Awful Patients, Angry Doctors
Doctors are supposed to treat everyone the same—but some patients make it hard. From fakers to drama queens and everyone in between, these doctors revealed the worst patients they’ve had to deal with.
1. Silver Linings
I had a mother come in and insist that her child had Silver-Russell syndrome. It’s not that easy to fake, as it’s a bunch of metabolic conditions mixed with congenital abnormalities.
The kid was small, but not that small, and he didn’t weigh much. All of this, with a right arm length 2 cm more than the left side, were borderline criteria for Silver-Russell. We did genetic testing, which came back negative—but 30% of cases are negative.
There was one more deciding factor—the “soft” criteria of hypoglycemia. Once she heard about this (she’d printed out 30-40 articles on the disease), that’s when she went off the deep end. She came back with the kid in a coma. But then, when the kid was in the hospital, he was never hypoglycemic. He went home, and came back in a coma a few weeks later. Again, as soon as he was eating normally at the hospital, he wasn’t hypoglycemic.
Yeah, she had starved her child into comas repeatedly for the diagnosis of Silver-Russell. On top of that, she was in a wheelchair when at the hospital. Once I had enough of her lies, I walked into the room after only knocking once. She was walking around normally and jumped into the wheelchair as soon as she saw me.
I believe it was for money since in Canada/Quebec, you get money when your child has a genetic disability…God, if I could’ve, I would have slapped some sense into her.
2. The Grass Is Always Greener…
When I was about 7 or 8, my older sister found out she needed glasses. My parents and sister kept talking about how detailed the leaves on trees looked after getting glasses and before it just looked like a green blur. Well I wanted to be cool and get glasses too so I peeked up and said: “What leaves? The trees just look like a blur to me”.
Flash forward to the eye clinic, there I am being asked to read the eye chart by the eye doctor—who was a family friend. I knew if I read it accurately they would know I didn’t need glasses, so I lied, trying to fudge the results, as the doc kept flipping different lenses.
Finally he flips to one and says, “This one should work for you”. I read the whole chart and immediately after he sticks a pen right through where the lenses should be. I was super humiliated and the doctor just laughed but my mom was so mad.
I was a lying little jerk and I got it good that evening.
3. Mother And Grandmother Of The Year
There was an eight-year-old boy whose lips were turning blue. He was hardly moving and babbling. His tests come back. The potassium levels are so low, this child’s heart is about to fail. The kid also has other issues. The doctor calls for emergency medical transport to a children’s hospital in Tampa. Both the mother and grandmother say, “Just give him the prescription we will pray to Jesus to save him it will be fine, we have bingo later and I’m not driving to no Tampa”. I wanted to SCREAM.
They remove the child’s IV and head out the door. I inform them they are making a horrible choice. They must get the child treatment because he is near the end. They say “But we have a hair and nail appointment, Jesus will save him”. We call child protective services and with officers they are brought back.
4. Hail Mary Pass
I had a patient fake Guillain-Barre syndrome—ascending paralysis. She ended up in the ICU and I was her nurse. I was a new grad and had to put a catheter in her bladder. She had to pretend she couldn’t feel a thing and I could see the pain in her eyes. Later, I found out the devastating truth.
It turned out she got into a fight with her husband and as he was walking out of the house she fell on the floor to make him stay. I don’t think she meant to take it so far…but she didn’t know how to back out.
5. Take The Advice Sweety
I had this patient who was coming in and her sugars were inexplicably high despite testing and taking insulin regularly. I was trying to figure out what was going on and asked the woman about what she ate each day, her habits, and so forth. After she finished, her husband goes “Hon, you forgot to mention your slushies.”
Yeah, this lady was having an XL slushy from the local 7-11 EVERY DAY and had no idea they had sugar in them. So that was why her sugars were so high each day. Then she had the nerve to argue with the nurse about the fact that those slushies are basically sugar water, and she had to stop drinking them altogether.
6. Third Time’s The Charm
I was an intern in a busy trauma ED when a guy walks up the ambulance bay and screams he needs to be seen immediately. They take him back and ask him what happened—and the story he told was bizarre. He says he was in a car accident last night going “100+ mph” on the interstate but did not go to the hospital because he was worried about his friend, the driver. But now he’s losing feeling in his legs and has severe back pain and needs to be seen.
So of course the story is super fishy but we put him on a backboard/collar and get some X-rays of the chest and pelvis (our protocol for any severe trauma). The radiologist who is stationed in the ED flags me and asks me a question that made everything click into place. He was wondering when our patient got a CT scan. He showed me his pelvis x-ray and his bladder is super bright: It’s filled with the iodine contrast agent they inject in your veins when you get a CT, which is then excreted by the kidneys over the next few hours.
So we confront our patient about why he didn’t tell us about being seen at another hospital and getting a CT. He launches into a rambling explanation about concussions and amnesia. He has, of course, also exhibited several other pill-seeking behaviors in his short time in the ED. He decides to leave against medical advice…but not before asking the nurse directions to the nearest hospital, presumably to try the same trick.
7. Bait And Switch
My wife’s a district nurse, she drives to peoples’ homes changing dressings, giving medications, etc, etc. Her job has her dealing with many people such as gang members and people on home detention, but the worst in her opinion, the people you never trust even a little bit are the methadone patients. According to her a lot of them will try anything to get a little bit more.
She had one not long ago that was being extremely talkative, almost like he didn’t want her to leave the house. Then he started showing her every little lump and bump, wanting her to make sure they weren’t infections or anything. Although he wasn’t making her uncomfortable, she did think it was strange for him as he was normally very quiet and wanted the nurses gone ASAP.
When she got back to her car, the back window had been smashed in, but all that was missing was her sharps container and the lockbox the meds were kept in. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what was going on So she walks back to the house, looks in the front window and sees the patient and another guy sitting on the couch trying to open her lockbox and emptying the sharps container on the floor.
She called the authorities at that point. Some of the needles now on the floor were from an HIV+ patient she had earlier in the day, but she sat in the car until the PD arrived—that’s not a situation you want to get in the middle of.
8. The Name Game
This is a pretty classic case. I work in pediatric critical care, and at my first job we had this kid that was immediately post-op from a small surgery. He was doing great and was probably going to sleep it off and transfer to a general floor the next day. His mom wanted to knock him out with meds and kept on insisting he had pain.
The kid denied this, and none of his vital signs or actions suggested he was hiding anything. He was getting scheduled oral opiates and Tylenol, but this lady was insisting on something through the IV. When she didn’t get anywhere because the kid kept denying pain, she asked for something so he would sleep through the night.
The nurse said, “We can try some Benadryl”. The lady SNAPPED. She demanded a doctor, then she berated the nurse and essentially said we were mistreating her child. Meanwhile, the kid was like, “Moooooom, oh, my God, I’m FINE“, the whole time as he played Xbox. The doctor on service was this awesome, brilliant man who was tired of this lady seeking drugs for her kid.
He put on a smile and asked what the concern was. After listening to her complain about how the nurse had offered the kid Benadryl, he cocked his head and said, “Well, what about Diphenhydramine? Have you ever tried that? It’s a very effective sleep aid.” For anyone that doesn’t know, Benadryl is the brand name for Diphenhydramine. They’re the same thing.
Immediately, the lady perked up and said, “Difanhymeen? Yes, yes, let’s try that”. Meanwhile, the bedside nurse was struggling to keep from laughing. She says, “I’ll go get that,” and runs to the locked medicine room where she loses it. The kid got his Diphenhydramine.
9. Do I Have To Come In?
I was working in an area with lots of Mennonites—a mom called into the clinic because a wheel had broken and one of the spokes had penetrated her toddler’s eye! The reason for her call was even more mind-blowing. She wasn’t calling for an ambulance—she was calling to see if he needed to be seen by a doctor. She told us that she had removed the spoke and she knew he was going to lose the eye, so asked if there was really a reason for him to be seen. The answer was obviously yes!
10. Waiting For The Tooth Fairy
I’m a dental nurse. My favorite case was a 30-something-year-old woman who came in for a checkup at the emergency low-cost clinic I worked at. Her teeth were broken and almost black. Her gums were swollen, bright red, and bleeding just from moving her tongue against them. She needed multiple hygienist appointments, scaling, and a debridgement.
The X-ray showed that the patient had all her wisdom teeth and 10 fillings. She needed root canals to try and save some teeth and at least three extractions. Her mouth was so messed up, I wouldn’t be surprised if she needed more work than that. I told her everything and did the usual explanation of proper oral hygiene.
Then I asked her if she had any questions, to which she says, “It’s okay if I lose this set of teeth, my others will come through”. Me and the dentist just looked at each other, probably a lot longer than we should have. We had no words. I couldn’t come up with a single reply to that comment.
11. A Vicious Cycle
ER doctor. I had the worst person in the world with fake seizures that could only be cured by Dilaudid. Seizures aren’t treated by opiates. This lady was insufferable and she knew all the rules she would make sure her enabling husband (IQ 50) came in so she had a driver so she could get pain pills.
If we didn’t give her any he would shut that place down screaming and threatening, while she would spy the parking lot to see which doctors were working and would believe her. Well, one day I had it.
She had brought her son (IQ normal) to the ER and she started fake seizing and screaming. I just let her go. Then she got threatening so I called security and I was the first person to ever get her removed. She then proceeds to walk out the doors with her son and not fifteen minutes later she is back in the ER as a trauma, full collar and all.
She says she’s going to sue me, that she went outside, had a seizure, fell, and is in more pain. So I stop her right there and walk to security around the corner. I know just what to do. I get the security tape. She very clearly looked around, made sure no one was looking, then gently laid down in a mangled position. In the video it looked like her son said “Forget this” and he literally walks away and walks several miles home.
I went and cleared her from her c-collar and backboard after calling the authorities. They came and didn’t do anything. She was back two days later.
12. Dad Vs. Dentist
Dentist here. A dad brought his 16-year-old daughter down out of the hills of New Hampshire and told me to take out all of her perfectly sound teeth and make her a set of dentures. After I picked up MY jaw, I asked him why–he explained that she was engaged, and he was giving them a wedding present. By getting rid of her teeth, her husband wouldn’t have to pay for dental bills for the next 50 years.
All attempts at educating him about the importance of natural dentition, the shortcomings of dentures, the fact that his daughter’s teeth were near-perfect, and that removing them would be gross malpractice on my part–all met with blank stares and continued insistence. I told him he was flirting with a call to social services if he kept trying this, whereupon he stormed out with daughter in tow.
That was 20 years ago and I still facepalm over it.
13. Jumping The Queue
We had a woman that claimed she couldn’t get up after a fall in her house. We arrived to her entire house being locked, so we called through a window that was cracked to see if there was any other way inside besides breaking through her screen. She proceeds to stand up, go to the front door, unlock the door, walk back to where she was and lay back down.
We did a generic checkup and there was clearly nothing wrong. When she said she didn’t want to go to the hospital and we were about to leave, she stopped us and asked us to call Comcast for her since we “are the EMS and are a higher priority”.
14. Gas Attack
A lady comes screaming into the ER. Now, she’s all dressed up, and so are her two grown daughters. All of them screaming hysterically that their mother is going to die. I go by them and nearly get tackled by the husband of one of the daughters. “Save her, she’s having an embolism.” Shaken, I examine the lady, asked her where she was coming from—a wedding, that explained the dress.
She apparently ate a bit too much of the potatoes that were served at the wedding. A shot of pantoprazole later, her embolism is gone. She just had a bad case of gas.
15. The Healing Magic Of Water
I do in-home long-term care for disabled adults, and a guardian of one of the adults has trouble paying the bills. I always felt sorry for her until I found out she had dropped $2k on a magic water machine. And when I found out why, I lost even more sympathy. Turns out she swears the alkaline water helps with her daughter’s “autism.” She won’t pay the bills on time, but by golly, she’s able to buy this expensive machine.
16. Right Place, Wrong Act
This just happened last week, strangely enough. I’ve been a nurse for 4 years now, and this is probably the worst I’ve seen it.
This young adult comes in with seizure-like activity. We’re a neuroscience floor, so we get these a lot. Complains of severe abdominal pain related to her seizures, apparently. They run multiple CTs and MRIs that come back clean. We put her on a 24-hour VEEG machine (video EEG for those who don’t know). She reportedly has 100s of seizures throughout the night, with full body convulsions, drooling, upper extremity contractions, and will not respond to verbal stimuli. Post ictal, she’s not lethargic, just confused. Doesn’t know her own name, the place that she’s in, or what time it is, but the rest of her neuro assessment is benign. No bladder incontinence during, had perfect control of all limbs.
She screams for pain meds when she’s not having seizures, but is for some reason refusing everything they offer her. Tylenol—nope. Percocet—makes her feel weird. Lidoderm patch for her abdomen—it gives her sores in her mouth. I guarantee if a doctor dropped the D word, she would have been all over that.
After 24 hours of being there, $1,000s worth of tests being run all coming up negative, the doctors had no choice but to send her home. She became agitated and seizing again, while the doctor is basically explaining that she’s faking it. That was the final nail in the coffin for him.
He says, “I’ll wait”. She immediately stops. Security had to roll her out, with me in tow, because I was too paranoid that she would throw herself on the floor before leaving and demand to be readmitted. They recommended an outpatient psych consult for her, which made her even angrier. Lord knows, maybe the seizures felt real to her, but she didn’t need a special kind of help.
17. Sleep Tight
I have one. It’s not about a patient, but rather, a patient’s family member. I had a patient in the ICU for some respiratory issue. He had chronic pain and some mental health issues at the baseline, but worst of all, he had this co-dependent girlfriend who was always VERY present at his bedside all the time.
She was constantly worrying that he wasn’t getting enough pain medication or sleep. We kept reassuring her that we were giving him his medications and not to worry. The day he transferred out of the ICU, I was working a night shift and heard a code blue paged overhead.
It was for him. He had gone into respiratory arrest. Fortunately, he was found right away, intubated, and resuscitated. Back to my ICU he went. After some digging, we discovered the blood-chilling truth. We found out that his girlfriend was worried he wasn’t going to be able to sleep, so she bought some Seroquel on the street and gave it to him.
He was already on his home dose of Seroquel and opioids, plus some additional opioids for the acute pain he was dealing with. The sedation from that extra Seroquel in conjunction with the rest of his medications tipped him over the edge. Once he woke up, he was mortified and asked that his girlfriend not be allowed to visit him anymore.
Of course, this presented a different problem. I had to call her and tell her she was not allowed to visit him anymore and that hospital security had been alerted. She was…not happy. The lesson: If someone is hospitalized, WE WILL PROVIDE THE APPROPRIATE MEDICATIONS. You do not need to bring in extra medications. We got it.
18. Hmmm… Health Spa? Or Hospital.
I was dealing with some rather clueless parents and their child who was having seizures. The kid had Lennox-Gastout, which is one of the most severe forms of epilepsy and needs quite complex and extensive therapy. When I found out how the parents were treating their kid, I wanted to scream. Lavender essential oil and ice packs.
19. Mr. Clean
I once thought I was having a heart attack at work, so I drove myself to the ER. After skipping triage and getting an EEG/EKG right in the hallway, I was placed in a bed with a curtain divider. One of the five other roommates separated by curtains was a 53-year-old man. He was there for a “burning sensation in his crotch.”
I know this because multiple people asked him about his condition, and he had no volume modulation. Everyone kept asking him, “Did you put something…chemical in it?” His response to each one was, “Yeah…I might have”. It took five nurses and a doctor before he finally admitted the horrific truth: bleach. He said he dribbled bleach INTO THE TIP OF HIS WILLY to keep from getting a venereal disease.
The nurse was silent for a few solid moments. Then she asked why he did this and if he did it every time he was intimate. He said he wanted it clean, and that he wasn’t intimate with anyone at the moment. He wasn’t intimate with anyone. He had done it after fooling around with himself and was under the impression that he could infect himself with something he didn’t want.
The nurse had to lecture him that if he wasn’t intimate with another person, he likely wouldn’t contract a disease. She also told him that soap and water were a good way to stay clean in the future. I was frozen in my bed making that face from Edvard Munch’s The Scream with my wife mirroring it back to me. The man was moved elsewhere, perhaps to rebuild his urethral lining.
We were still too shocked to discuss it until leaving the hospital four hours later.
20. The Patient Brought His Own Instruction Manual
EMT here. The one that sticks out is the most textbook example.
We get called out to a residence at 2 am (because of course, it’s always 2 am). Guy says he’s having 10/10 finger pain and gingerly holding his hand in the air. Says there was no trauma, just started suddenly and it’s unbearable.
So we load him up, take him the 25 minutes to the hospital. Entire time he’s holding his hand in the air. But we had a full conversation, talked about football, never once did he complain about pain.
We wheel him into the ER and literally the second we walk through the door, this guy starts writhing in pain. Says he can’t sit still the pain is unbearable, he has to stand up, screaming at the nurse to help.
Then he turned to the nurse and said: “I had this same issue at a different hospital two weeks ago. They couldn’t tell what was wrong. They gave me morphine but that didn’t work so then they gave me Dilaudid. That worked. So maybe you should just start with Dilaudid tonight”. And then he went back to moaning in pain.
The nurse and I just looked at each other. We put him in a bed and I drove the 35 minutes back to the station. I highly doubt he was given any pain meds that night—it was just a colossal waste of everyone’s time.
21. Dine & Dash
This gentleman called 9-1-1 from a restaurant claiming he had a migraine and was unable to see properly. He was literally two blocks from a hospital.
I’ve had migraines, I’m sympathetic. On the way to the call, I was planning my treatment plan so he would be more comfortable during the wait in the emergency. When we pulled up, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
He was waiting outside, in full sunlight, waving at us. Thanked us politely for coming “to his rescue”. Sat in the well-lit ambulance, chatting up a storm, making inappropriate jokes, and laughing. Stating the whole time he has 10/10 pain from a migraine, and that only Percocet works to reduce the pain. He has them frequently, and wouldn’t you know it, he’s run out of his prescribed medication, and his doctor is on vacation.
The chef from the restaurant he called from came out and asked for his information. That’s when the story got even more hilarious. Our patient was “unable to pay his bill, due to the pain”. He conveniently had no ID he could leave with the restaurant, and only had his debit card with him. He promised to come back, once he was feeling well enough to tap his PIN into the machine, but right now he couldn’t. The chef knew 100% the guy was full of it, but couldn’t do anything.
As someone who has had a vomiting, shaking, vision effecting, migraine in the past, he did nothing to convince anyone he was in actual discomfort. I actually would greatly prefer if he had said, “I ate a meal I can’t afford, and I’m addicted to painkillers, can you please take me to the ER”. Honesty would have gotten him better treatment from everyone involved.
22. Some Real Good Care
Had a patient brought in by her son who “took care of her,” when she arrived at our unit, I performed a skin assessment—and when I took off her socks, I made a disturbing discovery. I found a fallen-off gangrenous toe. Seems fake and I wish this was, but it was by far the nastiest thing I’ve witnessed. The son said he had no idea when his mother’s foot became “that bad”. I had no words.
23. A Sticky Situation
We were doing an auditory brainstem response test on a kiddo with severe developmental delays. At the top of the chart, in bold red letters, it says “ADHESIVE ALLERGY”. Well, to perform this test we need to use adhesive electrodes. Plus, the kid had already had the test in the past, so I was wondering how they did it before.
I went to talk to the kid’s mom about it and she goes, “Well, I just don’t like the way his skin looks after they pull all of that tape off him”. I just left.
24. Time To Celebrate
I was required to stop working while I was pregnant, so I went into the WIC office to sign up for vouchers. I was in line behind a woman who, when asked if her newborn was fully breastfed, replied, “Yes. Except for the cake and ice cream”. The staff told her that babies under six months old should only have breastmilk or formula.
I kid you not, this woman replied, “But it was her BIRTHDAY. She had to have cake and ice cream!” All these years, I’ve thought she was just a special kind of stupid.
25. Silence Is Golden
I had a teen patient who lost speech for a couple days and got better. When I saw them again with their mom, I went over the tests and started discussing the possible causes. Mom interrupted me and said “Don’t say anything else. I’m a firm believer that if you don’t tell someone their diagnosis they can just heal on their own.”
She literally didn’t want me to tell her anything because she thought saying words out loud would give her kid diseases.
26. Three Snickers A Day Keeps The Doctors…Not Away
I was working in outpatient medicine and one of my patients came in for a normal follow-up. She was obese and told me that she’d read chocolate is good for your heart. She had been eating three Snickers a day diligently. Poor woman. I had another patient who proudly told me that she never received vaccines. I asked why.
She said the last influenza vaccine stopped her heart. I thought maybe it was anaphylactic shock, but that couldn’t be it because she hadn’t been hospitalized or received any treatment. And her legs had some mysterious mild swelling at the ankles, which could be from a lot of things. I asked her how her heart had been restarted. She confirmed it was still stopped.
27. Shove It up Your Nose
I’ve got two stories that stick out in my mind. The first is the mother of a toddler who came into emergency. The kid had cruddy stuff coming out of his left nostril, and a lot of redness and swelling of only the left side of his nose and the adjacent cheek. Mom was sure he caught a sinus infection and just wanted some antibiotics.
Now, I know some kids like shoving whatever will fit into their bodily orifices, and that this was more than likely given the one-sided nature of his condition. But Mom was insistent that he NEVER puts things in his nose. It took some convincing, but I finally got her to let me take a look. Gave a squirt of midazolam in the good nostril to settle him, then dug with some tweezers through the crud until I pulled out a big ole button battery—like the kind they use in watches.
It would’ve been burning his nose for a couple days. Hopefully, he healed up well.
28. You Get One Last Meal
I used to work on a cardiology unit and we often would get patients who had surgery either later in the day or the next day. I was a nurse assistant and would constantly be arguing with patients because they think we are evil for not letting them eat. “I HAVEN’T EATEN IN 15 HOURS,” I’m like I’m sorry dude but either you don’t eat or this process will begin again because these doctors don’t want to possibly kill you.
29. Don’t Put The Blame On Me
A woman comes into the Emergency Room with a six-year-old girl. The mother is frantic and crying, “My baby’s tooth fell out! It’s my fault”. I ask her, “How is it your fault? Did she fall or something”? She tells me, “No. It’s my fault because I didn’t give her the good juice with concentrate in it. Now all of her teeth are gonna fall out”!
Genuinely confused, I ask, “Concentrate”? She says, “If you don’t give kids juice with Concentrate in it…you know…the one with the big letter “C” on it, all their teeth will fall out”! “Ma’am,” I sighed, “your child is six years old. She is going to lose all her baby teeth now and get her adult teeth. She does not have scurvy”.
30. (Don’t) Do It Yourself
An old man I knew always had a bandaid on his nose. He had a cancerous growth on it and he would cut it off himself. He would always say “All the doc will do is cut it off, I can do that myself and save $200”. Guess who didn’t survive when the cancer spread elsewhere?
31. Radical Cure
I had a pregnant woman whose ultrasound showed the baby had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. It means the baby has half a heart, and it’s 100% fatal without surgery. She stopped seeing her obstetrician so she could have the baby in the forest and bathe it in breastmilk to cure him.
32. Eau De Overreaction
We had an employee that was “allergic to everything” and a huge hypochondriac. She was such a headache that we ended up moving her desk waaaaaay away from pretty much anyone else so she would stop complaining. One day, a lady walks by with a strong perfume, and our lovable hypochondriac falls out.
Predictably, EMS is called, and by this point our employee is laying on the ground rolling her eyes back in her head. Scary stuff—if you didn’t know she was literally insane.
So EMS arrives and they come over, put the O2 meter on her finger, and she’s choking through her speech when they’re asking her if she can breathe or not. O2 saturation was at like 97% or something like that. Medic goes “Ma’am, there’s no reason why you should be having trouble breathing right now”.
They hung around for another couple minutes, then bounced.
33. Nurse Karen
She was a nurse on disability and would fake seizures, which are really hard to fake. She would hold her breath and shake and roll around on the bed. Her O2 saturation dropped to the 70s from not breathing—and maybe the sensor wasn’t picking it up well as she was shaking. That’s when we gave her an ultimatum.
We told her we’d intubate if she couldn’t protect her airway and she would miraculously stop seizing. She never acted postictal and could remember the whole seizure and everything that was said. The worst part?
She told me she would call my manager since I said during one of her “seizures” we didn’t need to give her Ativan.
34. The Doctor Was Too Stunned To Speak
The most outrageous thing I’ve heard was from a boy who was something like 20-22 years old. He came from a very poor, illiterate family. The boy had a bad case of tonsilitis and refused to take any medication because all he needed to do was “bite the sun.” I asked him to explain—but that didn’t make it any better. Basically, at noon he had to look up to the sun, open his mouth as wide as possible and “bite” the sun several times.
This apparently would “burn” his tonsils and cure him over the course of a couple weeks. If that wouldn’t work, Plan B was to do the same at night, but only under a full moon.
35. Seriously Serious Seafood
I had a repeat patient as a medic that would always call for a severe allergic reaction to shellfish every other month or so. She always had the allergy and knew her reactions were getting worse. After a year of this silliness, my crew and I stayed behind in the emergency room with her. We talked at length about the situation since she’d always stay silent about how it kept happening. Her explanation was mind-boggling.
She told us she comes from a patriarchal culture. Her father made an amazing seafood soup. If she didn’t eat it and “force her body not to reject his gift to the family,” she would lose her car, phone, or whatever punishment her father deemed necessary. We pleaded with her to do whatever it took to show him it was dangerous and carry her Epi-Pens with her.
Fast forward a few years when I went into nursing and joined that emergency room, I saw a familiar bloated face. Turns out, she had gone off to college in another state and hadn’t been home for a while until visiting her folks for a holiday. Of course, she had the soup. But despite hitting herself with the Epi-Pen when her throat started tightening, the reaction continued. Her mom, who I had never seen before, told me she tried to eat it fast and rushed to the bathroom. They found her on the floor.
Medics couldn’t tube her in the field and tried medical management until they could drive her to our emergency room. The doctor performed a tracheotomy at the bedside and she went to the intensive care unit. It took a week for her to recover and I was told by the nurses that her father “finally got it” that her allergy was a real medical condition.
36. Denial Isn’t Just A River In Egypt
We recently had a married couple come in and the wife had late-stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that had been undiagnosed for years. My boss diagnosed her and told her she had it. He told her husband, too. Her husband kicked up a major fuss because he was sure because the Internet said she had borreliosis. He refused to let himself or her accept the disease.
Turns out, before they came to us, they’d been to THE Mayo Clinic where they‘d also been told she had ALS. And he‘d kicked up a major fuss there, too. So this woman is dying of a disease she refuses to believe she has.
37. Dad Doesn’t Know Best
When I was in seventh grade I hurt my pinky finger playing softball, but my dad being the assistant coach that he is told me I “just jammed it.” I told him I think I did more than that since my finger was completely numb, yet in excruciating pain. I picked up the softball after it happened and it felt like there was a hole in the ball where my finger was supposed to be.
Disregarding everything I was sobbing to him, he decided to pull my finger since it was “jammed.” For the next couple months I continued to play softball. Thank God for Icy Hot and Advil. My dad said “Maybe it wasn’t jammed. Since it still hurts you probably just got a bone bruise.” Eventually, my finger also developed a very solid bump on the side of my joint—it’s still there—and the pain never really went away.
When softball season ended we finally went to the doctor and had X-rays taken. When the doctor saw them he was amazed I still played since my bone was completely shattered into at least six pieces. He said he couldn’t give an exact number because of the healing and the angle of the X-rays. The bump on my finger was a calcium buildup from the healing which could have been avoided if I had gone to the doctors when it happened. The only good thing was that I didn’t need to have my finger rebroken to fix the placement of any of the fragments since my dad pulled it initially. Gotta love coach dads!
38. Hear No Evil
This happened so often it was almost a non-issue. We would basically just shrug our shoulders and say, “Welp.” I had a patient who kept adjusting her insulin dosage against my advice because she was terrified of having her feet amputated like her mom. She had several occasions of dangerously low blood sugar as a result…one of which put her in the ICU.
I also had a lady who had the opposite problem: raging diabetes but in deep denial, so she would never take her insulin. She was in the ICU multiple times for diabetic ketoacidosis. I also had a ton of patients on dialysis who skipped treatment for whatever reason. Most of the time, their reasoning was disturbing—they just didn’t feel like going.
They would come in with their electrolytes all messed up and would have to get emergency dialysis inpatient treatment. I had a billion old fat men with chest pain for weeks refuse to come into the hospital to be evaluated for cardiovascular issues and either pass away at home or come back a week later with extensive issues. Some people just don’t listen.
39. Starting A Trend
As a resident, I had a patient who had a blood clotting disorder, but also who was addicted to IV pain meds. He figured out how to get admitted for an extensive workup for a possible blood clot in the lung and IV pain meds for his “chest pain”.
He came in all the time, but it was very difficult to block the admission, because he actually did have a risk of this problem, never took his blood thinner correctly, and his symptoms always bought him a couple of days at least while we ruled out a clot and got his blood levels where they are supposed to be. But it meant he had accumulated >30 high resolution CT scans of the chest over his life, as part of the workup, which is not good for you.
I had this one question I used for patients I thought might be faking it. I would ask it to people who tended to come in complaining of every serious sounding symptom they could think of: “Does it ever hurt behind your eyes when you pee”?.
I was very salty at that point, and this guy was a nightmare when he ended up on your service, and it really bothered me that this guy was buying himself a lung tumor with all those PE protocol CTs just to get a day’s worth of IV pain meds and Benadryl.
With him, I started asking the “pain behind your eyes when you pee” question like it was extremely important, and quickly he started answering “yes”, and I acted like it was an extremely serious condition that warranted evaluation—once it was clear I couldn’t avoid the admission anyway.
I considered it one of my greatest achievements in residency that he one day showed up in the ER with “pain behind my eyes when I pee” as his chief complaint. I heard a colleague talking about this crazy dude who came in demanding to be admitted because he had excruciating urination-related eye pain. Made my day.
40. Playing Hooky
I had a female patient, 17 years old, who complained of respiratory distress and convulsions. Everything’s normal on admission, and she’s conscious but refuses to eat. Her parents are worried out of their minds, and every few minutes she has a “fit” where she would just basically shake from side to side.
She let slip to a nurse that she didn’t want to go to school that week, so she was faking an illness. Since she was refusing to eat, the attending wrote up an order for a nasogastric tube (which was inserted and then removed by her in a matter of minutes), and we prescribed her sugar pills because her parents wouldn’t let us transfer her to psychiatry or discharge her. She finally left after four days.
41. Baby On Board!
“Wait”, my patient said, “second-hand smoke? Yeah, right, that doesn’t exist. Baby’ll be fine.” An hour later, he says, “No, my fiancée and I don’t want our daughter to have any of the vaccines, the vitamin K shot, antibiotic eye ointment, or PKU testing. It’s poison. Poking her with the needle is worse than the cold she’d get without the poison.”
He then drove his newborn daughter and fiancée home in a car that absolutely reeked of weed.
42. Bad Diet
I had a patient who had a hard time getting pregnant. She finally conceived but miscarried. She has a procedure to clear the uterine lining so that she can try again, this time with medical help. We monitor her blood to ensure the pregnancy hormone is gone before beginning the new treatment. But she keeps coming back with high levels of hormone.
Docs are worried because she might have some retained placenta or pituitary disorder and this could be super bad for future fertility. We call her in for a conversation about the hormone levels not clearing up. After talking together about what might be wrong, they are going to go home and think about further tests. She says “I need to go. I have an appointment at the weight-loss center for an HCG shot.”
Turns out that she is on the HCG diet. HCG IS the pregnancy hormone. And this was after an hour of the docs saying “We don’t know why you have these constant high levels of HCG in your blood and we are worried.”
43. There’s No “I” In Stupid
I was working in the ICU at the time and information written on the whiteboard: “Patient had pneumonia.” The patient’s family was freaking out, pulling their hair. They were really angry that the hospital gave their family the dreaded strain of P-neumonia. It took hours explaining to them that is how pneumonia is spelled. Dictionary. Internet. Coworkers. They still insisted.
44. Take It Easy
I had a patient who had just gotten a below-knee amputation. We gave him the prosthesis shortly after surgery, as soon as the surgeon signed off. We told him several times to take it easy. He was very excited and we knew he was not going to listen. To stress the issue, we had the owner of the company and several coworkers who are also amputees talk to the patient. Being a new amputee the limb goes through a lot of changes and is still healing.
After he took his new leg home we hadn’t heard from him in a few weeks, he even canceled his follow-up appointment since he was “doing great” A week after that one of our coworkers calls us and tells us that he was at the surgeon’s office. He saw said patient waiting to be seen since his limb was scabbed over, with several lesions and extremely discolored.
After asking what happened he told her that he was feeling so good with the prosthesis he decided to run a marathon and obstacle course. He ended up getting a major infection due to the mud. He is extremely lucky that he did not need a revision making him an above-knee amputee.
45. I Didn’t Get It From My Papa
My father was a stubborn idiot and was adamant about not following doctor’s orders. He was a long-time smoker and drinker. So dear old father goes in and has a mole excised from his privates. Uh oh. Biopsy comes back and it’s not malignant. Great, except he didn’t follow the doctor’s order on how to take care of it after the fact. Gangrene.
Yep. They lopped it off. I only found out about that in my late teens. It was a mind-shattering reveal from my mother and older sister.
46. You Know I’m No Good
I was working on a general surgery unit as a new nurse. An elderly diabetic patient ran over her second toe with the bedside table and her nail was ripped off. She was incredibly mean and didn’t want anyone touching her. I tried to explain the severity of her injury, especially because she was an uncontrolled diabetic and already had compromised circulation to her feet.
She still refused to let me treat the wound. She also refused care from the physician. There was really nothing we could do other than a gentle cleansing with antibiotic ointment and sterile dressings, which she eventually relented to. She was refusing everything else despite not being demented or disoriented. We just had to respect her wishes.
She had overall poor hygiene and still refused more than just the bare minimum care days later. All of her objections would eventually lead to the worst-case scenario. When she came back to the hospital, she needed to have her leg amputated. That toe was now gangrenous and everything below the knee had to go. The doctor told her she likely would have been fine if she didn’t refuse treatment.
Except, after her amputation, she again tried to refuse care. We did what we had to do and eventually she was discharged back to the nursing home where she came from. Reportedly, she still sabotaged her own healing several times by introducing new infections to her wounds via neglect and carelessness. I saw her obituary in the newspaper a few weeks later.
47. Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Pettily
I had a male patient, 21 years old, who was admitted with inability to speak for last two hours and respiratory distress. Lungs clear, but we hook him up to oxygen for a few minutes. After he’s taken off, his father comes running and drags me over, saying his sons tongue refuses to go back in after receiving the oxygen.
I look at the kid and he’s seriously just lying there with his tongue poking out like a child. I tell them to push it back in. A few hours later, the dad tells me the boy is convulsing. I go to see without making my presence known and he’s lying there just fine. The moment I ask the mom how he’s doing, he starts “convulsing”. Think of an odd version of the worm, but on his back. Later, I found out the hilarious truth.
We finally got the story behind it, and basically the kid was mad because his dad took his phone away and this was his way of “punishing” his dad.
48. Breaking The Fourth Wall
My disability firm fired a client who went to a clinic with her husband and son. When she was not examined as thoroughly as she felt was appropriate, she started acting the fool in the hallway outside the doctor’s office and had an “episode”.
Her son recorded the whole thing. She was claiming fugue states or some weird garbage. While she’s pretending to pass out/be out of breath/dizzy/weak, she is purposefully hyperventilating but also wailing for an ambulance and DIRECTLY LOOKS AT THE CAMERA multiple times, like checking to see if son is getting it.
The doctor’s staff calls an ambulance just to get her out of there. Before they get there, she “passes out”. The paramedics come and rub her sternum which she obviously physically responds to but refuses to open her eyes. They then drop her hand over her face to see if it will smack her and she lets it fall to the side of her face onto her shoulder.
We watched that video like three times to get over the disbelief that anyone would pull such nonsense and note the obvious signs of faking it. We fired her as a client, but said we could reconsider if she entered mental health treatment for six months and didn’t get any better. We never saw her again.
49. Shakin’ All Over
My sister-in-law used to have “seizures”. She got in a minor car accident once and afterwards in the hospital the doctor told her she may have had a mild seizure during the accident. My brother was worried about leaving her and their son alone so she was staying at my parents’ house while he was at work.
Suddenly she was having regular “seizures”—but there was just one problem. It was only when she had an audience. I only witnessed one of them but it was ridiculous. It was the day before Thanksgiving and my whole family was at my parents’ house—me, my sister and other brother and our spouses.
We’re all talking and she suddenly starts shaking all over, slides herself off the couch to lie on the floor, jiggles about a bit more and then goes still and pretends to be unconscious. My dad called an ambulance and she was still “unconscious” when they arrived. They started talking to her and asking her questions like “Can you hear me”? etc. She would nod her head in answer to their questions.
I remember the EMT being like “Huh, that’s weird that she’s answering”. There was another time shortly after that when she was at my parents’ house and one of my dad’s friends came over and while he was there she had another “seizure” and rolled onto the floor. My dad’s reaction was unforgettable.
He’d had enough drama at this point so he just walked outside with his friend. When he came back inside she was sitting on the couch like nothing happened and never mentioned it.
50. No Way Baby
Had a patient fake a ruptured ectopic pregnancy to get narcotics. Says she was diagnosed with an ectopic at another hospital and given medication to end it. Came into our hospital in extreme abdominal pain, rolling around, yelling, had vaginal bleeding, the whole nine yards. Gave her a bunch of pain medication so we could get an ultrasound. The results were chilling.
Ultrasound showed nothing. Urine pregnancy test showed nothing. Beta HCG was 0. Turns out she was conveniently on her period which made the whole thing very convincing. Got records from the other hospital, patient had been there yesterday but was not pregnant for them, nor was she diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy. Definitely was a “wow she just made up this entire thing.”
We had a lovely conversation about all the results. She ended up screaming at me, threatening to sue me for all I’m worth and stormed out. Joke’s on her I’m worth -200K of student loan debt.
51. Shaking the Truth Out
EMS here. Had a patient start seizing in front of the authorities after they were pulled over for possible intoxicated driving. We get there and the patient is still on and off seizing. We get them on the stretcher and in the back of the ambulance, surprisingly the cop joins us. As I take their arm, the shakes start up again, so I tell them, “Yo, if you want this medication, I need you to stop so I can start and IV real quick…” His response was hilarious.
Patient stops to let me start the line, and once I say I’m done, they start back up.
52. A Prescription to Be Impolite
I’m a hearing aid dispenser in a private practice. A patient comes in for a hearing test; young guy in his mid-twenties, which is already unusual. Main issue is that he’s getting noise complaints about his music. Huh. No issues with his ears physically, so I do the hearing test—basically ends up with profound hearing loss.
Weird because that’s basically sign-language territory there. I walk behind him and ask him what his plans are for the evening, to which he responds appropriately. Definitely what we call a “non-organic hearing loss.” He was trying to get the results he wanted to justify being a jerk of a neighbor. Pretty strange lengths to go to just for that.
53. Pregnancy Goes Both Ways?
Just this week I was in our workroom when a senior physician sitting next to me who was on the phone suddenly grabbed my arm while desperately trying to keep a straight face. The senior physician was talking to a 24-year-old female patient and the conversation was going: “No ma’am, you can get absolutely get pregnant even if you don’t [climax].”
“No ma’am, just because he’s feeling nauseated the morning after doesn’t mean you’re pregnant…”
54. This Remedy Doesn’t Hold Water
I’m a nurse, but my favorite was when a patient’s family member rudely insisted we give her mother who had a major stroke (resulting in nearly zero swallowing capability) as much water as she could drink because “I read a study online that said you can’t aspirate on water because your lungs just absorb it back into your bloodstream.”
I looked her dead in the eyes and said, “Ok, then explain drowning to me.”
55. That’ll Show Them!
This patient was being treated for her diabetes. She had long been non-compliant with her diet and medications. We had tried everything and the patient was just not doing anything about her disease. The doctor being fed up basically told her what was going to happen to her if she doesn’t start caring for herself. The patient’s reaction was beyond nuts.
The patient got mad at the doctor and drove to the store and came back with a bag full of candy bars and decided to sit outside in the waiting room and eat her candy to spite the doctor.
56. You’re Missing The Key Ingredient
Patient came in speaking very arrogantly about how they knew exactly what was wrong and they’ve been “in the medical industry” for over a decade and weren’t going to be duped and duped by doctors. They were only there as a formality from her company to provide that they were sick so they could get unemployment, worker’s compensation, leave, or whatever.
The patient was absolutely certain they suffered from sickle-cell anemia. They had claimed all the right symptoms and seemed to mimic them when asked. The patient was stunned when my sister diagnosed them with dehydration and suggested an inner ear disorder, and recommended her to a specialist. The patient was pretty frustrated with my sister and even became irate.
My sister stopped her and asked them why they were so certain they had sickle cell in the first place? Again patient said they were well versed in the medical field, blah blah… my sister said “Well just see the specialist.” My sister told her to make sure she double-checks that selects all of the correct information when using the symptom checker on WebMD before self-diagnosing anything. Specifically, she was missing One Key Factor in why she could absolutely not have sickle-cell anemia…she was white.
57. There’s No Cure For Stupidity
I’ve seen some really stupid people over the years. A few weeks ago a patient’s family member got into a verbal altercation with me over the fact that I was trying to “freeze his mother.” He kept pointing to the digital thermostat displaying a temperature of 23 degrees Celsius. When I gently explained to him that 23 Celsius is not at all cold, he just kept pointing to the display and shouting, “You don’t think 23 degrees is cold?! It’s 23 FREAKING DEGREES IN HERE!” and acting insane.
After multiple attempts to explain to him what Celsius is by myself, the charge nurse, house supervisor, and security, we finally gave up and had him escorted out. He was a man in at least his late-30s who graduated high school and had never heard of Celsius and Fahrenheit. He literally thought we were making it up in an attempt to conceal my efforts to freeze his intubated, critically ill mother.
58. Conjugal Visit
Another paramedic piping in! One day I went out to a “no tell motel” at about 3:30 pm for seizures. When we get there a 25-year-old guy sitting on the bed, and his girlfriend describes “his whole body shaking, it stopped just before you got here”. He’s completely alert and oriented (people who have seizures generally take a while to “wake up”), and they describe a vague seizure history, with no diagnosis or meds.
He hands me his drivers’ license for ID—even though, if you have a legit seizure the first thing they do is take your drivers’ license away. We finally walk him out to the ambulance and the girlfriend asks if she can come too. I tell her of course, and the real reason comes out.
Apparently, she’s on a pass from the same hospital we’re transporting to and has to be back by 4pm. There’s only one unit that does passes like that…psychiatry!
59. A Mixed Bag of Make-Your-Own Diagnosis
I’m a nurse in pediatric neurology. We frequently have families who refuse to put their kids on seizure medications regardless of the EEG findings and the fact that they, you know, have seizures and stuff. One family “did the research” and attempted to cure the child’s epilepsy with essential oils, over the counter CBD oil, yoga, and metal ion wristbands (to “balance” the brain).
They even went as far as having the kid’s dental fillings removed and replaced with a non-metallic filling. There was the time that someone told us she didn’t need medication because if you opened a fizzy can of Pepsi and put it under her nose, she would come out of a seizure. If that didn’t work, you could whisper “Reese’s Pieces” in her ear and she would stop seizing.
My least favorite visits are from parents who refuse to believe that their kid is twitching because they have motor tics and likely Tourette’s instead of epilepsy. Like, if it was a choice between Tourette’s and epilepsy, you should choose Tourette’s all day long. Why these parents are bent on giving their kids a diagnosis of epilepsy is beyond me. I just don’t even know anymore.
60. It Is What It Is
I’m an attending physician at our Triage Unit. On a Friday, an older gentleman came in with his entire family, none of them with a face mask. All had mild COVID symptoms except him. He had shortness of breath. We insisted on doing tests to look for COVID, but he and his wife refused. They said that COVID wasn’t real and it was just a bacterial infection.
The more we talked with him the more agitated he got, to the point that his face was red. We suggested hospitalizing him to stabilize him and start treatment. They accused us of exaggerating his symptoms and that we only wanted to hospitalize him so we could steal the liquid in his knees. They both cursed at us and said they were going to a better hospital to get antibiotics.
I knew what was coming, but it was still heartbreaking. 24 hours later, we get a call from a neighboring hospital next telling us they intubated one of our patients because he went into respiratory failure when he arrived and they had to transfer him here because they don’t have the appropriate equipment. We transfer the patient on Sunday only to find out on the CAT scan he had 90% lung damage. He passed on Monday morning.
Just before the family took the body away, I gave the widow the death certificate. Before walking away, she turns around and waves the certificate yelling “See! I told you it wasn’t COVID! It says here: “due to pulmonary pneumonia due to SARS-CoV-2! I knew it was a bacteria!.” I told her: “SARS-CoV-2 is COVID-19, ma’am.”
61. Just Vampire Things
I offered a diabetic a tissue after doing a finger poke to mop the two drops of blood on his finger. He looked at me like I was an absolute idiot, said “you don’t know very much do you” and sucked it off his finger. What he said next still blows my mind: Then he spend the next five minutes “educating” me that because he was a diabetic, he needed all the blood he had.
Therefore he needed to “put it back into his body” rather than wasting it by putting it on a tissue. He was under the impression that if he just swallowed, it would go straight back into circulation.
62. Allergic To Common Sense
Patient with seafood allergy presents to the emergency room with swollen lips, hives, itchy throat. The provider takes a history asking if the patient could’ve been exposed to seafood or cross-contamination. Have they eaten new food or at a new establishment? The whole nine yards. While being treated, patient adamantly denies this.
They keep trying to figure out what the allergen could’ve been because it’s a pretty strong reaction. Eventually, the patient gets frustrated and admits they ate shrimp pasta, but it CAN’T be from that because he took two tablespoons of honey first and “it coats things in there.” As in, shrimp can somehow not penetrate the magical honey fortress.
63. Kids Are The New Dogs
These parents bring in their child whose hair is infested with lice. The lice was visible to the eye and could be seen crawling on the child’s clothing. While the medical staff examined the child, in order to determine a course of action, they discovered the child was covered in a white powder and smelled heavily of chemicals.
They asked the parents what were the substances and the smells emanating from the child. The parents said, quite matter of fact, it was Sevin Powder and flea and tick spray they used on their dogs on the family’s farm. Needless to say, social workers were notified about this case.
64. You’re Not Helping!
I was treating cavities on a very nervous four-year-old. We had finally gotten into a cooperative groove when the genius mother looked up from her phone and noticed that I was drilling teeth. She was in the room the whole time. I had reviewed treatment with her, she knew we were fixing cavities. She proceeds to curse me out under her breath saying “You’re drilling holes in her teeth! this is freaking ridiculous, you people are thieves making holes in people’s teeth!”
I kept my calm and said “Ma’am if you have questions I will be happy to answer after I’m finished.” I’m shaking with rage at this point. By the way, she was 20 minutes late to her appointment already. I’m bending over backward to make sure her kid has a good visit and doesn’t end up scared of the dentist. Appointment is over, kid jumps down high fives and gives me a big hug.
I turn to mom and ask her how exactly she thought cavities were fixed? She said, “you don’t drill, my mother is a dental assistant.” I then proceeded to explain in excruciating detail the scientific process of how we remove decay. She said, “that’s not true.” I then told her that she can go ask her mom, ask Google or go to dental school if she wants to know more. But I won’t be treating her child anymore. What a nutbag.
65. Father Doesn’t Quite Know Best
We once had a father bring his daughter into the hospital because she got her period for the first time. He brought her to the ER no less! We had an OBGYN come down and help the poor girl through it. Imagine how harrowing that was for a 10-year-old, “Yes honey, you got your period, it’s an emergency, we need to go to the ER NOW.”
66. Breathing Is Overrated
I once had a patient with a bad case of lung disease, who pretty much couldn’t breathe and was drowning in the air she couldn’t breathe out. I had to explain to the family that she should think about quitting her nicotine habit. Afterward, I heard the family telling her to smoke through her nose and to just take shallow puffs.
67. I Blame The Coffee Shop
I’ve had patients come in for their surgery with a coffee in their hand and then yell when we told them we’d have to cancel the surgery, with one lovely fellow screaming, “Why do you even have a coffee shop then if I’m not allowed to drink coffee? Why would they sell me coffee if I can’t drink it?” No eating and drinking 10 hours before your surgery means no eating and drinking anything. Not Tums, not breastmilk, not coffee, not anything. But we’re the morons when it happens, of course.
68. The Repeat Offender
When I was working in the ER, I had a guy come in with a gunshot wound to his leg. It was a simple injury, missing the major arteries and nerves in his thigh. All GSWs have to be reported, so I asked the guy what happened. The more he talked, the lower my jaw got: Apparently, he was upset that his neighbor had done something annoying. The patient grabbed a hammer and used it to “knock” on said neighbor’s door.
The neighbor answered the door holding a .22 rifle and told the patient to leave or else he’d blast him. My patient then tells me, “I didn’t think he’d do it again!” That’s right, “AGAIN.” Apparently, this wasn’t their first confrontation. They’d had an argument the previous year that had ended in the neighbor firing on him.
I can only speculate that it was justifiable since the neighbor wasn’t locked up. I couldn’t believe this guy went back to the house of a person who had previously blasted him, banged on the door with a hammer, and was surprised when he got shot again. Heck, the neighbor was nice enough to give him a warning. He even called an ambulance for the moron.
That patient was the dumbest human being I’ve ever met.
69. Freshening Up
One of my patients called me up and sounded worried: “You know those holiday air fresheners that you plug into a wall? Are they bad for you?” I asked, “Bad for you how?” They said, “My baby got into one and drank the stuff inside, so I put some in my mouth to see if it’s bad. Now, my mouth burns.” Mission accomplished.
70. Get Out Of Jail Free Card
We had a patient. He had just committed a heinous offense, no question, it was on video, tried to run from the authorities, crashed his car, and broke his leg. I have seen adult babies before, but this guy took the cake.
I think he thought being unable to walk would keep him from being locked up, so this perfectly healthy, 20-year-old man would not even try to walk with crutches, cane, walker, anything. I wanted to read him to the ground but was with a mentor and about four officers and held my tongue.
71. No Such Thing As A Free Meal
We get called to a local Waffle House for a seizure. We walk in to find a man lying on the floor, not moving, but breathing. We start talking to the waitress, asking what had happened. While talking to her, we occasionally look down at the patient, and find him with one eye barely cracked open, watching us, when he sees us looking at him, he closes his eye. This happens a few times. Then the authorities show up and find out what’s going on.
One of the officers asks the waitress, “Did he (patient) eat here”? “Yes, he did”. “How much is his bill”? “Fourteen dollars”. At this point, the officers roll the patient over and find his wallet, the guy has a $20 bill in it. One of the officers takes out the $20, gives it to the waitress, and tells her, “Keep the change”. You could see the anger in the patient’s face when he realizes he’s not getting out of paying his bill. He ended up faking a seizure on the way to the hospital.
72. The Carrot And The Stick
My mother was the school nurse when I was in high school, but she’s been a nurse my whole life. She’s told me a few good stories. But I was lucky enough to overhear one of the students trying to fake an illness to get out of class.
The kid, we’ll call him Derrick, was a loser. White trash, moody, and destructive. Not my favorite classmate. But I was laying there when I heard him come in and start his routine of attention seeking.
So my mom runs through all the basics, temp, blood pressure, etc. Well, Derrick finally just cuts to the chase, obviously frustrated with the procedure, “Look Mrs S, something is seriously wrong here and I’m not faking it this time”, he screeched, defenses already 10 feet high.
She asked: “OK Derrick, what’s the problem this time”?
“Well, earlier this morning, I started feeling sick, so I went to the bathroom to throw up. After I was done I looked at the toilet…(dramatic pause) and there where over a dozen whole baby carrots…(another pause, this one I think was for any gasps that might be coming) AND I DON’T EVEN EAT CARROTS”! He was basically shouting at this point.
Well, after about a 10 second pause and what I’m guessing was the hardest straight face my mother ever had to keep, she came up with a legendary reply.
She said, still fighting back laughter, “Well Derrick, your body is producing carrots at an alarming rate. Weird that it only seems to happen during gym, though. Here is a Gatorade and a hall pass to get back to class, see you tomorrow”.
He left, stunned to be written off so easily and we had a good ol’ laugh.
“And I don’t even eat carrots”! has become a family favorite catchphrase.
73. A Mother’s Love Isn’t Always Accurate
A mother who was convinced her son had familial Mediterranean fever. He did not. She was repeatedly told this, nicely of course. Yes, the child had had genetic testing by the time I saw the family. Oh, but a small percentage aren’t detected by the testing! Thing is, her kid was fine. Healthy kid. Mom was just obsessed with this diagnosis.
Not exactly Munchausen by proxy, she never did anything to him to make him sick or subjected him to a lot of unnecessary procedures. But on that spectrum.
74. The Long Arm of the Doc
So, my mom is a doctor. She told me this story of a woman who came in and said she had seizures and as a result she couldn’t move her arms. So, my mom tested her arms and tried to push it and see if she would react. This lady was the worst liar. She kept resisting and trying to keep her arm in place since she couldn’t “move” it.
My mom had to control herself from laughing and told the woman that she needed to relax. She then left the room and discharged the patient.
75. Seize the Day (and the Meds)
Patient came in with “seizures,” nonspecific weakness, lightheadedness, and numbness/tingling in her hands and feet. She gets admitted because of some electrolyte issues (not related to the neuro symptoms, these were corrected later, and symptoms persisted). Sure enough, on the second day she’s there, she “seizes.”
As soon as the diazepam is pushed (before the flush is even in), she stops seizing. This happens again three hours later. The third time while she was seizing, we came up with an ingenious plan. We took her hand and tried to drop it on her face twice. Both times she moved her hand out of the way so it wouldn’t smack herself in the face.
We just stood there until she got tired of shaking. It took about five minutes. She left a few hours later.
76. Sometimes Sharing Is Not Caring
One day in the pharmacy, a girl comes to the counter requesting a refill for her birth control. We pulled up her profile and realized we couldn’t refill it because she just got a 28-day fill less than two weeks ago. When we asked what happened to the other one, she said she was out. Apparently, both her and her boyfriend were each taking a pill each. Both were adamant this was how they needed to prevent pregnancy.
77. Adding Fuel To The Fire
I’m a paramedic and my partner told me the worst he has ever seen was for a burn patient. He said that he saw a teenager hobbling towards him covered in a bunch of white gooey gunk. When I found out what it was, my jaw dropped. So apparently homeboy was out in the country trying to start a big bonfire and he first decided to douse his big bundle with some gasoline before tossing a match in. Well it caught on fire real fast and he got a big old flash burn across his whole body.
His mama apparently use to be a “certified nurse” and covered him in mayonnaise because that would help treat the burn. Yeah no. All she did was introduce a ton of infection into his body and make it much more excruciating for him when my partner had to wipe it off of him and place burn bandages on him while they transported him to the hospital.
78. A Mistake Of Magnitude
I had a throat cancer patient. We offered him surgery to remove the tumor and it was actually a fairly conservative procedure. He left because he didn’t want a “mutilating” surgery. Instead, his daughter-in-law had been studying magnet therapy and she was “quite good with it” (his words). He came back a year later, it was all too late—he was out of reach from any treatment.
His cancer was so advanced that there was nothing we could do for him.
79. Built To Spill
We had a college student come into the ER with a wonderful case of appendicitis. He needed to get surgery ASAP, as surgery is way easier and safer if done before the appendix ruptures. He called his parents to let them know, and their response chilled me to the bone. They told him to refuse because he had a test later in the week and they didn’t want him to miss it.
He left the ER “Against Medical Advice” despite all of us telling him that if his appendicitis got worse and ruptured, it could definitely be fatal. The kid luckily came back about 10 hours later after it ruptured. He got the emergency surgery and the amount of time he got to spend in the hospital probably doubled, so I’m sure he missed his test anyway.
80. Plan Foiled
We get called to a fall in the women’s bathroom at Wal-Mart. We walk in, and the manager is FREAKING OUT. We go into the bathroom to find a white female face up on the floor. I’m guessing she weighs at least 350 lbs, there were two friends of hers standing in there with her. I ask her what happened, she says she slipped on a puddle and fell, hurting her back.
I look all over the bathroom floor, there’s NO water on the floor. I ask the manager AND the patient’s friends—”Do you see water on the floor”? They all said, “No”. I then tell the patient, “There’s no water on the floor, ma’am”. She says, “I’m lying on top of it”.
We’re going to have to roll her to her side in order to get a backboard under her and pick her up, I explain that to her. As we roll her to her side, I check her back for any obvious injuries, I then check her clothing AND the floor she was lying on—nothing was wet. I have the manager (who was grinning from ear to ear at this point) and the patient’s friends look. “Do you see water on the floor? Are her clothes wet”? They all said, “No”.
We then roll the patient onto the board, pick her up, and place her on a stretcher. At this point, I knew exactly what to say to end the ridiculous charade.
I tell the patient, “I’m going to be writing up paperwork for this call and your treatment. Part of what is going to be written up is the fact that you said you slipped on a wet floor, and that no water was found either on the floor or soaked into your clothing. This is standard, I have to write up what I’m told in addition to what I see. What you need to understand is this—if you happen to decide to take Wal-Mart to court, they can request a copy of my run report, and it’s going to show what you said and what I found. They can also summon me to testify, and if they do, I’m going to tell them what you told me and what I saw, the manager saw, and what your friends saw. That being said, do you want to keep dragging this out and go to the hospital, or do you want to just get up from my stretcher and be done with it”?
She chose to get up and leave.
81. Them’s Fighting Words
My dad works in A&E (accident and emergency) and gets a lot of people wandering in for attention.
So one time a guy is driven in pretending to be unconscious, the same guy who’d pulled this the week before—but they’re not allowed to turn these people away. My dad, knowing this, says something like “Hey, isn’t this the jerk from last week”?
The guy then miraculously wakes up and starts hurling insults and has to be held back. Charming…but makes for good stories at least.
82. Excuse Me, Are You Busy?
I was running through a ward because of an emergency and a patient stops and asks for some toast and jam. I had to explain, “No I can’t get you toast and jam right this second because you are diabetic for one and there is a cardiac arrest going on in the next bed” which is why I am running past you and the room is full of doctors shouting and the loud emergency alarm is going off.
83. It’s A Wrap
I had a patient whose blood sugar was extremely high. One of the goals is to drop the blood glucose and the patient is placed on an insulin drip. This patient’s numbers were not changing at all over a couple of hours. The patient kept asking if she could eat to which the reply is always, NO! I then noticed a candy wrapper in the patient’s bed. I then lifted up their blanket and what did I find? A pile of candy wrappers.
I then had to explain nicely why eating candy at this time was bad.
84. Poor Little Rich Girl
The worst ones are the parents of pediatric patients because they’re the parents who apparently know much more about their child’s oral health than we do. For example, we had an 11-12-year-old patient come in and this kid clearly needed braces. We had been forewarned about how this kid’s mother had already brought her to almost every dental office in the area asking for a “second opinion”. That’s a HUGE red flag.
So this consultation was probably their fifth or sixth opinion on the matter. When I say this poor girl had an underbite and some of the most crooked teeth I’ve ever seen on a pediatric patient, I’m not lying. This girl’s mandibular jaw protruded almost an inch further that the maxillary. She would complain about having trouble doing simple things like chewing her food, speaking correctly, halitosis, and containing saliva so she was unable to control herself from drooling… a lot.
This office was in the Back Bay of Boston, an expensive area. Most patients were more than well-off in the money department. A lot either paid out of pocket or had amazing insurance. The mother was decked head to toe in designer clothes, fur shawl draped on her shoulders in the middle of August. She was clearly wealthy.
Once we finished the exam we told the mom that her daughter absolutely 100% needed orthodontic intervention ASAP, that’s how bad the situation was. She FLIPPED, accused us of just wanting her money and how no child of hers would ever be caught wearing braces. I wanted to wring her neck. We told her that it was going to take more than braces to fix the issue. She was going to require a referral to oral and maxillofacial surgeon to correct her severe underbite.
This poor little girl was horrified, not because of what we suggested, but because of her mother’s behavior and lack of understanding. The daughter was crying and begging her mother to let her get her teeth fixed. This crazy lady dragged her daughter out of the office, screaming that all of the dentists in the area were in cahoots. I still wonder if she ever got the help she needed.
85. Don’t You Feel Silly?
I had a guy come in raging that his lenses were scratched and he bought the scratch resistance so this shouldn’t happen! First off, we give you the scratch resistance for free, it isn’t called “scratch impossible” for a reason. Second, we also give you a free warranty with purchase that covers scratches and breaks for an entire year. So it’s pretty generous and can be used multiple times a year.
Turns out his glasses were just dirty. Not a single scratch beneath the filth.
86. I Ensure You I’m Not Okay
I had a lady in the hospital who was several days post OP and met all criteria for discharge, but she didn’t want to leave. This can be a somewhat difficult situation, because you want to maintain a good relationship with your patient, but at the same time can’t inappropriately use hospital resources. I told her that if there’s no medical necessity, insurance could deny payment.
I couldn’t believe her reply. She said: “Oh, my health insurance agent was just up here, and he said I should stay another day.” I just stared at her for a minute since I have never seen an insurance representative in the hospital, and don’t even know if health insurance agents exist. She then admitted that she just made that up.
87. A Narrow Path Between Truth and Lies
Not a doctor, but I was an ER scribe. I would follow the doctors around with a laptop and do all of their electronic charting, ordering tests, note taking, and stuff like that. Had a patient, probably around 18-20-year-old male. Complaining of a foreign object in his…male organ. He had a set of iPhone headphones stuck right up in there.
And when I say stuck up there, I mean all the way to where the single cord splits in two for the two earbuds. Out of precaution we did an x-ray and sure enough, you could see the knotted-up cord in his lower abdomen, and it was going to require surgery to remove due to it being tangled. When he told us the “true” story, I was astounded.
He said that he was at a party with some friends and that when he got intoxicated and passed out, his friends shoved it up there as a joke. But this was a lie. The doctor I was working with had seen this guy for the same kind of thing not long ago. She recognized there was a bigger issue and convinced him to have an in-patient psych consult in the ER after surgery so they could get him the help he needed.
88. The Proof Is in The Ink
I asked my patient if he smoked, and he nodded sheepishly and told me that he did. That’s all fine, I note it down. Then I asked if he smoked anything other than nicotine, because cannabis is associated with certain conditions I have to be aware of. The patient gasps, gets sanctimonious, and then shakes his head vigorously. Five minutes later, his lies unraveled spectacularly.
I asked him to get undressed, but he wouldn’t remove his T-shirt. When I pressed him, he stared at the floor and then took his shirt off…to reveal a MASSIVE cannabis leaf tattoo on his chest.
89. This Isn’t My First Rodeo
When I was a med student, I took a history from a patient who wanted Ativan for anxiety. She told me about how her panic attacks were so bad that she gets into car accidents with casualties every week. I mean, a lot of patients will tell lies or play coy to get controlled substances, but she was the only one who admitted to multiple counts of vehicular manslaughter.
When I presented her case to my attending, she showed me a note in the EMR from another doctor stating this was a regular tactic of hers, as well as an extensive online list of every script different doctors had given her for controlled substances. She didn’t get an Ativan prescription that day.
90. When The Let Ankle Doesn’t Know What The Right Ankle Is Doing
I’m a student nurse, but this happened when I was at the gym. The guy next to me fell off the elliptical, somehow got his foot trapped between the foot pedals and went sideways. The surprisingly inept PTs—personal trainers are usually well trained in first aid—were freaking out and this guy is really hamming it up. Talks of calling an ambulance are thrown about. I offer to step in.
“AHHHHHH MY ANKLE” He’s on the floor grabbing his leg. I kneel next to him.
“Hey bro”, I greet him. He’s so surprised that I’m there—I came up from behind—that he forgets to groan. “How much does it hurt on a scale of 1-10”?
“Erm…8” he says. I look at his ankle. There’s a scratch on it the size of a penny and superficial, hardly any blood. Little red around the scratch, ankle not swollen. I ask him if he can point and flex his foot and rotate his ankle, which he can do with zero difficulty, not even a grimace.
I figure he’s probably hamming it up because it’s embarrassing falling off a machine in front of everyone, so I get him an ice pack, tell him he’ll be fine, and tell the trainers not to call an ambulance—but the story doesn’t end there.
His sister comes to pick him up in her car and he limps out on the wrong leg.
91. The Minimizer
I had an elderly man who was in his early 70s (long term smoker) who came in with shortness of breath, trouble breathing, and a little bit of a cough and occasional production of blood tinged sputum. That last one is a bad sign.
He also complained of a little bit of back pain he’d been having that started about a month ago after he was helping his son move. When asked to rate his pain he said 2/10 (“not too bad”).
He has no other history, always had good blood pressure, no cholesterol issues, no diabetes…has a little bit of anxiety/depression, unmedicated.
So we check him out. Reduced breath sounds all across, more so on the left lower side. Tenderness to palpation in the lower back, he jumped when we touched it, and said it was about a 3/10 when we touched it.
I check his vitals, his blood pressure is 180/85 (this happens with severe pain), he has no fever, and his heart rate is in the 120s (also happens with pain).
I get scans and labs. He has three broken vertebrae, probably pathological (caused by cancer) a pleural effusion (it was malignant, as in, caused by cancer), and a few masses in his left lung. Guy had stage 4 lung cancer that spread to his back, caused his back to break, and he said he had 2-3/10 back pain.
Either he was set on fire in his childhood and then beaten with 2x4s filled with nails then rolled in broken glass…or he was faking not having pain. This is someone who we would describe as a “minimizer”.
Not the typical story you expected, I guess.
He got his surgery, and the next day wanted to leave the hospital because he had to do some paperwork and pay his bills. He didn’t take any of the pain meds offered to him, except at night to help him sleep.
I hope he’s still alive, was a really nice guy.
92. Defending The Fort
My mother-in-law is a family doctor. I went to her practice to drive her home and was sitting in the waiting area. The place is emptying out and I’m there alone. The receptionist goes downstairs to get a coffee cause that’s the last patient and she just has to do paperwork when they come out.
Then this haggard looking guy wheels in in a wheelchair while she’s gone. He wheels over beside me. He’s coughing and sounds like and looks like he’s not gonna make it much longer.
Anyway, last patient walks out before the receptionist is back.
A few minutes later out comes my mother-in-law and sees this guy. Her reaction was surprising.
She says immediately, “Mr so-and-so, please leave”. He starts on some crazy mumbling ramble about how “he’s in so much pain, and he can’t even walk anymore”, and a bunch of other stuff, but I remember explicitly the “I cannot walk anymore” statement.
So of course, she says something like, “If you do not leave I’m going to have to call the authorities”. I’ll never forget what happened next.
The guy jumps out of the chair (“can’t walk”) and runs at her. Now it wasn’t super fast by my standards, but he was going to mess her up by what I could tell.
Thankfully, I was able to get up and sort of semi-tackle him against a wall before he got to her. But the guy was strong. I couldn’t actually believe what I was seeing.
So anyway, Doctor Mother-in-Law locked herself in the reception office that’s glassed in. Apparently, this kind of thing happens more than just once, which is scary. Anyway, she does that and I let the guy go and he didn’t seem like he was going to mess with me but I kind of think in retrospect I probably should have kept him tackled or whatever, in case he had something on him, but I thought I was invincible.
Anyway, he swears at her for a while through the glass and started banging on it. And it was as if I wasn’t there. I thought he might come at me, or try to hit me, but no he was just boxing the glass in front of him. But the story doesn’t end there.
The one funny part was the secretary opened the door to come in and saw the guy and spilled her coffee and ran like the devil away. The look on her face was priceless. But lunatic man was oblivious.
Anyways, maybe like five minutes later a couple of officers did show up and weirdly the guy kind of calmed down when they did. They cuffed him and took him away and then we did reports and like an hour later I was able to finally drive her home.
But she said the guy just wanted pain meds, and she saw that a lot. I still thought it was crazy he “couldn’t walk”.
94. Get Your Story Straight
We had a lady when I was in nursing school who had been in the hospital a multitude of time for various (actual) neurological conditions. On top of this, she had borderline personality disorder and was extremely manipulative. She had had a full neuro exam on so any occasions she could actually mimic a problematic exam and make you believe that she was having a stroke or some other issue.
Problem was, on an occasion I witnessed, she’d forget to be consistent with the side that she was feigning weakness or paralysis on. So she’d sit, only move one side of her face, one side of her body, talk funny because she would only move one side of her mouth (since the other was “paralyzed”), etc, but then would forget and move a finger or something on the side that was supposed to be paralyzed.
94. Hunger Pains
My patient was a three-year-old who needed surgery on her tonsils and adenoids. The day before the procedure, I told her father, “Don’t let her eat or drink anything after midnight”. While I was intubating the girl the next morning, she vomited scrambled eggs, causing her to aspirate them into her lungs. Then her heart stopped.
I did chest compressions on her for 25 minutes. We got her back, aborted the surgery, and transferred her to the pediatric ICU on a ventilator. Her father’s response made me want to scream: “She said she was hungry. I thought you were being too hard on her. It must have been something you did to her”. Sure, blame me for your inability to follow a simple direction. Idiot.
I had this teenage girl, probably 16, come in saying that her wrist was broken. Her mom was behind her rolling her eyes after every time she would tell me how bad it hurt. She then proceeded to “flop it“ in an attempt to show me how bad it hurt when she did that. She said it was clearly broken and she would need a cast. I said I would take her back and let the doctor do some x-rays and do their thing.
The mother asked to talk to me outside of the room—and she revealed the truth about her daughter. She told me her daughter’s friend recently got a cast and her daughter was notorious for being overly jealous. I just responded by saying that if they were anything wrong, it would show up in the x-ray. Guess what? She didn’t get a cast and threw a fit.
Last I saw her was her crying and throwing a temper tantrum outside of the waiting room and being dragged out by her very embarrassed mom.
96. Feeling A Bit Heavy
Emergency radiologist here. I see plenty of people presenting with understated symptoms that turn out to be some mind-blowing advanced disease—but one devastating case sticks out. There was a four-year-old boy who presented with a rigid abdomen for a few months. The family was told by their pediatrician it was constipation months ago but his parents never followed up when it didn’t resolve.
When I imaged his abdomen, I found his entire liver was replaced with a mass consistent with hepatoblastoma. I asked the parents why they waited so long to work it up. They said they were satisfied with the diagnosis of constipation!
97. Donut Mess With Me
The nurse-in charge at our emergency department has been working there for 20 years. Our hospital is in a rough area, so she’s seen it all. She has single-handedly tackled violent patients with superhuman strength. But one day, she outdid herself. This day, a disheveled guy came in to be treated for assault, to be detained after his discharge.
He was giving everyone heck all night, and he almost made his nurse cry. The nurse-in-charge called from the nurse’s station to cut that out. He called her a “miserable, old, fat witch.” The nurse-in-charge picked up a chocolate donut from the nurse’s station and without breaking eye contact, started slowly chewing it in front of him. Then she called the officers to pick him up.
98. And The Worst Parents Award Goes To…
A couple had a malnourished seven-month-old and decided their kid was gluten intolerant. So they never gave him anything besides junk like quinoa milk. They also owned a health food store and were health nuts. Things went bad FAST. Anyone who came in and saw the sickly child commented. But they brushed it off and didn’t seek help.
They drove to a homeopath across the country who sent them to a hospital. They decided to drive back home first. The baby passed before they got to the hospital. The autopsy revealed the child was severely dehydrated and their stomach had been empty for days. The baby was about nine pounds, which is just slightly higher than a newborn.
99. Allergic to Everything
Registered nurse here. I see some crazy stuff, but one thing that stands out was the time I was admitting a guy to the hospital. I can’t really remember what for but he was diabetic, had heart disease, and was generally unhealthy. Anyhow, I’m at the computer going over some admission questions with him and his 10 family members who are crowded in the room with him.
A few minutes in, he starts complaining that he’s thirsty. He needs something to drink right now. So I get on my phone and call the nurse assistant, and ask her to bring in some ice water. As soon as the words are out of my mouth the whole family screams: “NOOOO! NO WATER! HES ALLERGIC TO WATER!” Well, this is going to be a problem.
Turns out the guy had been drinking nothing but Sprite and sweet tea for years, because of his “water allergy.” The next question his wife had was “Where are we all supposed to sleep?” The whole family, 10 people, were planning to stay at the hospital with him. You can’t make this stuff up.
100. 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.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
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