Nothing is more frightening than a health scare—but what if that health scare was actually a real medical emergency? Surprisingly, this happens quite often, and unless someone happens to be there to catch on and intervene, it can end in tragedy and disaster. Here are 50 stories about times when people happened to be in the right place at the right time, in order to tell someone to get to the hospital…NOW!
1. A Change Is Gonna Come
I have worked in various fields of healthcare, from CNA to pathology. One time, I went to visit with a friend and learned her grandmother was now living with her. She had cracked her femur and was now immobile, catheterized, and on some strong substances. I walked into her room to say hi and was hit with the unmistakable smells of severe infection.
I looked at her cath line and, instead of clear yellow urine, she had milky reddish urine with chunks of sediment in it. I asked how she was feeling and she said well enough but added that her stomach was really hurting. I told my friend to call an ambulance, as grandma has a severe bladder infection and needs to be seen now.
The doctors couldn’t believe it. She had a severe E. Coli infection in her bladder and, due to the painkillers she was on, was also very constipated. It was amazing that she was running no temp and was lucid. Said, “This woman was brought in just in time. If you would have waited any longer she could have gone skeptic or developed a high enough fever to end her life.”
Turns out the infection was caused by a piece of trash home healthcare agency that never changed her Foley. Catheters have to be changed and flushed to prevent infection and, in three months, they never did. She’s okay now, though. She is walking with a walker and has a great home nurse. Whenever I go to visit my friend, she comes to say hi and calls me her “infection angel.”
2. Right Place, Right Time
My mother was in remission from breast cancer but was having severe headaches and other symptoms. She went to her regular oncologist’s office. They checked her out and said that her calcium levels were slightly elevated, but they also said that she should just take some painkillers and head home. Fortunately, she had been planning to visit a friend in Rochester, Minnesota over the weekend.
Given how bad she was feeling, she called her friend and said, “I can’t make it.” During this conversation, she mentioned her calcium level as being the only thing wrong with her that the doctors could find. By pure luck, the friend she was going to see had taken a job in an oncologist’s office at the Mayo Clinic one week prior.
Her boss, the oncologist, was walking through the office as she hung up the phone and He asked her what the call was about. My mother’s friend explained that her plans had been canceled for the weekend because my mother was ill. Then, she offhandedly mentioned my mother’s calcium level. The oncologist’s face literally turned white as soon as he heard the number.
“She needs to get to an emergency room now. She is a 0.1 or 0.2 mg/dL away from falling into a coma and never waking up.” And he was right. My mother’s hometown doctors had basically sent her home to perish because they were apparently too incompetent to recognize life-threatening hypercalcemia when they saw it.
Thanks to this improbable chain of events, I was able to rush my mother to the emergency room where she was able to get the calcium flushed out of her system. As it later turned out, the breast cancer had moved into her bones and was leaching calcium into her blood. A bunch of other things happened next before this was fully over.
The calcium was flushed from her system and she went on aromatase inhibitors that fought cancer. There was also some other medication that helped prevent the calcium from leaching. A few years later, however, the cancer was still on the move and she developed tumors in her uterus and intestinal tract. Sadly, she passed this past February.
But I cherish the extra time that my brother and I had with her. She was able to attend both of our weddings, all thanks to the friend that told her to get to the hospital immediately. I am forever grateful for whatever made it possible for that chance occurrence to go down the way it did. I can’t even imagine how awful it would have been otherwise.
3. On The Road Again
I am a nurse practitioner. I once saved the life of a man who was having a heart attack. He had been driving the car in front of me and was maneuvering very poorly, so I passed him to give the “what the heck is your problem” face. But as I looked into his window, I saw immediately that something was very wrong with him. About that time, his car pulled off the road and stopped.
I stopped and got out to see what was going on. I immediately called an ambulance. I helped him out of the car and got him sitting down in the grass, talking, getting information, etc. And after a few minutes, he suddenly slumped over. No pulse. I laid him down and started CPR. Thankfully, the ambulance arrived a minute or two later.
It was truly a case of incredible luck for him. He ended up living and I’m fairly close with his family now.
4. Minding His Business
I’m a nurse. I diagnosed somebody with internal bleeding without even laying eyes on him. The thing about an intestinal bleed is that it has a really distinctive odor. Very different from any normal bodily function. The guy seemed a little confused when I started talking to him through the door of the bathroom stall, but he did agree to go see his doctor afterward.
5. Street Smart
A few months back, I wasn’t feeling so hot one day. I walked down to the local CVS pharmacy and, on the way, a homeless guy told me I looked really bad instead of asking for money. A few hours later, that comment started to bother me, so I went to the Emergency Room. The doctors were in shock after they read my test results. Before I knew it, I was having my appendix out. Apparently, it burst while I was at the table.
As far as I know, that homeless man wasn’t a doctor, but if a homeless guy tells you that you look bad…. you should probably go to the ER.
6. Missing The Chance To Save His Life
When I was a kid, I was at the beach with my dad one summer afternoon. While we were there, a random woman came up to us and told him that she was a dermatologist and that he should really have that large mole on his back checked out. She was quite nice about it, but also really, really insistent. He simply brushed it off, but he would soon suffer the consequences of his ignorance.
When I was 15 years old, he passed from melanoma. All from that darn mole that he never got checked out. I think she just knew. She kept saying how important it was and how a lot of people write these things off, but they’re actually really important. I still remember the look on her face as he politely thanked her and we walked away, leaving her standing there in the sand.
The message hasn’t sunk in. He wasn’t getting it checked out. It wasn’t her fault, but she looked so sad. Then she shook it off and went back to play with her kids.
7. Second Opinions
I am not a doctor, but I have witnessed these kinds of issues. One time, my aunt was saved by a customer of hers. A long-time customer at her store, who happened to be a doctor, said she looked a little off. My aunt said she just had a check-up and was fine, just achy and tired from breaking her hip a few months back.
He asked her a couple of questions, wrote a note, and said she should ask her doctor to do these tests. He did and found out a chilling truth— she had bone cancer. On another occasion, my father-in-law went to the emergency room, and the attending doctor informed him that he had food poisoning. He started talking to a random doctor in the elevator at the garage, who said to him that he sounded a little slurry.
This random doctor, who he was only speaking with by pure chance on his way out, said that he should get a CT scan done. So he escorted him back to ER and ordered a CT scan. The results were horrifying—turned out, the man had suffered a minor stroke. And here is one last story, because it also relates. My mom went to the ER one time because she was not feeling well.
The hospital diagnosed her with dehydration. I spoke with her on the phone and noticed that her voice was off. I asked if she had a CT scan, because of what happened to my father-in-law. She said no. I made my sister take her back to the ER and demand a CT scan. They reluctantly did, and they found a brain tumor. Always go with your gut and don’t be afraid to get things fully checked if something doesn’t seem right.
8. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
This is how my neighbor saved my dad’s life. He was outside doing yard work, but he was not feeling great and he was sweating profusely. She came over to talk to him. For context, she’s been a registered nurse for over 25 years. She was just planning to say hello, but she took one look at him and knew the dark truth— he was having a full-blown heart attack. They went to the hospital and he got the necessary medicines.
Five years later, he’s doing fine…and still alive to tell the tale.
9. On The Job
A surgeon walked into my place of work as a customer, took one look at me behind the desk, and told me to go to the nearest hospital right away. The hospital doctors had some shocking news for me—I had thyroid cancer. So, I guess a doctor’s responsibilities are never truly over, even when they’re not at work.
10. Where There’s A Pill, There’s A Way
One day, a completely unknown man walked up to me at a Starbucks. What he told me was chilling—he warned me that my vegetarian diet was making me anemic. He then handed me an iron pill and went on with his day. I don’t know if he was a doctor or what, but it turned out he was totally right. I take iron supplements each and every day now.
For those concerned for my safety over the fact that I consumed a pill handed to me by a stranger, I can confirm it was Slow-FE from an in-tact blister pack. He opened a box with them in it and I saw him tear off a square (the pack is perforated in a way to allow this). You then have to pull back a layer of thick paper and foil, and then pop it out through another layer of foil.
If this wasn’t an iron pill, then that guy just spent tons of cash making it look legit. That being said, I still don’t quite recommend anyone doing the same…
11. Bruising Her Ego
I’m not a doctor, but when I was in college, one of my fellow lifeguards was showing me how easily she was bruising. Like, you could press your thumb into her arm and 10 minutes later she’d have this black and blue bruise that looked like someone had severely hit her. I told her to get her butt over to the health center because that was not a normal thing to be experiencing. The truth behind her condition took us all aback.
It turned out her red blood cell or platelet count was really low. Like, it should have been in the five million range, and hers was in the one million range. She even had to be admitted overnight for a couple of days to have the issue taken care of. Sometimes, even things that seem as minor as this can be signs of a much larger problem.
12. Coffee Break Talk
I am not a doctor, but my roommate and I were waiting in line for coffee when a woman behind us tapped her on the shoulder and told her she should get checked for skin cancer. That was all she said to us before walking away. Turns out, she was completely right. I don’t know if she was a doctor or not, but she absolutely saved my roommate’s life with that comment.
13. She Shoots, She Scores
When I was only a couple of years old, my parents were with me in the bleachers at my brother’s soccer game. My dad went off to go get drinks for everyone, and as soon as my mom was alone with me, the totally unexpected happened—everything turned black and I collapsed. I immediately got up again, crying. A nurse, who happened to be in the bleachers with us, grabbed my mom and asked her if she knew that I had just had a seizure.
My mom burst into tears. That was the first time anyone other than my mom had witnessed one of my mysterious ‘episodes,’ and up until then, the doctors were unwilling to take my mom seriously. That nurse ended up getting my dad, pulling my brother out of the soccer game, and going with all of us to a hospital so that she could be an ‘official witness’ to the fact that I’d truly had a diagnosable seizure.
I was formally diagnosed with epilepsy shortly afterward. That nurse wasn’t on duty and had no reason to do as much for us as she did, but we are all very grateful to her for having done so. My life and long-term health would not have been the same without all the tremendously selfless help and support that she chose to give us.
14. Watching For The Warning Signs
Medical student here. One time, I was taking a break from studying and was just lying around on the couch. At one point, my grandma came to lie down on a couch adjacent to mine for her afternoon nap. I noticed that her neck veins were looking a little too prominent. When she asked me for another pillow, that was enough to get the alarm bells ringing in my head.
I confirmed my suspicions by checking for swelling in her feet, and I immediately took her to the hospital right then and there. She was experiencing heart failure.
15. A Keen Eye
My mom is a doctor. She’s always diagnosing on the go, but she’ll only tell me. For example, she’ll whisper to me: “Look, that lady has thalassemia major, and the guy she’s with has thyroid problems, and the girl across from them has some suspicious-looking bruises. Could be purpura…and he….he’s just fat.” She is also completely unaware that she does this.
On one occasion, she correctly identified someone as having thalassemia and was able to warn them to get it checked out. There’s a reason why this was so incredibly impressive—because, as all people with knowledge of thalassemia are aware, it is almost impossible to spot. In some types of this condition, there are no facial symptoms. However, some types of thalassemia lead to somewhat characteristic facial structures.
There are articles online that explain some of them. Ultimately, you cannot do a good diagnosis from just looking at someone, especially for a hematological disease, but there are certainly clues. But my mom somehow managed to do it. Shout out to all the thalassemia patients and their family members out there! Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.
16. Putting The ‘Working’ In ‘Working Out’
I’m a doctor, but this story is actually from a doctor friend of mine who is also a bodybuilder. He was at the gym today and a couple of guys were talking. He overheard one of them say: “Yo, should I check out a doctor? I was lifting a few days ago and now my arm is all bruised and swollen.” My friend looked over and immediately knew the answer. He saw that this guy had a large bruise over the back of his arm, and his tricep was hanging loose with a giant gap where it was supposed to be attached.
In a few words, my friend let him know: “Yo. Bro. Doctor. Now. Gym. No.”
17. Getting A Good Read On The Situation
At the library one evening, I watched a man massage his left arm for a moment, then stretch out his hand. I noticed that it was bright red. All the veins in his arm were dilated, without corresponding dilation on the other arm. I walked up to him and asked if that happened to him a lot. “Every now and then,” he said. I told him that I was a doctor and asked if I could do a simple test with his wrists (Adson’s sign).
I did it, and my face immediately went flush. His radial pulse was obliterated. I told him to talk with his doctor about Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Boom: three weeks later, he was scheduling a rib removal for TOS from a cardiothoracic surgeon. The plot twist? I didn’t tell him that I am actually a dentist. But I still saved him, so what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, right?
18. The Circle Of Life
I’m not a doctor, but my girlfriend recently got a “bug bite” on her back that she didn’t think was a big deal. It looked like a staph infection to me. She said no, and insisted that it was just a bug bite. She even laughed me off when I expressed concern. Eventually, though, I convinced her to let me draw a circle around it to see if it got any bigger.
The next morning, she woke up screaming. It had spread about six inches outside the circle and was hot to the touch. I dragged her to the emergency room, where a doctor said she had MRSA…and a smart partner!
19. Just In The Nick Of Time
I was walking out of a longer-than-eight-hour emergency room wait, with what I thought was just a “migraine.” I had waited long enough and I was not interested in waiting around any longer. Just as I was starting to leave, a triage nurse suddenly looked at me and his horrified face said it all. Something was “just off” about the way I looked.
He told me to stay and said he would ensure that I was looked at immediately. I took his word for it and stayed, and he came hauling back at an intense speed about five minutes later. Another 15 minutes after that, I found myself lying on a table getting a spinal tap and receiving a diagnosis of meningitis. I would not have survived the night if I had just gone home as planned.
20. It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over
I’m not a doctor, but I was once involved in advising someone to go to the hospital; a move that probably saved his life. I knew something was wrong when I saw a guy literally holding a good length of his intestine in his hand. This was the result of a fight between two rival groups, and someone had apparently gutted his lower abdomen.
His next move was unexpected—he preferred to stand around and continue to watch the fight than to get his butt to a hospital. More surprisingly, his friends preferred to keep on fighting than to help him get his blood and bowels in place. As soon as I saw this, my jaw dropped and I knew that I had to say something. I feel like it didn’t take a rocket scientist to make that call…
21. Three Strikes, And He Was Out
A surgeon was watching a Dodgers game on TV. During the broadcast, he saw Major League Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti on-screen and he caught a glimpse of something startling—he recognized a serious risk of cancer-based on irregularities in his fingernails. He attempted to warn Giamatti by contacting his office. As you can imagine, Giamatti was not an easy guy for just any member of the public to reach.
Unfortunately, the day after the warning finally reached Giamatti, he passed at home. The story was even reported in some major local newspapers.
22. How Many Med Students Does It Take To Save A Life?
I’m a medical student. The night before our first test in med school ever, we were at school studying. One of the guys was eating a sandwich and he started choking on it. He was choking pretty badly, too. There were no sounds coming from his mouth, his eyes were red, and there was blood and vomit coming out of his mouth from sticking his finger down trying to get the food out. I knew I had to step up to the plate.
I did the Heimlich maneuver for like three minutes or so, while the other guys scrambled to get some help. Eventually, the food popped out and everything was okay. The guy who was choking said some scary stuff afterward, like “Dude, what would I have done if I was alone?” I think it’s pretty safe to say he would have been a goner had that been the case…
23. Thank You For Being A Friend
I have never shared this story before, partially because I still refuse to accept the ending, but here goes. When I worked as a correctional officer, I met one of the greatest humans to ever exist. He was in his 50s but acted like a 20-year-old. He was crazy in love with the Rolling Stones. He was my best friend. We talked about everything.
One night, he came up to me and told me he was having a really hard time keeping food down. I had been put through the wringer when they tried to diagnose my cancer and had several symptoms of other cancers, so I offered him advice from what they had told me. I said he needed to be checked for celiac disease. He came back to me a few weeks later, and he was shouting a sad revelation: “Darn it, you were right! Now I can’t eat anything good!!”
He was upset, but not mad at me. A few days later, he pooped himself at work. I helped him out and no one knew it had happened. He started to lose a lot of weight. I told him to get checked for pancreatic cancer. He said they did check him and that he was clear. Over the next 1.5 months, he had lost half his body weight.
Then, on April 2nd, he was admitted to the hospital for extreme jaundice and distended belly. He was soon diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given two years to live. Tragically, he was gone within two weeks. I lost my best friend that day. I still can feel his presence whenever I listen to the music of the Stones. I have to stop writing now because I’m getting too emotional.
24. Penny For Your Thoughts
I’m not a doctor. Nevertheless, I have a story to share. One time, a coworker came to work with a black eye that he said he had gotten after a fall while snowboarding that weekend. It looked bad, but he said he felt okay. Besides a mild headache, he said he felt no symptoms. A couple of hours later, he asked me a peculiar question: “Why does it smell like pennies in here? “
I said, “Like a metallic smell? Like your hands after you handle a lot of change?” He said, “Yes, exactly!” I asked him if he had a nosebleed when he fell, to which he said yes. I told him “I think blood may be seeping into your throat more than 24 hours after the accident. Go to the hospital right now!”
He said he’d make an appointment for later that week with his family doctor. I said, “No, no, no. You need to go right now to the emergency room instead of going to lunch.” He went. He had a suborbital fracture that was slowly bleeding into a sinus cavity, and the ER doc said the escape path for the blood was just about to swell shut, which would have quickly put a bunch of pressure on his left eyeball and probably permanently blinded him in that eye.
Later, he asked me how I knew what was going on. A few months before, I’d had four wisdom teeth pulled and the blood seeping down my throat smelled just like pennies.
25. The Yellow Rose Of Texas
At my university, there is this one guy whose skin is just yellow. Like the level of yellow that you’d see on a yellow bristol board, not a natural skin color amount of yellow. His appearance has been like this for at least two semesters at this point, without any change. And every single time I see him, I just have to think, “Dude, go see a doctor! How can you even still be alive?!”
But so far, I haven’t said anything. Does that make me a bad person? I asked a doctor about it and he said something startling—it could be jaundice, which is indicative of a very serious liver issue. I hope the guy is doing okay…
26. Working Things Out
I was at a gym and noticed a guy on an elliptical who just didn’t look right. His face looked very sickly, with streaks of purple all over it. I stopped him and told him that he needed to go to the ER immediately. I then went up to the front desk to let the staff know as well. A month later, I walked into the gym again and the fitness director stopped me with some shocking news.
Turns out the guy’s blood pressure was through the roof that day and he was dangerously close to having a stroke. I guess his doctor said I saved his life.
27. Now That’s What You Call A Show Stopper
One time, I was in the front row at a concert with a locally-known bluegrass band. There were probably about 600 of us in the audience. Suddenly, in the middle of a freaking song, one of the fiddle players threw her fiddle aside and leaped from the stage into the crowd. Her next move was appalling—she then started beating on this guy’s chest with both of her fists clenched.
People tried to wrench her away from the guy. I figured he was her ex or something, but the lead singer spoke into the microphone and announced that the woman was a certified registered nurse and that she was performing CPR. Turns out, she had seen him turn blue and faint while standing. She knew there were only seconds left before the guy would have lost his life.
Thanks to her, he’s still alive to this day and works at my local post office.
28. Showing More Than She Intended
My mom was showing our house to some potential buyers who were doctors and also happened to know a close family friend of ours. After the showing, the doctors told our close family friend (who was also in the medical field) that our mom should go to the hospital to get checks done to see if she had multiple sclerosis. It turned out that, sadly, she did have multiple sclerosis; but thankfully, our close family friend was able to be there with my mom to support her when she had appointments and stuff.
29. Making It A Habit
My husband is an orthotist. He often watches people walk and he can usually come to a diagnosis just by watching someone’s gait. He often tells me what orthotics they would need. He also looks at babies’ heads, because he makes cranial remolding helmets. He does usually go up to the parents in those cases where he feels they need some kind of emergency attention, and most of the time, they reach out to him to tell him he was right all along.
30. Fun In The Sun
When I was younger and at camp, I saw this fellow camper who didn’t look well. He was slurring his speech and could barely stand up. I told him I would walk him wherever he was going so he wouldn’t have to go alone. Turns out that was a good move—a life-saving one. Along the way, he passed out, broke his nose, and stopped breathing.
I had just taken a CPR course, so I gave him rescue breathing and he was okay. He had severe dehydration and the whack on the head stopped him from breathing for a bit. Epilogue: I was walking down the street a year later and this random kid I don’t know comes up to me. He said he can remember my yellow running shoes and asked if I, and the shoes I was wearing, ever went to that particular summer camp.
A few sentences later, I realized it was the dehydrated boy. He had just wanted to thank me for helping him out.
31. If Only Someone Had Been There
About eight years ago, I was just walking along the street and going about my day when, all of a sudden, my body hit a freaking ten on the pain scale, completely out of nowhere. Somewhere in my lower abdomen, it felt like I was being stabbed with a hot knife. I couldn’t even stand up. It lasted about three seconds, then everything went back to normal.
I didn’t have any medical insurance, so I figured what the heck am I supposed to do? I told myself, “I guess I’ll go to the hospital if it keeps happening?” It never happened again, but over the last few years since, I’ve had increasingly severe stomach problems on a regular basis. And here’s the worst part…I am contemplating getting a stoma if it continues getting worse at this rate.
I’ve been to the doctor recently, had all kinds of scans and tests done, and cameras shoved in uncomfortable places. They continuously say that all my tests look normal and they have no idea what’s wrong with me. I always will wonder if I’d gone in right after that first experience if they might have had a better diagnosis and if I maybe could have steered clear of these problems altogether.
If I had somehow been lucky enough to have someone witness the incident, I wonder if they would have been able to tell me what was going on. Reminder: If you ever experience something that stands out as “the worst pain of your entire life,” go get that looked at as soon as possible. If that had been my appendix bursting and I ignored it, I’d be a goner by now.
Luckily it wasn’t, but constant pain and diarrhea aren’t very fun either.
32. Building Block
I was playing volleyball in the sand and I went up for a block, but when I came down I rolled my ankle pretty badly. I didn’t hear a snap or anything, so I figured I’ll hop back to my house. The hopping and the dangle of my foot just made the pain worse, so about 20 feet later, I was crawling home. Luckily, my aunt was driving by and saw this. She could tell that something was seriously wrong.
She picked me up and drove me home. When I got home, I laid down and elevated my ankle on a chair, and then I felt my entire body go cold. My fingers were cold and my other foot was cold. Then they just covered me with a blanket and I just laid there. I went to bed while trying not to move it because it was hurting badly. I took some pain pills and went to sleep.
My brother had a boot for a similar injury he’d had at some point not too long before this incident. I figured they would just do the same for me at the hospital, so I used his old boot and that was that. I probably should have gotten professional attention, because I couldn’t walk normally again until at least three months later.
33. When Nobody Wants To Lend A Hand
I don’t know if this counts, but I once broke my wrist and thumb pretty badly while playing football in school. The nurse just gave me ice and sent me to class. It was my writing hand, so I couldn’t write anything, and my teacher thought I was lying until she saw my hand and how swollen it was. She sent me back to the nurse and the nurse gave me another bag of ice while I waited for my mom to come and get me.
She took me home and I asked her why she didn’t take me to the hospital. She said it was because we had people coming over for dinner and she wanted me to help her. I told her I couldn’t do much because my hand hurt whenever I touched something. Her response made me livid: she told me to just suck it up and use my other hand to help.
When we ate dinner, I dropped my cup and broke it. And then our guests were all concerned and my mom acted like she didn’t know my situation. And then we finally all realized that something was seriously wrong, and went to the hospital to get it looked at properly. I love my mom, but she can be truly evil sometimes.
34. Following Doctor’s Orders
When I hear stories of people who were told to get to the hospital right away, it reminds me of how my father’s life was saved in this way. Ten years ago, he caught what he thought was a bad case of the flu. His mother came over to help take care of him and kept trying to get him to drink this sickly sweet Persian drink that’s supposed to help with illness.
So my father was involuntarily chugging sugar water when my uncle, a doctor who had come to our house to say hello, took one look at my dad and sent him to the hospital. When he got there, he was given some life-changing news: my dad found out that he had Type 2 diabetes. Thankfully, having become aware of it when he did, he was able to get it properly addressed before it could become life-threatening.
35. Two Thirds
I once diagnosed a friend’s ectopic pregnancy before she went to her new doctor (twice in three days) for OB visits. She was complaining of ectopic pregnancy symptoms. I talked her into going to see my doc as a new patient and had to talk to the person making appointments to get her in ASAP after my friend was given an appointment for several weeks out.
Turns out it was ectopic, requiring surgery. I also later diagnosed the same friend’s second ectopic pregnancy (even easier the second time) and when she went for an ultrasound, there was indeed an ectopic pregnancy and one (her oldest child) in the right place. She went from the really experienced ultrasound tech to a very young OBGYN who said that ultrasound techs sometimes “don’t know what they’re seeing.”
This young doctor insisted that there couldn’t be an ectopic pregnancy and a normal pregnancy at the same time, because he “had never seen that.” Well, he would end up eating those words. My friend had surgery again, survived it all, and though she has some residual post-surgical problems, she now has three healthy and beautiful daughters in her life.
37. Stirring Up A Distant, Vague Memory
My dad is a doctor. He once diagnosed my mom with a case of retrograde appendix. It’s where the appendix loops around and gets stuck to stuff inside you, then gets infected. Her normal doctor had put it down to her feeling a bit under the weather. Here’s why that’s a BIG no-no—if it had ruptured, she would have lost her life before I was even born.
The only reason he knew what he was seeing and was able to save her life is that he had studied one case of this during his medical training, as it’s an incredibly rare condition and most doctors won’t ever even see it.
38. When Work Shouldn’t Come First
A co-worker of mine wasn’t feeling well one day at the office. She was the receptionist at the time, and I had come down to relieve her for her break. When I got into the room, I immediately saw that she was hunched over a bit and you could tell her skin was clammy. She didn’t want to leave, though, because she still had the “If I take a sick day, they might fire me!” mentality.
I called our manager for her and said that she was going to the doctor right away and that I would cover the desk for her for the rest of the day if need be. I had to call her boyfriend to pick her up as well because she surely couldn’t drive in her condition. When the hospital reported back, we were shocked—she ended up being admitted for several days with some serious issues with her bowels.
I can’t remember the exact details of what it was, but the doctors told her that if she hadn’t come in to have it looked at that day, the condition likely would have cost her her life not too long after. I couldn’t believe the amount of force I had to use on her to get her to go to the doctor when she was so clearly in such intense abdominal pain.
39. A Whole New Meaning To “I Scream For Ice Cream”
I was once walking home from the grocery store with some ice cream and streamers because it was my roommate’s birthday. I’m a med student and I also work in a hospital. In high school, I worked as a junior EMT on our rescue squad. Skiing can cause some nasty accidents by the way, so ALWAYS wear a helmet.
Anyway, I was walking home and I saw this kid, maybe nine or ten years old, biking down the street with his friend. His friend told him to stop and go into the store they just passed. The kid whipped his head around, not paying attention, and the front wheel of his bike slipped off the curb. He started losing speed, and the back wheel just fishtailed and slid out.
The kid tried to jump clear of the bike, but he pushed the pedal one way and made the bike slide on top of him. His arm subsequently got twisted around the handlebars. I ran over and did the regular checks. He was responsive, conscious, and seemed clear-headed. I pulled the bike off of him and asked him what hurt, if he thought he was bleeding, etc.
He says, no and braced his hand against the ground. The moment his hand touched the pavement, he screamed in agony. He instantly lost consciousness after that. I gently took his arm, after making sure he was breathing and started to carefully examine it. It felt broken near the elbow and I could tell that his shoulder was dislocated.
Again, I was an EMT and, while I could pop the shoulder back in, I didn’t feel qualified to just do it on this kid. I could have, but I’d only ever relocated wrists. I didn’t want a lawsuit on my hands if something went wrong, and I was not sure if it would even work. I also didn’t want to take the risk of injuring the kid further, especially as it would be tricky with his broken elbow.
While he was still unconscious, I took the streamers, which are a terrible substitute for ace bandages, and I immobilized his arm with them. I also tried to keep the swelling down with the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream that just became really useful. He came to his sense and whimpered again. I’m not sure how he didn’t feel it until he put weight on the arm, but it obviously hurt him.
I told him that I immobilized his arm and that he had a dislocated shoulder with a possible broken elbow. He nodded, and meanwhile, his slightly hysterical friend had called an ambulance. The ambulance pulled up in a few more minutes. I told the paramedic what I did and then sighed because now I had to go back to the store and buy more streamers and ice cream.
40. Crash Landing
When I was skiing in Europe, I fell and fractured my tibial plateau. I tried to ski to the bottom of the hill, but that didn’t work. I then tried to walk down, but that didn’t work either. I ended up sliding to the bottom of the hill on my butt and got picked up by someone down there. They could clearly see that something wasn’t right with me, and suggested that I go see a doctor right away.
I should have gone to the emergency room, but I had a flight home the next day. So I simply wrapped my knee in an ace bandage, iced it, and got a pair of crutches. That was a big mistake. I flew back to the United States and went to see my primary care doctor the next day. She ordered an MRI. Turns out the injury was bad enough that the radiologist called my PCP during the MRI and said that there was a serious problem.
I ended up having to have surgery the next week.
41. Road Rage, Gone Right?
Back in 2007 or 2008, I was driving my 1999 Honda Accord with a V6 engine out of Abington, Massachusetts. I stopped at a red light next to some Indian dude in a Subaru. I looked at him, he looked at me, and (like something out of a movie) we both instinctively started revving our engines. We raced from one light to the next and I won.
The guy was impressed and actually psyched that my flimsy old car could beat his newer and better one. We both ended up going the same direction and got onto a ramp on the I-93 North and raced each other for miles. The whole time, we were yelling at each other out the windows (all friendly) and giving thumbs-ups whenever we passed one another.
It was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had and the guy I was racing was super friendly and positive the whole time. He was clearly stoked as heck that I was playing along with him. I somehow drove around 15 miles going between 100 to 130 miles per hour (I was checking) without causing an accident or getting noticed by the authorities.
By all normal expectations, I should have either lost my life or gotten thrown behind bars as a result of this behavior, but I eventually waved goodbye to him and took my off-ramp. It never dawned on me that I had just done something insane. But then I told my friend about it, and his reaction was to suggest that I get to a mental hospital right away, since I clearly had not comprehended how reckless this behavior was.
That knocked some sense into me, and I still to this day do not know what caused me to behave like that on the roads. Sometimes, even to this day, I still get anxious just thinking about that incident, because I realize how totally messed up and dangerous that was. But overall, I’m grateful that I had a chance to do something that crazy since I have no desire to ever replicate it.
I got that crazy out of me.
42. Never A Dull Moment
I am a med student. Once, during some summer wedding in full sun, I saw a girl standing in front of me. She was swallowing hard, minimally swaying to the sides and breaking a sweat on her face. So I had about 15 seconds’ warning before she fell from what I presumed was a sunstroke. She fell straight into my arms. Now we are married…er…no.
Actually, the truth is a lot less exciting—I just gave her water and kept her legs up, while covering her bare legs and underwear with my suit top. On a separate note, since I started studying medicine, and always being a very good listener, I have been told a person’s whole health history numerous times while on dates with women, in the hopes that I could remotely diagnose something for them.
There were few such cases where I sent the person to a doctor, but nothing acute though. There were some menstrual cycle irregularities (ya, wonderful dinner talk in an Italian restaurant). There was one girl who didn’t think that having bleeding every six months was something she should be worried about, a pure A+ distinction student in every field.
Though I think that the worst one was being asked to look at a mole “down there,” while in the process of getting intimate with a girl… or being about to because it looked like an HPV wart…
43. Being A Good Neighbor
Doctor here. I used to live in Chicago and noticed that the hands of someone in my building changed in color from white to blue to red, along with pain. I knew immediately what was up, and it was concerning. This is something called Raynaud’s phenomenon and happens due to excessive vasoconstriction in response to cold or other reasons.
This can be primary in causation with no discernible cause, or secondary and due to connective tissue diseases. I pointed this out to the person, and he got tested and ultimately diagnosed with lupus.
I once took a kayaking trip on The Devil’s River. We had to spend the second night on a limestone rock island thing. I had used my light to get to my dry sack and had seen all the green glowing eyes EVERYWHERE. So I unpacked and slept by the fire. I had even warned everyone, “Guys, we’ve got a ton of spiders on this rock..” They were all too intoxicated to care.
The next morning, one guy who was also oblivious to his condition because he was pretty hungover, and also had no mirrors, woke up to a shocking new development—he had been feasted on by these little wolf spiders. Imagine sleeping in an ant nest, but with spiders. We have a small three-mile trek on the river before we are done. Somewhere along mile two, he paddles up next to me.
He asked one simple question. “You’re the only guy out here with common sense on this stuff, how bad does it look?” My only reply was, “I wish we just turned the corner and there was some kind of hospital on this river…so I could take you there…because you need it…badly.” He was not amused by this comment, to say the least…
45. Not A Pretty Sight To Behold
One time, a guy was riding on a motorbike and he hit the back of my car. He subsequently flew through the air for about 20 feet and then slid along the ground for another 20. Even before I saw the damage, I knew it was going to be bad; but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. The first thing I noticed was that his arm was bending in places it shouldn’t.
My six years of medical school came into play at that point and, thanks to all my clinical acumen, I simply knew he had to go to the hospital. Thankfully, he listened to me.
46. Break-ing The Rules
I’m a nursing student who currently also works as a phone dispatcher for our local ambulance service. My brother called me last year from work to chat and sounded concerned about something. We finally got down to it and he asked me a few questions about his wife, whom he had just spoken to on the phone. He said she was exhausted and disoriented in bed at 11:00 in the morning.
For context, she was normally up at 6:00 in the morning dealing with the kids. He also said that her tongue was apparently bleeding. Alarms were already going off in my head, but his next reveal was the most telling. He was hesitant and embarrassed to tell me that she had also wet the bed. She was going to drive to the doctor (with the kids) or wait until the next day to visit the doctor.
I told him she absolutely should not drive and should call an ambulance immediately, even if they request one without lights and sirens. I suspected a seizure. He didn’t think it was a big deal but I insisted that seizures do not typically happen at random in adults. My brother left work immediately and headed for the hospital.
En route to the hospital, she had another seizure in the back of the ambulance. That afternoon, he called me back to say they found an inoperable brain tumor. She has since undergone radiation treatment and is doing well. So yeah. I took a 15-minute break at work, which turned into the most effective ambulance call I dispatched that day, from 1000 miles away.
A lot to handle in a day’s work!
47. Toe Be, Or Not Toe Be
I had an ingrown toenail last July. It soon got infected. I got some antibiotics in September, which did nothing. I started salt bathing it, but that was only soothing. Finally, I went to a podiatrist at the start of this year and he gave me the cold, hard truth—it had to be amputated. I started getting it clipped away a bit, but eventually, I had to have surgery on it in February, where they legit poured acid into my toe to burn away the roots.
Apparently, as bad as that experience was, I was told that if I hadn’t come in to get it addressed, things would have gotten a lot worse for me. During the seven or eight months that I had this thing, I just tried ignoring the pain every day. But that clearly wasn’t going to work in the long term. Also, my friend once accidentally put his whole body weight on it. Yeah…
48. Taking Everyone For A Ride
I’m just a lowly, unqualified health care assistant. I worked with people with a number of infirmities for many years. I also have been reading medical textbooks for most of my life. I have a few of these types of stories, but I’d like to share this one particular one with you. I was on a crowded bus one time. I was the last one to get on and the bus was full, so I had to stand next to the driver.
Something did not feel right, so I started looking at the driver and noticed that he was rather fixed in his focus. I moved forward and noticed that his face was asymmetrical. I asked if he was okay and his reply sent chills up my spine: “You need to step back.” I realized that I was speaking to a man behind a locked anti-theft screen driving a bus full of about 50 people (mainly school kids) that was having a stroke.
I hit the bell for the next stop but had to reach through to help him move the wheel across whilst doing my best to ensure no one panicked. The driver realized that something was up by this point, and was going into shock. I managed to unlock the door and then hit the engine isolation switch, whilst getting other passengers to call an ambulance.
A tip here, if it is really an emergency, is to get several people to call for help, as eight calls get a faster response than one. Thanks to a good, quick response and the right treatment, he was back at work a few weeks later.
49. Emergency Staph Meeting
I randomly sat down once for a chat with a medical grad student at a dorm dinner during my freshman year of college. There was really no reason for me to be talking to her other than the fact that she happened to be a friend of a friend of mine. Over the course of our chat, I casually pointed out that I had this weird red line that ran all the way from this ingrown-hair-like bump on my wrist up into my shoulder, following my vein.
She dropped her cutlery and looked at me in shock. She abruptly told me to stop eating and get to the emergency room, as that line was a staph infection and it was heading for my heart. The doctor at the ER said (as he stuck me with an IV) that had I waited another couple of hours, I definitely would be in very rough shape (or possibly not even alive).
50. Loving Thy Neighbor
This is how my neighbor saved my life and the life of my firstborn. She is a nurse. I was pregnant. We were at her house for dinner. Two days before, I’d had a healthy 28-week check-up. She looked at me, said I didn’t look right, took my blood pressure, and told me to see my doctor as soon as possible. I was reluctant to do so because I had just had a healthy check-up, but I did so anyway. When my doctor read my test results, her face went white.
I was sent straight to the hospital with severe preeclampsia. My blood pressure was up to 220/180. The nurses checked it with three different machines and manually as well because they were so astonished. We had to have an emergency C-section to rescue my son, whose vitals were dropping. I was in the hospital for two weeks recovering. My son was in for two months. We are both healthy today. We could have both not made it through the night without that neighbor’s intervention.
All thanks to the fact that the neighbor nurse said I looked pale and tired, and just “not right.”