Medical workers are used to seeing shocking things. Even so, sometimes, even the most seasoned professionals are left astonished. Doctors, nurses, and even some patients on Reddit share some of their OMG moments that left them speechless.
I was working as a surgical junior when my team was called down to A&E to see a patient who had come in with a complication from a recent hernia operation. When we came down, we saw that the patient was holding a plastic bag over their abdomen.
When this was removed, we found that their wound had opened, and their intestine was visible to the air. But that wasn't the worst part. It transpired that this was not something that had happened overnight; it had taken several days.
The patient had started using plastic bags and newspaper to dress the wound when they ran out of dressings.
This middle-aged married couple in rural Alabama had presented to the ER after they had been drinking for almost the entirety of the evening and got into a heated argument. Things got intense, and the woman eventually fell off the porch of their trailer into the shrubs a few feet below.
The husband, in his plastered state, suddenly dropped the argument and came to his wife's aid. She didn't suffer anything too serious, just a couple of scratches here and there, except for what the man said looked like a piece of glass, pipe, or something that became lodged in the woman's arm when she hit the ground.
He decided not to come to the hospital because he could remove this object himself. He got his largest pair of pliers and gripped onto this glass/pipe-looking thing lodged in his helpless wife's arm. He clamped down and pulled and pulled, cranked and cranked, trying to remove this object, and it wouldn't budge.
After his masculinity was defeated and the booze wore off on both of them, they decided it sensible to come to the ER finally. Upon arriving at the ER, the doctor immediately made the most disturbing discovery. He realized this poor woman had a compound fracture of her humerus.
This "pipe or piece of glass thing" was her bone sticking through her skin that her husband was trying to pry out with a pair of pliers.
I was a nurse and worked in a very rural hospital. We had a patient population that seemed to avoid the hospital at all costs. My favorite was an elderly farmer who came in with chest pain that, “Wouldn't go away”, as he put it. When we asked him if he had it before, he said that he had been having chest pain on and off for years, but it would typically go away after he grabbed his electric fence.
Apparently, the first time he had the pain, he was standing out near an electric fence on his farm. He reached out to steady himself and accidentally grabbed the electric fence, which shocked him, and made the pain go away. So after that, whenever he would have the pain, he just went and grabbed the fence and it made him feel better.
He had literally been cardioverting himself for years.
A friend, who is a family doctor, was treating a pre-teen girl who was complaining about pain in the back of her neck. He did a preliminary examination and found a lump, and thought that it was likely a cyst that had become infected. The parents agreed that he should remove it. That's when he noticed it move.
It was a large botfly larva that the girl had picked up while vacationing with the family in South America and was the size of a nickel.
A woman about 35 years old came in for a Pap smear. I saw something dark brown in the right lateral fornix. My first thought was cancer. I tried to gently scrape at this dark brown area to get a feel of what it was when the smell hit me. My medical assistant scooted away to the edge of the room.
I stopped breathing through my nose and started to breathe only a couple of times a minute from my mouth, turning my head away from the source of the smell to take a breath. Maneuvering the speculum a bit more and scraping a bit at the brown area some more revealed an answer to the mystery.
It was a thick cylindrical clump of something—an old tampon! The patient had no idea that it was there, and her period had ended over a week ago. So this thing had been there for over a week and the lady was walking around living life as usual. Thankfully she did not get TSS.
Retrieval of the tampon was uneventful and the lady was sent home with advice on being more careful with remembering to take out tampons, or perhaps consider switching to pads instead.
My mom is a nurse and has seen some pretty messed-up things. The one story that sticks in my mind involved an elderly man who came into the hospital three times a week to have a growth on his face washed and redressed. The growth had slowly taken over the left-hand side of his face, so much so that his left eye—his only working eye—had closed over. He was effectively blind.
This meant that his wife—whom he had been looking after for years due to her frailty—was now tasked with looking after him instead. Furthermore, this bloke was old enough that the hospital didn’t want to operate on him. So the hospital visits stopped.
He could no longer get there, so instead, a nurse would visit him three times a week. The growth was unsightly, wept constantly, and smelled bad—really bad. The whole house stank of it. During one of these visits by my mom, she was cleaning his face over the sink and noticed a flap of loose skin.
She went to clean it with the sponge and the unthinkable happened. “SQQULPCH”! The growth fell off into the sink, and it was CRAWLING with maggots. The sink was now filled with necrotic flesh and maggots. It turned out a fly had laid some eggs on it at some point.
They had hatched and started eating all the necrotic flesh in the growth until it fell off. The man was fine. There was new, pink skin where the growth had been, and he could see again out of his left eye. It gave him a new lease on life.
I noticed a small lump in the middle of my tongue and thought, "Oh, I must have burned it, whatever". The next morning, however, it had grown by a lot. It was freaky-looking, so I told my mom. She flipped out and took me to the doctor right away. Near tears along with my mother in the ER, we waited for hours as she bothered the attending nurse to no end.
Finally, they called my name and brought me to a room. It started as a normal visit until the doctor said, "I've never seen anything like that". My mom was crying, and my heart was pounding. Growing up in a medical community, my 10-year-old brain was conditioned to think that doctors knew everything. They brought in another doctor and another.
Then, they put me on a dentist-style chair with huge, bright lights shining on me. Before long, there were five doctors and the chief of staff staring at my tongue. My mom was sitting silent in the corner absolutely horrified. So what did this brain trust of brilliant medical minds come up with? "We're going to try poking it". Even at 10, I was thinking, "Can I get a second opinion?"
I could not, however, talk because they were literally holding my tongue. They sprayed me with a local anesthetic that tasted like mustard, and the chief surgeon washed up, and put on goggles and a mask. He slowly moved a shining metal prod into my mouth; I could feel the pressure on my tongue. He pulled back, looked at me, and asked me possibly the grandest non-sequitur I've heard in my entire life.
"When was the last time you ate popcorn"? I was completely caught off guard and said, "A couple of days ago". I remembered because I was trying to eat it quietly as we watched The X-Files. So the doctor sets on my bib a perfect half of a kernel husk. It had, apparently, suctioned itself to my tongue, and because tongue tissue is so quick to generate, it was essentially absorbed by my body.
Lots of doctors were laughing, my mom was crying for joy now, and I was totally stunned. I even wound up in a big medical journal because of it.
I was the tissue viability nurse for my ward which basically meant I went around checking people are not developing ulcers from being stuck in bed too long. I was doing a normal round and I came to a 19-year-old who had just had a lung procedure. "This will be quick," I thought to myself, as younger people are generally at a lower risk for these things.
I had been looking after this guy for a few days post-op. We were both pretty young and I got to build up a good rapport with him. So, I approached him and explained how I need to check his sacral area (aka the rear) and apologized, saying it should only take a glance.
He laughed it off and said, "Actually, there is something there. I didn't really want anyone to see, so I have not mentioned it before but for the last YEAR it is always painful when I go to the toilet and wipe after". At that point, alarm bells rang, and I went full-nurse mode and decided that something was not quite right.
So, I put on my protective gear, drew his curtains, and dove on in. However, I was NOT prepared for what was there. As I pulled his cheeks apart to inspect the skin, it literally just kept going, right down to muscle and bone. The worst part, though, was it was full of infection.
The smell was so powerful, it literally hit me in the face. Not only was there a bacterial infection, but a fungal one too. It was as if Jackson Pollock had gone up in there and created a masterpiece. I did not dare part the wound open all the way because I could not see how deep it went.
I turned to the poor guy and explained he had a serious wound there, and I needed to get the doctor to look at it. He was amazing about it. While I was fetching the doc, he got his friend to take a picture on his phone so he could see it. I will never forget the words he said when I came back around the curtain.
He said, "Oh my God. MY [REAR] GOES ON FOREVER. No wonder it hurt". At that point, I nearly keeled over laughing. He made a full recovery.
I was working in a smallish hospital in a rural town in Australia. We were asked by the medical team to see a patient who had been admitted under their care by the emergency department overnight with a CT demonstrating a very distended bladder. They apparently had trouble with a catheter, so they called me to have a look.
With much hesitation, I went up to see her in the ward. I managed to put the catheter in with a lot of trouble. A little bit of urine drained out, and I just kept thinking something was not right. I went back and looked at the CT scan and the IDC placed in the emergency department looked like it was appropriately positioned and subsequently pulled out.
Behind it, was one big uterus, absolutely full of what appeared to be a fluid density. The report read that there was a very distended bladder, the catheter balloon was situated in the PROSTATIC URETHRA, and moderate to severe hydronephrosis was noted. I spoke to the consultant, and we got her to the theater.
With great difficulty, we managed to dissect our way around this HUGE uterus, and we called the O&G guys to come and help get it out. Unfortunately, during this process, the uterus burst and there was a boatload of pus that just streamed out. It smelled horrible.
There were people gagging around us at this yellow-green, sulfuric-smelling goo. The scrub nurse could no longer take it and vomited in her mask. We finished this case; I went home and kept thinking I could still smell this awful thing. The morning came, and I couldn’t have breakfast because I could still smell it.
I got to the hospital, and EVERYONE was wearing masks. Apparently, the smell was so horrible, and the extraction in our theater was so outdated that it had somehow pumped the smell into the vents around the hospital. All night, small amounts were leaking out into the atmosphere, causing this horrendous smell.
The lady lived for another three years.
In college, I took part in some psychological experiments. Most of them were surveys and games, but one researcher had me do a few MRIs. They mostly looked at the occipital lobe and left parietal lobe, which is the back left side of the brain. I did this stuff throughout all four years and became familiar with the research team's findings.
In February of my third year, I hadn't seen them in a while since they were still between their main experiments. Out of the blue, I got an email from the graduate department’s head of neuroscience. I got it at around 6:00 PM. He was polite but essentially said, "We saw something on an MRI, and you need to come see me tomorrow".
He gave me his office location and said to email him so he could meet me at that time. I didn't quite register the significance until the next day when I was walking to meet him. The HEAD of a graduate school department put himself on call to meet with me, a lowly undergrad taking part in their studies, within 24 hours. I was pretty nervous.
I met with him, we introduced ourselves, and he asked me to sit down. He got out this piece of paper and gave a short speech that they found something on one of my MRIs. They couldn't make any diagnoses because of the quality of the ones done, and I needed to schedule a medical-grade MRI and a consult with a neurologist right away. He then handed me the print.
There was this empty, round space about the size of a ping pong ball on the top right center of my brain. There wasn't a mass or disfigurement; there was just nothing.
The rest of my brain was somewhat smushed out of the way for this invisible ball. I was in shock for the rest of the meeting, pretty much. He asked my permission and then did a brief neurological exam to test my senses, reactions, and motor movements, but oddly enough, they were normal.
He was VERY weirded out that everything seemed normal, and he seemed more concerned. He actually took my planner, called the student medical center, and scheduled an appointment for me so I could get the referral with minimum wasted time. I basically made an entire research team and their department head say, "Oh my God, what is that?"
I am a med student, and I've seen some pretty nasty stuff, but the best stories come courtesy of my parents, who are both doctors. My dad's story occurred while we were living in Scotland in the early 90s. It was a particularly sunny day by Scottish standards and one of the rare days you might be able to get a tan. The Scots are not known for their ability to tan, and the typical Celtic Scots less so.
However, one such Celt was rather overzealous and decided he would really go for it on this day in question. He cracked out several sheets of tin foil and basted himself in cooking oil. Probably the biggest mistake of his life. Needless to say, he pitched up to the ED a few hours later with third-degree burns all over his body.
There was a patient who came in with a well-known history of diabetes. When I saw him, the worst of it was already over, but he still had legs like sausages, and the smell in the room was like a garbage dump. There were these strange bands around his ankles that were indented to over a centimeter deep. Apparently, he had developed an ulcer on his foot.
Instead of cleaning it and bandaging it, he decided to just put a sock over it. Eventually, the ulcer developed into gangrene, and the pus began to soak through the sock. The smell became overwhelming, even for him, so he decided to seek medical attention as a responsible adult would do. Just kidding—he put a plastic bag over it.
Eventually, the pus seeped around the edges of the bag and started leaking again, giving rise to the horrific smell. Now things were getting out of control, so he decided to get it properly looked at. Got you again! He put another plastic bag over it. This process was repeated about 9–10 times.
In the ER, they had been peeling off this giant mass of plastic and necrotic tissue glued together with pus and held on with elastic bands around the ankles. It was like his foot turned into a giant onion with each layer smelling worse than the previous one.
Two or three nurses apparently threw up and they had to rotate people in to do the next layer. He wasn't even in much pain because he had long-standing neuropathy in his feet, which was why he was able to ignore the problem for so long.
I have seen a lot of things, but the one thing that really sticks out is something I saw as a medical student. I was on a general medicine rotation and was seeing an elderly lady for urinary problems. Specifically, she was having trouble holding her urine. She mentioned in passing that she had something coming out of her, like a mass, but she couldn't see what it was.
My resident and I decided that we ought to take a look. Upon examining her pelvic region, we were unable to use a speculum to visualize the interior of her parts because there was a firm mass protruding from her. That's when we made a chilling realization. The mass was her bladder. It had prolapsed.
I was a med student and have a few stories. This one isn't gross, it’s just sort of a Twilight Zone moment. I was explaining to a woman that we needed to do an MRI and she calmly informed me that she couldn't get an MRI because she had a metal tracking device in her body that had been implanted 10 years previously when she was abducted by aliens.
Previous to that, I had been speaking with her for an hour, and she had given every indication of being a perfectly sane and normal person with intact mental faculties. I just replied, without skipping a beat, that we could safely CT her instead. Virtually nothing shocks me anymore.
I had a patient come in saying he couldn’t see. When we asked how long it had been going on, they said five days. The man had been blind for five days and didn’t come in because he thought it might be “like a cold or something”. During the exam, when I asked him to move his legs he said, “Oh, I can’t do that”. My jaw DROPPED.
I asked how long he’d been unable to move his legs or walk and his wife chimed in, “About two years”. He never saw a doctor about it. They just borrowed a friend’s wheelchair and kept it rolling. It turned out he’d had multiple strokes with multiple risk factors he never addressed.
Given how little insight he appeared to have into the condition, I honestly felt sorry for him.
A good friend of mine is a nurse and by nature has the best stories. She was working the med-surg floor in the hospital and had a female patient who was so obese, she needed a service animal to help her. It was not a dog, as most people would think, but a monkey.
This lady had a service monkey that would get her glasses for her, grab the remote for the TV—all kinds of things. It was odd, but not really a crazy moment...until she walked into the room to take the woman’s vitals and found her with the monkey sucking on her bosom feeding it.
I was working in the ER one night when a woman came in with a "retained foreign body". When I went in to see her, she told me she had been doing the deed, and the man told her that something had slipped off inside her. She tried to retrieve it but was unable to, but she could feel that something was in there.
I grabbed a nurse, a speculum, and some forceps and took a look. There was certainly something in there, but not what I was expecting. I pulled it out, and it was a $20 bill. I asked her if she had put it in there, and she said she hadn't. She was clearly as confused as I was.
I asked her if she wanted it, and she declined. Needless to say, it went in the trash. I could never come up with an adequate explanation of why this woman had a $20 bill in her, nor why her partner would have put it there.
My dad is a nurse. I have asked him this question before and most of the stories are about people who come in with deodorant cans up their rears and try to claim that they were climbing in a window and fell on the can or something. However, there is one story that he has told me that really stands out.
When my dad was in his mid-20s, he worked in the emergency department of a hospital. One day, this overweight lady came in complaining of abdominal pain. They started to look her over. Everything was going fine until they decided to look in the folds of her gigantic stomach when they smelled this horrible smell.
They found a decomposed chicken wing covered in maggots, which had started eating at part of her skin. Yum.
I was on OB/GYN rotations, delivering my first baby. It was an older lady from the rural side of town. When I asked her to push as the baby had fully crowned, a bundle of worms exited her rear. I'm talking at least 60 live worms. I gagged so hard but managed to keep a straight face throughout and deliver the baby.
I realized then and there that OB/GYN was not for me.
I was an ER nurse. We brought in a code trauma off the helicopter; a lady who was a passenger in a really bad wreck. Her husband was driving and lost his life at the scene. Once we got her stable, the OR staff came to take her to surgery. I gathered up the clothes we had cut off of her and grabbed her purse that the EMTs had removed from the car.
There was a lot of blood on it, so I thought I should just grab her wallet instead. What happened next still haunts me. I reached in and grabbed what I thought was her wallet and pulled it out—it had hair. It was a chunk of her husband's scalp.
My friend worked as a paramedic in Hamburg for some time. They were called to an unconscious person who was slumped down on a park bench close to the train station. They approached the guy and tried to wake him up, checked his vital signs, etc, then put him on the ground. He had no shoes on but had wrapped up his legs in plastic bags.
If you have ever been around addicts, you know most of them don't smell too good. After a while, they just give up on personal hygiene, which, incidentally, is actually more dangerous than the substance itself since they tend not to treat their scabs, etc. This guy reeked to high heaven, and once they proceeded to check his plastic bag shoes, they saw the heartbreaking reason why.
His legs up to his knees were completely black and full of maggots. He had an infection in both legs due to using needles and never treated them. Once they lifted the plastic bags up a little, which were melted into his decaying flesh, little mountains of maggots would fill around his feet.
It was hands down, one of the most disgusting things he had seen.
When I was working in the ER one evening, I had my worst experience so far. I was called to one of the examination rooms that were designated for infectious patients. This was already a bad sign as it usually involved some sort of abscess that needed to be drained. However, this time it was far worse.
I was told by the nurse that it involved a man who had bilateral venous ulcers on his legs and that they were now infected. I looked through his journal and saw that he last saw a doctor about ten months earlier, and no note of any check-ups after, not by a nurse or a GP.
Therefore, I asked my nurse when someone last took a look at his legs. They replied, "Not since his last journal entry". Then I asked when was the last time he changed his dressings on the legs. They said, "He hasn't". The patient was an old man who lived by himself in his trailer that was parked in the middle of the forest.
He had no running water. He was a bit of a drinker and had a general "I don't care” mentality. I suited up and went into the room. The room smelled like an odd combination of stale brew, mold, and disease. Certain infections smell different, and this one was very pungent, almost sulphuric.
I introduced myself to the patient who didn't understand what he was doing there. All he wanted was some antibiotics for the flu, and then he was sent here. He asked, "Why do you want to look at my legs for? They were already taken care of last year". We started unfolding the dressing.
They were crusty and crackled as we unwrapped the first leg. As we got deeper, it changed color to some sickly yellow and the stench became worse and worse. One of my nurses left the room to throw up. Then I saw it. It was very small but inside a fold, there was a little maggot who squirmed.
When we finally got to the wound, we saw all the little maggots feasting on this man. There must have been 50 of them. The stench was absurd, I was focusing a lot on breathing through my mouth, but then it felt like I could taste them, which made it even worse.
My nurse came back and promptly went out again. I unwrapped his other leg and, same story there, but the infection was much deeper and I could see a few tendons on the base of the ulcer. We had to clean off the maggots and place them in a bowl, but they were squirming, and went on the floor and crawled all over the place. I had to watch my feet so I didn't step on them.
After that, we took the patient to hose him down to at least try to get rid of some of the smell. Then, we booked to the OR for debridement and a fresh vacuum dressing. He was discharged a few days later with strict instructions, and we booked him in to return for re-dressings and check-ups. Then, we never heard from him again.
There used to be a well-known patient who would present to the emergency department with frequent urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infections are much less common in men than in women and don't occur sporadically that often. This gentleman was a male exotic dancer, and his party trick would be what he called a "ruby shower".
In essence, he would empty his bladder, and replace its contents, via a catheter, with red wine. He would then empty his bladder during his performances. Unfortunately, fate caught up with him. One infection became too severe and he did not survive.
When attending a urology conference, you get to hear quite a few stories. My favorite even had a video along with the question, "Guess what we're looking at?" My guess was what was being shown was the inside of a bladder—got that part right—and two small corn cobs floating around inside of it.
Two small corn cobs would have been weird enough as it is, but we were looking at two slugs. Apparently, the patient walked into the hospital claiming that something did not feel right when peeing. After being confronted with the contents of his bladder, he claimed that he had taken a nap in the grass the day before, and the slugs "must have crawled inside by themselves" without him noticing.
I recently spent some time working in the operating department and one day we had a "giant inguinal hernia". At this point, in my experience in the hospital, I thought nothing could surprise me, but dear Lord, was I wrong! The patient had mental health issues, and we got him on the table, knocked out with anesthetics, and pulled off his gown to take a look.
We did an open surgery through his abdomen and spent hours pulling his INTESTINES out of his family jewels. Basically, the guy’s abdominal wall broke through and allowed his intestines to slowly fill them up, but this had been going on for years before he got it checked.
My father-in-law, Dr J, was an ER doctor for 20 years. Twice he's been really surprised. The first time was a patient that came in holding his stomach, with the front of his jacket bloody. He looked very out of it, and it was obvious he was under the influence of something. Dr J asked him what the problem was, and the guy calmly said, "My stomach hurts".
He went to have a look, and as he pulled the guy's coat away, the worst happened. His intestines spilled onto the floor! It turned out he and a friend were getting high when the friend accidentally blasted him in the stomach. He explained it very matter-of-factly, "Oh man, I need to go to the hospital".
The other incident was when a male patient came in complaining of abdominal pain. Dr J decided after an examination that they needed to do a scope. So there he is, minding his own business, navigating through this guy’s bowels with a camera when suddenly a light facing the opposite way blinded the camera.
It was a flashlight. I can imagine why it was there, but I h have no idea why it was on. Dr J had told the man he had to consult with another physician, then left the room and collapsed from laughing so hard. He said it was like watching a cartoon where somebody runs down a tunnel and meets a train head-on, except the tunnel was a rear end, and the train was a flashlight.
While working in the ER one night, we had a guy come in complaining of groin pain. So we brought him back and it turned out he had a Master Lock—the kind with the spinning dial that you use to secure your locker at school—locked around his member. Essentially, blood could flow in but could not flow back out, so this thing was hugely swollen.
He had panicked after he realized he could not remember the combination and he took a screwdriver to the dial and snapped it off. So, we consulted with urology and the urologist wanted to take him to surgery, cut him length-wise, slide the top out then the bottom, and then suture it back up. Needless to say, the patient wasn't thrilled with option A.
So, option B was for this big nurse, Tom, to go in with bolt cutters and cut it off. Option B was selected. The curtain closed and Tom gave a “one, two, three”. There was a loud scream at “three” and a popping noise. Tom exited with a broken lock and the man was sent to the floor to recover.
I was working in the emergency department one afternoon, and we had an elderly lady just calling out, “Help me, help me," repeatedly all afternoon. She was brought in by her nursing home for “agitation," which is normally code for they can't handle them anymore.
So the patient was placed with a care assistant to try and calm her down and make sure she didn't wander around the ward. The carer was helping to feed the patient and I walked past when, suddenly, the lady just breathed in her liquid diet and collapsed backward.
I, of course, instantly pushed the medical emergency button and everyone came running from all over. We assessed her airway and it was deemed clear, but not self-supporting. There was no food in there, which was strange. She wasn't breathing and no heartbeat was present, so one of the male nurses started compressing her chest, while another nurse tried to insert an airway.
As he compressed on her chest, a nightmare ensued. A literal fountain of murky green goo spurted from her mouth, all over the walls, ceiling, and medical staff. The poor male nurse had to keep compressing the chest while the other nurse kept trying to suction the patient's airway to clear it enough to insert an airway.
After five or six minutes, the nurse finally got the airway in after suctioning over six liters of this goo, and after some defib, the doctor declared the patient deceased. The bay and the surrounding area was just drenched in this slimy, murky brown-green mess. It was absolutely breathtakingly disgusting.
Eventually, we found out the poor old lady had a massive bowel obstruction. Her heart stopped while eating, and the goo was days and days of liquid poo. Safe to say I scrubbed myself raw in the shower that night.
When my professor was an ER nurse, an elderly 80-something-year-old woman came into the ER. As he assessed her, he noticed her oral temperature was normal despite her neck being extremely hot to the touch. He decided to take her temperature through the rear, which ended up being around 103 or something crazy.
While he was down there, he noticed something peeking out and proceeded to remove it. It was an old sock. She said her uterus had prolapsed months before, and she was using the sock to keep it in. They began treating her for toxic shock syndrome immediately, but sadly she went septic and lost her life later that day.
So this young female came in complaining of acute abdominal pain and a fever. We ran through all the normal procedures and came up with nothing. So, we pushed ahead and gave her a quick pelvic exam. As soon as she spread her legs, I almost threw up. I've been around some stinky folks and some smelly wounds, but this was horrendous.
We wound up evacuating half the clinic because the smell that emanated from her was causing people to gag in the hallways and waiting room. She had left a tampon in, forgot it was there, and shoved another one in, burying the first one. That tampon sat for what we guessed was at least two months, decaying.
Then, of course, the area around was extremely infected. When she came to us, she was in the early stages of septic shock.
As an imaging tech, we once had a patient who was close to 400 pounds who was fairly well bedbound. To assist with hygiene, the patient had a tube that drained their poo away, but it had fallen out probably a day earlier. As a result, there was a pool of horrible substances trapped beneath her, brewing.
This was discovered when we rolled her to position her for X-rays. The smell cleared the room and lingered there for hours. Meanwhile, people went and showered and changed their clothes from the pervasive creeping miasma that was the worst thing I have ever smelt in 15 years working in hospitals.
I just recently caught up with an old friend who is now an OR nurse. She told me she was preparing a morbidly obese woman for surgery, scrubbing her down and cleaning the areas up underneath the fat rolls that hadn't seen the light of day in God knows how many years. When she picked up one particularly hefty roll around the side of this lady near the lower back, she stopped suddenly.
She discovered what looked like a bone. She mustered her courage and continued to investigate. A moment later she uncovered the skeleton of a small kitten. The bones were fused with the still-rotting flesh of the sad little creature. Holding back tears and vomit, she walked around to face the large woman and said, "Ma'am, I don't want to alarm you, but I've just found the remains of a small cat in one of your fat rolls".
The lady's response, seemingly unfazed, was, "Oh! I've been looking for him!" Apparently, people that are huge develop rather thick calluses in their rolls from all the friction. This cat could have been clawing for life in there and she might not have felt a thing. Poor little guy.
My dad is an internal medicine physician. A young man in his late teens came into the hospital with a question about a condition he was having. He said his groin region was itchy and uncomfortable, so my dad asked him to remove his pants, so he could try to identify the problem.
The guy was African American, so my dad was shocked when the man pulled down his pants, and the hair down there was white. It turned out the guy had gotten crabs from his lover, and the little bugs had laid microscopic eggs in his groin hair, making it look white. The mental image still gives me the chills.
My wife is a surgeon. I get about an hour every night where she unloads the horrible stuff she sees. One that sticks out is the girl and her boyfriend, who were on a motorcycle. They were taking an underground turn from one highway to the next, and he was going way too fast.
He started to get close to the wall, so the girlfriend on the back made a disastrous decision. She decided to go ahead and put her foot up on the wall of the tunnel. Her foot caught the wall, she flew off, her leg broke at the femur, and the broken bottom half of her leg drove straight into her groin.
This has happened a few times, but I had a gal come in on a Monday after being discharged from the hospital the Friday after giving birth. So, basically, we tell ladies to avoid intimacy until a doctor clears them. Well, her spouse kept insisting and insisting and insisting, so on Friday night, she caved in and let him go to town.
He wound up tearing some stitches that were placed and she was bleeding badly all weekend long. She came into our clinic, blue in the lips and fingers, and her hemoglobin was a four when the normal should be 12–15. She didn't want to be a bother, so she waited until she started feeling dizzy all the time before she came in.
She got another trip to the hospital for a transfusion and repair for that.
I was a nurse working in emergency for the first five years of my career. An old guy about 80 presented with a foreign body in his rear end. It turns out he was a Veteran and had a live shell about the size of a slim Coke can up his behind, probably about nine inches long. He was very stoic.
However, we had to call Australia's version of the bomb squad to assist in the removal.
A group of guys were plastered and driving around town. The passenger was leaning far out of the window vomiting when the car took a sharp turn around a corner and began to tip over. The top of the passenger’s skull was literally rubbed off along the asphalt during the wreck, leaving his brain showing. But it doesn't end there.
My friend, who was an EMT, had to PICK GRAVEL AND DEBRIS OUT OF HIS BRAIN. The guy was still conscious too. He said that human brains have a very distinct smell he will never forget. The story still makes me cringe, and I wasn't even there.
My mother was an ICU nurse for over 10 years, so never a dull moment. On her first day, she was taking a break when a woman walked into the hospital with her head wrapped in a towel. The woman was speaking quietly and calmly and explained that her husband had a vicious outburst and threw a hatchet into her skull.
Lucky for her, he hit her in the forehead, the thickest part of her skull, so, she was able to wrap herself up and drive herself to the hospital. The woman was fine overall, and the authorities took the husband into custody.
I am an ear/nose/throat doc, and while I mostly take care of sinus diseases and ear infections now, I had a hard-nosed residency, and we took a lot of facial injury calls. One day, we got a call down to the ER for a self-inflicted wound to the face. Those are never good, but I wasn't prepared for what I saw.
A guy had filled his face with buckshot. He completely blew off his face, and some hero EMT somehow got an oral airway in the field. We converted the orotracheal airway to a breathing tube in the throat and closed the tissue as best we could.
A couple of days later, he had a 14-hour operation in which we used part of his abdominal wall and part of his leg to rebuild his face and mandible. We actually were able to make him a mouth in a subsequent operation so that he could eat some things, but without a tongue, it's pretty tough.
When I was a paramedic student, we used to do rotations in the ED. A guy was brought in from what I assume must have been a horrendous nursing home. He looked fine at first, but once they took his pants off, the issue became apparent. His balls were about the size of a football and necrotic. It’s called Fournier gangrene.
He must have had it for quite some time as well, judging by the size, color, and smell. He had a stroke in the past and was now much less alert than his normal. It looked painful, but the worst part was the smell. It smelled like rotten crab meat. One of the residents that came in to evaluate him looked as if he was going to vomit and left the room within 20 seconds.
I felt terrible for the guy, he had no clue what was going on, and he clearly must have become used to the smell. When I went home that night, my roommates and friends decided to make appetizers. One of them brought mini crab cakes. The smell gave me an image of that guy's situation immediately. It was the most bitter irony I could think of.
I had a 95-year-old patient with an inguinal hernia. They had it for the last 25 years or so, and it was getting bigger. As a student, I knew I was going in to examine a "lump," and prior to the examination, I was warned by my assessor to refrain from showing any expression.
I went in, uncovered the patient appropriately, and was literally like, “Oh my GOD," but obviously in my head. I clenched my teeth so hard that I felt all my facial muscles tense up like never before and proceeded to examine this "lump!"
This "lump" was, basically, this patient's intestines that were protruding entirely through this defect. It was a HUGE hernia that was reaching their knees, and that's with them laying flat! As soon as I walked out, I needed to vent. I couldn't do that with the assessor, so my placement partner and I had a good long chat about it in the pub straight after.
The patient sadly passed.
My mom's an RN. One night, a dude walked into the ER holding a bag under his crotch. He had been drinking with a bunch of his friends. The designated driver drove a pickup, and this dude and his buddies sat in the flatbed, speeding down the parkway. The dude, in his infinite wisdom, decided to stand up when the driver hit a bump. He went flying. Then I found out why they call it a "split".
He was carrying his insides—including his lower GI tract—in the bag. The guy was rushed to surgery and had his full reproductive capabilities restored.
I had a guy show up in my clinic one day with a complaint of finger swelling. So as the story went, his finger got swollen and painful about a week prior. It just got worse and worse, and about three days prior to coming in, a hole opened up in the tip of his finger.
So, when the day of his visit came, he said, “By the way, I pulled something out of the hole in my finger yesterday with a pair of tweezers; no idea what it is”. I asked him if he had taken a picture or kept it, and he produced a tissue from his shirt pocket. I couldn't believe my eyes.
It was his distal phalanx—the last bone in the finger. The bone had become infected, and the body did its thing and basically tried to eject what was now a hot foreign body. The guy pulled his fingertip out of his fingertip. A better magic trick I have not since seen.
My ex-husband was a cardiovascular tech and did echocardiograms. One day, a patient came in with a scruffy, unkempt beard. He started doing the test and kept noticing something moving in it. Upon closer inspection, he had roaches in his beard. He called in a nurse, and they discovered that he also had a massive case of body lice.
My ex had to go get sanitized and had to wear scrubs for the rest of the day.
I’m an EMT. One day my partner and I got called to a house for someone who was “unable to be ambulated”. This is a common thing we get dispatched to, and it usually means someone is too weak to get out of a recliner or out of bed. We expected to go and help this person to their feet and maybe get a refusal or transport them to the hospital based on an assessment.
When we arrived on the scene, an officer was there, along with a neighbor who told us it was really bad in there. The second I walked through the door of the house, the smell hit me. I have smelled many decaying bodies that were not this pungent. We walked into the living room to find a man lying on the floor, saying he could not get up.
His legs were wrapped in what appeared to be plastic wrap and plastic bags. You could see the wrappings filled and dripping with brown liquid. The guy said he had started getting sores on his feet, and rather than go to a doctor, he elected to just wrap them up in plastic wrap. I don’t know how long he had been doing this, but it had reached a point where he could no longer gather the strength to get up, and he was extremely septic.
It was HORRIBLE. We carried him out of the house, and I was down at the legs, and the gangrene juice was dripping all over me. The back of the ambulance smelled horrific for days. We dropped him off at the hospital, and I went outside and puked. I see nasty stuff every day, but this was by far the nastiest.
When they took the wrappings off in the ED, the nurses told me both his legs were completely black and rotten up to the knees. They had to amputate both legs up to the hip, and they found the gangrene had gone up into his pelvis, so they had to transfer him out for more surgery.
My father was a plastic surgeon in the emergency room of a major southern city. A family of four was driving on an urban highway that passed right by the hospital. The parents were in the front seats and their two young children—boy and girl, 3–5 years old—were in the back seat, apparently unrestrained by child seats or seat belts.
Coming from the opposite direction was a speeding and swerving woman driver in the throes of a psychotic episode. As the two cars approached from opposite directions, she swerved into the median and hit a barrier that launched her into the air upside down. Her car landed on the roof of the family's car, bending the roof of the rear portion of the passenger compartment downward and backward.
It was bent in such a way that left the mother and father unscathed. But tragically, the children met truly terrible ends. The parents carried them into the emergency room. It was an unspeakable sight—and obviously, nothing could be done.
I’m a CNA at the moment, and this was the strangest thing I have ever seen. At work, we had a payroll woman who in a previous marriage had been blasted in the back of the head. When it came to removing the slug, the surgeons decided it was too risky to remove.
It hadn’t caused any major damage to the brain, and she would be able to function normally as long as it healed properly. One day, I was in her office, picking up my paycheck. We were chatting as usual when suddenly she started coughing sporadically.
I patted her on the back to help, and the next thing I knew, she coughed up the round into her hand! I was in shock; the slug over the years had slowly moved its way out of the body. She was fine after and kept the metal item as memorabilia.
I was a children’s nurse. On my first week in the pediatric ED, we had a young girl, about six or seven, come in with a really swollen jaw and face. The poor girl was unable to move her jaw without intense pain and hadn’t been able to eat for several days.
It turned out she had only just started cleaning her teeth for the first time ever, and managed to develop several abscesses and rotten teeth in the process. To make it worse, her mom told us she was recovering from the same procedures to remove most of her teeth because of almost the same thing.
They didn’t want to bother going to the GP, as they thought she was just messing about to get out of school.
While my wife was in medical school, she helped treat a patient who was having difficulty urinating. She and the doc asked all the preliminary questions, but they still weren't sure what the problem might be. So, the doc ordered an X-ray. She noticed a tangle of dark lines in the patient's bladder. The doctor then went in to show the patient the results, as she was thoroughly stumped.
After the patient saw the X-ray, he freely offered up the jaw-dropping reason. Apparently, he liked to take baby snakes and let them slither up his urethra where they ultimately perished in his bladder. His reason for doing this was that it gave him a "funny feeling".
One day, my friend who was a nurse, was working in the emergency room and it was just one of those bloody days. She had seen more nosebleeds that wouldn't stop on that fateful day to the point where a person freaking out and getting woozy from the blood pouring out of their nostrils with no end in sight had become routine. Then this guy walked in.
He entered the room holding a bloody rag tightly to his face. She took one look at him and thought to herself, “Oh, another nosebleed”. She said to him, "Lower the rag sir," so that she could take a look at how bad it was. The man lowered the rag and his jaw just dropped. It literally dropped from his face and swung about, dangling.
Shocked and unsure how to respond to the sudden surprise, she could only say, "Please, put the rag back sir," which he did. Then, he was taken to the trauma center for help. She looked into the guy's case, curious as to what had happened to him. She found out that he was cleaning a piece upstairs in his house.
Then, when he was done, he was walking downstairs with it to put it away when he tripped. He discovered, in the most unfortunate way possible, that it was still loaded when he accidentally set it off in his fall and nailed himself in the face at close range.
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