Terrifying Medical Nightmares
No one likes going to the doctor—and no doctor wants to deal with a disturbing medical surprise while at work. Unfortunately, the human body likes to break down in spectacular ways. These doctors and patients came together to share their stories of real-life terrifying medical nightmares that make the stuff on Grey’s and House look like child’s play.
1. Handles Influenza And Brain Cells
When I was in med school on my family medicine rotation, I was sent in to see a middle-aged woman with complaints of sinus congestion. Sure enough, from the very beginning, I can tell she’s really stopped up with her nasally voice, and my history and exam are consistent with your run-of-the-mill viral upper respiratory infection.
I begin educating her on symptomatic management and the following exchange ensues: Patient: “Do you think it might be the flu?” Me: “It’s possible but unlikely; it’s really out of the typical season.” Patient: “Yeah, I guess I wasn’t sure; I’ve been spraying Lysol everywhere and it doesn’t seem to be doing any good, and it says it removes the flu bug.”
Me: “Well, that’s something that could help disinfect the house and keep it from spreading.”Patient: “I guess, I just wish it didn’t burn so much” Me: “…what do you mean, ‘it burns’?” Soon enough, it all became too clear. Patient: “You know, when I spray it up my nose, it burns so bad.” Yep. My patient thought that since Lysol gets rid of influenza, the best way to nip it in the bud was to flush her sinuses with it like a saline spray. It did not work, for the record.
2. I Was Whole Heartedly Saved
When I was born, my dad knew something was wrong with me because of the way I was breathing—very rapid, short breaths. When I was three months old, my parents noticed there really wasn’t any change. The first hospital they took me to said there was nothing to worry about, and babies just breathed like that. He was 100% certain they were wrong.
They took me to a second hospital, and they said there was something wrong, but they didn’t have the technology to help. They recommended a third hospital, which was a couple of hours away. Finally, the third hospital took me right in and performed surgery that day. I had five holes in my heart. They tried to go through my rib cage, but it didn’t work. They had to crack my sternum and go directly through my chest. They took my heart out of its body and patched the holes.
3. Emergency Staph Meeting
I randomly sat down once for a chat with a medical grad student at a dorm dinner during my freshman year of college. There was really no reason for me to be talking to her other than the fact that she happened to be a friend of a friend of mine. Over the course of our chat, I casually pointed out that I had this weird red line that ran all the way from this ingrown-hair-like bump on my wrist up into my shoulder, following my vein.
She dropped her cutlery and looked at me in shock. She abruptly told me to stop eating and get to the emergency room, as that line was a staph infection and it was heading for my heart. The doctor at the ER said (as he stuck me with an IV) that had I waited another couple of hours, I definitely would be in very rough shape (or possibly not even alive).
4. I Got Jerked Around
My now ex-wife and I were doing fertility treatments, and they wanted a sperm sample to count. They gave me a script and told me to go to the local hospital for their lab. I walked into the hospital and gave the young pretty desk nurse my scrip, and she gave me a cup. She told me to go into the single-person bathroom in the waiting room and fill it.
I asked her again to make sure she meant that one, and she said yes. So, I made my way through the waiting room filled with various aged people into the single person waiting room and into the bathroom to fill the cup with my procreative fluids. I quickly filled it as fast as I could, washed my hands, and brought the cup back to the front nurse.
I sat down and waited about five minutes before she called my name. Walking up, I felt like everyone was staring at me, knowing what I had just done in the bathroom. But it was even worse than I thought. She looked at me and said there was a mix-up, and they don’t do that here. She asked me if I wanted my sample back, and I declined and just turned around and left.
5. Can’t Handle Everything Yourself
There was a guy who had a rare condition that required bloodletting, but he didn’t have the money to afford the treatment as often as he would need it. Like any rational human being, he decided to build an apparatus at home using a shop vac, Mason jars, an IV needle, and surgical tubing. Surprisingly, he had no issues for a few weeks.
He set the vacuum to pull the blood through the tubing via the needle and drain into the Mason jars. No big deal. Except it all went wrong in an instant. One day he isn’t paying attention and sets the vac to pump instead of pull. Dude switched it off after a few seconds, but he still had a massive air embolism. He’s very lucky he didn’t die, he “just” had a major stroke. He goes in for treatment now the last I heard.
6. The Real Problem Just Flu Over Their Heads
One time in college, I got pretty sick. I thought it was the stomach flu, and it would go away if I just rested and stayed hydrated. My friends forced me to go to the college health center. That place had a ridiculous intake process. They had five “symptom description” forms—one for head-related symptoms, one for stomach-related, one for breathing-related, etc. I had symptoms from at least three forms, but was only allowed to fill out one.
I chose the stomach-related because the vomiting was my most debilitating symptom. They handed me off to a pre-med student for intake. She did not seem to understand that I could have a headache and a fever because I only filled out the stomach-related symptom form. Finally, a doctor came in. I told him I thought I had the stomach flu.
He told me I was wrong and that I had appendicitis. They stuck me about 15 times before they could hit a vein for a saline IV. They took a bunch of blood for testing and sent me home with some ibuprofen, telling me they would contact me soon to schedule my appendectomy. Two weeks later, they contacted me to tell me I had the stomach flu, and if I stayed hydrated and rested, my body would heal itself after a few days, which had already happened.
7. My Self-Esteem Got Shot
I was substitute teaching at a high school, and one day I started to feel awful. At first I thought it was just a little headache. Soon though, I realized something was seriously wrong. My head was throbbing so bad it felt like someone was hitting me right on it with a sledgehammer. Then I started feeling my body aches slowly getting worse as the day progressed, and a slight tickle was emerging in my throat when I talked and drank water.
When I got off work, my boyfriend was waiting for me in the parking lot. I didn’t think I was going to make it to the car. I got in and looked at him and said I didn’t feel good. On our way home, I passed out. He had to carry me into the apartment. I didn’t wake up until later on in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t move or get out of bed.
My whole body felt like I had gotten hit by a train. In the morning, my boyfriend made an appointment for me to go to my doctor. When we got there, I was sure I had strep throat. I had it about a year before, and it felt the same, just worse. They tested me for strep and the flu, and both came back negative. My doctor was stumped and told me she didn’t know what was wrong with me, so she was just going to prescribe antibiotics and give me a steroid jab.
I had never had a steroid jab before, so I started to roll up my sleeve. She said, “Oh no, honey, not there.” I looked at her confused, and my boyfriend just started giggling. That’s when it dawned on me. Next thing I know, the doctor is telling me to stand up and drop my pants. I was like, “no way.” My boyfriend and I had only been dating for three months at that point, so I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable.
I figured it was just a quick little needle, so I pulled my pants down and leaned against the table. She jabbed that little needle into my behind, and when it went in, I fell off the table almost immediately. It was probably a freak experience, but it felt like my bottom was being stabbed with a red hot poker. There I was, face down, butt up on the floor with a knot swelling on my forehead and a needle sticking out of my rear. It was the most embarrassing moment of my life.
8. Taking Everyone For A Ride
I’m just a lowly, unqualified health care assistant. I worked with people with a number of infirmities for many years. I also have been reading medical textbooks for most of my life. I have a few of these types of stories, but I’d like to share this one particular one with you. I was on a crowded bus one time. I was the last one to get on and the bus was full, so I had to stand next to the driver.
Something did not feel right, so I started looking at the driver and noticed that he was rather fixed in his focus. I moved forward and noticed that his face was asymmetrical. I asked if he was okay and his reply sent chills up my spine: “You need to step back.” I realized that I was speaking to a man behind a locked anti-theft screen driving a bus full of about 50 people (mainly school kids) that was having a stroke.
I hit the bell for the next stop but had to reach through to help him move the wheel across whilst doing my best to ensure no one panicked. The driver realized that something was up by this point, and was going into shock. I managed to unlock the door and then hit the engine isolation switch, whilst getting other passengers to call an ambulance.
A tip here, if it is really an emergency, is to get several people to call for help, as eight calls get a faster response than one. Thanks to a good, quick response and the right treatment, he was back at work a few weeks later.
9. Healing By Making It Worse
My cousin’s wife got a terrible burn on her foot from a bunch of hot oil falling on it. She goes to the doctor and is treated well, and given good instructions. My cousin follows these to the letter, changing her gauze and keeping her wound clean whenever he needs to. All seems well and she’s properly on her way to a full and healthy recovery.
One day, I walk up to her house and see her with her burned foot out uncovered in the sun. The hot, middle eastern sun, by the way. She’s got tears streaming down her face and I immediately run over and urge her back inside. I then clean and cover her wound. It turns out she had fluid buildup and her uncle had told her to dry it out in the sun.
This led to me getting in a screaming fight with her uncle, who told me it was sound Chinese medicine to dry fluid retention in the sun. I explained he was encouraging further damage to her tissues. He would not hear it and kept barking orders at this poor woman to do as he instructed. I had my cousin take her to the doctor again, and they explained how to properly treat this issue.
After it was explained to him by a professional, my cousin banned the uncle from visiting until she healed.
10. It’s Cheaper Than A Kid, At Least
A gentleman walked into the emergency department one day after he tried to give himself a vasectomy with an animal neutering kit he bought on the internet. When we asked him why he said that his wife wanted to have a sixth kid and it was too expensive to pay a doctor to do it. He didn’t think it would be all that difficult to do it himself.
11. This Doctor Was Pure Poison
I had a 2-year-old patient show up in the ER. She and her dad had been out in the fields in a small town several hours away from the nearest big city, where I worked. The dad took the child to the ER in the small town with an obvious snake bite. I’m still so furious when I think about what the doctor did. He shrugged and said, “Eh, it’s ok. She probably didn’t get envenomated,” and didn’t give the patient antivenom, which they had on-site.
They then elected to send the child to our hospital by ambulance instead of by helicopter. Several hours later, the patient showed up at our hospital coding and ended up not making it.
12. I Was Just Following Instructions
When I went to law school, I was going to live on campus, so I had to take an exam to ensure I had my immunizations and all was good. A very young nurse walked in, I handed her the form, and we started the exam: height, weight, blood pressure, all of that. I was sitting in the chair, and she was going down the form, reading it out loud.
As she was ticking off the items, she very casually said, “And I’m going to need a sperm sample.” I swear, my jaw hit the floor. She reached back and handed me a sample cup and continued, “There is a bathroom two doors down, and when you are done, just bring it back in here.” I hadn’t had a physical or medical exam in years, so I didn’t know what the protocol was.
I got very quiet, but she was very professional about it, so I got up and took the cup to the bathroom. The room was a small, all-white clinical bathroom with a toilet, sink, mirror, and medical waste trash can. There was no stimulation anywhere, so to speak, but I began the process of trying to provide a sample into a cup.
After about ten minutes, as I was starting to ramp up, she knocked on the door and said, “Are you okay in there?” I awkwardly replied, “Yes! One moment!” and then she left. Eventually, after a few more minutes, I squeaked out my reward and sheepishly walked back to the examination room. I went ahead and placed my cup on the table.
She was sitting there filling out the form and said, “Okay, just a couple more items, and then we can get you a tetanus shot because you are due, and then we…” She stopped because at that moment, she glanced at the cup, wheeled her chair over to the table, picked up the cup, looked into it, took a long pause. Then she suddenly turned beet red. She exclaimed, “I am so so sorry. I meant a urine sample.”
13. A Change Is Gonna Come
I have worked in various fields of healthcare, from CNA to pathology. One time, I went to visit with a friend and learned her grandmother was now living with her. She had cracked her femur and was now immobile, catheterized, and on some strong substances. I walked into her room to say hi and was hit with the unmistakable smells of severe infection.
I looked at her cath line and, instead of clear yellow urine, she had milky reddish urine with chunks of sediment in it. I asked how she was feeling and she said well enough but added that her stomach was really hurting. I told my friend to call an ambulance, as grandma has a severe bladder infection and needs to be seen now.
The doctors couldn’t believe it. She had a severe E. Coli infection in her bladder and, due to the painkillers she was on, was also very constipated. It was amazing that she was running no temp and was lucid. Said, “This woman was brought in just in time. If you would have waited any longer she could have gone skeptic or developed a high enough fever to end her life.”
Turns out the infection was caused by a piece of trash home healthcare agency that never changed her Foley. Catheters have to be changed and flushed to prevent infection and, in three months, they never did. She’s okay now, though. She is walking with a walker and has a great home nurse. Whenever I go to visit my friend, she comes to say hi and calls me her “infection angel.”
14. Right Place, Right Time
My mother was in remission from breast cancer but was having severe headaches and other symptoms. She went to her regular oncologist’s office. They checked her out and said that her calcium levels were slightly elevated, but they also said that she should just take some painkillers and head home. Fortunately, she had been planning to visit a friend in Rochester, Minnesota over the weekend.
Given how bad she was feeling, she called her friend and said, “I can’t make it.” During this conversation, she mentioned her calcium level as being the only thing wrong with her that the doctors could find. By pure luck, the friend she was going to see had taken a job in an oncologist’s office at the Mayo Clinic one week prior.
Her boss, the oncologist, was walking through the office as she hung up the phone and He asked her what the call was about. My mother’s friend explained that her plans had been canceled for the weekend because my mother was ill. Then, she offhandedly mentioned my mother’s calcium level. The oncologist’s face literally turned white as soon as he heard the number.
“She needs to get to an emergency room now. She is a 0.1 or 0.2 mg/dL away from falling into a coma and never waking up.” And he was right. My mother’s hometown doctors had basically sent her home to perish because they were apparently too incompetent to recognize life-threatening hypercalcemia when they saw it.
Thanks to this improbable chain of events, I was able to rush my mother to the emergency room where she was able to get the calcium flushed out of her system. As it later turned out, the breast cancer had moved into her bones and was leaching calcium into her blood. A bunch of other things happened next before this was fully over.
The calcium was flushed from her system and she went on aromatase inhibitors that fought cancer. There was also some other medication that helped prevent the calcium from leaching. A few years later, however, the cancer was still on the move and she developed tumors in her uterus and intestinal tract. Sadly, she passed this past February.
But I cherish the extra time that my brother and I had with her. She was able to attend both of our weddings, all thanks to the friend that told her to get to the hospital immediately. I am forever grateful for whatever made it possible for that chance occurrence to go down the way it did. I can’t even imagine how awful it would have been otherwise.
15. A Sweet Surprise
Sugar can actually be used to help heal certain types of wounds. A patient I saw had missed an appointment with part of their care team where they get their bandage changed. I noticed what appeared to be oozing around the edges of the bandage. I asked my patient about it and offered to change it for them even though we didn’t typically do that in our clinic.
I go get fresh bandages and whatnot, then take the old one off. I immediately started gagging. It’s just sticky and stringy, picture the slo-mo shots of caramel being pulled apart. And it smelled…weird. To be fair, most wounds smell, but this was different. I finally asked them what they used to change their bandage since I knew it wasn’t discharge I was seeing. Maple syrup…they used maple syrup.
16. Full Of Heart
One time when I was in nursing school, I was doing ER clinical and a guy came in with “penile pain.” Long story short, several days prior, he decided he wanted a texture implant to help enhance pleasure during bedroom activities for his lady friend. He and his buddy got tipsy (of course) and decided to do it themselves. It couldn’t have gone worse.
They went in his garage and took a box cutter to slice open the skin on the dorsal (top) side of his member, made some room between the skin and underlying muscle, and put a small porcelain heart underneath. Then he superglued it shut. To make matters worse, the guy didn’t wait for it to heal and decided to take it for a test run immediately.
He ended up with a major infection and presented several days later. I, unfortunately, don’t know the outcome; I was just there for the porcelain heart extraction.
17. A Gut-Wrenching Ordeal
From the age of about 17, I started getting chronic abdominal pain every day and terrible gut problems. It was so bad, and I couldn’t eat much. I would get fluctuating diarrhea and constipation, and menstruation became more and more painful. I started losing enormous amounts of blood, despite being incredibly small. It seemed like a gynecological problem.
However, my doctor, who was a woman, insisted it was anxiety and said she “wouldn’t bother testing for or treating a gynecological problem unless I was older and was having trouble conceiving.” I’ll never forgive her for that. Over the next few years, my gut and uterus symptoms slowly deteriorated. I was bounced around the system to dozens of different specialists.
I was told it was just stress, anxiety, even possible pregnancy, and was told to take various over-the-counter products. Meanwhile, my gut function slowly ground to a halt. A functional gut test showed it took me six hours to pass an egg sandwich when it should have taken 90 minutes. I was losing weight and bowel control. No treatment seemed to work.
At 24, I was unable to work because I was literally uncontrollably pooping my pants. Doctors suggested I should seek therapy and suggested I was exaggerating. One day, I saw a new general practitioner for some regular health tests. I received an abnormal Pap smear. Within two weeks, I went in for an exploratory laparoscopy to rule out cervical cancer.
They discovered I was riddled with endometriosis—on my bowel, on my cervix, on my perineum, on some ligaments, even in my gall bladder. I also had an ovarian cyst the size of a tennis ball. I had excisions and treatment and was able to get my gut function back within three months, although I would never be able to have children.
If the doctor I went to at 17 had just done her job, I wouldn’t have lost seven years of my life, my gall bladder, fertility, and mental health.
18. Lost In Translation
I’m Brazilian and had a friend who didn’t speak Portuguese call me and say, “There’s blood in my stool,” so I got him to the ER right away. The hospital crew didn’t speak English, so I had to go with him into the room. I explained what happened to the doctor, who didn’t believe our story. He thought we were having “fun” together when the bleeding started because he was going to check my friend’s rear end while I was in the room.
The doctor made a gesture to him to put his pants down and turn around, so he did. I started getting really worried about what I was about to see. I asked, “Can I go outside and then you just tell me what you saw? I’ll translate everything you tell me, but I’d like to give you some privacy.” The doctor just stared at me as if to ask, “Why?”
While my friend was getting his parts checked, I was in the corridor laughing so hard the nurse thought I was having some sort of panic attack. I had to explain to her what had just happened. So, since she could speak English, she went into the room to make things easier for me and perhaps see if I was telling the truth.
The doctor figured out my friend was ok—he had just eaten too many beets. All he needed was some ointment, and the nurse started to explain to us how to use it. For some reason, she gave us the instructions while speaking very slowly and making gestures saying, “Get some ointment with your index finger and go oooutsiiiide. NOOOT INNN. Outsiiiiide.”
19. Her Decline Was Maddening
During my residency, we had a lady in her 60s who was getting progressively more forgetful, just overall declining and getting less and less able to take care of herself. She saw her primary care physician, who diagnosed her with dementia, and a neurologist who agreed with that diagnosis. Although she could not provide an accurate history, after talking to her family and friends, it became apparent that her symptoms were progressing unusually fast.
But something was just…wrong. I remember seeing the point where her new hair growth met her bright red hair dye and also her grown-out nails with hot pink polish. I thought that it obviously wasn’t too long ago that she was not only taking care of herself, but going to get her hair and nails done. However, the lady who was in front of me was far from that.
The neurologist I was training with recognized this and had her admitted. He did every test, including a lumbar puncture. The workup eventually showed Creutzfeld Jakob disease—mad cow disease, which unfortunately has no treatment. She passed a few months later, but at least we were able to prepare her family for her inevitable decline so that they could make the proper arrangements.
20. Keeping Abreast Of My Health
When I was 26 years old, I found a lump in my breast. I had learned how to do self-checks, and I knew this lump felt different than a cyst. It felt exactly like the tumors I had been taught to recognize. The first doctor said, “You’re too young for breast cancer.” I didn’t accept that and went to a second doctor where I got, “It hurts when I mash it, right?” It didn’t.
They also said, “It gets bigger with your period, right?” I told them, no, but they insisted, saying, “Sure it does!” The third doctor told me, “You’ll have an ugly scar if I biopsy it.” By this point, I wanted to scream. I finally told the fourth doctor to call 9-1-1 to get me off his table because I wasn’t leaving without scheduling a biopsy. It turned out I had Stage 2 cancer. After surgery, nine months of chemo, three months of radiation, and being told I couldn’t have kids, I survived, had three kids, and had a long life.
21. I Was Left With Nothing But Embarrassment
I found a small lump on my left testicle, so I went to see the urologist. I walked into the room and my stomach dropped. There was a doctor there…with around 20 students. The doctor told me to lie down on the bed take my pants and underwear off. He told me not to worry about the students, as they would be doctors one day as well.
He put gloves on and proceeded with the exam. He was trying to find the lump by moving his fingers around my left nut. After he finally found it, he called over the first student and told him to look for the lump. Every single person in that room took a turn touching my balls, half of who were female. It was extremely weird.
22. On The Road Again
I am a nurse practitioner. I once saved the life of a man who was having a heart attack. He had been driving the car in front of me and was maneuvering very poorly, so I passed him to give the “what the heck is your problem” face. But as I looked into his window, I saw immediately that something was very wrong with him. About that time, his car pulled off the road and stopped.
I stopped and got out to see what was going on. I immediately called an ambulance. I helped him out of the car and got him sitting down in the grass, talking, getting information, etc. And after a few minutes, he suddenly slumped over. No pulse. I laid him down and started CPR. Thankfully, the ambulance arrived a minute or two later.
It was truly a case of incredible luck for him. He ended up living and I’m fairly close with his family now.
23. Horses And People Are Very Similar
I saw a young child with a bruised, swollen, crooked forearm. He had fallen on the playground three days earlier and another parent there was a vet and had horse X-ray equipment in his truck. That parent took X-rays and told the mom that the kid was probably fine. So that was apparently good enough for mom and she didn’t do anything for three days.
Her child was up all night screaming in pain. Finally, she took him into my office and brought me the fuzzy copies of the X-rays, which were useless and impossible to accurately interpret. I got him real X-rays and a nice cast for his very broken arm.
24. What Are The Benefits Here?
I once had a young teenager with sickle cell disease who had been in the hospital for around a week already. He then decided to “manage” his pain himself. This was a few years ago, but I caught him pretending to take his meds. He would tip his head back and gesture that the pill went into his mouth, but really he either kept it in his hand or threw the pill behind his back.
He was also quite a talker, which I then assumed was a tactic to try and distract me. I kept seeing his odd behavior and caught him doing this a 2-3 times by the middle of the shift, so I was definitely onto him. He had a PICC line (which is essentially a long IV where the tubing goes all the way to your heart) in his left arm. I couldn’t have imagined where this was going at the time.
I noticed that it was quite a bit more swollen compared to his other arm. Sometimes clots can happen in PICC lines, so that was my biggest concern at first, but the line was drawing blood fine so I know it wasn’t clotted off. Told the doctor, then I drew blood from his PICC line and sent it down to the lab for it to be cultured to see if there was any bacteria.
Low and behold, it came back positive for a bacteria that is commonly found in tap water and usually not a source of infection in PICC lines. Fast forward a few hours later, he confessed that any oral medication he could slip by the nurses, he saved for later in order to crush them up himself, try to dissolve it with sink water in the bathroom, and inject it into himself via his PICC line.
25. They Finally Saw The Problem
For years I suffered from migraines. They were mainly behind my eyes, but I chalked it up to stress and hormones, as did the neurologist I was seeing for them. She seemed annoyed that I kept saying the pain was behind my eyes, in my temples, and the pressure was insane. She gave me Imitrex and sent me on my way. I went to visit my eye doctor for a check-up.
She asked if I got headaches. I told her yes, but it seemed like I always had one. She told me my optic nerves were very inflamed, and excess spinal fluid or a tumor could be the cause. She sent me to a neuro-ophthalmologist, where I had a brain MRI, a spinal tap, and new medication to help keep my spinal fluid in check. The neuro-ophthalmologist told me I was about six months away from having vision loss and that I was lucky I mentioned my headaches to my eye doctor.
26. My Diagnosis Blew Everyone Away
I was around 14 or 15 and was fighting Langerhans cell histiocytosis. I had to get loads of chemotherapy and meds on the side and was in for my weekly checkup. I had been suffering from intestinal pain, and the doctor proceeded to check on that. As he pressed around on my stomach and colon area, he asked if the pain got worse.
He changed the angle of how he pressed on the colon area. I didn’t realize what was coming until it was too late. All of a sudden, I let out the probably most giant gas cloud that I ever had in my entire life. My doctor jokingly said, “Oh look, I found a pocket of propane gas,” before kinda getting green-faced because that gust of wind smelled truly horrific. We both fled that room and closed the door only to be greeted by the bewildered face of a nearby nurse who asked, “What was that noise?”
27. Dental Dilemma
I went to a dentist’s office for several years and was repeatedly told to get braces and remove my wisdom teeth. Both of these posed an issue since I played trumpet for a living. Performing at a professional level would have been difficult to impossible with braces, and having my wisdom teeth out would put me out of work for at least a month during recovery. I told this to my dentist repeatedly.
I decided to get a second opinion about the wisdom teeth, so I went to an oral surgeon to have them look at it. That’s when I finally learned the truth. They took X-rays and looked at the records from my dentist. He said, “So, you’re experiencing a lot of pain in your wisdom teeth, according to your record.” I told him I was not and never had. He then told me, “So, I’m just going to assume your regular dentist falsified the rest of your record too, so I can put this folder down and do my job.”
He then explained that the way my wisdom teeth came in, they were sitting on a nerve that would be next to impossible not to cut in the process of removal. That would leave me without feeling in the lower half of my face for the rest of my life—obviously a major issue, given my career. I was advised not to worry about them if I was not in pain.
I eventually needed to extract a tooth adjacent to one of my wisdom teeth, which my regular dentist completely blew off when I asked about it. I never went back to my original dentist.
28. It Wasn’t All In Her Head
During my psychiatry residency, I was working in the Psych ER when we got a transfer from the main ER. Her family had brought her in for altered mental status that had been getting gradually worse over the previous two weeks. All her labs and vitals were normal, so she had been “cleared” by the ER doctors, and I was told she was likely having “a mental break-down” or psychotic episode.
I went to assess her. She was non-responsive, staring off into space, crying and shaking her head back and forth and mumbling. She could not answer any questions and seemed to be having a tremendous amount of anxiety. One of the biggest lessons my mentors taught me was to assume that a change in mental status was always a medical condition until proven otherwise. Then you could think about psychiatric causes.
Within a couple of seconds of seeing her, I had an intense gut feeling. This was not psychiatric in nature. I looked through her chart and saw she had a history of blood clots in the past. Her vitals were rechecked, and again they were totally normal. At that point, I made an executive decision and ordered a stat CT of her chest to look for a possible clot.
The technicians who came to take her for the study were slightly confused as to why a psych resident was ordering this. The radiology team even called me and wanted to make sure I had not ordered it by mistake. Thirty minutes later, I got a call from the on-call radiology resident, and she said, “Are you the psych resident that ordered this CT?”
I said I was, thinking I was about to get some comment about wasting their time. She continued, “And this patient is in the psych ER?” I confirmed. She then told me, “Well, you better call the ER and have her transferred STAT because this lady has the most massive pulmonary embolism I have ever seen and will likely code any second.”
With that, we transferred her back to the ER. She was admitted to the hospital and treated for her clot, and within a few days, she was back to normal. From then on, whenever someone would make a joke about psychiatrists not being “real” doctors, I would tell them this story, and that would settle it.
After the water pipes in my city broke due to a hurricane, I got a parasite and ended up in the hospital for almost two weeks. The doctors said it was a third-world parasite that they had never seen before. Therefore, I had hordes of medical students coming in and out of my room every day asking me really invasive questions. Then, some nurse read that hedgehogs can carry this parasite as well—I had a hedgehog.
So, I had to call up my landlord and have her scrape poop off of my hedgehog’s wheel at 3 AM, put it in a bag, and bring it to the hospital for testing. I had random hospital employees coming into my room every few hours after that, asking me if I was the girl with the hedgehog poop. I found out that my hedgehog’s poop was perfectly clean. The kicker was that this supposed “third world parasite” was just Giardia.
30. My Original Diagnosis Was Hard To Swallow
When I was in college, I got to where I couldn’t swallow. It started with difficulty swallowing and progressed to me having to swallow bites of food multiple times and regurgitating it. It then got to where all I could swallow were broths and mashed potatoes with no chunks. I went to the doctor numerous times and was told every time it was acid reflux and part of my anxiety disorder. I had lost 30 pounds and was just generally miserable.
Finally, my grandma was tired of watching me be sick all the time, so she called the GI doctor herself. They said we needed a referral, but she explained the situation, and they got me in the next day. They did an endoscopy and found my esophagus was 95% occluded at the gastroesophageal sphincter. For some reason, some of my primary doctor’s notes ended up in my discharge paperwork. They showed me, and I’ve never been so angry.
She had told them it was acid reflux and that I was being over-dramatic. She stated she did not recommend they do the procedure. I switched doctors.
31. I Wanted To Put A Halt To The Pain
I was getting ready to go to a BBQ/pool party. I had changed into my swimsuit, put clothes over it, and I was doing chores before I left home. My face started feeling numb, and I was getting a headache. I called to get the advice of a nurse. She told me to call an ambulance. The paramedics came, transported me to the hospital, and checked me into the ER. They did an exam, CT scan, and labs.
They found nothing and decided to discharge me to follow up with my regular doctor. While waiting for discharge paperwork, I was sitting on a hospital bed in the hall. My neck was really aching from my halter-top, so I pulled the strap over my head to relieve the pressure. Then, it hit me. I’m fairly large-chested, and my halter-top swimsuit was pinching a nerve in my neck and causing all the symptoms. I was too embarrassed to tell the doctor or nurses.
32. Missing The Chance To Save His Life
When I was a kid, I was at the beach with my dad one summer afternoon. While we were there, a random woman came up to us and told him that she was a dermatologist and that he should really have that large mole on his back checked out. She was quite nice about it, but also really, really insistent. He simply brushed it off, but he would soon suffer the consequences of his ignorance.
When I was 15 years old, he passed from melanoma. All from that darn mole that he never got checked out. I think she just knew. She kept saying how important it was and how a lot of people write these things off, but they’re actually really important. I still remember the look on her face as he politely thanked her and we walked away, leaving her standing there in the sand.
The message hasn’t sunk in. He wasn’t getting it checked out. It wasn’t her fault, but she looked so sad. Then she shook it off and went back to play with her kids.
33. Second Opinions
I am not a doctor, but I have witnessed these kinds of issues. One time, my aunt was saved by a customer of hers. A long-time customer at her store, who happened to be a doctor, said she looked a little off. My aunt said she just had a check-up and was fine, just achy and tired from breaking her hip a few months back.
He asked her a couple of questions, wrote a note, and said she should ask her doctor to do these tests. He did and found out a chilling truth— she had bone cancer. On another occasion, my father-in-law went to the emergency room, and the attending doctor informed him that he had food poisoning. He started talking to a random doctor in the elevator at the garage, who said to him that he sounded a little slurry.
This random doctor, who he was only speaking with by pure chance on his way out, said that he should get a CT scan done. So he escorted him back to ER and ordered a CT scan. The results were horrifying—turned out, the man had suffered a minor stroke. And here is one last story, because it also relates. My mom went to the ER one time because she was not feeling well.
The hospital diagnosed her with dehydration. I spoke with her on the phone and noticed that her voice was off. I asked if she had a CT scan, because of what happened to my father-in-law. She said no. I made my sister take her back to the ER and demand a CT scan. They reluctantly did, and they found a brain tumor. Always go with your gut and don’t be afraid to get things fully checked if something doesn’t seem right.
34. My Condition Needed To Be Rectified
I had an abscess on my behind. The ER doctor knew that it was going to be really painful for me and took it as a good teaching opportunity. He brought in about eight new doctors so that they could watch me scream in pain for 15 minutes. A really cute female doctor came up beside me and held my hand the entire time and told me I could squeeze her hand if I needed to.
The initial meds did nothing for the pain, so they gave me something stronger, which was painful. It didn’t do anything for the pain either, but it stopped me from squirming, which helped the doctor. Afterward, they stuffed the wound with this packing fiber to keep it open. It fell out the next day, so I had to go back to the ER to get it re-packed. And yet still, this nightmare kept getting worse.
The person who did it was the same cute doctor who held my hand. Sadly, it didn’t heal properly and formed a fistula. I met with a surgeon to see what to do about it but was told that there was a chance that the surgery would leave me incontinent since they would need to snip my sphincter. I was only 26 at the time, and I couldn’t be pooping myself for the rest of my life, so I declined treatment.
For the next two years, I had to patch the fistula up with gauze and medical tape after every shower and poop. I thought I had to live the rest of my life like that until I looked up the best colorectal surgeon and had a consultation with him. He was very confident he could treat me without causing incontinence, and so I finally got the surgery.
It was successful, and after another eight months of healing, I was back to normal. All of this came from using a sauna at the gym. I was sitting on a towel and also had a towel wrapped around my lower half. But apparently, two layers of towels weren’t enough to stop whatever germs infected me.
35. Like Pulling Off A Band-Aid
When I was 19, I had no job, home, or money and was couch surfing various friends’ places. A back tooth cracked in half on me. I dealt with it for a few days before realizing something was wrong and this wasn’t your regular toothache. I loaded up the ol’ search engine and found that I needed a dentist to remove the tooth. Well, having no money made that difficult, but something had to be done.
One day while I was in pain, I went to the kitchen grabbed some needle nose pliers, went to the bathroom and pulled that sucker out, albeit not very successfully. For the next 11 years of my life, I would live with pointy little fragments of tooth stuck in my jaw. I finally got a job that gave me dental insurance, went to the dentist, and got the rest of the tooth fragments pulled out.
36. This Diagnosis Was As Hard As Nails
I was working nights, and a patient came in for a nailbed repair and insisted on having it done under general anesthesia. He had no clue what was coming. He aspirated as he was going under, so we did a chest X-ray to see if he had any saliva or blood in his lungs. We didn’t know that prior to this emergency surgery, he had been going to his doctor for over six months complaining about chest tightness.
They had put him on various asthma medications, but none had any effect on him. The X-ray showed a giant mass in his left lung. We kept him asleep and transferred him to the ICU. His wife and three-year-old daughter were waiting for him in the ward. We had to tell them where he’d gone, why he’d gone there, and what was going to happen. He lost his life to lung cancer within the month.
37. We Found The Root Of The Problem
I worked as a dental assistant and had a patient come in whose color was off. His jaw and a tooth hurt. He had just come from the doctor, who told him to see us. I was suspicious of a heart attack. I put the pulse oximeter on him and almost fainted when I saw 82%. I grabbed our emergency high-flow oxygen yelled for the AED and an ambulance.
The guy was having a heart attack. Luckily, he survived and brought me a big old heart-shaped box of chocolate on Valentine’s Day. I had never been so scared or angry at another person before. The dentist I worked for called his doctor and said, “My 25-year-old assistant just saved your patient’s life.”
38. My Follow Up Was Crushing
Many years ago, as a young man, I got the glorious present of warts from a lady friend and needed surgery to get them burnt off my bits. Not a fun thing. They brought in a small group of interns for the initial examination to observe and learn. Meanwhile, the stern doctor explained that the pattern of growths was mostly linked to shaving before turning me over and giving my bumhole a thorough check. It was not a great day.
A few months later, I had to go in to check for any stragglers and obtain a clean bill of health. When I got to the examination room, a young, quite attractive female doctor greeted me. This was not a great situation to chat someone up, but I was surprised by her friendliness. She then had a look at her chart, said my name, and asked which school I used to go to.
After I replied, she laughed and said, “Cool! I was two years below you,” and started enumerating all the friends we might have in common, which were many. She then told me that, at the time, she had had a crush on me. She then rechecked the chart to see what medical duty she had to perform, went completely silent, and proceeded to check all my nether regions.
39. She Shoots, She Scores
When I was only a couple of years old, my parents were with me in the bleachers at my brother’s soccer game. My dad went off to go get drinks for everyone, and as soon as my mom was alone with me, the totally unexpected happened—everything turned black and I collapsed. I immediately got up again, crying. A nurse, who happened to be in the bleachers with us, grabbed my mom and asked her if she knew that I had just had a seizure.
My mom burst into tears. That was the first time anyone other than my mom had witnessed one of my mysterious ‘episodes,’ and up until then, the doctors were unwilling to take my mom seriously. That nurse ended up getting my dad, pulling my brother out of the soccer game, and going with all of us to a hospital so that she could be an ‘official witness’ to the fact that I’d truly had a diagnosable seizure.
I was formally diagnosed with epilepsy shortly afterward. That nurse wasn’t on duty and had no reason to do as much for us as she did, but we are all very grateful to her for having done so. My life and long-term health would not have been the same without all the tremendously selfless help and support that she chose to give us.
40. Watching For The Warning Signs
Medical student here. One time, I was taking a break from studying and was just lying around on the couch. At one point, my grandma came to lie down on a couch adjacent to mine for her afternoon nap. I noticed that her neck veins were looking a little too prominent. When she asked me for another pillow, that was enough to get the alarm bells ringing in my head.
I confirmed my suspicions by checking for swelling in her feet, and I immediately took her to the hospital right then and there. She was experiencing heart failure.
41. My Problem Was Rare, But Not Unheard Of
I had a recurring/constant ear infection for probably around eight months one year. I did a tele-visit with a new primary care doctor, and he prescribed antibiotics. He told me if it didn’t clear up that, I would have to go to the ear, nose, throat doctor (ENT). I finished the round and my ear cleared for a little bit but then returned to being fully messed up.
There was a long wait time for doctors and specialists where I lived, so many months after my ear infection had started, I finally went to the ENT. He took one quick look in my ear and led me to another room. He had me lie on my side and pulled out a hearing aid dome that apparently had fallen off and gotten stuck in there. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I was embarrassed since I had lost a dome but figured it had fallen out somewhere and not into my ear. I never connected the timeline of the two incidents, so I didn’t piece it together as an option for what might possibly be wrong. He tried to reassure me that it happens pretty often, but then he added that it usually happened to elderly patients, and I was probably the youngest person he had pulled one out of.
42. A Keen Eye
My mom is a doctor. She’s always diagnosing on the go, but she’ll only tell me. For example, she’ll whisper to me: “Look, that lady has thalassemia major, and the guy she’s with has thyroid problems, and the girl across from them has some suspicious-looking bruises. Could be purpura…and he….he’s just fat.” She is also completely unaware that she does this.
On one occasion, she correctly identified someone as having thalassemia and was able to warn them to get it checked out. There’s a reason why this was so incredibly impressive—because, as all people with knowledge of thalassemia are aware, it is almost impossible to spot. In some types of this condition, there are no facial symptoms. However, some types of thalassemia lead to somewhat characteristic facial structures.
There are articles online that explain some of them. Ultimately, you cannot do a good diagnosis from just looking at someone, especially for a hematological disease, but there are certainly clues. But my mom somehow managed to do it. Shout out to all the thalassemia patients and their family members out there! Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.
43. Mental Fortitude
My friend’s dad got skin cancer on his right bicep. At the time he was a large muscular man who ran a horse farm, so instead of going through all the normal processes of treating skin cancer, since he caught it early, he thought he could stop it at the source. So, he heated up a railroad tie with a massive torch he had on his farm.
He then shoved it into his arm where the skin cancer was…he did this TWICE. Then he wrapped up his insane burn hole. A while later he went to the doctor, who said the burn he inflicted was the craziest thing he’s ever seen. But here’s the kicker. All signs of the cancer were gone. His arm and burn healed months later and he remains cancer-free to this day.
44. The Doctor’s Dismissiveness Was Galling
My sister had her gallbladder out. She had routine surgery and two days later woke up at 4 AM in searing pain. She went to the ER by ambulance, and I met her there. The ER docs were all convinced she was a drug seeker and did not even conduct a physical exam beyond taking her vitals. They told her to shut her up because she was just yelling, “Help me! Help me! I’m dying!”
They eventually did an MRI but said it was negative and sent her home. She didn’t want to leave and insisted something was terribly wrong. However, they said they would call security and have her thrown out. She had no history of substance misuse or drinking. She continued to get worse at home and the next day went to a different hospital.
They did a workup and found that the metal clip that closed off her bile duct had cut right through the tissue. She had a large bile leak that was burning all her abdominal organs. She had to have three surgeries to fix it and was hospitalized for nine days. She was left with chronic pain from adhesions and chemical burns. But that’s not even the worst part somehow.
When the new hospital finally acquired the MRI from the initial ER visit, she was told that the leak was small but clearly visible in that image.
45. He Was Full Of It
When my son was two years old, he wasn’t pooping normally. His stomach was getting bigger, and he seemed to always take in more food than was coming out. We brought it up with our family doctor, who suggested a laxative or some natural remedy. A few months later, and with no improvement, we brought our son back to our family doctor.
She told us the same thing again. I asked her, “What if it doesn’t improve?” She replied, “It definitely will.” It did not. After a few visits to the ER and a lot of doctors frantically asking a lot of questions, we found out he had a condition called Hirschsprung’s disease, where the nerve cells in his colon are non-existent, so his body didn’t know when he needed to poop.
He went in for emergency surgery. The surgeon was furious at how our family doctor handled things. A short while later, the family doctor decided to retire early. I suspected the surgeon reported her mishandling things.
46. It Was Not A Cover-Up, Just Cover Girl
When I was about nine years old, my mom had some brownish lipstick. As a prank, I put in on my underwear and walked around the house with my pants sagging. I forgot about it, and that night I got up to go pee. When I went to lie back down, the spring popped out of the bed and cut my side really bad. I got to the hospital and remembered about the underwear after they asked me to change into a gown.
I didn’t want to have my rear sticking out from the gown, so I kept my underwear on. After they stapled me up, they asked my mom to leave, and they asked me again what happened. I guess they saw my fake poo-stained undies with blood and were wondering what was going on in my house. My mom was mad, but we laugh about it now.
47. A Mysterious Case Of Broken Ribs
My best friend was in her late twenties and felt constant irritation in her stomach. She went to see several doctors over the course of almost three years, and they all dismissed her, saying she had an irritable bowel. She would try a new diet every few months, but nothing helped. One day she called me and told me she had broken her ribs. She didn’t know how it happened, but she started having horrible pain, and her doctor said her ribs must have been fractured.
When the pain became too much to bear, she went to the ER and got a CT scan. She didn’t have broken ribs. She had stage 4 colon cancer with 4-inch tumors in her abdomen that were compressing her organs and causing the pain. She only lasted a few more months. If one of the many doctors she had seen had taken her seriously and sent her to get a colonoscopy, she’d probably still be alive.
48. Thank You For Being A Friend
I have never shared this story before, partially because I still refuse to accept the ending, but here goes. When I worked as a correctional officer, I met one of the greatest humans to ever exist. He was in his 50s but acted like a 20-year-old. He was crazy in love with the Rolling Stones. He was my best friend. We talked about everything.
One night, he came up to me and told me he was having a really hard time keeping food down. I had been put through the wringer when they tried to diagnose my cancer and had several symptoms of other cancers, so I offered him advice from what they had told me. I said he needed to be checked for celiac disease. He came back to me a few weeks later, and he was shouting a sad revelation: “Darn it, you were right! Now I can’t eat anything good!!”
He was upset, but not mad at me. A few days later, he pooped himself at work. I helped him out and no one knew it had happened. He started to lose a lot of weight. I told him to get checked for pancreatic cancer. He said they did check him and that he was clear. Over the next 1.5 months, he had lost half his body weight.
Then, on April 2nd, he was admitted to the hospital for extreme jaundice and distended belly. He was soon diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given two years to live. Tragically, he was gone within two weeks. I lost my best friend that day. I still can feel his presence whenever I listen to the music of the Stones. I have to stop writing now because I’m getting too emotional.
49. I Clapped Back With A Tall Tale
I was in another country and got chlamydia while I was there. I pretended to be my friend, so I wouldn’t have to pay a fee to see the doctor. My friend was married, so they tried to call her husband to inform him “his wife” had an STD. I had to think fast so they wouldn’t call him—but I’m not proud of what I said. I told the doctor an elaborate lie about him knowing I had relations with someone because he “likes to watch and not partake.”
Therefore, we weren’t intimate, so he couldn’t have gotten it. Hence, there was no need to call him. I don’t know what I was thinking, but the horrified look on the 75-year-old doctor’s face was hilarious.
50. Penny For Your Thoughts
I’m not a doctor. Nevertheless, I have a story to share. One time, a coworker came to work with a black eye that he said he had gotten after a fall while snowboarding that weekend. It looked bad, but he said he felt okay. Besides a mild headache, he said he felt no symptoms. A couple of hours later, he asked me a peculiar question: “Why does it smell like pennies in here? “
I said, “Like a metallic smell? Like your hands after you handle a lot of change?” He said, “Yes, exactly!” I asked him if he had a nosebleed when he fell, to which he said yes. I told him “I think blood may be seeping into your throat more than 24 hours after the accident. Go to the hospital right now!”
He said he’d make an appointment for later that week with his family doctor. I said, “No, no, no. You need to go right now to the emergency room instead of going to lunch.” He went. He had a suborbital fracture that was slowly bleeding into a sinus cavity, and the ER doc said the escape path for the blood was just about to swell shut, which would have quickly put a bunch of pressure on his left eyeball and probably permanently blinded him in that eye.
Later, he asked me how I knew what was going on. A few months before, I’d had four wisdom teeth pulled and the blood seeping down my throat smelled just like pennies.
51. Where Do People Get These Ideas
I had a patient who came into the ER with a chronic cough which was not resolving. She subscribes to holistic medicine and lives out in the bush. She had been struggling with this worsening cough and feeling unwell for about two entire months before she came. The whole time, she was taking a homemade bovine lung extract.
She made it on her farm. She was proud that she dried the cow’s lung herself. I suspect she either inhaled bacteria or she aspirated some of it. In any case, she now had a huge lung abscess. She required a lung pneumonectomy (removal of her upper lung). Pathology came back with some bizarre bacteria I never heard of, nor was taught in medicine.
She survived and has become my patient, but I still never see her unless her home remedies fail. She never really learned her lesson but has thankfully sworn off the bovine lung extract at least.
52. Her Life Was Resting On My Shoulders
While I was doing a trauma and orthopedics rotation at a small hospital, I was asked by the medical team to look at a 67-year-old lady who had fallen at home. She had some shoulder pain. The emergency department had X-rayed her and ruled out a broken collar bone and shoulder. She still had pain, and the medics didn’t wholly trust the emergency department, so they asked me to have a look.
I looked at the X-ray and found nothing broken. Then I saw the patient. Her shoulder was a bit bruised, but she had a good range of movement. When I felt her shoulder a bit more, I felt some weird lumpiness, like bubble wrap, under the skin. It suddenly hit me: “Holy cow, this is surgical emphysema.” I went back to the shoulder X-ray and looked at the snippet of the lung in the film.
I saw a punctured lung and a hint of some broken ribs. The patient went in for an emergency chest drain and was transferred to the trauma center. Luckily, the patient survived. I don’t think the emergency room doctors had even laid hands on the patient. They just simply looked at the X-rays and referred on.
53. Multiple Mental Health Mishaps
After we got married, my husband and I struggled a lot because he would go through phases where he behaved like a different person. I had noticed it before marriage, but then I stopped working, and it became clear that he was struggling with something. He had had a lot of problems his whole life, including several bouts with the law.
He got a variety of diagnoses, such as narcissistic personality disorder and sociopathy but was never really treated or medicated. One doctor told him he was untreatable. Despite all of this, my husband got out of prison, stayed sober for years, earned a bachelor’s degree, graduated with honors, and moved to a new city. However, he started struggling again with alcoholism before I met him. We partied A LOT at the beginning of our relationship.
When we got married, my husband would periodically act totally crazy and then normal after about two weeks. I started charting his behavior and statements he made because he would say things like, “I never need more than a few hours of sleep!” Then, two weeks later, he would say, “I always have a hard time getting up in the morning!” I knew something was wrong. In college, I was a psych major, and I started comparing his symptoms to bipolar disorder.
He met all of the qualifications. I was able to convince him to start therapy, and BINGO! He got a bipolar diagnosis within a few sessions, especially after reviewing his history. Even so, everyone was reluctant to prescribe him medication. A whole year went by, and he was still struggling. Then he went into a full-blown manic episode and started saying things like he felt like he couldn’t control himself, so I took him to the ER.
In the ER, I told the doctor I wasn’t leaving until he got medication because he was clearly suffering and needed help now. The doctor not only 100% agreed, she actually called his therapist and lectured her for not trying harder to get him meds. He got a hefty dose, we went home, and he slept for two days. He woke up like his usual self again. It took another two years of trial-and-error before his medication was balanced out, but the difference was amazing.
My husband had been considering surgery for a problem he had with excessive sweating, but it went away when he got the proper medication. In fact, a huge list of his problems just disappeared once he was medicated for his mental health issues. He was finally as normal as someone without any mental health issues and often wondered what his life would have been like if he had gotten the proper help early on.
54. Bad Dictation
I was a freshman in high school and had to go for my normal yearly physical. It was at a small office in a new location, and the desk person was a girl who went to the same school as me. I brought up to the doctor that I had a small lump in my sack. The physical continued, and he showed me his new work toy—a speech-to-text microphone that was connected to his laptop.
He started dictating, “Patient complains of a small, painless lump inside the scrotum.” It wasn’t working right, so he tried again louder, “PATIENT COMPLAINS OF A SMALL, PAINLESS LUMP INSIDE THE SCROTUM.” I guarantee the whole office heard him because as I was leaving, there was no eye contact made with said desk-gal leaving the doctors that day—or in the school halls ever again.
55. I Told You So
My father just recently went back to work after being in the hospital and on home care since the start of the year. He had two small wounds on his ankles that he was treating with Band-Aids and Epsom salt soaks, hoping it would heal itself. When I caught a glimpse of it back in November I pressured him for weeks to go to a doctor and he refused.
He wouldn’t let my mom see it either. Finally on New Year’s Day, he made a full confession. He mentions to my mom, “Hunny, I think there’s something wrong with my ankle” and he pulled the bandage off. She was on the other side of the room and just smelled the decaying flesh, she hadn’t even seen it yet. By the time he went to the hospital, he found out the wounds on his ankle went to the bone!
The bones themselves were infected as well as the surrounding tissue. He’s still going to a wound center for it so they can continue doing bone and skin grafts to help it heal. If only he had listened to me back in November.
56. It Was A Worst Case Scenario
I started taking my daughter to the doctor for abdominal pain when she was 12. She had excruciating, can’t function, abdominal pain. We tried tracking the pain cycles, but nothing seemed to add up. We went to doctor after doctor and specialist after specialist. All literally told her it was in her head, which caused her to develop some massive mental health issues.
At 19, she ended up in the ER again for abdominal pain, and they found a cyst on her ovary. A few weeks later, she went in for surgery to remove it. The surgery lasted a couple of hours longer than a cyst removal surgery should have. The surgeon came out and said, “That is the worst case of endometriosis I’ve ever seen in my entire career.”
At 21, after having exhausted all avenues for controlling the endometriosis, she had a complete hysterectomy. Even prepping for that surgery, with a surgeon specializing in endometriosis, the nurses and anesthesiologists said they were warned that hers was one of the worst cases they’d seen. I get mad when I think of all the doctors we went to who believed she was faking it.
57. My Medical Encounter Took An Embarrassing Twist
A hurricane was coming, but I could tell a Bartholin’s cyst was coming on as well. I tried a sitz bath, but nothing worked, so I went to the local MedCare. I had to explain to the young person doing the intake info that I needed a woman present and that I knew my issue. He didn’t believe me. The male doctor came in. I told him I knew my issue. He looked at my hoo-ha, and we changed rooms.
I got the good meds, and they lanced my cyst. There was blood everywhere. They had to take me into another room to recover while a hazmat crew was called in to clean up the room. Then the hurricane came, and my Pikachu was packed with gauze. I had to pull a yard of gauze out of my intimate parts using only cold compresses. At the time, I was in working at a local gym to make some money. Wouldn’t you know it, but the man I sprayed with my cyst came in every darn day! It was so embarrassing.
58. She Was Just Seizing The Moment
A 3-year-old girl was brought in for seizures. She had spells of leg shaking and stiffness and was not responding. She had been treated for this by her pediatrician for over a year, with two different anti-epileptics. She had to be taken out of daycare because they did not know how to handle the seizures. The mother was terrified because nothing was helping, and the seizures were getting worse, occurring multiple times a day.
The mom showed me a video of a seizure. I immediately knew exactly what I was watching: It was a pretty straightforward video of a toddler self-gratifying by rubbing her legs together. Since lack of seizures is something that needs to be proven, we admitted the child into the hospital and attached EEG electrodes to her head. We stopped the anti-epileptics and watched her by EEG and video to see if we could prove it was not a seizure on EEG.
The girl was terrified, as there were wires on her skull, strange people in white coats poking her, and nurses drawing blood which is painful. She was in no mood to perform the activity. I spend a whole week waiting for this toddler to pleasure herself. Finally, she felt at ease enough and did her leg rubbing. It was not a seizure. We stopped all her meds, reassured the mom, and sent her home.
59. My Family’s Concerns Were Not Displaced
When I started walking, my extended family noticed that I would waddle a lot. My parents didn’t really notice it because they had grown used to my funny walking, but my grandma and my aunts, who saw me less often, insisted that I had a limp. So, my mother asked our pediatrician about it, and he reassured her that it was nothing and would fix itself when I grew up.
One year passed, and it didn’t fix itself. It got even worse. My mother asked my doctor again about it and requested an X-ray to ensure everything was fine. The doctor bit her head off for wanting to expose me to the rays. He insisted it was nothing but referred us to a specialist anyway. The specialist suggested my parents put some wool around my leg with the limp.
My dad finally had enough. It was summer, and my regular pediatrician was on holiday. His partner visited me because the limping became bad, and my parents wanted another opinion. The new doctor measured my legs. There was a 4–5 cm (2 in) difference between the two legs. They sent me to a special children’s hospital to get it fixed right away.
It turned out I had severe dysplasia. It was so severe that my right hip didn’t have a socket for the femur bone. I needed months of physiotherapy to learn to walk again. Three years and three surgeries later, I was finally normal. If the second doctor hadn’t caught it, I would have grown up disabled.
60. I Couldn’t Write This One Off
I was 17 years old and decided to write “Hello” on my weenie with a Sharpie before my doctor’s appointment. The doctor was my family physician, and I thought it would be funny. Then I rode my bike to his office, forgetting that it was August and hot out. I got into the exam room and went to put on the gown. I discovered that my sweat spread the sharpie all over my junk from my thighs to my waistband.
I used some cotton swabs and paper towels, but I had to give up because I just kept getting the ink all over the sink and counter. The pile of black cotton swabs in the trash was disgusting. Not only did that not help, but removing the excess just made my wiener look like it had gangrene and was starting to rot instead of having something on it. It was really the worst-case scenario.
The doctor came in, and we went through the whole exam. He noticed an elevated heart rate, so I just told him I rode my bike there. We got to the turn and cough part, and I hesitated. I took a deep breath and explained to the man what had just happened. He just sat there unperturbed, having been a physician for 15 years at this point.
He knew I was a bit of a handful as a kid since he was the one who had stitched me up several times. I had also dropped this gem on him during my last exam, “You’re my dad’s doctor, and he’s 50. You’ve definitely put your finger in my dad’s butt. I’m pretty sure you’re also my minister’s doctor, too, and he’s like 60.”
Because I was one of THOSE people, my doctor said, “Alright, well, let’s see the damage.” He was completely unfazed. I pulled down my pants, and his composure cracked instantly. He was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. He apologized and shook his head, then proceeded to try and give me the exam with barely contained laughter.
61. Out Of Touch With The Problem
When I was a med student, I was on my surgery rotation. We had a case where a kid broke his arm and was in for his follow-up appointment. He had already gone to the orthopedist who splinted it and put him in a cast. He complained of a lack of sensation in his fingers but could still move them. The orthopedist said it couldn’t be compartment syndrome because that would be incredibly painful and not just a lack of sensation.
Soon the patient didn’t have any movement in his fingers anymore. So, after getting the cast off and seeing the damage, we had to go in and salvage as much of the arm as possible. Everything on the inside was necrotic. It turned out it was indeed compartment syndrome, and the loss of sensation was because his nerve fibers had already gone.
The kid really didn’t want to have his arm amputated, so they ended up cleaning out the forearm, so it was just radius and ulna, plus the blood vessels to the hand. There was no muscle or nerve left to salvage, but this way, he could keep his hand if he wanted, even though it would be 100% useless. It was a very tragic and bad call by the original orthopedic.
62. Too Late To Turn Things Around
My dad had been feeling bad for months. He had nausea, and everything tasted like dirt to him. He lost 30 pounds and had constant cold streaks at night, where he would sit in the shower with hot water blasting to warm up. His primary doctor did nothing. Finally, my aunt forced him to go to urgent care after a friend of his called her.
The urgent care nurse took one look at him and went pale. She immediately sent him to the hospital because he had multiple liters of fluid surrounding his lungs. The doctors drained the fluid did a colonoscopy and endoscopy to see what was causing his issues. They removed a few polyps and suspected lymphoma, so they did laparoscopic surgery to confirm. Every tissue sample they took was necrotic, so they sent him to the Mayo Clinic to confirm.
He was complaining of stomach pain the whole time, which isn’t uncommon after a laparoscopy. The doctors at the Mayo Clinic decided to take him into surgery the next morning to grab their own samples. As soon as they started, they had to open him up from his sternum to his pelvis. When they did his colonoscopy and removed the polyp, no one had noticed that they left his colon wall too thin.
When they pumped him full of air, it had ruptured. He was leaking from his intestine into his abdominal cavity for over 24 hours. They barely saved his life. He got a colostomy bag, was in the ICU for two weeks, and they finally confirmed large B-cell diffuse non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He fought for over a year, but it was caught late, and it was aggressive.
63. My Ego Was All Dried Up
When I was 17, I went to the hospital for severe dehydration. I was in high school and had little time for bathroom breaks before I would immediately go to work after school. I was so busy that I could not use the bathroom unless it was during my 15-minute break in the middle of my shift or until I got home. My solution to not having to use the bathroom was to just drink less water and only drink water at night.
So one day, after toughing it out through severe stomach pain, I went to the ER. I got a scan because I complained of severe stomach pain and not only was I severely dehydrated, but I was also very blocked up because I was not consuming enough water. It was extremely embarrassing having the doctor tell my mom that I was blocked up and just needed to poop and drink more water.
64. Fun In The Sun
When I was younger and at camp, I saw this fellow camper who didn’t look well. He was slurring his speech and could barely stand up. I told him I would walk him wherever he was going so he wouldn’t have to go alone. Turns out that was a good move—a life-saving one. Along the way, he passed out, broke his nose, and stopped breathing.
I had just taken a CPR course, so I gave him rescue breathing and he was okay. He had severe dehydration and the whack on the head stopped him from breathing for a bit. Epilogue: I was walking down the street a year later and this random kid I don’t know comes up to me. He said he can remember my yellow running shoes and asked if I, and the shoes I was wearing, ever went to that particular summer camp.
A few sentences later, I realized it was the dehydrated boy. He had just wanted to thank me for helping him out.
65. If Only Someone Had Been There
About eight years ago, I was just walking along the street and going about my day when, all of a sudden, my body hit a freaking ten on the pain scale, completely out of nowhere. Somewhere in my lower abdomen, it felt like I was being stabbed with a hot knife. I couldn’t even stand up. It lasted about three seconds, then everything went back to normal.
I didn’t have any medical insurance, so I figured what the heck am I supposed to do? I told myself, “I guess I’ll go to the hospital if it keeps happening?” It never happened again, but over the last few years since, I’ve had increasingly severe stomach problems on a regular basis. And here’s the worst part…I am contemplating getting a stoma if it continues getting worse at this rate.
I’ve been to the doctor recently, had all kinds of scans and tests done, and cameras shoved in uncomfortable places. They continuously say that all my tests look normal and they have no idea what’s wrong with me. I always will wonder if I’d gone in right after that first experience if they might have had a better diagnosis and if I maybe could have steered clear of these problems altogether.
If I had somehow been lucky enough to have someone witness the incident, I wonder if they would have been able to tell me what was going on. Reminder: If you ever experience something that stands out as “the worst pain of your entire life,” go get that looked at as soon as possible. If that had been my appendix bursting and I ignored it, I’d be a goner by now.
Luckily it wasn’t, but constant pain and diarrhea aren’t very fun either.
66. The Doctor Got Cracked Up
I hated going to the OB/GYN. I was a naturally anxious person and tended to tense up. I had recently had a tubal ligation but hadn’t had my IUD removed. A week before my appointment to have it removed, I had broken my ribs. During my IUD appointment, the doctor went to put in the plastic speculum, and I tensed up. I suddenly heard a CRACK. The speculum broke.
He removed it, asked if I was okay, and gave me a minute to relax. I wasn’t in pain, except for my ribs. He got another speculum. CRACK. I broke another one. He said, “That’s never happened before!” I was 26 at the time. This doctor was present at my birth, so he had seen a lot in over 26 years. Finally, he got the IUD out.
67. I Don’t Want To Hear It
I was working in a community practice in the country when an older male comes in complaining of ear pain. He was a sailor and said that out during long journeys on the open ocean there wasn’t always a doctor and you had to often fend for yourself when it came to medical issues. He had long had a problem with his ears and said it had been getting much worse recently despite the use of his favorite maritime remedy.
I examined his ears. What I saw stopped me in my tracks. Both of his ear canals were caked in a black/green mold overlying extremely irritated bleeding tissue. Looking down each canal, he had bilateral perforated ear drums with blood slowly emanating from his middle ear. I asked him what he had been doing with his ears.
He then pulled out a semicircular black piece of rubber tubing about the size of a bike pump tube. He proceeded to tell me that any time he had ear trouble, he would fill up his mouth with water, put one end of the tube in his mouth and the other end tightly in his ear canal. He would then proceed to push the water in and out between his mouth and ear trying to flush it out.
He lived to tell more tales, despite some deafness. I still shudder to think about his maritime “fix” to this day.
68. Words Of Wisdom
Several years back, I had my wisdom teeth removed on a Thursday morning. The rest of the day was fine, but about halfway through the day after the extraction, I started having a lot of pain, which I realized was probably typical. By Saturday, I was in crying pain and started to have a lot of neck stiffness. I couldn’t open my mouth more than about a centimeter—just enough to force pills through my teeth.
I called my oral surgeon, and he said to keep taking the antibiotics they gave me and keep irrigating the sites, and this was totally normal. By Monday, I noticed a very sore spot developing on the right side of my neck. I still couldn’t open my mouth or eat. I tried to go to work on Tuesday, but my boss immediately sent me home because I looked terrible.
My surgeon was out of town that day, but I went to his office and was seen by the office manager, who was a nurse. She told me to open my mouth, but I couldn’t. She got angry and said, “If you’re not going to open your mouth, then I can’t help you.” I LITERALLY could not open my mouth. She tried to pry it open with a tongue depressor, but it snapped, and I screamed in pain.
She pulled my immensely swollen cheek out and said that my incision sites didn’t look infected. She said that if I wasn’t magically better by that night, she would get me in to see a different surgeon since mine was gone for the week. She thought my inability to open my mouth was out of “fear that it might hurt to open it.” And said, “You’re just gonna have to force yourself to do it.” If I hadn’t been in so much pain, I’d have slapped her.
The next day the right side of my neck had a lump the size of a golf ball protruding from it. I could barely swallow because of the pressure and pain—and I was taking 20 pills a day for pain. I went to the ER that night. They did a CT with contrast dye and found I had developed a massive abscess in my neck from the lower right extraction site. It was starting to close off my throat so that I couldn’t swallow.
I saw a different surgeon the next day, and he also tried to pry my mouth open, to no avail. They scheduled me for surgery that day and said, “I bet your mouth will just fall open once we get you sedated.” It didn’t. It took the surgeon and two nurses in the operating room to manually open my mouth while I was sedated because I had developed trismus so bad that I could not open it beyond that centimeter.
They drained the infection, and I had to have a subsequent incision and drainage done under general anesthesia. I ended up having three surgeries in 13 days, three different antibiotics and lost 15 pounds in a week and a half. I needed weeks of facial exercises and massages, and it took a whole month to recover from the major infection. All because the original surgeon brushed off my concerns, and the office manager/nurse didn’t believe me.
69. Left In Flux
While pregnant with my youngest, I had terrible acid reflux. It was so bad, I lost 20–30 pounds because I couldn’t keep anything down, not even water. I would cry and throw up all the time. At the end of the pregnancy, I was hospitalized for dehydration. My then-nurse practitioner said that I was overreacting, and it was good for me to lose weight because I was too big anyway.
After I had the baby, I was told it would get better, but it didn’t. I was popping anti-acids like candy. One night it was especially bad, I was vomiting blood, and the taste and smell coming from my mouth were horrendous. I made it to the hospital again, and the doctor there said, “Were you not here a few months ago?” Of course, I said yes.
I got a shot of Gravol in the hip, and it didn’t get better. They gave me something else and still, nothing. By that point, the doctor realized something was going on. They called a surgeon over. She ordered X-rays and found that my gallbladder was highly inflamed and needed to come out. She ordered a mess of medication because, finally, someone believed me when I said I was in so much pain. It took a week before the swelling went down enough for me to get the surgery. I was so grateful for her.
70. My Diagnosis Was Brief
I had a ton of pain in my nuts that wouldn’t go away and kept me up at night. Because a recent coworker had been diagnosed with testicular cancer, I got freaked out and went in to get the pain checked out. After much inspection and touching, the doctor asked me what kind of underwear I wore. I told him boxers. He recommended I get boxer briefs because I have saggy balls and had most likely torn a ligament or muscle.
I immediately bought some boxer briefs, and sure enough, within a little over a month, the pain subsided. I paid $250 for the doctor to tell me I should get new underwear.
71. Building Block
I was playing volleyball in the sand and I went up for a block, but when I came down I rolled my ankle pretty badly. I didn’t hear a snap or anything, so I figured I’ll hop back to my house. The hopping and the dangle of my foot just made the pain worse, so about 20 feet later, I was crawling home. Luckily, my aunt was driving by and saw this. She could tell that something was seriously wrong.
She picked me up and drove me home. When I got home, I laid down and elevated my ankle on a chair, and then I felt my entire body go cold. My fingers were cold and my other foot was cold. Then they just covered me with a blanket and I just laid there. I went to bed while trying not to move it because it was hurting badly. I took some pain pills and went to sleep.
My brother had a boot for a similar injury he’d had at some point not too long before this incident. I figured they would just do the same for me at the hospital, so I used his old boot and that was that. I probably should have gotten professional attention, because I couldn’t walk normally again until at least three months later.
72. When Nobody Wants To Lend A Hand
I don’t know if this counts, but I once broke my wrist and thumb pretty badly while playing football in school. The nurse just gave me ice and sent me to class. It was my writing hand, so I couldn’t write anything, and my teacher thought I was lying until she saw my hand and how swollen it was. She sent me back to the nurse and the nurse gave me another bag of ice while I waited for my mom to come and get me.
She took me home and I asked her why she didn’t take me to the hospital. She said it was because we had people coming over for dinner and she wanted me to help her. I told her I couldn’t do much because my hand hurt whenever I touched something. Her response made me livid: she told me to just suck it up and use my other hand to help.
When we ate dinner, I dropped my cup and broke it. And then our guests were all concerned and my mom acted like she didn’t know my situation. And then we finally all realized that something was seriously wrong, and went to the hospital to get it looked at properly. I love my mom, but she can be truly evil sometimes.
73. Following Doctor’s Orders
When I hear stories of people who were told to get to the hospital right away, it reminds me of how my father’s life was saved in this way. Ten years ago, he caught what he thought was a bad case of the flu. His mother came over to help take care of him and kept trying to get him to drink this sickly sweet Persian drink that’s supposed to help with illness.
So my father was involuntarily chugging sugar water when my uncle, a doctor who had come to our house to say hello, took one look at my dad and sent him to the hospital. When he got there, he was given some life-changing news: my dad found out that he had Type 2 diabetes. Thankfully, having become aware of it when he did, he was able to get it properly addressed before it could become life-threatening.
74. I Was Full Of It
One day, I woke up with severe pain in my lower right abdomen. I was aware this was a possible indication of appendicitis, so I was worried. I got to the walk-in clinic, where they ran some tests and an x-ray. After a while, the doctor came in and simply said, “You’re full of poop”…except she didn’t say poop. Then she laughed. I said, “Excuse Me?” I found out I was severely constipated. They prescribed a laxative, and a few hours later, I was feeling a lot better.
75. Grandpa Wasn’t Losing It Afterall
Later in life, after retirement, my grandfather started having strange episodes. It began in an almost humorous way, confusing the remote control with the phone, the dishwasher with the oven, and spilling more coffee on the carpet than should be allowed. I lived within an hour away, so I was the first to be called and spent many nights checking in and cleaning up.
I noticed some particularly bizarre things during our time together, like the trail of coffee spills from his chair to the kitchen on the beige carpeting. He pointed at it one day and said, “You see that? I remember that from biology class. You know what those are? Amoeba!” This was funny to 20-year-old me, but it would turn out to be a clue to the actual problem.
Eventually, his condition worsened to the extent that he was going out alone at night in the middle of the cold winter and even had a couple of nasty falls on the ice as a result. The family doctor diagnosed this as dementia, and he was moved from his apartment to an Alzheimer’s unit at the local nursing home. He was moved to a room with a special alarm on the chair because he fell over every time he stood up. It was devastating.
When my dad heard that he was having other hallucinations, such as thinking he lived in a house and town he hadn’t been in since 1960, it struck a chord. Given my dad’s experience with dementia and Alzheimer’s, he mentioned it was pretty strange that he would be having hallucinations rather than memory loss. As such, my dad had the person who analyzed the medication combinations for clients at his nursing home take a look at my grandpa’s list of prescribed medicine.
Quite surprisingly, he had been prescribed a sleeping pill in the mornings. We brought up the issue with his doctor of 50 years, and the guy wouldn’t listen. So, we fired the doctor and got my grandfather off the pill. A mere two days later, my grandfather could not only walk but gave a speech at the university’s Quarterback Club meeting and was on point. He was back to his old self. He even married his nurse from the Alzheimer’s unit and happily spent 15 years with her.
76. Almost A Waste Of Breath
I was taken to the ER because I couldn’t catch my breath. My chest was hurting, and my lungs felt like they were on fire. I went through the basic tests, and the doctor said, “It’s probably pneumonia and sent me home.” I was back a week later because my situation had rapidly deteriorated. I was put on fluids, antibiotics, and IV morphine.
The same doctor said, “It’s just pneumonia,” but I was admitted for a week. There was zero improvement, even after two weeks and then three. By that point, I’ve had multiple chest X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. Someone pointed out my lung looked a little weird. The doctor was strangely resistant at first but finally ordered a biopsy because a pulmonologist asked for it.
Instead of waiting for the results to come back, a surgeon was brought in, and they were going to crack me open and remove my whole left lung. By that point, I could barely speak, hold a pen, or comprehend what was happening to me. It was absolutely terrifying. We were at the end of week four, and when I went under for surgery, I destabilized so quickly that the surgeon didn’t want to attempt it.
I spent a week in the ICU on a ventilator. I got off the ventilator out of pure stubbornness and eventually returned to my room. I was approaching six whole weeks in the hospital. I had asked several times, “Do you think this could be cancer?” I was reassured it was not. At some point, a different pulmonologist realized there was definitely something going on with my lung and outsourced my neglected biopsy and some cultures to a university in another state.
The day I was to be discharged by the admitting doctor who said, “It’s still probably pneumonia, we don’t know, here’s a PICC line and some antibiotics,” that pulmonologist came into my room. He looked at me, sighed sadly, and told me I was dying of stage four lymphoma that had spread to my lungs. If he hadn’t trusted his gut instinct, I would no longer be alive instead of being in remission.
77. Sheer Luck
I once impaled my hand on the top of a fence I was climbing when my feet slipped out while I had one hand on top. I wound up with 18 stitches total, 10 internal and eight external. They told me to come back in two weeks to get the stitches out. So two weeks go by, but I don’t have insurance. I figured, “How hard can it be to remove stitches?”
It wasn’t hard, however, a doctor probably would have looked at my hand and said, “Those aren’t ready to come out.” I did not have any such medical knowledge, so when I removed the stitches, I ended up with just a big hole in my hand. I didn’t know what to do and I definitely didn’t want to get more stitches in the raw skin I had just removed them from.
So I crazy-glued my hand shut and kept reapplying the glue a couple of times a day for two weeks. In the end, I peeled off the strip of dried glue and my hand was perfectly healed.
78. My Diagnosis Fell Between The Cracks
I fell down some icy stairs and essentially hit every step with my lower back. I ended up going to the doctor a little while later because the pain didn’t go away, and he said I was bruised and gave me ibuprofen. A year later, I went back to that doctor because the pain got worse. I had to start walking with a cane because my legs started hurting a lot as well.
After a referral for an MRI, I found out I had three herniated discs in my lower back. I had surgery about three months later. I still needed a cane, but the pain was more manageable. Two years later, I ended up back at the doctor because even walking through a grocery store was unbearably painful. The guy thought I was an addict and only gave me steroids.
I went to another doctor, and for almost three years, he would only help me with my blood pressure and nothing else. Finally, when the company I was working for was shutting down, I found a doctor who helped me push through everything and got ANOTHER back surgery for the four herniated discs I then had. I was finally able to walk without a cane and was finally mostly pain-free.
79. A Series Of Mistakes
When I was a senior in high school, I had to go on a school retreat and stay in an old cabin for three days. As the weekend progressed, I was struggling to breathe more and more and couldn’t sleep, but I figured it was just bad allergies and nicotine withdrawals. By day three, it was so hard to breathe that I could hardly speak.
I just kind of walked around bent over and occasionally went outside for a smoke. I finally got home and told my parents about it and my dad decided it didn’t warrant an expensive doctor’s visit, so he gave me two pills and told me to take a shower and I’d be fine. Several hours after taking them, I still felt terrible and could no longer talk.
I drove myself to the ER. They finally gave me the horrific answer. Turns out I breathed in a bunch of mold at the cabin that I was allergic to and was having bronchial spasms, causing an extremely low oxygen level. It was to the point where I may not have made it through the night had I not checked in. The doctor called my family to find out what pills I had taken so they didn’t give me any medicine that would react poorly with it.
Dad’s response? “Oh those were just sugar pills; I was hoping the placebo effect would cure him.”
80. Two Thirds
I once diagnosed a friend’s ectopic pregnancy before she went to her new doctor (twice in three days) for OB visits. She was complaining of ectopic pregnancy symptoms. I talked her into going to see my doc as a new patient and had to talk to the person making appointments to get her in ASAP after my friend was given an appointment for several weeks out.
Turns out it was ectopic, requiring surgery. I also later diagnosed the same friend’s second ectopic pregnancy (even easier the second time) and when she went for an ultrasound, there was indeed an ectopic pregnancy and one (her oldest child) in the right place. She went from the really experienced ultrasound tech to a very young OBGYN who said that ultrasound techs sometimes “don’t know what they’re seeing.”
This young doctor insisted that there couldn’t be an ectopic pregnancy and a normal pregnancy at the same time, because he “had never seen that.” Well, he would end up eating those words. My friend had surgery again, survived it all, and though she has some residual post-surgical problems, she now has three healthy and beautiful daughters in her life.
81. It Was A Knee Jerk Reaction
I was sitting in a hospital room waiting for the surgeon to come and tell me about the knee surgery I was about to have. I was wearing a surgical gown, hairnet, and surgical stockings to prevent thrombosis. There were loads of nurses coming in and out until the surgeon finally arrived to explain the procedure. He asked if I had any questions before I got the final prep.
I asked him why I needed to wear a hairnet if they were operating on my knee. He explained it was not a hairnet—it was the paper surgical underpants I was meant to be wearing. I had been lying there for about an hour with a pair of underpants on my head like it was nothing. No wonder so many nurses came to check on me!
82. When Work Shouldn’t Come First
A co-worker of mine wasn’t feeling well one day at the office. She was the receptionist at the time, and I had come down to relieve her for her break. When I got into the room, I immediately saw that she was hunched over a bit and you could tell her skin was clammy. She didn’t want to leave, though, because she still had the “If I take a sick day, they might fire me!” mentality.
I called our manager for her and said that she was going to the doctor right away and that I would cover the desk for her for the rest of the day if need be. I had to call her boyfriend to pick her up as well because she surely couldn’t drive in her condition. When the hospital reported back, we were shocked—she ended up being admitted for several days with some serious issues with her bowels.
I can’t remember the exact details of what it was, but the doctors told her that if she hadn’t come in to have it looked at that day, the condition likely would have cost her her life not too long after. I couldn’t believe the amount of force I had to use on her to get her to go to the doctor when she was so clearly in such intense abdominal pain.
83. A Whole New Meaning To “I Scream For Ice Cream”
I was once walking home from the grocery store with some ice cream and streamers because it was my roommate’s birthday. I’m a med student and I also work in a hospital. In high school, I worked as a junior EMT on our rescue squad. Skiing can cause some nasty accidents by the way, so ALWAYS wear a helmet.
Anyway, I was walking home and I saw this kid, maybe nine or ten years old, biking down the street with his friend. His friend told him to stop and go into the store they just passed. The kid whipped his head around, not paying attention, and the front wheel of his bike slipped off the curb. He started losing speed, and the back wheel just fishtailed and slid out.
The kid tried to jump clear of the bike, but he pushed the pedal one way and made the bike slide on top of him. His arm subsequently got twisted around the handlebars. I ran over and did the regular checks. He was responsive, conscious, and seemed clear-headed. I pulled the bike off of him and asked him what hurt, if he thought he was bleeding, etc.
He says, no and braced his hand against the ground. The moment his hand touched the pavement, he screamed in agony. He instantly lost consciousness after that. I gently took his arm, after making sure he was breathing and started to carefully examine it. It felt broken near the elbow and I could tell that his shoulder was dislocated.
Again, I was an EMT and, while I could pop the shoulder back in, I didn’t feel qualified to just do it on this kid. I could have, but I’d only ever relocated wrists. I didn’t want a lawsuit on my hands if something went wrong, and I was not sure if it would even work. I also didn’t want to take the risk of injuring the kid further, especially as it would be tricky with his broken elbow.
While he was still unconscious, I took the streamers, which are a terrible substitute for ace bandages, and I immobilized his arm with them. I also tried to keep the swelling down with the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream that just became really useful. He came to his sense and whimpered again. I’m not sure how he didn’t feel it until he put weight on the arm, but it obviously hurt him.
I told him that I immobilized his arm and that he had a dislocated shoulder with a possible broken elbow. He nodded, and meanwhile, his slightly crazed friend had called an ambulance. The ambulance pulled up in a few more minutes. I told the paramedic what I did and then sighed because now I had to go back to the store and buy more streamers and ice cream.
84. Crash Landing
When I was skiing in Europe, I fell and fractured my tibial plateau. I tried to ski to the bottom of the hill, but that didn’t work. I then tried to walk down, but that didn’t work either. I ended up sliding to the bottom of the hill on my butt and got picked up by someone down there. They could clearly see that something wasn’t right with me, and suggested that I go see a doctor right away.
I should have gone to the emergency room, but I had a flight home the next day. So I simply wrapped my knee in an ace bandage, iced it, and got a pair of crutches. That was a big mistake. I flew back to the United States and went to see my primary care doctor the next day. She ordered an MRI. Turns out the injury was bad enough that the radiologist called my PCP during the MRI and said that there was a serious problem.
I ended up having to have surgery the next week.
85. Road Rage, Gone Right?
Back in 2007 or 2008, I was driving my 1999 Honda Accord with a V6 engine out of Abington, Massachusetts. I stopped at a red light next to some Indian dude in a Subaru. I looked at him, he looked at me, and (like something out of a movie) we both instinctively started revving our engines. We raced from one light to the next and I won.
The guy was impressed and actually psyched that my flimsy old car could beat his newer and better one. We both ended up going the same direction and got onto a ramp on the I-93 North and raced each other for miles. The whole time, we were yelling at each other out the windows (all friendly) and giving thumbs-ups whenever we passed one another.
It was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had and the guy I was racing was super friendly and positive the whole time. He was clearly stoked as heck that I was playing along with him. I somehow drove around 15 miles going between 100 to 130 miles per hour (I was checking) without causing an accident or getting noticed by the authorities.
By all normal expectations, I should have either lost my life or gotten thrown behind bars as a result of this behavior, but I eventually waved goodbye to him and took my off-ramp. It never dawned on me that I had just done something insane. But then I told my friend about it, and his reaction was to suggest that I get to a mental hospital right away, since I clearly had not comprehended how reckless this behavior was.
That knocked some sense into me, and I still to this day do not know what caused me to behave like that on the roads. Sometimes, even to this day, I still get anxious just thinking about that incident, because I realize how totally messed up and dangerous that was. But overall, I’m grateful that I had a chance to do something that crazy since I have no desire to ever replicate it.
I got that crazy out of me.
86. Never A Dull Moment
I am a med student. Once, during some summer wedding in full sun, I saw a girl standing in front of me. She was swallowing hard, minimally swaying to the sides and breaking a sweat on her face. So I had about 15 seconds’ warning before she fell from what I presumed was a sunstroke. She fell straight into my arms. Now we are married…er…no.
Actually, the truth is a lot less exciting—I just gave her water and kept her legs up, while covering her bare legs and underwear with my suit top. On a separate note, since I started studying medicine, and always being a very good listener, I have been told a person’s whole health history numerous times while on dates with women, in the hopes that I could remotely diagnose something for them.
There were few such cases where I sent the person to a doctor, but nothing acute though. There were some menstrual cycle irregularities (ya, wonderful dinner talk in an Italian restaurant). There was one girl who didn’t think that having bleeding every six months was something she should be worried about, a pure A+ distinction student in every field.
Though I think that the worst one was being asked to look at a mole “down there,” while in the process of getting intimate with a girl… or being about to because it looked like an HPV wart…
87. Break-ing The Rules
I’m a nursing student who currently also works as a phone dispatcher for our local ambulance service. My brother called me last year from work to chat and sounded concerned about something. We finally got down to it and he asked me a few questions about his wife, whom he had just spoken to on the phone. He said she was exhausted and disoriented in bed at 11:00 in the morning.
For context, she was normally up at 6:00 in the morning dealing with the kids. He also said that her tongue was apparently bleeding. Alarms were already going off in my head, but his next reveal was the most telling. He was hesitant and embarrassed to tell me that she had also wet the bed. She was going to drive to the doctor (with the kids) or wait until the next day to visit the doctor.
I told him she absolutely should not drive and should call an ambulance immediately, even if they request one without lights and sirens. I suspected a seizure. He didn’t think it was a big deal but I insisted that seizures do not typically happen at random in adults. My brother left work immediately and headed for the hospital.
En route to the hospital, she had another seizure in the back of the ambulance. That afternoon, he called me back to say they found an inoperable brain tumor. She has since undergone radiation treatment and is doing well. So yeah. I took a 15-minute break at work, which turned into the most effective ambulance call I dispatched that day, from 1000 miles away.
A lot to handle in a day’s work!
88. Somehow Poison Oak Sounds Nice
One day, an older woman came in with a white towel wrapped around her forearm. I asked her what she was there for and she said she tried to treat poison oak at home and it didn’t work and it was really painful. I asked how she tried to treat it and she said she came across an at-home remedy which she thought would work. When I heard what she did, I nearly gasped.
Essentially, you make multiple superficial cuts or scratches to the affected area and then wrap the area in bleach-soaked bandages. Kind of like a bleach bath. It was day three when she came to the ER because it hurt so badly and she was having issues bending and moving her arm. My eyebrows went up at this and I asked to see her arm.
Her arm had such a significant chemical burn that areas were black around the cuts, other parts were fire engine red, and the skin was peeling. She was admitted for five or so days. She had an infection, debridement surgery, and would likely need skin grafts in the future.
89. A Grave Mistake
My wife found a lump under her breast that was concerning. It took her about two months to get a proper appointment to have it looked at. The doctor diagnosed it as a cyst and fibroadenoma. She drained the lump, and it was fine. It grew back a week later and was bigger. Finally, after being in pain for weeks, the doctor decided to remove it.
Upon going in for the check-up after surgery, it turned out she had Stage 2A triple-negative breast cancer. The surgeon was floored. The most upsetting thing was that while her primary doctor was on holiday, another male doctor told her, “Any surgery would be merely cosmetic, and the lump clearly didn’t bother her because he could touch it.”
Despite doing eight months of therapy, the cancer returned seven months later and ultimately took her life after it spread to her brain and spinal fluid. She had switched doctors twice because they wouldn’t take her lump seriously. She was only 27 years old.
90. Loving Thy Neighbor
This is how my neighbor saved my life and the life of my firstborn. She is a nurse. I was pregnant. We were at her house for dinner. Two days before, I’d had a healthy 28-week check-up. She looked at me, said I didn’t look right, took my blood pressure, and told me to see my doctor as soon as possible. I was reluctant to do so because I had just had a healthy check-up, but I did so anyway. When my doctor read my test results, her face went white.
I was sent straight to the hospital with severe preeclampsia. My blood pressure was up to 220/180. The nurses checked it with three different machines and manually as well because they were so astonished. We had to have an emergency C-section to rescue my son, whose vitals were dropping. I was in the hospital for two weeks recovering. My son was in for two months. We are both healthy today. We could have both not made it through the night without that neighbor’s intervention.
All thanks to the fact that the neighbor nurse said I looked pale and tired, and just “not right.”
91. Odd Anatomy
I’m a biomedical scientist, and my officemate was a medical doctor working on his PhD. He once did an appendectomy and cut into this person’s abdomen—only to find no appendix. He started freaking out. The support nurses in the room, however, started snickering at him because they knew right away what the problem really was.
Occasionally, they see someone with a rare genetic disorder where all their left-right asymmetries are reversed. This patient’s appendix was on the other side.
92. Too Close For Comfort
About four years ago, my girlfriend randomly developed a sharp pain in her upper thigh one night. She was in decent shape so it came out of nowhere. Her left leg swelled up and the pain kept getting worse. Being the self-proclaimed medical expert that I am, I somehow came to the conclusion it was a pinched nerve and that she should just walk it off.
I came up with a believable explanation and that was that for about another hour. We were visiting my parents, and the pain had been getting worse. My mother insisted I take her to the emergency room just to be safe, and she even offered to pay and all. I was unsure but decided it was one of those things where I should just take the motherly advice.
We made it to the hospital emergency room, and it was like 9 pm on a Tuesday. She got helped relatively quickly and they ran an ultrasound on her thigh. What they found was utterly disturbing. Turns out, she had a giant blood clot that got stuck in a vein on the way to her brain. If it had made it there, she would have lost her life, guaranteed.
So a quick surgery was ordered, and they found out yet another pressing issue—she also has a condition called DVT, and daily, self-injected shots were prescribed. Not long after her first hospital visit, she required a second surgery to sever one of her main veins, which the doctors then stretched and reattached at its two ends.
93. Welcome To The World
My dad is a pediatrician specializing in neurological issues. He was seeing one of his patients at the hospital and got dragged into the NICU unexpectedly by a nurse who insisted that a baby wasn’t well. The attending doctor insisted the kid was fine, and that he was just tired from a difficult vacuum assist delivery. My dad could tell the baby wasn’t okay and managed to talk the parents into a brain scan.
The NICU doctor insisted my dad was nuts to the parents. Little did he know his arrogance would cost him, big time. The kid had a brain bleed and was rushed to surgery. The baby would not have lived without the nurse bringing my dad in and the parents listening to him. The delay caused by the NICU doctor almost certainly cost the kid some brain function. I’m proud that my dad did the right thing.
94. A Tickle Under The Rib
I saw this one patient with a really odd condition. While she was asking me why she gets rib pain so often, she literally reached under her own rib and jiggled it with her fingers. Turns out, there were a lot of other things she could do that she shouldn’t ever be able to. I attributed it to a variant of Ehlers Danlos syndrome, which causes connective tissue abnormalities.
I was so distracted by the popping in and out of her rib that initially, I didn’t even notice how horrifying it was that she could get her hand under there.
95. The Rear View
Nurse here. A very panicked nursing assistant came running to the desk one day, saying, “You have to see this! I don’t know what this is!” She then brought me into a private room where she was giving the patient a bath. She pointed to an area on the patient’s buttocks. “What is that?” I leaned in for a closer inspection, and my face went white.
The patient then started to turn back around and said, “IS THAT MY EYE?!” Sure enough, my patient had a prosthetic eye that came out of the socket at some point and it became suction-cupped to her buttock. I left the room and had never laughed so hard in my life. Truly one of the most bizarre and hilarious moments in my career.
96. That’s No Scratch
I’m a nurse, but I was working in the ER when a guy came in for a scratch on his neck and “feeling drowsy.” We start the usual workups and this dude’s blood pressure TANKED. We scrambled, but he was gone within ten minutes of walking through the door. Turns out the “scratch” was an exit wound of a .22 caliber rifle round.
The guy didn’t even know he’d been shot. When the coroner’s report came back, we found that he’d been shot in the leg and the shot tracked through his torso shredding everything in between. There was really nothing we could’ve done, but that was a serious “what the heck just happened” moment.
97. Some Things Can’t Be Put Back
When I was in EMT school, we were told about a paramedic student (the instructor was a paramedic as well) who observed a stabbing call. They arrive at the bar and see a dude with a knife in his abdomen. Medic student takes lead and pulls the knife out, something you never do, as I’m sure you know. Senior medic loses his freaking mind at this dumbass, asking him what the heck he was thinking.
Student freaks out and, you guessed it, puts the freaking knife back in. The patient passed as a result, student lost any chance of having a good job (not even just in EMS) and was charged with the death of the patient (might’ve been manslaughter I don’t remember). His entire life was ruined because he freaked out and made a mistake on a call, not a rookie mistake or a common slip-up, but in about half a minute, he ruined his life.
98. My Boss Is A Heartbreaker
I had a doctor that constantly ignored patients in serious pain, and it let to a serious “Oh God” moment that was also his comeuppance. He thought all of his patients were faking it to get painkillers. After a senior director at Microsoft died from a heart attack in our ER that he refused to do an EKG on, I went to management and told them what I had seen. He got fired the next day.
99. No Privacy When Your Memory is an Open Door
I was in a coma for two and a half months in 2015 when I was 27, following a serious car accident. When I woke up, I still had a tracheotomy and couldn’t speak. I don’t remember a darn thing from the time I was in a coma, but what blew my mind is when I woke up, my new boyfriend at the time was standing there with my parents.
They were chatting to each other like they knew each other. I am a super private and had made every effort for them to not even know of him, so I found this disturbing. I also had no recollection of the accident for months and for a week or two after waking up I had to be retold where I was and what had happened every time I dozed off and woke up.
I had no idea where I was and I thought I was 23, not 27, over a period of months. I also had a really hard time recognizing faces. Like I would see people I knew that I knew but I couldn’t remember why or their names or anything, they would just look familiar. One time, about a month after I had woken up, my parents took me in my hospital bed for a walk in the courtyard of the hospital.
We passed a large mirror in the lobby and I freaked out. I saw my reflection and I knew it was me because I recognized my parents pushing the bed, but I didn’t recognize my own face. There were no injuries to my face or anything, I just didn’t recognize myself. It also blew my mind that I had gone into the coma in late winter, and there was quite a bit of snow on the ground.
When I woke up it was spring, and there was no snow (I had a large window in my hospital room). The news that shocked me the most was the fact that my parents had gone in and packed up my entire apartment. Like I mentioned, I was super private and the idea that they went in there and boxed up all my stuff and gave up my lease was hard to grasp. Obviously, it made sense, but I was troubled by it all.
100. He Was Itching For Some Help
I was in the hospital following a motorcycle accident. My hospital roommate, who was beside me, had been in an 18-wheeler accident. He was complaining that his back itched and someone finally came in and rolled him on his side. When they turned him over, their faces dropped—his back had pieces of glass stuck all over it. I still don’t know how that was overlooked.
101. Shut My Mouth
I’m a dermatologist. I was reading a patient’s notes and found out he had been diagnosed with deadly skin cancer and was booked in to have his whole upper lip removed. Obviously, this would leave the patient quite disfigured. On a whim, he’d booked in to see a dermatologist at our hospital…who advised it was just a cold sore. He prescribed some medication and the problem was resolved.