Medical professionals take a sacred vow to treat the ill to the best of their abilities and to preserve the privacy of their patients. Unfortunately, some patients make keeping that promise extremely difficult. From self-diagnosing know-it-alls to stubborn Karens who just refuse to listen to their more knowledgeable caretakers, these real-life medical nightmares will make you all the more appreciative of the work that our doctors and nurses do for us.
1. Too Close For Comfort
About four years ago, my girlfriend randomly developed a sharp pain in her upper thigh one night. She was in decent shape so it came out of nowhere. Her left leg swelled up and the pain kept getting worse. Being the self-proclaimed medical expert that I am, I somehow came to the conclusion it was a pinched nerve and that she should just walk it off.
I came up with a believable explanation and that was that for about another hour. We were visiting my parents, and the pain had been getting worse. My mother insisted I take her to the emergency room just to be safe, and she even offered to pay and all. I was unsure but decided it was one of those things where I should just take the motherly advice.
We made it to the hospital emergency room, and it was like 9 pm on a Tuesday. She got helped relatively quickly and they ran an ultrasound on her thigh. What they found was utterly disturbing. Turns out, she had a giant blood clot that got stuck in a vein on the way to her brain. If it had made it there, she would have lost her life, guaranteed.
So a quick surgery was ordered, and they found out yet another pressing issue—she also has a condition called DVT, and daily, self-injected shots were prescribed. Not long after her first hospital visit, she required a second surgery to sever one of her main veins, which the doctors then stretched and reattached at its two ends.
2. A Make-Shift Solution
I used to work in a medical lab in a hospital in a rural town. I received a stool sample from the ER that was basically a blood clot the size of a golf ball. Sometimes, the ER gets mixed up and sends me the wrong specimen, so I called the nurse attending to that patient and asked if it was really a stool sample they sent to me.
The nurse I talked to said the patient thought he'd eaten bad pork and to prevent food toxicity, he drank a concoction of bleach, ethanol, booze, ibuprofen, and some Tums.
3. Vaseline Queen
When I worked as a lifeguard at my university, there was a middle-aged woman who came to the pool every day and spent hours swimming and stretching on the pool deck. Hours, every single day. Evidently, she had some kind of aversion or sensitivity to chlorine, and she self-treated by coating herself in Vaseline before she entered the pool.
She would grease up the pool deck to the point where it became dangerous to other patrons. It didn't stop there, either. For some reason, she managed to convince herself that consuming Vaseline would help as well. Initially, she would bring a tub of it, put a finger in, and eat the Vaseline whenever she took a break from her swim laps.
When she was confronted by the pool's general manager and asked to stop, she started jamming the inner lid of her water bottle with Vaseline and eating it from there.
4. Mother Doesn't Know Best
When I was about 16, I started having these little red irritated spots show up on my arm. My mom was immediately like, "You have psoriasis is all, just go tanning". So I tanned for about a week, and they just got worse. Now, I had them all over my body. I even had spots on my eyelids. I finally went to the doctor…and it turned out that I had ringworm.
What's worse is that by tanning, I was basically rubbing them all over with the lotions and incubating while I tanned. Thanks, Mom.
5. A Failed Attempt
I know someone who tried to end her life by drinking antifreeze (ethylene glycol). But that's not even the icing on the cake. She also consumed a couple of drinks and got tipsy afterward. But there was one thing she didn’t know. The funny part about ethylene glycol is that the intoxicating element in the drinks acts as an antidote, so she ended up keeping her life and just feeling like garbage in the ER for a while.
6. Quick Improvising
When I was 12, I had a really irritating case of tonsil stones. No matter what I did, I couldn't get them out and I was starting to get a little desperate. I decided to use a vacuum cleaner (not a small one, an actual household vacuum cleaner) on its lowest setting to suck them out. I ended up bleeding a lot and my uvula swelled up so much that my throat almost closed.
The hospital still wouldn't take out my tonsils. I was not a smart child.
7. Insect Intruder
When I was an EMT student, I responded to a man who called 9-1-1 complaining of an insect crawling up his ear. Upon arrival, we asked him what ear the bug crawled into and he said his right ear. The weird part, however, was that he kept complaining about a burning sensation coming from his left ear. We noticed his wife standing next to him holding a bottle of insect spray. That’s when we discovered the gruesome truth.
Upon further questioning, we came to find out she sprayed insecticide into his left ear. She thought it would "flush" the insect out of his right ear. I had to explain to her that our ear canals are separated by our brain.
8. Blood Is Thicker...
I'm a pharmacist. A diabetic client of mine went to vacation in the Caribbean and left her insulin on a cruise ship. She didn't take any for an entire week, and when she got back to the States, Medicaid wouldn't pay for her lost meds. She refused to pay for another bottle, claiming she didn't have the money anyway. Eventually, she realized that no insulin in her body meant more sugar in blood, which made her further conclude that more sugar in her blood meant that her blood was now "thicker".
So she decided to remedy the situation by taking a bunch of Plavix, warfarin, and aspirin, which are all blood thinners that cause bleeding. In high doses, such medications can even lead to internal bleeding. When she came into the pharmacy to get refills, I asked her why she needed them so early. After she explained everything, I told her to immediately go to the ER. I have no idea if she actually did...
9. Backed Up
My sister is an OR nurse, and she told me this story. Her co-worker was treating a patient who shoved a butternut squash up his back end and it got stuck. He left it there for a significant amount of time and when the medical team got it out, it was rotting. They had to shut down that wing of the hospital for the night because the smell was so horrid.
Now people tease that nurse by posting butternut squash recipes on her locker.
10. Planting Roots
I have a buddy that is a medic in the United States Navy. One time, when he was on leave and in town, we were hanging out with all of our mutual friends; just chilling before a night of typical tipsy shenanigans. He then proceeded to tell me multiple stories to which I could not believe. I have forgotten pretty much all of them—except for this unforgettable one...
He told me how a young woman came in complaining of severe stomach pain. He was expecting to diagnose her with menstrual cramps or something else rudimentary and to give her basic pain meds etc. She came back less than a week later, complaining that the pain had only increased. He decided to send her for an X-ray to get it checked out and he could not believe what the results showed.
It appeared like roots of some sort were twisting and turning inside her abdomen, and they were beginning to wrap around her spine. Apparently, as a form of do-it-yourself birth control, this young lady had followed her mother’s instructions and cut the end off a potato and stuck it all the way up there. Well, in a damp, moist environment, it began to thrive, as well as partially rot.
I cannot even imagine what her gynecologist must have said, but this story had me in a cold-sweat, near dry-heaving. It easily tops one of the most disturbing stories I've ever heard.
11. The Cheese Cure
I once shared a room with some medics at a small outpost in Afghanistan. Whenever they weren't busy, they'd see as many locals as they could. I was working in the back room one day when I overheard this little gem of a conversation: Patient: "I caught an STI recently during a vacation in Pakistan". Medic: "How bad are the flare ups?"
Patient: "Pretty bad, but I'm trying to treat it naturally". I leaned in at this point, ready for whatever explanation was coming. Then there was a long silence from the medic, who was trying to process the situation. Medic: "How...does one treat a STI naturally?" Patient: "I'm eating a lot of cheese".
12. Butter Me Up
An eight-year-old tripped on the cord of a deep fryer and spilled hot grease on his shoulder and arm. His grandma's solution was ridiculous. She slathered him in butter to "cool him off" and "draw the heat out". When my medic partner and I entered the house and started assessing the boy, I was saddened and hungry at the same time. The poor kid smelled absolutely...delicious?
13. Cracks By A Quack
I'm an MD. I saw a patient with cancer get convinced by his chiropractor to stop his chemo and just get "naturopathic adjustments" instead. He stopped his chemo and thought he was getting better because he was no longer getting the chemo side effects. He ended up passing.
14. Selective Hearing
I'm a pharmacist, so I get a lot of interesting questions.. but one of the worst was when I was interning in my first year of school. A couple came to me with two kids, one of which was less than a year old. The baby had a cough and cold, and they wanted to know what they could give him so their family trip to Six Flags wouldn't be ruined.
I had to explain that there were no products for a cough and cold for children under four and that the best they could do would be to give him some Tylenol for any pain or fever, plus lots of fluids and maybe a humidifier. It definitely would NOT be ideal to be bringing the poor little guy to Six Flags. Their reaction was infuriating.
They scoffed and kept pushing me to recommend a product, but I had nothing substantial to suggest. I even had the pharmacist working corroborate what I was saying and they still didn't care. Off to the cough and cold section they went. Sigh. We tried.
15. Blurry Vision
Ophthalmologist here. I've had a patient who would re-wet her contact lenses when they felt dry by putting them in her mouth. She ended up with a central corneal ulcer that required a full transplant.
16. All For Nothing
A man came in with his wife because he had been bleeding from his back end. He thought that the best way to remedy it was to self-anesthetize with a disinfectant, lubricate the area, and cauterize with a curling iron...He actually got it a fair way up before he pulled it out, judging by how much damage we were able to see. We had to remove about a foot of GI tract due to burnt, scarred tissue.
But that's not even the worst part—his actions didn't even stop the bleeding, which originated farther up the GI tract than the iron would ever reach.
17. Pop Goes The Weasel
Surgical nurse here. I had a patient whose "little guy" looked like Snuffalufagus' trunk. Apparently, while he and his girlfriend (who was very attractive and not even close to overweight—we had to go check) were getting intimate one evening, they heard a sudden pop, followed by a feeling of intense pain experienced by the man. He just shrugged it off and they continued. Later on, he went to sleep and when he woke up, everything was swollen down there.
He wasn't thrilled or convinced that he needed surgery, but he reluctantly agreed. During surgery, we were shocked at what we found—the "pop" sound came from a broken muscle that left a hole the size of a quarter that you could look through. According to the urologist, he was unlikely to retain any function. I suppose coming in early wouldn't have prevented much; however, his reluctance to have surgery certainly would have had terrible results.
18. Canine Cruelty
I work at a veterinary clinic. One time, we had a gruff, old country guy come in with his Australian shepherd. The dog had a huge hanging growth under his neck that was rubbing against the ground and it just looked horrible. The doctor strongly recommended he have it removed, and the owner said he could do it again. Again?
Apparently, the dog had a smaller growth in the same spot years ago that the owner removed with a pocket knife and bottle of alcohol. No closure, no antibiotics. We were so shocked! The doctor went on to educate him as to why that was NOT a good idea. He eventually agreed to let us do the procedure, but MAN, he was a difficult one to deal with.
We're still not sure how the dog survived the last removal without any problems.
19. It's Not Candy...
A lady in her mid-60s came in with a terrible burn on her hairline and scalp. I asked her what happened, and she said she was coloring her hair with the leftover dye from a month or so ago. Needless to say, she had a third-degree chemical burn all over her scalp. That was the first problem. Then, we asked her if she had any allergies because we wanted to give her prophylactic antibiotics. She said no.
We continued to ask about her daily meds, and she rattled off a bunch of names, including 1,000 mg of amoxicillin. We asked how long she'd been taking the amoxicillin, and she replied, "Every day, for two years". Here's why that’s a problem—amoxicillin is an antibiotic, and she'd been regularly taking massive doses of it.
As a result, she'd developed antibiotic resistance and caused herself a wealth of problematic side effects, including oral and vaginal thrush, a massive yeast infection in her colon, malnutrition, stomach ulcers, and multiple open sores on her feet and knees. Plus, she got a superinfection on the burn site a few days later. Not fun.
20. Quack Medicine
I once had a Type-1 diabetic come into the ER vomiting non-stop. I asked him if he had anything unusual the night before and he denied it. In his history, there was nothing else I could find that would explain the non-stop vomiting. I went back and asked the patient again exactly what he had the night before. He looked at me and said: "Well, do you think the liver-cleansing tea my naturopath gave me could have anything to do with this?"
Naturopathic teas often contain hepatotoxic compounds, so this patient was trying to cleanse his liver when in fact he was doing himself more damage. Because he was a Type-1 diabetic and vomiting non-stop, he went into DKA, which is a potentially life-threatening complication of Type-1 diabetes. He had to be admitted to the hospital.
21. A Sanitary Suggestion
In many parts of the world, from Asia to the Americas, it is a traditional practice to cover the wound from severing a newborn's umbilical cord with fresh cow dung. Many societies believe in a connection between temperature and health, and accordingly consider heat to be an important part of healing. One available material that is very warm, easily applied, and readily available is fresh cow dung. Right on the belly of the newborn with the cut cord.
Needless to say, it is a bad solution. One common outcome is neonatal tetanus. A colleague of mine, fresh out of medical school in Mexico, was doing a rural health rotation. New docs often have to practice for a couple of years at a rural health station as a part of their payment for med school. In this area, the villagers had held this practice.
He kept getting cases of babies with tetanus or other infections but he couldn't convince the villagers (who generally never bothered with having trained birth attendants present for births) to stop using the cow dung. They kept clinging to their heat belief. Here's the brilliant part—he decided to work within their belief system.
He said that dung was both unclean and unsafe but that there was something else that was very hot and available—booze. He convinced people to use the booze instead, which "burns" when applied. The benefit of his suggestion was that not only was it not cow dung, but the moonshine they cooked up was an excellent antiseptic.
The practice caught on and cases of neonatal tetanus in his district plummeted. All because of a brilliant young doctor thinking outside the box.
22. Not As Advertised
I had an old farmer come into the ER one day with a severely infected wound on his head. It turned out he had a growth developing on his head for the past few weeks (which turned out to be a tumor). The worst part? He had been treating it with Round-Up (a potent herbicide) because "that stuff gets rid of everything."..
23. Yank It Out!
My uncle had a rotten tooth and was scheduled to get a proper surgical removal the next day, but it was just too painful. In the middle of the night, he attempted to remove the rotten tooth himself with a pair of needle-nose pliers. But there was something he didn’t realize. He didn't know that the rotten tooth was very weak, so when he attempted the removal, the tooth shattered.
This made him have to get in his car and drive himself to the hospital (while biting down on a blood-soaked cloth) to get much more expensive emergency surgery to remove the shards of the tooth. That was truly idiotic.
24. For The Ladies
I work in therapy. I had a referral for an older gentleman who had minor surgery. Nurses noted that he was incontinent, but he was 95 years old, so that was no big surprise. We went to get him up for a walk, and when we pulled back the covers, we made a bizarre discovery. We noticed a large item concealed under his PJs in his crotch area. After some circular talk slowly getting around to bringing up the matter at hand, it turned out he refused to wear adult diapers.
He was still a "man around town" in his mind and he had to always look his best for the ladies. Since the whole incontinence thing was bad for his game, he decided the best course of action was to buy extra-large underwear and place his "member" into a urinal that he would carry around in them. He said he knew when he was going, he just couldn't stop it from happening, so he'd just excuse himself as he was peeing and find a bathroom to empty his secret container.
25. Toothpick Twinge
This one guy slightly burned both his feet while burning leaves. The burns got horribly infected and he knew he needed to drain them. He pulled the toothpick out of his mouth and drove it through the wounds. A USED toothpick. He ended up in the hospital, of course.
26. What The Heck, Grandma?
I'm a physician here. The one medical nightmare that stands out to me most happened many years ago while I was a medical student. I was serving my rural medicine rotation at a primary care practice in the sticks. A man came in for an urgent appointment for a rash. I went to see him first to get working on the history. In the exam room, I met a very nice, young, fit man sitting bolt upright on the exam table looking very uncomfortable.
During the history, it was revealed that he was a telephone line repairman, and he was working in late summer out on the telephone lines around the county, climbing them to reach the wires. He had been exposed to poison ivy this way and had rashes over both arms and much of his torso, which had happened before. However, this time, the rash was worsening with time. I asked him to remove his dark-colored shirt, and after he did, I almost fainted.
He had open wounds all over his arms and chest. All of the blisters from the poison ivy had unroofed and the tissue underneath was destroyed. Everything was bright red, bleeding, and weeping. It looked intensely painful. It was the worst skin trauma I'd ever seen. I thought for sure this was Steven's Johnson's Syndrome or TEN, so I started asking about medication use.
He told me he took no medications at home, but that his grandmother gave him a gallon of "solution" to put on the rash, which he had been using regularly since the poison ivy began. He didn't know what was in it. We called his grandma and asked her what was in it. It was bleach. He had to go on a fun trip to the burn center. Poor guy.
27. Foot Problems
ER nurse here. I was working in triage. Another triage nurse called me over to show me a horribly rotten foot. I immediately knew something was off. The first thing I noticed was that there was no detectable odor. Normally, the smell is quite pronounced. I wondered out loud why there was no smell. That's when the patient spoke up. She said, "Bleach. I've been soaking it in bleach every night".
28. Instructions Not Clear
A friend of mine is a nurse and they had a young girl come in that had severe cramps and abdominal pain. They asked if it was her time of the month (they thought it might be her first one and that maybe she didn't know what it felt like yet). She explained she had had her first one-two weeks prior and the pain had gotten consistently worse since then.
Upon inspection, they were dumbfounded—they found 11 feminine hygiene products and they had to remove them one by one. She thought biodegradable meant they dissolved on their own, so she hadn't removed them.
29. Snake Charmer
I'm a triage RN. I had a patient come in with back pain. I was going about my normal assessment and I asked if he had taken anything for the pain, to which he replied, "Cobra Venom". Turns out, he had read about cobroxin, a topical treatment for pain made from cobra venom...but he decided it would be more effective to simply let a cobra bite him.
I have no idea how he got hold of a cobra.
30. Parenting Fail
I work in a hospital lab. A couple of years ago, I worked the night shift and would routinely get called up to the Emergency Room to draw blood. I got a call, went up there, and what I found made my blood run cold. There was a two-year-old boy, completely unresponsive. His mother was screaming frantically and hopping around. I drew the blood, went down to the lab, and started my tests.
What I found was shocking—an ethanol level of 350 mg/dl, which was possibly fatal even for an adult. I called up the doctor and they immediately brought in Social Services to question the mom. Apparently, she found her son in the garage with a bottle of antifreeze and he was acting kind of weird, so she figured he was drinking it.
She went online and saw that the cure was ethanol, so she went to her booze cabinet and started POURING a bottle down the poor kid's throat! Then, of course, he passed out and she decided maybe they should go to the hospital. Luckily, the kid lived.
31. Sharp Objects
In my first year going to Boy Scout camp, I wasn't able to go during the same week that the rest of my troop was going, so I had to go with the provisional group. I didn't know anyone but I soon made some friends. This one kid loved holding his extremely sharp pocket knife in his hand and then throwing it into the ground in front of him.
One day, he got the idea that the ground wasn't fun enough and he decided to try and stick it into trees. We were all just sitting around, relaxing in between classes when he suddenly threw his knife directly at the tree in front of him. It didn't stick into the tree. Instead, it ricocheted off of the tree and sliced his shin. But that’s not the worst part. Since he was working toward his first aid merit badge he decided he could handle it himself.
So he tied a tourniquet below the cut. We tried to tell him he was wrong, but he assured us he was fine. He started limping toward the first aid hut with someone helping him. He passed out on the way there.
32. The YouTube Surgeon
I saw this patient last year. He had a long history of abdominal pain that was quite non-specific, and his previous workups were negative. He was convinced that he had intestinal parasites that caused the pain—which, as an aside, he believed that he got after an "encounter" with a woman he met on the internet. So, despite having seen several physicians and gastroenterologists, and numerous investigations including gastroscopy and colonoscopy, no diagnostic source for the pain was found.
But he was undeterred from believing it was intestinal parasites. He decided to order surgical instruments and a local anesthetic online. Then, he watched YouTube in order to figure out how to perform a laparotomy (to get into his abdomen). And so, after his preparations, he performed a self-surgery using a video camera to watch himself and he managed to get into his abdominal cavity.
He had trouble completing his self-surgery and called an ambulance.
33. Out On A Limb
Orthopedic nurse here. When someone breaks their hip, the typical presentation is a shortened and externally rotated leg. I had a lady who thought her hip had simply popped out, and so she had her kid pull on her leg to try and pop it back in. That didn't work, but regardless, she didn't believe anything serious was wrong at the time.
She waited three months before coming to the hospital, but that would end up being a huge mistake on her part. She only came in after she couldn't feel her foot anymore and her leg was swelling up from deep vein thrombosis.
34. The "Antidote"
I work in the ER and not too long ago, I had a lady come in with a huge swelling on her arm, along with a really, really upset stomach. As we began to examine her arm, we found two small puncture wounds. I asked her what had happened and her answer knocked me off my feet. She said she was out working in her garden when she was bit by a snake...THREE DAYS PRIOR!
She had heard that drinking vinegar would cure the bite, so that's all she did as a remedy. Not only did the bite become infected, but only drinking vinegar for three days was not a very good idea! She ended up adding an ulcer to her list of health issues.
35. Off The Mark
I had a lady ask me for compression stockings without any mercury in them. I was confused...I didn't think there could be mercury in any of these socks. Turns out, one of the nurses told her to avoid mercury in socks. For those who don't know, mercury is extremely harmful to the body. Then, as I was showing her the boxes, everything made sense.
It says "mmHg" on the box. Millimeters of mercury are a measurement of pressure, which some stockings have to show how tight they are. The dumb nurse interpreted this as actual mercury in the socks!
36. All Tubes Are Equal
Nurse here. A mom was caring for her son who had a gastrointestinal tube for most of his life. It's a feeding tube that goes into the belly. Sometimes, when it would get clogged, she would put Coca-Cola into it to dissolve the clog, which is actually common practice with G-tubes. At one point, however, the child went home on IV antibiotics.
The IV goes into the bloodstream as opposed to the stomach. At home, his IV got clogged...so the mom tried injecting Coca-Cola into it in order to dissolve the clog. Thankfully, it did not work and the clog prevented any of the soda from entering his bloodstream. Coca-Cola in the blood could probably have killed the child.
In the mom's defense, I guess all tubes look the same to her.
37. In Stitches
I once stitched up my own wound. I was under the impression that if my dad took me to the hospital, I wouldn't be covered by my mom's insurance. So, I took some string and a sewing needle and stitched it up. It hurt so bad. Afterward, I wrapped it with gauze and no one was the wiser. Then, one day, my grandma asked about it. I, being an evil child and fully aware my grandma was extremely squeamish, took the gauze off and showed her. Well, we were both in for a disgusting surprise.
I myself was taken aback by the gruesome state of my wound. She promptly told my mom and I was taken to the hospital. The doctor told me I did a decent job with the stitching, but to let a professional take care of it next time.
38. Unequal Substitute
I was working in a clinic when a man came in with his blind wife. She is diabetic, and during my questioning, I found out that she had had a few episodes of low blood sugar in the past few months. And by low, I mean low enough that her ingested food failed to raise her blood sugar. The husband told me he had to inject his wife to bring her around.
Usually, in these cases, you would inject glucagon, which is basically the opposite of insulin (it raises blood sugar). He proceeded to tell me that the glucagon was too expensive, so he had been dissolving sugar in water, drawing it up, and injecting it into her thigh. I tried to hide my shock, but it must have been obvious. He just looked at me and said, "Well it worked, didn't it!?"
I tried telling him all of the reasons he should use glucagon and not sugar water, but he wouldn't have it. I even told him that the pain of the injection is probably what woke his wife up, rather than any increase in blood sugar. He said the glucagon was too expensive. I called around to a bunch of pharmacies and found it for $20 for two injections, but he still refused to buy it. We ended up calling adult protective services.
39. Dairy King
While working in Buffalo, NY as an EMT, I once responded to the scene of a fireworks-related injury. Upon entering the premises, it noticeably was filled with only very tipsy, very scared, and very high school-aged kids. No adults. After convincing one party goer that we were not the authorities, he showed us the injured boy.
We were shocked at the sight. He was 14 and in bad condition—his hands were charred, his chest skin was peeling, and his face was very bloody. Apparently, the kid made a makeshift explosive out of at least 20 motor ball fireworks...He thought it would be fine, but when he lit it, things didn't go as planned. Now, third-degree burns are indeed very, very painful, but under no circumstances should you try to alleviate the pain as this young kid did...
His solution; chocolate ice cream! Freaking chocolate ice cream everywhere—on his face, on his chewed-up hands, smeared on his chest. It was like a chocolate BBQ child! Dairy products are never the answer to serious wounds, folks.
40. Too Far Gone
I had a homeless patient in medical school with venous stasis bilateral lower limbs. He had a wound that got infected and was spreading to other parts of his body. For some reason, he thought that he could beat the infection with toilet bowl cleaner. By the time we admitted him, not only were his legs stained blue from the cleaner, but they were also completely infested with maggots.
The smell was something I'll never forget...I had to put a mouthful of Altoids in before I put my mask on just so I could huff on my own spicy breath. The poor guy wound up leaving against medical advice because he didn't want an amputation, and he passed from deep vein thrombosis that week.
41. You're So Vein
I work at a needle exchange and harm reduction station at my clinic. We have IV substance users come in pretty frequently to get their abscesses cleaned out and dressed properly. One time, a patient came in wanting to get her infection treated like many other patients before her. We took her back to the procedure room and got everything ready to start.
She had a bandage covering up this spot on her arm, and we thought that was better than just keeping her wound open to the air. But then she proceeded to take the bandage off and she revealed not only HUGE abscess, but a FOUR-INCH LENGTH OF VEIN sticking out of her arm that was rotting away and drying up.
We all gasped when she explained that she says she took the vein out of her abscess and left it out because it made injecting easier. So basically she ran her own IV with a vein she cut out of her abscess. We immediately sent her to the hospital.
42. Helping Hand
A vertical sliding window once fell on my hand and cut my palm very deep. I put pressure on it and called an ambulance. A few minutes later, an officer showed up and decided he needed to be the one to put pressure on the wound. Instead of applying pressure the same, normal way that I was, he decided that he was going to go fishing for arteries.
Before I knew it, he had his blue gloves on and his thumb inside of the wound. At that point, I was screaming in pain and telling him to get his dang thumb out of my palm. He wouldn't listen and insisted that if he did not keep the pressure, I would lose a lot of blood. Luckily, minutes later, the paramedics arrived and took me away from that maniac.
I needed to get about 15 stitches and physical therapy.
43. Mr. Gullible
Former archaeologist here. A guy on our crew doing contract work in Mountain Valley, CA got a puncture wound right in the middle of his hand when he slipped and caught himself on a rock. An old hippy on the same crew had told this guy a few weeks prior that super glue was a great way to treat cracks in the skin, which was ridiculous.
Anyway, this idiot decided to put super glue on his puncture wound, wrap it up, and go back to work the next day...and he spent the entire time digging square pits in the clay using hand tools. After about three days of everyone telling him to go to the hospital, the crew boss demanded that he take off the bandage and show it to him.
When he did, everybody gasped. It was totally green and borderline gangrenous. He drove him to the hospital immediately, and as soon as they got in to see the nurse, he showed her the hand. She started yelling: "OH MY GOD, WHAT DID YOU PUT ON THAT?" "Well, my buddy said that superglue—" "SUPER GLUE? SUPER GLUE? WHAT ARE YOU, AN IDIOT?"
We know this exchange occurred because when the boss got him back to the hotel that night, he told the entire crew the story...five or six times. We ended up getting T-shirts printed for everyone that had "WHAT ARE YOU, AN IDIOT?" printed above the front pocket. I never get tired of that story.
44. Extra Precaution
This is my favorite tale from my EMT friend. His crew received a call out for a possible cardiac incident at a local resort. When they arrived at the room, the door was closed but they could hear muffled rhythmic sounds from within. They knocked on the door and got something back like, "C-c-c-come in-in-in". When they entered, they found an older gentleman laying on the floor with his shirt off, giving himself chest compressions.
They asked him to stop so that they could check him out. His reaction was shocking. He looked at the EMTs like they were crazy, and he refused, saying, "I-I-I'll di-di-die". Apparently, his physician had told him previously that he was developing some heart issues. This led the patient to periodically check his pulse for irregularities. When he couldn't find a pulse, he naturally assumed that his heart had stopped beating and he'd better get busy with some resuscitation.
It took them quite a while to convince the poor guy that had his heart actually stopped functioning, he would not be able to self-resuscitate. He kept banging on his chest over the entire discussion, getting angrier and angrier that the EMTs wouldn't just take over and do their job.
I'm a urology resident. I went to see a patient in the ER who had priapism, which is basically when a man's "little guy" doesn't come down. His girlfriend, who wasn't the prettiest thing, was sitting next to him. Basically, he was like that for eight to 10 hours before he came in. Most people choose to come in way earlier than that, but some people choose to wait. It makes the job more difficult for me when they wait too long.
Anyway, the first step in treating him was to drain the priapism. I let him know that a side effect of the procedure is possible dysfunction, but if he refused the procedure, there would be residual scarring and fibrosis that would make things worse for him in the future. So he agreed to proceed, and I got started. I stuck a needle in and drained as much as I could, then irrigated the inside.
I repeated the process over and over. Because he had waited so long, it took about two to three hours for this entire process. I also injected him with phenylephrine repeatedly, which constricted the vessels so that no more blood could flow. This was all pretty standard stuff for any urologist. I used lidocaine of course, but it worked only up to a point.
Finally, after multiple punctures, aspirations, and injections, it was down to about 40%, which was excellent. Keep in mind, the guy was completely awake in the ER. I told the guy that I wanted to give him about an hour in the ER, and I'd come back to ensure that the problem hadn't returned. He agreed to rest up after the ordeal. I took care of a few other things on my list of things to do and returned in about an hour.
I asked the guy about his status, and he told me not to worry about it, as he felt great. Still, I wanted to play it safe, so I asked to take a look. To my horror, his "little guy" was back to about 90%! Again, he told me not to worry. Then he told me why. He was so worried about the side effect of dysfunction that I had mentioned at the very beginning that he decided to fondle his girlfriend in the ER to make sure everything was still working.
He was thrilled, but I, of course, was so worried that I was going to spend another two or three hours curing another priapism. Luckily for the both of us, I came back half an hour later and all was good, so he went home.
46. Lemon Squeezy
I'm a 9-1-1 dispatcher. I heard the story second-hand, but my colleague had this one kid with a crazy high fever and he wouldn't stop crying. When the paramedics arrived at the scene, they were shocked. The mom was squeezing a lemon while rubbing it all over the baby's forehead because she claimed it was "supposed to keep the fever down".
The mom was completely at a loss as to why the baby wouldn't stop crying. She kept saying that it couldn't possibly be the lemon juice that she'd been squeezing into her son's eyes for the last 20 minutes...No siree.
47. Sun And Moon
The most outrageous thing I've heard was about a boy who was in his early 20s. He came from a very poor, illiterate family. The boy had a bad case of tonsillitis and refused to take any meds. Instead, he came up with his own harebrained plan. He believed all he needed to do was "bite the sun". Basically, at noon, he would look up to the sun, open his mouth as wide as possible, and "bite" the sun several times so that it would "burn" his tonsils and cure him over the course of a couple of weeks.
When that wouldn't work, plan B was to do the same thing at night but only under a full moon.
48. The Wrong End
While working in the ER, an older woman came in and complained of a headache and back end pain. Nothing too out of the ordinary by themselves, but an odd combination of complaints. A few questions in, we made a disturbing realization. We found out that the patient has been attempting to treat her headache with over-the-counter ibuprofen...from the other end.
She was pretty embarrassed when we told her over-the-counter meds can't be taken that way unless specified.
49. Let It Burn
One of my patients had put Nair on his back end and left it on overnight. As one would think, when he woke up, he had burns that looked like a pressure ulcer. Instead of coming to the ER right away, he decided he would soothe the pain with honey. When that didn't work, he tried to remove the honey using booze. Teaching his roommate how to do those dressing changes was the most awkward experience I have ever had professionally.
50. Satiating The Itch
I had a patient come to the ER complaining of severe pain "down there". On physical examination, we noted a really remarkable amount of swelling, and both the internal and external tissues were extremely red and irritated. She was so swollen that she couldn't even relieve herself until we put a catheter in. The physician did a pelvic exam and found blisters all over.
We asked her when her symptoms started, her response was horrifying. "Well, it was itching tonight. I thought I had an infection, so I poured a cup of bleach up in there to kill it. But then after a while, it kind of started to hurt". Yeah, I bet it did.