was surprised to find that she had no skin underneath...
Instead, the dead tissue over her muscles and bones was being cleaned by about 300 maggots. I knew by the smell that something under there wasn’t right, but wasn’t expecting that. The patient seemed completely fine with it. Whatever.
43. Seeing Black
When I was in high school, I was walking to the bathroom and I immediately felt off. My vision started to dim, the sounds I was hearing became extremely muffled and I lost the ability to stand. I didn't think much about it because those things happened fairly regularly. Since I was in mid-walk, I couldn't catch myself and fell face-first into the tile floor.
I ended up going to the ER for stitches and they were concerned because I had been, in their words, losing consciousness regularly (though, I never actually lost consciousness and was always fully aware). They had me wear a heart monitor for a week and put me on anti-seizure medication. After a couple of tests, the doctors found out that I have really low blood pressure—in the 90s or less, most of the time.
When I stand, it can cause the pressure to drop dramatically. Everything I was experiencing was actually the side effects of shock.
44. When Dayquil/Nyquil Fails
I was 19 and had what I thought was a bad cold for a little over a week. I lived alone and had only taken a couple of days off work, just resting and doing the Dayquil/Nyquil cycle trying to get over it. My mother came around to return a car I had let her borrow, and when she saw me and learned how long I'd been fighting the cold, she insisted I go see a doctor.
I remember getting into the car and then waking up in recovery several hours later. Apparently, I passed out on the way there and got rushed into the ER where they decided I had pneumonia. A couple of days later, the doctor told me if I'd gone another day, I probably would've died at home. Honestly, I didn't feel that sick.
45. Bump On The Backside
I have a disfigured tailbone which caused me to have a weird lump right above my backside. It's painful for me to sit normally and do a lot of other things. I grew up thinking that it was normal because I got the injury at a young age, from an inflatable slide mishap. My parents downplayed the issue for years, so I just thought it was fine.
My doctor did not agree. He never did get around to doing something about my tailbone, but I think the problem was that there really wasn't much that he could actually do. There's the option of removing my tailbone which is just going to be horrible, but I'm not really sure what other options there are...but yeah. A bump above the butt is not normal.
46. Tooth Fairy Goldmine
I work in a dental office. The most common thing we see is people placing aspirin on their gums next to an aching tooth. All that does is severely burn the gums and make the pain worse. I've also met a few people over the years who have taken their own teeth out with a pair of pliers. One guy we saw had a problem tooth, went to pull it out, pulled the wrong one, then tried again, and finally pulled the problem one.
He shattered the alveolar bone in that area and had to be sent to an oral surgeon immediately.
47. Glitches In Time
I was rushed to the ER after frequent blackouts and sudden-onset fatigue. I worked a physical labor job and attended college after my shift, so I didn't think anything about the fatigue and the blackouts. I thought it was just my brain giving me a fast forward through mind-numbing tasks. Typically, I would have blackouts while driving because my commute to work was about 45 minutes and my school was about an hour away from my work. I can’t believe how dangerous it was.
I would get on the highway, blink, and the next thing I knew, I was in the parking lot with 45 minutes having passed in an instant. I told my girlfriend about this and she told me something was wrong; but being a dumb 19-year-old, I ignored it. It wasn't until I was at work stacking chairs that it really started to sink in—I had an empty cart, put a chair on it, turned around to pick up another chair, then turned back to a chilling sight. The cart was full—but I didn’t remember filling it.
When I saw the full cart, it was like someone hit me in the back of the head and I instantly felt like I hadn't slept in days. I ended up sitting down and one of my co-workers noticed I was white as a ghost. The guy in charge forced me to go to the hospital even though I insisted I was fine. Once I got to the hospital and got brain scans done, it turned out I was having mild seizures caused by a lack of sleep.
When I told the doctor about my commuting blackouts, he looked like he just saw a ghost. He told me he had no idea how I didn't crash. He basically told me to find a new job and get more sleep.
48. A Tickle Under The Rib
I saw this one patient with a really odd condition. While she was asking me why she gets rib pain so often, she literally reached under her own rib and jiggled it with her fingers. Turns out, there were a lot of other things she could do that she shouldn’t ever be able to. I attributed it to a variant of Ehlers Danlos syndrome, which causes connective tissue abnormalities.
I was so distracted by the popping in and out of her rib that initially, I didn’t even notice how horrifying it was that she could get her hand under there.
49. I'm Not Crying Wolf
One night, when I was 16, I had a very sharp pain in my right side. I tossed and turned for a couple of hours before getting up and knocking on my mom’s bedroom door; a forbidden action. My mother swung the door open and snapped at me. Then, when I explained my pain, she told me it was just heartburn. She ordered me to drink some milk and go back to bed.
I drank the milk, tossed around my bed for a few more hours, and finally passed out from exhaustion. The next day and a few weeks after that, I felt fine. But then, a couple of months later, the pain was back and I woke my mother in the middle of the night again. She gave me the same response as the first time, and I once again just passed out from exhaustion.
Because it was starting to become a pattern, the next time I felt the pain, I didn’t bother going to my mother and just rode it out. This continued until I was 18. My parents were out of town one weekend and the pain came back worse than ever before, waking me from a dead sleep. After hours and hours of utter agony, hurting to move, hurting to lay still, I broke down and called my mother.
On the voicemail I left her, I told her that I thought I was dying. I finally passed out as the sun began to rise. I was woken up by my uncle banging on the front door and he took me to the doctor, who then referred me to an ultrasound and a surgeon. I was able to get the ultrasound done on the same day but the surgeon didn’t have availability until the end of the week. I didn’t think anything of it as, once again, the pain had disappeared by then.
My mom begrudgingly took me to the appointment with the surgeon, but I’m pretty sure she thought I was faking it since I’d been completely fine all week. I remember sitting in the office with the surgeon, just chatting while we waited for the nurse to bring him my ultrasound file. I’ll never forget when she handed it to him. He opened the folder and the smile immediately fell from his face.
Surgeon: Did they give you any pain meds when you went to the doctor? Me: No, just some antibiotics. Why? Surgeon: Nancy, call my 2 pm and tell them we have to reschedule as I’ll be doing emergency surgery. You should have been sent to me last week. I’ll meet you in the ER. So yeah, my gallbladder had apparently been filled with stones since I was 16 and it kept making more for the next two years. The surgeon said he’d never seen anything like it.
All of this could have been avoided if my mother had just listened to me when I first complained to her.
50. Ignoring The Pain
There are so many, but perhaps one of the most stunning cases was the man who thought searing pain while urinating every once in a while was normal. He would have tremendous back pain for a day or so, which he thought was due to advancing age and the highly physical nature of his job. Not incredibly unreasonable, but something he should have still checked out.
Usually, a few days later, he would have searing pain while urinating, then be fine again. Of course, it turned out to be chronic kidney stone formation. He said he never noticed the stones coming out because he never looked down while urinating. Honestly, I still don't understand. I have had kidney stones myself and it definitely feels like something solid is coming out. Baffling.