Insane DIY cures gone wrong. Terrible medical mistakes. Horrific injuries. Every doctor has to live through these nightmares every once and a while. We don't know how they do it—but we'll pull up a chair and grab the popcorn for when they share their stories.
1. Not Your Ordinary Blackhead
I was working at an old folks center near our house, and I was with this one older gentleman. On his hip, was a blackhead the size of a dime, on top of a decent-sized lump, about 5 cm (2 in) long. So, I threw on some gloves, made sure I had the permission of the man of course, and squeezed the black head. To my shock, out popped this roll of gauze that was left over from his hip surgery 10 years prior that he never bothered to get removed.
The smell was horrid and I will never forget it.
2. A Sweet Surprise
Sugar can actually be used to help heal certain types of wounds. A patient I saw had missed an appointment with part of their care team where they get their bandage changed. I noticed what appeared to be oozing around the edges of the bandage. I asked my patient about it and offered to change it for them even though we didn't typically do that in our clinic.
I go get fresh bandages and whatnot, then take the old one off. I immediately started gagging. It's just sticky and stringy, picture the slo-mo shots of caramel being pulled apart. And it smelled…weird. To be fair, most wounds smell, but this was different. I finally asked them what they used to change their bandage since I knew it wasn't discharge I was seeing. Maple syrup...they used maple syrup.
3. Full Of Heart
One time when I was in nursing school, I was doing ER clinical and a guy came in with “penile pain". Long story short, several days prior, he decided he wanted a texture implant to help enhance pleasure during bedroom activities for his lady friend. He and his buddy got tipsy (of course) and decided to do it themselves. It couldn't have gone worse.
They went in his garage and took a box cutter to slice open the skin on the dorsal (top) side of his member, made some room between the skin and underlying muscle, and put a small porcelain heart underneath. Then he superglued it shut. To make matters worse, the guy didn’t wait for it to heal and decided to take it for a test run immediately.
He ended up with a major infection and presented several days later. I, unfortunately, don’t know the outcome; I was just there for the porcelain heart extraction.
4. Horses And People Are Very Similar
I saw a young child with a bruised, swollen, crooked forearm. He had fallen on the playground three days earlier and another parent there was a vet and had horse X-ray equipment in his truck. That parent took X-rays and told the mom that the kid was probably fine. So that was apparently good enough for mom and she didn't do anything for three days.
Her child was up all night screaming in pain. Finally, she took him into my office and brought me the fuzzy copies of the X-rays, which were useless and impossible to accurately interpret. I got him real X-rays and a nice cast for his very broken arm.
5. What Are The Benefits Here?
I once had a young teenager with sickle cell disease who had been in the hospital for around a week already. He then decided to "manage" his pain himself. This was a few years ago, but I caught him pretending to take his meds. He would tip his head back and gesture that the pill went into his mouth, but really he either kept it in his hand or threw the pill behind his back.
He was also quite a talker, which I then assumed was a tactic to try and distract me. I kept seeing his odd behavior and caught him doing this a 2-3 times by the middle of the shift, so I was definitely onto him. He had a PICC line (which is essentially a long IV where the tubing goes all the way to your heart) in his left arm. I couldn't have imagined where this was going at the time.
I noticed that it was quite a bit more swollen compared to his other arm. Sometimes clots can happen in PICC lines, so that was my biggest concern at first, but the line was drawing blood fine so I know it wasn't clotted off. Told the doctor, then I drew blood from his PICC line and sent it down to the lab for it to be cultured to see if there was any bacteria.
Low and behold, it came back positive for a bacteria that is commonly found in tap water and usually not a source of infection in PICC lines. Fast forward a few hours later, he confessed that any oral medication he could slip by the nurses, he saved for later in order to crush them up himself, try to dissolve it with sink water in the bathroom, and inject it into himself via his PICC line.
6. Daughter Didn’t Know Best
I was a hospice nurse for ten years. I admitted a patient with cancer who had intractable bone pain. Based on my assessment, I expected it to be a week or two before he passed. In his case, the only medication that gave him any relief was morphine. His wife did a great job taking care of him and giving him his meds as we planned.
It was very effective, and he was comfortable. As he came closer to losing his life, he slept more, which was normal and expected. One of his daughters flew in to be with him at the end. She went bananas that "daddy was on morphine" and raised so much trouble that his wife freaked out and caved to her demands. She revoked hospice and called the ambulance.
When he got to the hospital, the daughter told them that he had taken too much morphine, and the ER room doctor gave him Narcan. What happened next was absolutely horrific. He came out of it screaming in pain and didn’t stop. He stayed in the hospital until he passed, and he suffered. It's been years since this happened, and it's still the worst nightmare of my nursing career.
There wasn't anything I could have done, but I still feel bad about it.
7. This Doctor Was Pure Poison
I had a 2-year-old patient show up in the ER. She and her dad had been out in the fields in a small town several hours away from the nearest big city, where I worked. The dad took the child to the ER in the small town with an obvious snake bite. I'm still so furious when I think about what the doctor did. He shrugged and said, “Eh, it’s ok. She probably didn’t get envenomated,” and didn’t give the patient antivenom, which they had on-site.
They then elected to send the child to our hospital by ambulance instead of by helicopter. Several hours later, the patient showed up at our hospital coding and ended up not making it.
8. A Gut-Wrenching Ordeal
From the age of about 17, I started getting chronic abdominal pain every day and terrible gut problems. It was so bad, and I couldn’t eat much. I would get fluctuating diarrhea and constipation, and menstruation became more and more painful. I started losing enormous amounts of blood, despite being incredibly small. It seemed like a gynecological problem.
However, my doctor, who was a woman, insisted it was anxiety and said she "wouldn't bother testing for or treating a gynecological problem unless I was older and was having trouble conceiving". I'll never forgive her for that. Over the next few years, my gut and uterus symptoms slowly deteriorated. I was bounced around the system to dozens of different specialists.
I was told it was just stress, anxiety, even possible pregnancy, and was told to take various over-the-counter products. Meanwhile, my gut function slowly ground to a halt. A functional gut test showed it took me six hours to pass an egg sandwich when it should have taken 90 minutes. I was losing weight and bowel control. No treatment seemed to work.
At 24, I was unable to work because I was literally uncontrollably pooping my pants. Doctors suggested I should seek therapy and suggested I was exaggerating. One day, I saw a new general practitioner for some regular health tests. I received an abnormal Pap smear. Within two weeks, I went in for an exploratory laparoscopy to rule out cervical cancer.
They discovered I was riddled with endometriosis—on my bowel, on my cervix, on my perineum, on some ligaments, even in my gall bladder. I also had an ovarian cyst the size of a tennis ball. I had excisions and treatment and was able to get my gut function back within three months, although I would never be able to have children.
If the doctor I went to at 17 had just done her job, I wouldn't have lost seven years of my life, my gall bladder, fertility, and mental health.
9. Her Decline Was Maddening
During my residency, we had a lady in her 60s who was getting progressively more forgetful, just overall declining and getting less and less able to take care of herself. She saw her primary care physician, who diagnosed her with dementia, and a neurologist who agreed with that diagnosis. Although she could not provide an accurate history, after talking to her family and friends, it became apparent that her symptoms were progressing unusually fast.
But something was just...wrong. I remember seeing the point where her new hair growth met her bright red hair dye and also her grown-out nails with hot pink polish. I thought that it obviously wasn't too long ago that she was not only taking care of herself, but going to get her hair and nails done. However, the lady who was in front of me was far from that.
The neurologist I was training with recognized this and had her admitted. He did every test, including a lumbar puncture. The workup eventually showed Creutzfeld Jakob disease—mad cow disease, which unfortunately has no treatment. She passed a few months later, but at least we were able to prepare her family for her inevitable decline so that they could make the proper arrangements.
10. Keeping Abreast Of My Health
When I was 26 years old, I found a lump in my bosom. I had learned how to do self-checks, and I knew this lump felt different than a cyst. It felt exactly like the tumors I had been taught to recognize. The first doctor said, "You're too young for cancer". I didn't accept that and went to a second doctor where I got, "It hurts when I mash it, right?" It didn’t.
They also said, "It gets bigger with your period, right?" I told them, no, but they insisted, saying, "Sure it does!" The third doctor told me, "You'll have an ugly scar if I biopsy it". By this point, I wanted to scream. I finally told the fourth doctor to call 9-1-1 to get me off his table because I wasn't leaving without scheduling a biopsy. It turned out I had Stage 2 cancer. After surgery, nine months of chemo, three months of radiation, and being told I couldn't have kids, I survived, had three kids, and had a long life.
11. They Finally Saw The Problem
For years I suffered from migraines. They were mainly behind my eyes, but I chalked it up to stress and hormones, as did the neurologist I was seeing for them. She seemed annoyed that I kept saying the pain was behind my eyes, in my temples, and the pressure was insane. She gave me Imitrex and sent me on my way. I went to visit my eye doctor for a check-up.
She asked if I got headaches. I told her yes, but it seemed like I always had one. She told me my optic nerves were very inflamed, and excess spinal fluid or a tumor could be the cause. She sent me to a neuro-ophthalmologist, where I had a brain MRI, a spinal tap, and new medication to help keep my spinal fluid in check. The neuro-ophthalmologist told me I was about six months away from having vision loss and that I was lucky I mentioned my headaches to my eye doctor.
12. Read The Label
I had a guy come in for coughing and shortness of breath for the past few months. His lungs were making some very concerning noises. He got a chest X-ray that looked horrible, so I did a CT scan. The radiologist called it the worst case of necrotizing pneumonia he'd ever seen. The dude had like 15 percent functional lung tissue left.
The patient then mentioned things had been worse after he started using a new breath freshener spray. He whipped out one of those concentrated air freshener bottles. It was clearly labeled “Not For Internal Use". Apparently he had been using it like mouthwash spray, and had already gone through three bottles by the time he came to us.
13. That’s Not How Any Of This Works
I work in the ER at a trauma center. This guy comes in with his little girl and says that she was bit in the face by the family German Shepherd. I immediately take her back, assuming that I need to control the bleeding. Then the whole situation flipped upside down. What I encounter is a little girl with a laceration going all the way from over her left eye, crossing her nose and mouth.
It is not bleeding whatsoever and it seems to have an odd-looking substance inside. So I obviously ask the dad what she had inside it. He responds very proudly with, “Ah yes, I packed the wound with leaves and super glue".
14. A Little Far
A patient came into emergency with barbecue tongs hanging out of his back end. Unfortunately, the patient lost his bedroom toy so far up his colon that he couldn't pull it out. He thought he would be able to reach the thing and pull it out with the barbecue tongs. Well, the tongs don't make a complete loop, and hooked onto the inside of his sphincter.
He wasn't able to pull the tongs out and had to go to surgery to remove everything.
15. A Terrible Idea
My dad had an abscess on his face. It was huge, about the size of a golf ball, and horribly red. It kept getting bigger. My mom kept telling him to go to the doctor, but my dad was ridiculously cheap. One day when she was gone, we noticed that a big white head had formed on the abscess, and it was apparently ready to bust. That was the last straw.
My dad went out to the garage, got his shop vac, placed it over the white head, and proceeded to suck out the abscess. It worked surprisingly well and healed up after that nicely. Mom was still furious, though.
16. Like Pulling Off A Band-Aid
When I was 19, I had no job, home, or money and was couch surfing various friends' places. A back tooth cracked in half on me. I dealt with it for a few days before realizing something was wrong and this wasn’t your regular toothache. I loaded up the ol’ search engine and found that I needed a dentist to remove the tooth. Well, having no money made that difficult, but something had to be done.
One day while I was in pain, I went to the kitchen grabbed some needle nose pliers, went to the bathroom and pulled that sucker out, albeit not very successfully. For the next 11 years of my life, I would live with pointy little fragments of tooth stuck in my jaw. I finally got a job that gave me dental insurance, went to the dentist, and got the rest of the tooth fragments pulled out.
17. Can’t Handle Everything Yourself
There was a guy who had a rare condition that required bloodletting, but he didn't have the money to afford the treatment as often as he would need it. Like any rational human being, he decided to build an apparatus at home using a shop vac, Mason jars, an IV needle, and surgical tubing. Surprisingly, he had no issues for a few weeks.
He set the vacuum to pull the blood through the tubing via the needle and drain into the Mason jars. No big deal. Except it all went wrong in an instant. One day he isn't paying attention and sets the vac to pump instead of pull. Dude switched it off after a few seconds, but he still had a massive air embolism. He's very lucky he didn't die, he “just” had a major stroke. He goes in for treatment now the last I heard.
18. Where Did He Learn That?
I had a patient come into the ER with a makeshift bandage on his shin. He had fallen on some rocks while hiking and it left a three-inch-long, half-inch-deep gash in his leg. I go to pull the bandage off. As I’m peeling it away, I fought the urge to scream. I notice the skin is completely black and there are dark chunks of fungus falling out of the wound.
It looked necrotic, like it had been left alone for a week. I look at this guy like he’s crazy as he tells me the wound is only a few hours old. That's when it all clicked, thank God. He’s pretty proud as he explains that he created a makeshift poultice by chewing up leaves and moss, mixing it with river mud and stuffing it into his leg. That’s what all the black mossy stuff was.
19. Handles Influenza And Brain Cells
When I was in med school on my family medicine rotation, I was sent in to see a middle-aged woman with complaints of sinus congestion. Sure enough, from the very beginning, I can tell she's really stopped up with her nasally voice, and my history and exam are consistent with your run-of-the-mill viral upper respiratory infection.
I begin educating her on symptomatic management and the following exchange ensues: Patient: "Do you think it might be the flu?" Me: "It's possible but unlikely; it's really out of the typical season". Patient: "Yeah, I guess I wasn't sure; I've been spraying Lysol everywhere and it doesn't seem to be doing any good, and it says it removes the flu bug".
Me: "Well, that's something that could help disinfect the house and keep it from spreading".Patient: "I guess, I just wish it didn't burn so much" Me: "…what do you mean, 'it burns'?" Soon enough, it all became too clear. Patient: "You know, when I spray it up my nose, it burns so bad". Yep. My patient thought that since Lysol gets rid of influenza, the best way to nip it in the bud was to flush her sinuses with it like a saline spray. It did not work, for the record.
20. Hats: Functional And Fashionable
One day, a patient comes in and is pretty vague about his actual complaint, something about head pain but he looks just fine sitting while he was waiting to be seen. When I finally get to see him and ask him what actually happened, he removes the hat he was wearing and a chunk of skin about the size of my hand literally flaps off of his skull.
This guy managed to basically scalp himself, and apparently it had been like that for three days. According to him, it was caused by falling in his bathroom and hitting his head on the toilet. He had been previously duct taping it down or using the hat to hold the skin on, but it wasn't sticking well and that's when his wife convinced him to come to the hospital.
21. Not So Sharp
I was a paramedic and got a call for someone who was unresponsive and not breathing. I found a kid in his boxers in his dad's bathroom, blue in the face, with a tourniquet and needle on the floor. He was also all wet because everyone in this town would throw cold water on unresponsive addicts. We ventilated him, gave him Narcan, and he came to.
I said to him, "Hey buddy, welcome back. Now, tell me what you took tonight so that we can help you out". He replied, "Nothing". I said, "Are you sure? Because I'm pretty sure that's completely false unless that syringe over there belongs to your dad". He insisted, "It's not mine. I didn't take anything".
22. Out Of Nowhere?
When I interned in the OB/GYN department, we had a lady sent to the ER due to vaginal bleeding. When she was examined, the doctor couldn't believe her eyes. She had a massive tumor, the size of a football, growing between her legs. Her husband was with her, and both said that it had just appeared and they had never noticed it before. There was absolutely no doubt that thing had been growing for months. Sometimes when in shock, people can be in denial of the most absurd things.
23. All Choked Up
I was a medic in the army. I worked for a while at a clinic that only saw trainees. There was a spectrum that all trainees who came to our clinic fell on—malingerers and "I'm fine, but they forced me to come". We saw much more of the former, but I'll never forget this one patient who was part of the latter group. He was forced to come in after an injury.
He didn't want to miss any training, but as we were listening to him tell us about his ankle pain, the PA I was working with interrupted him. They asked him if his throat hurt because he sounded like his throat was obstructed. He admitted it did but was adamant he didn't want to miss training for a sore throat. We realized after looking at his throat he had an abscessed tonsil.
24. Let It All Hang Out
I used to be the overnight answering service for a large doctor group, covering various specialists. We were not allowed to give medical advice; we could only contact the doctor on call. A woman called one night at around 2 AM, and she was talking very quietly. I asked her to speak up as I was having trouble hearing her.
She started her story over again, stating that she was in the garage because she didn’t want her family to worry. She went on to tell me that her intestines were hanging out of her behind and asked if she should go to the ER. Against my training, I advised her she should definitely go to the ER and that I would contact her doctor ASAP. I was baffled that someone would call for advice on whether intestines that are no longer inside of the body was an emergency.
25. Wear Seatbelts, Folks
I'm a doctor, and this happened during my off-hours. I witnessed a sedan with a trailer flip four times at about 120 km/h on a highway into a ditch right in front of me. The scene was shocking—A 12 year old wasn't wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the vehicle through an open window. He had a superficial laceration of his leg and was in shock, but otherwise, he was apparently unharmed.
We did a quick trauma evaluation of the family and everyone seemed okay. I applied pressure to the kid's bleeding leg until EMS got there. When we were running to the wrecked car as the dust was settling, I was sure we were just going to see disembodied pieces of that kid everywhere—but that's not what we saw at all. He was FULLY intact; just really, really lucky. Wear seatbelts, folks. Everyone who remained buckled in the car didn't even have a scratch.
Both of these cases occurred during the Nepal earthquake of 2015. The first case involved an infant who had a roof fall on his head. He was trapped for 10 minutes before being rescued and it took another three hours to drive him to the nearest functioning hospital (this happened in a remote area and he was brought in by taxi). His face was so swollen that it was probably more than double its original size.
The doctors who examined it couldn't believe it—the top of his head was completely flat (like a dinner plate) and he had raccoon eyes. But somehow, he was showing no danger signs and his vitals were normal. A CT scan miraculously showed that there was no brain damage or even an actual fracture. He had something called a ping-pong fracture. The child recovered pretty well and was discharged in a couple of days.
The second case involved a lady who was roughly eight months pregnant. Again, the roof of her house fell on her, sadly on her belly. From what she said, she was stuck under the rubble for about four hours, and it took a further two or three days to airlift her to the hospital. An X-ray of her pelvis was done which showed that it was broken badly in at least four places. But that's not all it revealed.
Miraculously enough, there was very minimal bleeding. Someone with a pelvis fracture can bleed out easily, and she had multiple fractures in her pelvis. Nobody can say what happened for sure, but it was thought that probably the weight of the rubble was so strong that it actually helped stop the bleeding due to the applied pressure. Even crazier, the baby showed no signs of injury or even stress, even though the roof fell straight on her belly. It was delivered healthily via C-section.
27. Legless Lumberjack
I helped take care of an old dude who had one leg amputated, and the other leg broke into two. He was on oxygen and not very compliant with using his wheelchair. We were talking with him and he was getting really argumentative. “How am I supposed to chop wood in a wheelchair”? That was what he kept demanding.
When asked how he was chopping wood with one leg in the first place, he responded that he’d crawl into the woods and hop up to chop the wood. This was even more concerning. When the doctor asked how he was carrying his ax, oxygen, and the wood all at the same time, he looked him straight in the eye and said, “I carry ‘em on my back”. Not sure if he was serious, but he was pretty dang grizzled and he looked like he may have been crawling through the woods.
28. Cut Up
It was one of the ICU patients. He was brought in awake and alive following a street incident. What happened to him was horrible—he was sliced approximately 50 times with wounds to the scalp, chest, and abdomen. He was admitted to the ICU after they had repaired wounds in his heart, bowel, stomach, and liver. On day one following his surgery, he wanted his breathing tube removed. I still wonder what he is made out of. Some days I think I met the T-1000.
29. You’d Better Run
I am an EMT. Once, a man banged on the window of the fire station and I rushed to aid the man. He got in an altercation with his brother-in-law over supposed stolen property and the man had been hit by a slug and beaten in the head with a bench, He was losing blood quickly...but the crazy part is the man ran to the fire station in fear...for 15 MILES while bleeding out!
30. A Long Way Down
Med student here. My most memorable patient was a particularly pleasant middle-aged man who was flown back to my hospital in the midwest after suffering a six-story fall from a hotel balcony in the Caribbean. The poor fella had just arrived at his hotel planning to spend a week in paradise. Immediately upon arriving at his hotel, he stepped out on his balcony to watch the sunset and leaned on the railing only to have it collapse underneath him.
He fell six stories straight down and suffered bilateral open tibial pilon fractures (which are particularly high energy and difficult to heal). The aftermath was ghastly—the poor guy apparently fell into a locked backyard and his wife and kids had to listen to him screaming in pain and bleeding for over two hours before they could get the fire department to break down the gate.
He was taken to the hospital on the island where he was staying, and he was stabilized. The doctors recommended that he have both his legs amputated. He begged to be shipped back to the United States, and apparently, the government got involved and flew him to Miami where he was externally fixated and transfused several times.
About a week later, he was shipped up to the midwest to my hospital. It literally blew my mind the stuff this poor guy went through. Sadly, I think that he ended up losing one of his legs anyway because his wounds wouldn't heal and he ended up with osteomyelitis (bone infection).
30. One Too Many
I’m still fairly new in my training but this was one of the first crazy recoveries I’ve seen: A college kid was out drinking with his buddies and he drank a bit too much. He presumably aspirated some of his vomit and it caused this massive inflammatory reaction in his lungs called ARDS. He went from perfectly healthy to being close to the grave within an hour.
He got transferred to our ICU in the middle of the night, completely unstable, on a ventilator, and maxed out on five pressors (life support meds to keep your blood pressure up), He was being considered for ECMO (basically like a temporary machine bypass of your heart and lungs, used as a last-ditch effort to save someone). Things only got more chaotic from that point on.
His parents were on a last-minute flight from out of state with no bags packed to get to their son. Our team was concerned that he wouldn’t make it through the night and braced his friends for the worst. The treatment for ARDS is actually something called proning, which is when you literally just flip the patient onto their stomach.
And miraculously, two hours later, he was off all pressors, maintaining his own blood pressure, and—while very sedated from all the meds—he was able to respond to voices and shakes, and he could nod his head in response to questions. He made a full recovery four days later! (And vowed to stay away from booze for a while).
32. Do The Dew
ER nurse here. The case that immediately stands out in my mind was the diabetic who was, of course, noncompliant with her regimen and came in feeling horrible because her blood sugar was high. How high? Try just below 1300. For reference, diabetics are supposed to manage their blood levels and keep them no higher than 180, and even that’s kind of pushing at the limit.
By all accounts, this girl should have been in a diabetic coma at best. Yet SOMEHOW, fate was on her side—she was conscious, walking, talking, and arguing with us every step of the way. Despite the fact that her pee was almost pure sugar (and resembled crystallized honey), it was a 20-minute argument to get her to stop drinking her diet Mountain Dew (she firmly believed that the fact that it was diet meant it was fine).
Her blood was syrup. How we got enough to run blood tests was a minor miracle in itself. She kept complaining and asking for snacks, and she was just not a pleasant person at all. Obviously, she had to go up to the ICU. 20 minutes after we got her up and transferred, she walked out of the hospital. Why? She was mad that they only would give her water to drink. Priorities, I guess? Haven’t seen her since, but I still wonder about her from time to time...
33. The Outlier
I followed this patient with my attending. The patient was a 19- or 20-year-old African-American with sickle cell anemia. He was stroked out and he was in a coma. They had him intubated and put on a ventilator because he couldn't breathe on their own. The MRI was so, so bad—it looked like somebody emptied out an artillery magazine and scattered the pellets around the brain.
I still haven't seen another MRI like that one. With the brain, there is essentially a three-day rule. If you have a little chance of survival three days after a neurological injury, the chances of meaningful recovery are slim. Week one went by and his daily spontaneous breathing trials failed, so the patient was kept tubed and vented.
The second week went by and there was still no change in the patient's status. My attending and I were reviewing his case, and we decided that the next morning we were going to encourage the family to withdraw care. Friday morning, we went in. The spontaneous breathing trial had failed but the patient's eyes were open and following us around the room.
His eyes hadn't been open before. My attending and I were absolutely shocked. We were convinced this kid was essentially deceased based on the lack of brain function, but we'd just been proven wrong. Still, we didn't hold out much hope for more improvement. That Saturday or Sunday, we were able to safely remove the breathing tube. Another week went by, and the patient was able to move his head, arms, and legs around. Another week went by, and they were able to sit at the edge of the bed.
During this time of rapid improvement, he still lacked fine motor skills and could not produce coherent speech. He would get frustrated, tearful, and despondent. In discussion with the family, I made the comment to my attending in private that the patient appeared depressed. My attending brought up the likelihood of depression and the mom just scoffed. Her response was unbelievable".
He has nothing to be depressed about! He is alive!" We argued our case for depression with her. "A month ago, he could walk, talk, and eat without assistance. He cannot do any of those things now. His life won't ever be the same. He has every reason to be depressed". She was still in denial about the prospect of her child being depressed in that situation.
The patient was discharged to rehab a few days after that conversation, and I don't know what happened to him after that. I don't believe in a higher power, but that was a very significant and completely unexpected recovery. Everybody involved in the care of that patient was sure that he wasn’t going to make it, and we were all proven wrong. It's a nice reminder that there are outliers.
34. The Missing Piece
In 1983, I was a medical resident in New England. We had a patient admitted for better control of end-stage renal disease related to diabetes. The patient had already undergone above-the-knee amputation of a leg six months prior at another hospital due to vascular disease. The patient was married, and they had a 19-year-old child.
The patient's wife related that one month prior, it had been discovered that her husband, who had been a construction worker and truck driver, was actually a woman, masquerading as a man for decades. I participated in the interview of the wife by a psychiatrist, and she swore she had no idea that her husband was actually a woman.
She was already pregnant when they met, and when asked about intercourse, she said, "I don't know, but he managed". The patient had undergone an ABOVE-the-knee amputation, for which they had to prep and disinfect their skin. I don’t know how nobody noticed that something was missing from this "man".
35. The Cupboard Was Not Bare
There was a patient who was supposed to have their poop checked for possible whatever. The patient claimed not to be able to poop for a week. The patient was under observation and was given things to help them poop, but still, there was nothing. The healthcare aide came in to check on the room. In the process of making sure everything was in order, he noticed that the room smelled a little more like poop than normal.
He checked the bedpan, but there was nothing. He asked the patient, "Did you have a poop"? The patient replied, "No, I can't poop". The health aide was confused but continued to take care of the room—until he found the source of the smell. Opening one of the cabinets, he discovered a few days’ worth of poo. The patient was going into her hand and hiding it in the cabinet.
36. Backed Up
Generally, whenever we get a homeless person for medical treatment, as long as it's not life-threatening, we don't go out of our way to treat them. Especially if they have a self-inflicted injury to obtain pain meds. I once had a guy come in for severe constipation. He hadn't had a bowel movement in a month due to substance use.
We gave him laxatives and told him to drink lots of water and told him to be on his way. He kept on begging for help and refusing to leave without some treatment. It was a slow night and we didn't want to have a scene, so I told the charge nurse I'll take care of it, if it was okay. She was cool with it since he was in actual pain given how stiff and distended his abdomen was.
So I took a urinary catheter and a 50cc syringe to the bathroom with him. I filled the sink with water, then had him strip down. I got some lube and went up the rear with the catheter. It took a good 20 flushes for him to finally have a bowel movement. He went from looking like he had four turkey dinners to being a skinny featherweight.
37. Better Safe Than Sorry
A patient came in with a snake bite on his lower leg. Not only did he tourniquet his upper leg, but both arms, and around his neck. He told me he didn't want the poison to go to his head. To be fair, the upper leg tourniquet probably did help the poison stop spreading, but the rest of it was just ridiculous. Still, it's the little things.
38. Mental Fortitude
My friend’s dad got skin cancer on his right bicep. At the time he was a large muscular man who ran a horse farm, so instead of going through all the normal processes of treating skin cancer, since he caught it early, he thought he could stop it at the source. So, he heated up a railroad tie with a massive torch he had on his farm.
He then shoved it into his arm where the skin cancer was...he did this TWICE. Then he wrapped up his insane burn hole. A while later he went to the doctor, who said the burn he inflicted was the craziest thing he’s ever seen. But here's the kicker. All signs of the cancer were gone. His arm and burn healed months later and he remains cancer-free to this day.
39. Where Do People Get These Ideas
I had a patient who came into the ER with a chronic cough which was not resolving. She subscribes to holistic medicine and lives out in the bush. She had been struggling with this worsening cough and feeling unwell for about two entire months before she came. The whole time, she was taking a homemade bovine lung extract.
She made it on her farm. She was proud that she dried the cow's lung herself. I suspect she either inhaled bacteria or she aspirated some of it. In any case, she now had a huge lung abscess. She required a lung pneumonectomy (removal of her upper lung). Pathology came back with some bizarre bacteria I never heard of, nor was taught in medicine.
She survived and has become my patient, but I still never see her unless her home remedies fail. She never really learned her lesson but has thankfully sworn off the bovine lung extract at least.
40. Just Making It Worse
I had a patient come in complaining of pain in her arm. I looked at where she points and it looked like a cyst, but it was pretty deep. She said it was a recurring problem and it just kept coming back. I flipped through her chart and the first instance of that weird lump was nearly a year ago. I do some more reading on her chart. Its contents made everything disgustingly clear.
I found out the patient would come in every few months for the same issue, but in-between, she would use a kitchen utensil to dig it out despite being told multiple times not to, you know, do surgery on herself at home. That was probably why there was so much pain to the area and why it was now burrowed so deep underneath the skin.
I phoned the doctor on-call, who asked me a bunch of questions. In the end he said, "I don't even know what to tell you. I'm referring her to surgery. And tell her not to take a sharp object to it again!"
41. What Can’t Be Fixed With Duct Tape?
I had a good ol' boy farmer slice open his thigh with a chainsaw while cutting a tree. He proceeded to wrap about half a roll of duct tape around it until the bleeding was controlled. Then he decided to drive himself (with his horse trailer still attached to his pickup) from the country into the city to our hospital, about a 40-minute drive.
Now, our trauma center hospital is right next to the children’s hospital. He accidentally went into the children’s hospital, where they proceeded to panic and call for an ambulance to drive him across the street to our hospital. To be honest, that duct tape was on so tight he saved his own life because it essentially became a tourniquet.
42. I Told You So
My father just recently went back to work after being in the hospital and on home care since the start of the year. He had two small wounds on his ankles that he was treating with Band-Aids and Epsom salt soaks, hoping it would heal itself. When I caught a glimpse of it back in November I pressured him for weeks to go to a doctor and he refused.
He wouldn’t let my mom see it either. Finally on New Year’s Day, he made a full confession. He mentions to my mom, “Hunny, I think there’s something wrong with my ankle” and he pulled the bandage off. She was on the other side of the room and just smelled the decaying flesh, she hadn’t even seen it yet. By the time he went to the hospital, he found out the wounds on his ankle went to the bone!
The bones themselves were infected as well as the surrounding tissue. He’s still going to a wound center for it so they can continue doing bone and skin grafts to help it heal. If only he had listened to me back in November.
43. Not Flossing Is The Least Of His Worries
I had a patient come in with a mouth full of weird gloopy white mounds on his molars and some old caps on his teeth that were falling off. He was phobic of the dentist and hadn’t had insurance for 10 years. Turns out, his temporary healing caps from 10 years ago were falling off of his teeth. Of course, they were meant to be temporary, not permanent, hence the name.
To fix his "minor" issue, he was gluing them back in with plumbing cement! Then he decided to just go for it and do his own fillings! When the caps would come off while he was chewing (and they did) and he swallowed them, he would sort through his poop for them and glue them back in. Just absolute ridiculousness. That was NOT a good day.
44. I Don’t Want To Hear It
I was working in a community practice in the country when an older male comes in complaining of ear pain. He was a sailor and said that out during long journeys on the open ocean there wasn't always a doctor and you had to often fend for yourself when it came to medical issues. He had long had a problem with his ears and said it had been getting much worse recently despite the use of his favorite maritime remedy.
I examined his ears. What I saw stopped me in my tracks. Both of his ear canals were caked in a black/green mold overlying extremely irritated bleeding tissue. Looking down each canal, he had bilateral perforated ear drums with blood slowly emanating from his middle ear. I asked him what he had been doing with his ears.
He then pulled out a semicircular black piece of rubber tubing about the size of a bike pump tube. He proceeded to tell me that any time he had ear trouble, he would fill up his mouth with water, put one end of the tube in his mouth and the other end tightly in his ear canal. He would then proceed to push the water in and out between his mouth and ear trying to flush it out.
He lived to tell more tales, despite some deafness. I still shudder to think about his maritime "fix" to this day.
45. Sheer Luck
I once impaled my hand on the top of a fence I was climbing when my feet slipped out while I had one hand on top. I wound up with 18 stitches total, 10 internal and eight external. They told me to come back in two weeks to get the stitches out. So two weeks go by, but I don’t have insurance. I figured, "How hard can it be to remove stitches?"
It wasn’t hard, however, a doctor probably would have looked at my hand and said, "Those aren't ready to come out". I did not have any such medical knowledge, so when I removed the stitches, I ended up with just a big hole in my hand. I didn't know what to do and I definitely didn’t want to get more stitches in the raw skin I had just removed them from.
So I crazy-glued my hand shut and kept reapplying the glue a couple of times a day for two weeks. In the end, I peeled off the strip of dried glue and my hand was perfectly healed.
46. Stop Using Superglue For Medical Purposes
l had a patient whose upper denture was loose so they applied superglue to it, dried their mouth, and stuck it in! It worked great. But there was one enormous problem. Obviously they couldn’t get the denture out again. A couple weeks later, his wife forced him to come see me due to the smell coming from his mouth. The gum tissue became necrotic and the patient lost all the tissue on the roof of his mouth.
47. Malpractice Much?
When my daughter was three months old, she suddenly transformed from a perfect baby with no health issues to a baby who would frequently full-on projectile vomit. She also became lethargic and would sometimes act all weird and zoned out.
Every time I called her pediatrician, he suggested something different: reflux meds, allergies, etc. Finally, I exploded and demanded that he test her for everything. He said he did.
He also said he noticed that her head was swollen, but dismissed it after saying that the ultrasound “found nothing” and sent us home with another reflux medicine instead. Well, two weeks after that, to my absolute horror, the worst happened. My daughter had a seizure…
I rushed her to the hospital where they gave her a CT scan, which showed swelling in her brain. The ultrasound tech had missed the hemorrhaging by one-and-a-half inches. I later found out that my doctor had started altering my daughter’s documents after the fact to make it look like he had known what the issue was from the start.
48. Wrong On SO Many Levels
When I told the anesthesiologist that the general anesthetic was absurdly painful, he treated me like I was being a big baby and subsequently paralyzed my lungs. His IV missed my vein, which meant that I didn’t get any general anesthetic. During the surgery, I was fully awake and suffocating while flopping around like a fish.
The last thing I remember before I passed out from the pain was the surgeon telling the anesthesiologist that I "wouldn’t remember anything anyway”. Wrong.
49. Fully Loaded
One night we had an inebriated patient come into the emergency department with an eyebrow laceration. She told the doctor that her boyfriend had fired a revolver at her, but we all thought that she was just being dramatic.
She basically looked like she had just taken a good slug to the face and so we stitched her up and thought that was it. Then we performed an X-ray to check for any fractures and that’s when we all got a big dose of humility.
Right there on the X-ray was an actual 22. It had hit her orbital bone and kind of bounced off to the point that it stayed outside her skull but under the skin. Once you knew it was there, you could actually feel it above her ear.
50. Mother Really Does Know Best
I had a patient in his mid-30s who had come to see me because he had “difficulty reading”. He was very shy and actually came in with his mother, which I thought was strange. He said he worked at a library and the words would get “jumbled up” while he was reading. That was his only complaint.
I did a very thorough neurological exam and found zero problems. I asked him to read a magazine out loud at different speeds and he did it perfectly. I said everything looked fine and wanted to order some labs. I honestly felt he was just a strange character. He agreed to labs but his mom was very pushy to do head imaging.
I said we could and ordered a CT scan. The lab results came back before the scan. The labs revealed that he was extremely low on vitamin D, so I suggested that we should deal with that and hold off on the CT scan. Not only did his mom not want the scan canceled, but she also wanted an MRI and she wanted it STAT.
I basically got tired of trying to be reassuring and just ordered what she wanted. I couldn’t believe it when the results came in…Her son had the biggest glioblastoma (aggressive brain cancer) that I have ever seen. Go, mom.
51. Now There’s A Plot Twist
Psychiatrist here. This happened during my residency years when I was at the brief internment unit, which was mostly for acute psychotic cases. There was this woman who had been there for some time because she had paranoid delusions that the Russian mob was trying to get her, complete with hallucinations and everything.
Her family confirmed that nobody was actually following her and that these scenarios were all made up in her head. She had been getting medication for some time and her symptoms had improved a lot. She no longer believed that she was in danger or being hunted, and everything seemed to be going well—or so we thought…
Following protocol, the staff contacted her family so that she could start going out for the weekends with them before being fully discharged. The first weekend away from the hospital, she was actually kidnapped by the Russian mob and forced to sell her body to repay a huge debt that nobody in her family had known about.
There was a happy ending, though. She was found and brought to safety quite quickly because we had already spoken to law enforcement about her “delusions” just in case, and they were quick to act when she disappeared. And, yes, people were locked up and, thankfully, quite a few other women were saved.
It was, all in all, a satisfying ending.
52. Her Story Was The Pits
There was a woman who presented with blood in her urine which can be a sign of cancer in the bladder. Scans are not very accurate so you put a camera through the urethra to look into the bladder. I was just a junior doctor and learning how to do the procedure, so I was supervised. I got the camera in and couldn’t figure out what I was seeing at first.
When I focused the camera, you could see her bladder was full of citrus pits. There were easily 50, likely more in there. So, I said to her, “Why are you putting fruit pits in your bladder? That’s a bad idea, we will need to take them out”. She replied, “I haven’t done that. I wouldn’t....but I do eat a lot of fruit, that must be where they have come from”. My boss stepped in at that point and got increasingly angry because she would not own up to inserting them. She stuck with her story that they came from her diet.
53. On The Right Tack
I was in medical school doing my radiology rotation with an interventional group. They did some super cool stuff. One day we were doing a procedure that involved sedation, so the patient had to wait to recover for a bit. Things went smoothly. I went back to the reading room with the doctor to get caught up on some films.
We sat down at the box. This was back when everything was on film, so we had a big auto rotator that would spin the next film at you. At the end of the procedure, they took a film of the whole abdomen to make sure nothing really bad had happened. Right then, the specials tech, who did the case with us, came back. The whole belly film showed up, and we all cocked our heads to the side, completely confused.
There were three bright white objects down in the pelvis, one shaped like a circle, one more of an oval, and one T-shaped object. They were all the same size and close together. The tech said, "What are those"? The radiologist was befuddled. Being new to medicine and having the mind of a child, I said, “I think those are push pins”.
We went round and round at first, thinking, “no way, can't be”, then arguing about where in the office do we even have push pins to have them fall on this guy’s back before we gowned him. Then, finally, I said, “They could be inside him”. We didn't have a lateral wide image, unfortunately, so there was no way to know for sure. The radiologist then tried to figure out why anyone would be stupid enough to swallow push pins and wondered how long they had been in there.
After a couple of minutes of this with the tech, I finally came to a messed up conclusion: "You know, there's a much shorter distance to get to where they are at". There was a quiet pause. "You know, someone is going to have to tell him what we see. He can't leave until we figure out what that is". The radiologist and I looked at each other, then at the tech. He sighed and defeatedly walked out to the recovery room.
A couple of minutes later, he came back as white as a ghost. I asked, "What did he say"? He replied, "Well, I told him the procedure went well, no complications, stents in place, etc. Then, I mentioned we took the last picture to make sure we weren't missing anything, and when we went to look at it in the room, we noticed some metallic-like objects that seemed to be in the pelvis.
“They aren't anything we typically use in the procedure, and we aren't sure if they were on top of or inside your pelvis. They looked like push pins, but we just wanted to see if you knew any", and the patient cut him off and said, "Yes, I know about those. Please don't tell my wife". The tech didn't say another word. We were too afraid to ask anything further. The radiologist dictated as best he could. I never heard anything more about it, but that film is burned into my memory. I can still draw it to this day.
54. That’s For Soup, Not Hands
One day we had a kid, about 14, come in after getting his hand chewed up by a meat grinder. Apparently this is pretty common, because it was the second time I had seen it in a matter of months. Anyways, when I went to irrigate his wound I noticed he wasn’t bleeding at all but had chunks of dark red “crumbs” stuck in the wound.
Turns out they put cayenne pepper on it to stop it from bleeding before heading to the hospital. Honestly, I was pretty impressed...at least at the beginning of it all. The only problem is that the pepper was so deeply lodged into the cuts that I couldn’t get any of it out, so he had to go to the OR and get his hand amputated.
55. One Way To Save Money
I once had a guy come in who had severely broken his pinky to the point that it was going to have to be amputated. He asked about the treatment options and cost. When we gave him ball-park estimates for the surgical amputation, he refused treatment and left the hospital. About an hour later, the same guy came back. I couldn't believe what I saw.
He now required stitches on his hand after his friend chopped his pinky off with a hatchet. Honestly, he saved himself a lot of money and they made a surprisingly clean cut. But still, I would not recommend.
56. Rules Are Rules For A Reason
I had a rather frail middle-aged gentleman who positive for some highly contagious illnesses, so he was on contact infection precautions. He had a large cyst on his inner thigh that was to be operated on the next day. However, this time frame was "not suitable" for this gentleman. He asked for a razor to shave his face and I gave him one.
A few minutes later, I heard the screams and shouts of one of the nurses walking past that patient's room. I came running. As I come to the door I see the man sitting at the edge of his bed, undressed, with his thigh sliced open, razor in hand. I had to very quickly and carefully put on gloves and grab a towel to apply pressure to the wound gushing blood while avoiding the highly infectious individual.
57. It’s A Dangerous Sport
As a teen, I dislocated two fingers and broke the knuckle of my pinky while skiing. I relocated the fingers immediately before I felt pain. I didn’t want to admit the break to my dad, who didn’t want me to go skiing in the first place. So I made a splint of popsicle sticks and hair ties and hid it from him for days until we got back home to Florida.
When he found out, I told him I smashed it in a car door. When we went to the doctor, he reveals this was not a crush injury, and I had to finally tell my dad the truth. My busted knuckle had already set, so I now have a pinky that goes at a 45-degree angle.
58. I’m Not A Scientist, But I Don’t Think That’s Correct
The weirdest thing I've seen thus far was a patient mixing urine and fermented oranges into some kind of drink. The patient would drink this, but also use it as a shampoo. When confronted with this, the answer I received was that this mixture was something they needed to be able to"see themselves properly" in mirrors. They were not given more oranges.
59. Can You Feel The Rage Tonight?
About 14 to 16 weeks into my pregnancy I started to feel very full. It felt like there was a basketball in my stomach. I started to have difficulty breathing and eventually was not able to walk a block without squatting to rest because I felt so heavy with this “basketball” feeling.
I even had to sleep sitting upright on the couch because I couldn’t breathe lying down. Around that time, some other weird things started happening that just didn’t feel right. I brought all these concerns to my doctor—three times—and she would wave them off every time.
Even when I would ask her “if she was sure”. That should have been my first red flag: If I didn’t feel confident with my doctor I should have left right then and sought care elsewhere. At 23 weeks I started leaking fluid and was sent to the hospital.
The doctors were stunned to realize that my doctor had overlooked a serious issue: twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. They put me on a helicopter to go to another hospital to have the surgery, but by then it was too late. The twins were born alive but we lost them about an hour later.
I then had to go have surgery again and was put into the ICU cause I wasn’t doing so great. But yeah, my doctor totally messed up.
60. Those “Dramatic” Teens
I’m a paramedic and I was responding to a call about a 16-year-old female who had just stopped responding while watching a movie on the couch with her boyfriend. She was just staring straight ahead. It was a “lights on but no one’s home” sort of deal. There were lots of weird vibes in the room, too.
Her boyfriend kept looking at her strangely and her mom and aunt were praying for her. All her vitals were fine. I had this unshakable feeling that she was doing this for attention because most of the calls like this are just dramatic attention-seeking behavior. On the way to the hospital, I tried a new trick.
I told her, “I think you’re faking. I need you to stop and talk to me honestly so we can figure out how to help you”. Her heart rate rose and her blood pressure cycled higher. I thought, “Ah-ha, I got her”. I was open with her mom about my thought process and although she was skeptical, she understood my angle.
Her mom called a week later to say they found a brain tumor. It was a very humbling experience. Never let your personal bias influence your overall clinical decision-making.
61. He Wasn’t Kidding
I used to work in psych, and we had this regular patient who we all knew quite well. They had schizophrenia—the paranoid type. He was always complaining about spider eggs in his brains. One time, upon admission, he complained that his butt was hurting because he had sent a rat up there to retrieve a message. Of course, no one believed him, but we had to check anyway.
Sure enough, there was a rat tail hanging out of him. The patient's biggest concern was that he got the important message from the rat, who was deceased, of course, and also nonverbal regardless.
62. Hard To Swallow
When I was a fourth-year medical student doing a rotation at the Veteran’s Administration hospital, a patient came to the emergency room complaining of stomach pain. We did an X-ray, which showed two toothbrushes in his stomach. He explained to us that he had the sensation that there was something on the back of his throat, used his toothbrush to try to get rid of it, and accidentally swallowed the toothbrush.
The same thing happened with the second one. We consulted gastroenterology, and the toothbrushes were removed via endoscopy. He was admitted to the hospital for observation overnight. The next morning, he complained of stomach pain again. This is when we realized something else was definitely wrong. A follow-up X-ray revealed that he had swallowed his entire convenience kit from the hospital.
He ingested a small toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, and even his plastic razor. Needless to say, we called psychiatry for consultation. It turned out this was not the first episode for this guy; he just liked to swallow things.
63. Hammer Time
A patient’s relatives came into my office to ask me if I could see this old guy because he had accidentally cut himself and wanted some stitches. I told them I couldn't do any stitching because there was a lack of sterile equipment, but I would be glad to apply some steri-strips if the wound allowed it, as long as they brought the man into the office.
My request was denied, and they kept insisting I see the man at home. So, I loaded up my bag to go check on the old fellow. I found him in his bed, conscious but refusing to talk, with various superficial cut wounds on his stomach and a gigantic hematoma in the process of swelling up on his forehead. I lost my marbles and finally got the relatives to talk.
They said the man had fought with his sister and decided to harm himself by repeatedly slamming a hammer onto his forehead and then trying to disembowel himself with a kitchen knife. They didn't call an ambulance because they "were ashamed" and didn't want to deal with assisting the man in a hospital that was far away. I gave them 15 minutes to get their priorities together and either call an ambulance or get the man to the hospital themselves.
64. A Series Of Mistakes
When I was a senior in high school, I had to go on a school retreat and stay in an old cabin for three days. As the weekend progressed, I was struggling to breathe more and more and couldn’t sleep, but I figured it was just bad allergies and nicotine withdrawals. By day three, it was so hard to breathe that I could hardly speak.
I just kind of walked around bent over and occasionally went outside for a smoke. I finally got home and told my parents about it and my dad decided it didn’t warrant an expensive doctor’s visit, so he gave me two pills and told me to take a shower and I’d be fine. Several hours after taking them, I still felt terrible and could no longer talk.
I drove myself to the ER. They finally gave me the horrific answer. Turns out I breathed in a bunch of mold at the cabin that I was allergic to and was having bronchial spasms, causing an extremely low oxygen level. It was to the point where I may not have made it through the night had I not checked in. The doctor called my family to find out what pills I had taken so they didn’t give me any medicine that would react poorly with it.
Dad’s response? “Oh those were just sugar pills; I was hoping the placebo effect would cure him".
65. Illogical Choices
I'm a physical therapist and used to work in Alabama, where we would see some rural country folk. One poor guy was chopping wood and the axe slipped and gashed his leg pretty badly. An old country remedy for wounds is to put kerosene on it. Which he did. But after he did that, he unfortunately decided to light up a smoke. So we were treating him for a very infected, very burned leg.
66. Of All The Possible Tools
A totally normal-seeming gentleman in his 80s came in looking uncomfortable and not really wanting to sit down for us. He said he hadn’t gone to the bathroom in days and instead of going to a doctor to get a catheter, he decided that all he needed to do was, you know, unplug it. So he stuck a pencil so far up his urethra that he lost said pencil.
By the time we checked it out, we couldn’t even see or feel it. The look of panic and fear on the urology resident’s face as the ER doctor told him what was happening and showed him the X-ray was unforgettable. All this while the guy who had the pencil elbow deep inside him looked like he was waiting calmly for the bus. The most confusing aspect of all of it was that he went eraser first.
67. Not Afraid Of Needles
As I'm leaving for the day, this patient comes walking in saying he has metal foreign body in his eye. Then he really surprised me. He admitted it was not the first time for him. While looking at his chart, I noticed the last doctor used a needle to pick the metal out of his eye. On the way back to exam room, he tells me that this time, he heated up a needle and tried to scrape the metal foreign body out on his own.
Thankfully, there was no permanent damage, but he scraped 70 percent of his corneal epithelium off and then kept scraping because he said it still felt like it was in there.
68. A Reasonable Threat
My parents went out of town one time and left my sisters and I in the care of our grandmother. I was playing around outside and got stung by several wasps. It hurt a whole lot and I ran inside yelling. My grandmother decided a swallow of Calamine lotion was the way to go. So she got out the Calamine lotion and a teaspoon for me.
I refused to take it and she threatened me, "If you don't take this then I'll tell your mom and dad when they get home!" No problem, I agreed that I'd tell them myself. Everything turned out okay in the end, but I don't remember my parents ever leaving us kids with our grandmother to watch us again. That was the day I realized not all adults know what's going on.
69. A Desperate Attempt
This woman had wanted to have gender affirming surgery, but didn’t have the resources to go through the transition through proper medical channels. She decided to take matters into her own hands. She cut off most of her pre-existing stuff with a hacksaw and stitched herself up at home. By her account, she was able to recover from this without going to the hospital.
How someone would not bleed out or get infected is beyond me, so I doubt that this is the complete truth. Anyhow, once she had recovered, she cut off the rest at the base with garden shears. That was when it all went wrong. Apparently, she bled out and had to be airlifted to the hospital. She was transfused with several liters of blood and put on psychiatric hold.
70. The Thought Was There
We had a doctor some time ago who was performing an emergency craniotomy. Someone had broken their skull pretty badly, but I don't know the circumstances. He was operating and a piece of the skull fell on the floor. Well, that’s not sterile, so he can't put it back, but he still wants to. My supervisor gets a call about placing the skull piece in the autoclave.
The autoclave is a 270-degree steam sterilizer. My supervisor had to resist making jokes and we contacted the right people who could tell this very stubborn surgeon that we don't steam human body parts.
71. Can’t Be Too Careful
This happened when my daughter was a baby and we were getting her first set of vaccines. While we were waiting for the doctor, I read the little pamphlet that they gave me. It listed each of the vaccines that children get and at what ages they should get them. Eventually, the doctor came in with a vial and set it on the counter.
As he was prepping the needle, I looked at the vial and my stomach dropped. It didn’t match the pamphlet. I told him that he had the wrong vial, but he brushed me off. Maybe he thought I was some sort of anti-vaxxer or just a dumb mother, I’m not sure.
It got to the point where I actually had to physically stop him from injecting my baby with the wrong thing. I thrust the pamphlet at him and showed him. He seemed super annoyed at me. However, it turned out that he was wrong and, for some reason, he had the wrong date of birth for my daughter.
He then gave her the correct vaccine, but we decided it would be best if we switched doctors after that.
72. Mind Blown
A patient was brought into our ER for the sixth time in six months with the same complaint: fits and progressive neurological symptoms. Four months earlier, she had had an MRI scan done and it was normal.
We gave her a referral to a “functional neurologist” to help her deal with what was labeled as psychosomatic neurological symptoms (i.e. her issues were more mental than physical).
We came to this diagnosis because a) the patient had had her first neurological event while she was on the phone, getting some bad news, b) her MRI was normal four months ago, and c) she had seen a neurologist who couldn’t find anything wrong with her. On this particular visit, though, the patient rolled up in a wheelchair because she was unable to stand.
This caused one of the senior ER doctors to order her another scan. Cue me, walking in to see a “crazy neuro patient who is going to see the specialist as there is nothing wrong with her”. Until my last day on earth, I shall never, ever forget my horror when I saw her repeat MRI scan on my computer screen just before entering the room…
The patient had a golf ball-sized tumor at the very back of her brain. Her rapidly progressing neurological signs meant she was in huge, huge trouble. I felt so terrible for both the patient and her family. The first thing I did was to tell them that we were very wrong and that there was something physically wrong with her.
I apologized for the 10 or so times this woman had been sent home from ER and told that she had been making up the symptoms and signs. The family was just so grateful that they now knew what was going on. The patient passed a month or so later.
I tell this story to all of my junior colleagues because I am now extremely wary when people are labeled as having a fictitious illness.
73. Somehow Poison Oak Sounds Nice
One day, an older woman came in with a white towel wrapped around her forearm. I asked her what she was there for and she said she tried to treat poison oak at home and it didn't work and it was really painful. I asked how she tried to treat it and she said she came across an at-home remedy which she thought would work. When I heard what she did, I nearly gasped.
Essentially, you make multiple superficial cuts or scratches to the affected area and then wrap the area in bleach-soaked bandages. Kind of like a bleach bath. It was day three when she came to the ER because it hurt so badly and she was having issues bending and moving her arm. My eyebrows went up at this and I asked to see her arm.
Her arm had such a significant chemical burn that areas were black around the cuts, other parts were fire engine red, and the skin was peeling. She was admitted for five or so days. She had an infection, debridement surgery, and would likely need skin grafts in the future.
74. A Lot Of Work For Terrible Results
I had a guy present to the ER complaining of a "mouth problem". Something about his mouth just didn't look quite right. Upon closer inspection, we realized he'd done some DIY dental work. The patient claimed he'd been in a fight and had all his front upper teeth knocked out. He had no insurance, so he decided to DIY a partial denture for himself.
He went to Wal-Mart and got one of those fake grills you use with a costume and used that as a mold. He took his knocked-out teeth, ground them into a paste, mixed with some epoxy-type material, and then put that into the grill mold to set. After they were hard, he cut away the rubber grill, trimmed the new fake teeth, and then tried to super-glue that to his gums.
75. A Real Big No Thank You
I had a patient who had surgery on their leg a few weeks beforehand, and the dissolvable sutures were taking a long time to leave. No big deal, it can happen. However, it was causing some inflammation, pulling and swelling. Instead of going back to their surgeon to have them removed, they cut one or two, and to their horror noticed pus in the gaping suture hole.
Half an hour of rinsing and removing this "pus" layer with tweezers and a scalpel revealed it went all the way down to the muscle. How horrible. But here's what was really going on. It turns out that body fat can look like pus, and the fat layer doesn't have many nerve endings. Yep, this person just cut away at their fat layer like, well, an amateur.
76. Maybe Try Anti-biotics First
I went to a house call where a lady was in a failure to thrive situation, meaning she wasn’t taking care of herself. She was in her 30s and capable of getting out of her bed and moving around, but refused to and would just go to the bathroom in the bed and have her boyfriend bring her food and drinks. She got an infection in her big toe that started to turn necrotic
Her solution was to use nail clippers to slowly amputate her big toe over the course of the month. She got pretty far too. By the time I came, about half of the toe was missing, with bone protruding at the parts where she got really far down.
77. Dr. Google Is Not A Registered Physician
I had a really hard bump on the inside of my inner thigh. I was a teenager, so I googled it and the first thing that came up was that it could be a cyst. Then I googled what a cyst was and figured it was basically just like a big pimple, right? Similar enough. So I should just pop it. Only this thing wasn't going to pop. So I figured maybe the skin was just too thick.
Cysts weren't right up to the surface like pimples were according to Google. What now? So I decided to try to lance it myself using an old safety pin. After drawing quite a bit of blood this thing still wasn't popping and I was getting kind of worried so I figured maybe I should just leave it alone and let it sort itself out without my help.
I found out a while later that I had swollen lymph nodes, so I unknowingly almost cut out my lymph node thinking it was a pimple-like cyst.
I had a patient with bilateral above-the-knee amputations. He was not fully conscious, and not really able to follow commands. His wife wouldn't allow a Foley catheter (one that is inserted into the urethra), so he was using a sheath catheter. It's exactly what it sounds like. So this guy, he was on the small side, and I'm not talking about his height.
His wife was tired of the sheath catheter slipping off, so she put rubber bands around his dangly bits to hold the catheter on. Well, sure as anything, they were too tight. The worst happened. His member became necrotic from lack of blood flow and the little thing fell off.
79. Healing By Making It Worse
My cousin's wife got a terrible burn on her foot from a bunch of hot oil falling on it. She goes to the doctor and is treated well, and given good instructions. My cousin follows these to the letter, changing her gauze and keeping her wound clean whenever he needs to. All seems well and she's properly on her way to a full and healthy recovery.
One day, I walk up to her house and see her with her burned foot out uncovered in the sun. The hot, middle eastern sun, by the way. She's got tears streaming down her face and I immediately run over and urge her back inside. I then clean and cover her wound. It turns out she had fluid buildup and her uncle had told her to dry it out in the sun.
This led to me getting in a screaming fight with her uncle, who told me it was sound Chinese medicine to dry fluid retention in the sun. I explained he was encouraging further damage to her tissues. He would not hear it and kept barking orders at this poor woman to do as he instructed. I had my cousin take her to the doctor again, and they explained how to properly treat this issue.
After it was explained to him by a professional, my cousin banned the uncle from visiting until she healed.
80. Maybe A Good Idea In The Olden Days
I work as a home nurse for a very isolated part of Idaho. I generally check on people who live very far from civilization, people who don't get any medical care. One time, I go into a house and an old man is sitting on a chair. He told me to come closer as he could not get up. He somehow had cut his leg badly a few weeks before. I wish I hadn't gone closer.
To prevent infection, he had applied maggots to the wound. There must have been dozens of maggots in this wound and I had to go outside to throw up. I had to call for assistance, and the guy lived.
81. What A Celebration
I found and resuscitated a missing 24-year-old lady slumped up against the side of a burned-out house. I ended up seeing her at the hospital weeks later; she suffered an anoxic brain injury from not breathing for so long, and now essentially looks and walks like she had had a stroke. I asked her what the deal was, because she looked like the type of person to spill the beans easily.
She tells me that she had just gotten out of being incarcerated, so her and her mom were celebrating. She did two bags of some substance, and I suppose that was too much, because she "started to freak out". Then she went on to say, "My mom saw me freaking out, so she had me smoke something to calm down. Last thing I remember is hiding in the bushes. I guess you found me two days later in that field".
82. A COVID Nightmare
This happened when my grandmother was isolated for COVID. She was steadily becoming weaker and weaker, and, in my developing country, the hospitals were so full that some people were quarantined at home and doctors would give them instructions via Zoom.
Sometimes the doctors went on home visits wearing bunny suits (aka personal protective equipment). It was such a desperate time. No vaccines had arrived yet. Anyway, my mother alerted me that my grandmother’s oxygen levels were going down and with someone in their mid-80s, this is a bad sign.
It was likely that she would need hospital admission and high-flow oxygen. I’m just a GP, so my family found a specialist to treat her. The specialist told me I was paranoid. He said, “Your grandmother only has mild COVID. The pulse oximeter probably just has a low battery. Change it and see what happens. I’m sure she’ll be fine”.
I pleaded with my family that this wasn't the case. I told them she was getting worse, and she could perish if we ignored her symptoms. No one listened.
It was during this time that I had been deployed as a COVID swabber, so I couldn’t go home because I was exposed to the virus every day. The patients I saw who were close to the end looked very similar to how my grandmother was starting to look. I was starting to really worry about my grandmother but I felt so helpless.
Somehow, someone went there to change the batteries in her machine. A day later, the specialist also sent one of her colleagues for a home visit. The visit quickly revealed that my grandmother had severe pneumonia, based on just listening to her breathing with a stethoscope.
She had decreased breath sounds instead of just crackles. We found her a hospital bed in another city because the beds had run out where we were. My grandmother perished 10 days later, alone, in some rural hospital far from her family—all because some specialist told us she looked fine over Zoom.
Unfortunately, we can’t file a case. The worst part? The specialist is my cousin.
83. Too Close For Comfort
For two days, my sister endured excruciating abdominal pain. She had a super swollen belly and pain so intense that it made her puke. She was unable to walk, so her husband had to drag her across the apartment on a blanket so that she could use the restroom.
We live in Switzerland and her insurance requires a phone call to determine if a doctor is needed. On the phone, they dismissed it as some kind of stomach flu. When she stated that she had extreme pain, the operator asked if she felt she was going to perish my sister answered, “No”.
I should note that we had a tough upbringing, which gave us a pretty intense pain tolerance. The next day, she refused to call in again and instead went directly went to her doctor. After an ultrasound, they immediately flew her to a hospital by helicopter because she lives in a remote place in the mountains.
At the hospital, she had emergency surgery and blood transfusions. It turns out she had lost more than a liter (33 ounces) of blood due to a ruptured tube from an ectopic pregnancy. If they had waited any longer, she would not have survived the day.
84. It’s Hard To Be Humble
I work in behavioral health and our emergency department provider put in a psychiatric evaluation after a woman came in, initially for a medical issue, but then stated that her gynecologist was madly in love with her and was stalking her.
Our emergency department provider said that that was highly unlikely as he knew this gynecologist personally. This caused us to highly doubt that this woman was telling the truth. After the evaluation was done, however, the patient showed us a ton of texts and pictures that proved her right.
One of the very difficult parts of this job is that it can sometimes be hard to tell what is real and what is not. Lesson learned.
85. Doing God’s Work
This happened when I worked as a developer for a medical alarm company. Think: “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!" I had a woman call my extension by accident complaining that somebody was contacting her through her pendant device and threatening her.
I checked the notes on her account and they said that she was schizophrenic and had this issue multiple times. She told me that she knows she hears voices sometimes, but it would put her mind at ease if I could find out what was happening.
So, I pulled up the cellular usage logs for her device and I couldn’t believe it. There were hundreds of calls and text messages about gruesome and unlawful activity. Luckily, the pendant device had no way of showing any of the images.
It turns out that the number for her device was targeted by some bad people. She was part of what’s known as a cartel scheme where people target seniors and pretend they are members of a cartel and will do terrible things to you if you don’t pay them. They even send awful images to intimidate their targets.
I got this woman a new phone number and had a word with the people who kept dismissing her.
86. The Art Of Self-Defense
I ruptured my ACL while doing Jiu-Jitsu. I heard it pop when it happened and the pain was unbearable. I went to a walk-in clinic over the weekend to get a referral for an MRI to confirm the damage. I would have gone to my regular GP but they weren’t open on the weekend, it would have taken longer to get in, and it would have cost more.
All I needed to hear was, “Yep, sounds good. Here’s the referral”. The random GP at the walk-in tried to convince me that it was a soft-tissue injury and that I should just stay off it for a while. I told her that I very much hoped it was a soft tissue injury, but I still wanted an MRI to confirm it.
She even tried talking me out of it by saying, “It’s very expensive”. I finally had to say, “Doc, I’ve got plenty of money. I’m not worried about the cost. I just want the peace of mind”. She eventually gave me the referral for the MRI.
When I went back to her a week later for the results the news was bad but it was just what I wanted to hear. Lo and behold! I did indeed have a ruptured ACL. Thanks for trying to get me to walk that one off, Doc.
87. Mom Knows Best
In grade school, I hurt my arm playing touch football over the noon recess. I tagged a guy way bigger than I was. My hand got rammed backwards and hurt more than words can describe. Everyone including the teacher thought I was overreacting from the pain. After school, I got off the bus to visit my dad's office at the end of the day.
He decided to use some twine and a Kleenex to fix it like a sling, while joking that I needed to toughen up. Well, as soon as we actually got home, my mom took me right into the hospital, where they soon discovered I had a broken wrist.
88. Absolutely Not Medically Approved
A lady comes into the ER and refuses to tell triage what’s wrong, other than to say she had something growing "down there" and she would absolutely not elaborate. She wants a lady doctor and that’s that. So we get her set up for a pelvic exam in one of the OB/GYN rooms and call the only female physician working that night to come check her out.
The doctor is in the room for maybe two or three minutes before she comes out. The minute she did, we knew something was very wrong. She came with a stench that made everyone in the vicinity gag, and it was wafting from the room behind her. So here's the store: The patient is about middle-aged and had about 11 children with no medical insurance.
Her uterus had begun to prolapse, basically turning inside out and starting to fall out. With no money and no insurance, it was suggested she just put something "up there" to hold her uterus in. Without much on hand that could both fit inside her and stay inside her without falling out, she came up with a "genius" plan. She decided to stick a potato up there.
And what do potatoes like to do in warm, dark, moist environments? The "something" she had felt growing down there was ACTUALLY growing down there. It was the vine the potato shot out for sunlight. The potato had fully rooted into the woman’s uterus as well, and the potato itself was rotting, hence the stench. She had to have a full hysterectomy.
89. Winter Isn’t Cold Enough
There was one family who was overly cautious about their mother who had just had a stroke. I come to check on her and find her hair and head soaking wet. She's nearly on the verge of hypothermia because her kids felt like she had a fever, and as a precaution dumped cold water on her. In the middle of winter. She unfortunately couldn't say or do anything due to the stroke but I straightened them out quick about just what a cold compress was and when it was needed.
90. Couldn’t Get Much Worse
My best friend’s aunt had a terrible headache that was unlike anything she’d ever felt before. Her doctor told her it was probably a migraine and prescribed her some serious pain meds. The next day the aunt was feeling even worse, so they took her to the ER.
The doctors sent her away with the same message even though she insisted this wasn’t like anything she had felt before. The aunt tried to emphasize that this was way too intense to be a migraine and she ended up in a small scuffle in the ER. Security was even called to remove them!
That night, the aunt woke up and was BLIND. They rushed her to the ER where she was put into a coma. It turned out that she had meningitis, but it was too late to do anything about it. She passed three days later, leaving behind two small kids.
To make matters worse, her ex-husband didn’t want to take the kids because he had a new family and not enough space in his three-bedroom house. He is such a jerk. Now my best friend is bringing up her aunt's two kids plus two of her own—as a single mom.
91. Just Like Basic Instinct
I was working as a clinical pharmacist in the emergency room when a patient calmly approached me and told me that he has an ice pick stuck in his back from an incident with his inebriated neighbor. I said, “If you got jabbed with an ice pick, you should be DOA”. Just then the patient decided to remove his shirt and lo and behold…
You guessed it. He had a frigging ice pick sticking out of his back. Of course, he needed emergency surgery. During the operation, one of the nurses who had overheard me talking to him came close to me and whispered, “You messed up. Big time”.
92. That Sounds Awful
I went to the ER because I had a moth in my ear, and, yes, it was as horrifying as it sounds. To make matters worse, they were pretty dismissive and just thought that I was an addict. The best part about the ordeal, if that’s possible, was the reaction from the ER nurse when she stuck the scope in my ear...
“EeeerrrrgghhhAhhhh!!! He DOES have a bug in there and it’s alive!"
93. It’s Cheaper Than A Kid, At Least
A gentleman walked into the emergency department one day after he tried to give himself a vasectomy with an animal neutering kit he bought on the internet. When we asked him why he said that his wife wanted to have a sixth kid and it was too expensive to pay a doctor to do it. He didn’t think it would be all that difficult to do it himself.
94. Below The Belt
This guy in his 20s came into the hospital. He had a lot of conditions where he wouldn't make it past 40 and he currently had some infection. We kept giving him antibiotics which helped, but not as much as we would have liked. After about a week of being in the hospital I walk in and I'm talking to him and he tells me that he got a medically necessary circumcision on his last admission to the hospital.
I ask if it's okay if I take a look to make sure it's healing okay. I wasn't prepared for the horror. It was black with all kinds of infection. I'm just not sure how a married man in his 20s (or his wife) never thought to tell anyone about this for the past week.
95. Stick To The Diet
An older woman called emergency services for chest pain. Her vital signs were terrible and she had “the look” that anyone who’s ever seen a patient about to kick the bucket will recognize instantly. Her EKG suggested multiple blockages in her coronary arteries, and we had to put her on a ventilator shortly after she got to the ER because she deteriorated so quickly.
The cath lab confirmed the EKG findings, and they were shocking: a complete blockage of one artery and 99% blockage of two other major arteries. Unfortunately, it was too extensive to resolve with PCI, so the only option was to fly her to the university hospital in the city for an emergent triple bypass. It turned out that she’d had multiple episodes like this (but not quite as severe) over the last six months.
She had apparently refused bypass surgery not once, not twice, but three times in favor of a Mediterranean diet. Well, at this point she didn’t have much say anymore and her family agreed, so off to the operating room she went. I took care of her again about four months later and she actually seemed to have made a remarkable recovery.
One time, I was performing an autopsy on a cadaver and I made the most peculiar discovery. When I tried to flip the lungs into the proper position, BLOOP—it flipped right back to upside-down. After some due diligence, we realized the lung was a transplant, and the surgeons who performed the transplant had attached the organ incorrectly.
The lung had been fighting to be upside-down its whole life in this other man. After 15 or so years, the man eventually moved in a way that allowed it to flip over, resulting in his demise.
97. His Physician Left Him Sore
A guy came into our ICU and was very septic but still talking. He had visited his primary care physician complaining of a sore throat for a couple of days and was dismissed without any intervention since he didn't appear to have strep throat or the flu. When he reached the ICU, he had pretty severe abdominal discomfort, so we sent him for a CT scan.
As the scan was finishing, he coded, had to be intubated, and had a multi-organ failure. The CT scan was like a horror movie. There was a whole bunch of stuff in his peritoneal cavity. His wife told us that he had choked on an ice cube the day before seeing his primary care doctor. Evidently, he had swallowed a whole double half-moon-shaped ice cube that perforated his esophagus with a HUGE 4.25-inch tear.
This allowed a significant portion of his swallowed food and drinks to get into his peritoneal cavity instead of his stomach. To make things worse, he had some reflux that allowed stomach acid to get in there as well. Once we realized what was going on, he went for extensive washout and exploratory surgeries to repair the damage to his esophagus and other organs. Thankfully, he made a full recovery, but he was very close to not making it at all.
98. Feel My Pain
My friend had a horrible moment when he was going under the knife. Two minutes into surgery, the doctors noticed his pupils dilating or something. He said it was horrible, he could feel the scalpel cutting into his flesh, the agonizing pain, and the oxygen thing only gave him air every few minutes. They noticed he wasn't under and fixed it. But then the dark truth came out.
Turns out, the anesthesiologist who put him under was his ex-girlfriend, though no one knew about it, and she likely did it on purpose. The surgery went well, the recovery was a bit longer than expected, but he's all good now.
99. The Milk Is For The Baby
I saw a patient who was concerned because she was still lactating, despite the fact that she stopped breastfeeding her twins two years ago. She said: "sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and find my husband sucking on them. He says he's trying to drain the milk for me". I had to explain to her that breastfeeding her husband will lead to continued lactation.
100. He Was Itching For Some Help
I was in the hospital following a motorcycle accident. My hospital roommate, who was beside me, had been in an 18-wheeler accident. He was complaining that his back itched and someone finally came in and rolled him on his side. When they turned him over, their faces dropped—his back had pieces of glass stuck all over it. I still don't know how that was overlooked.