You know what they say: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away!" Well, people might take that a bit too literally. Just because you munch on apples, you should probably still see a doctor every once in a while. Otherwise, you might end up like these people, who finally visited the doctor for what they thought were minor ailments—only to have their appointments turn into utter nightmares. From the horrifying to the hilarious, these trips to the doctor's office all took a serious turn!
A patient’s son who “took care of her” brought her into our unit. When she arrived to our unit, I performed a skin assessment. I took off her socks and found a fallen off gangrenous toe. It was by far the nastiest thing I’ve ever witnessed. The son said he had no idea when his mother’s foot became “that bad.” No words.
A farmer in his 70s reluctantly came with his wife after falling over outside while wrangling a sheep one week earlier. He did not want to be there, but his wife who was worried about him had “forced” him. He was pale, short of breath, and clearly in pain all over the right side of his chest but not wanting to show it!
X-ray and blood tests showed he had broken loads of ribs, punctured his lung, and bled profusely into his chest and was now very anaemic!
An elderly woman fell at home and broke both femurs. Her son thought she just needed to rest so he carried her to her bed. She laid there in her own filth for three days before anyone called emergency services. The son lived with her, and there’s a family next door as well. HOW. WHY?!
A young man came into the ER and had a sinus infection that he had let get to the point that it’d eaten through the skull and into his brain. I learned that it had started months before. He didn't want to go to the doctor for it. All it would have needed was ten days of antibiotic pills. We lost him within a few hours.
I had a patient come in saying he couldn’t see. How long had it been going on? For five days. The man had been blind for five days and didn’t come in because he thought it might be “like a cold or something.” During the exam when I told him to move his legs, he answered, “Oh, I can’t do that.” I asked him for how long.
His wife chimed in and said about two years. He’d never seen a doctor about it. They just borrowed a friend’s wheelchair and kept it rolling. I found out that he’d had multiple strokes with many risk factors that he never addressed. Given how little insight he appeared to have into the condition, I honestly felt sorry.
A morbidly obese woman refused to let her daughter take her to the doctor until the smell of her body was so bad that the neighbors complained. When we finally examined her, it took everything we had to not throw up. We found maggots in her abdominal/genital skin folds. She was inpatient for weeks with dressing changes that needed at least four people to assist. Awful for her, awful for us.
I’m a children’s nurse. My first week in paediatric ED, we had a young girl about six come in with a really swollen jaw/face. The poor girl was unable to move her jaw without intense pain and had not been able to eat for several days. We learned that she had only just started cleaning her teeth for the first time ever.
She managed to develop several abscesses and rotten teeth in the process. To make it worse, her mom told us that she was recovering from the same procedure to remove most of her teeth because of the same issue. They didn’t want to bother their family doctor. They thought she was just messing about to get out of school.
Once, I had an older lady call in wanting a prescription for pain medication because she was sure she had shingles because her neighbor had them. She had not had an exam in almost two years, so the doctor asked that she come to be evaluated before she would get a prescription. She refused and called again the next day.
This went on all week. Her calling for pain meds and the doctor asking her to come in. She finally agreed to make an appointment. It wasn’t shingles. It was a skin ulceration from advanced breast cancer.
My dad would not go in. He got a sore in the crease on the bottom of his second toe and kept ignoring it. He would go with his wife to her nail place and have his toe nails trimmed, which is probably where he got it. He blew it off for a couple of weeks until the wife made him see the doctor. It's a good thing she did.
The infection had gotten into the bone, so they had to snip his toe off to the first knuckle to catch it before it went any further. The doctor said had he waited any longer, he could have lost the entire foot. He's lucky to just have a Stubby Piggy and not a Stubby Leg.
I’m a lab scientist. A guy came in at the end of the day for chest pain that had been bothering him “all weekend.” The doctor ordered a troponin blood test which helps to rule in/out heart attacks. If the test runs above 0.03, it’s a sign for a heart attack and to act accordingly. This guy’s very first troponin was 21.00.
The highest we’ve ever had up till then was an 8.00. The guy should’ve been gone ages ago, but he somehow pulled through.
I was working as a surgical junior when my team was called down to see a patient who had come in with a complication from a recent hernia operation. We saw that the patient was holding a plastic bag over their abdomen. When we took it off, it was like a scene from a horror movie. We found that their wound had opened and their intestine was visible to the air.
It transpired that this was not something that had happened overnight. It had taken several days. The patient had started using plastic bags and newspaper to dress the wound when they ran out of dressings.
I worked as a doctor's office assistant. A regular patient, who was very sweet but unfortunately had an ongoing battle with drinking, was brought in by his roommate, and I knew instantly that he would be gone soon. I'd seen some jaundiced humans in my time there, but the man was a yellow I never knew could be possible.
His roommate said, through tears, "I've been telling him to come in for weeks!" The patient kept telling the roommate to relax and that he was fine. I helped him into the exam room, and when the doctor entered the room, he immediately asked me to go call an ambulance. A few weeks earlier wouldn't have helped him that much.
He was gone seven days later in the hospital. It had hit me very hard because I'd known the guy for a few years. Sometimes he would be sober when he called, and sometimes he would be slurring and completely incoherent, but he was ALWAYS kind.
I ended up losing my grandpa because he waited too long before going to the hospital. He had been tending to one his mules when something spooked it and made it kick him in the gut. He was in a lot of pain and could barely move due to the abdominal pain, so he decided to take it easy and lounge on the couch for a week.
He refused to go to the hospital. The mule kick had ruptured an unknown tumor in his intestines. The doctor said it was huge, volleyball huge. He may have survived if he came in earlier. By the time he went to the hospital, he had a severe case of gangrene. His leg needed to be amputated that day. We lost him a week later.
A guy came in with a useless leg. He waited until it turned black to head to the ER. They tried an angiogram to open up blood flow, but it was too late. He had several clots in his lungs and legs. It was undiagnosed atrial fibrillation. He couldn't believe we were going to amputate and was asking what else he could do.
Go back in time and come in kind of around when it turned blue.
Just this year, a guy with a history of heart issues had a heart attack with classical chest pain. Then he had symptoms of heart failure, which he recognized—because it had happened to him before. But still, after all that, he waited a couple days because he was worried about going to the hospital during the pandemic. It got bad.
He couldn’t breathe from the fluid backed up into his lungs. So, he finally went to the ER where he was obviously hospitalized.
I am a doctor, and we had an older guy in his 70s who, several days prior, had a sudden onset severe chest pain and vomiting while loading the car with shopping bags. He ignored it and struggled home. It was the biggest mistake of his life. The next day, he began to lose the use of both legs, and by the time he got to hospital, had been crawling around his house.
It had been several days because he thought it would get better. He had had a major cardiac event and developed a clot which his heart had pumped out. It went down his body, broke in half, and blocked off the blood supply to both legs. They were gone. There was no way to save them. It probably ended badly if not fatal.
I got a call from a patient who had broken their forearm two months before and never followed up. I scheduled them. They no-showed their appointment. Second reschedule, they arrived with an obvious deformity to their arm due to the fracture healing incorrectly. If they’d just come in, there wouldn't have been an issue.
My ER doctor told me if I had waited 12 more hours, I probably wouldn’t be alive. I was taking antibiotics for some dental work and noticed these weird blisters showing up everywhere. Weird, but whatever. They started opening up two days later leaving holes in my skin, no blood, just lost most of the skin in that area.
Again, weird, but I was working, so whatever. They started appearing in my throat, so I got to the hospital ASAP and was diagnosed immediately with Steven-Johnson syndrome. Any longer and the layers of my skin would have literally peeled away from each other, and I would have been gone forever. That was a sobering day.
I work in a very rural hospital. An elderly farmer came in with chest pain that “wouldn't go away,” as he put it. When we asked him if he had it before, he said that he had had this chest pain on and off for years, but it’d typically stop when he grabbed his electric fence. He told us about when he first had the pain.
He was standing out near an electric fence on his farm and reached out to steady himself. He accidentally grabbed the electric fence, which shocked him, and made the pain go away. So, when the pain would come, he just went to the fence, and it made him feel better. He had literally been cardioverting himself for years.
He was fixed up and sent on his way, but we all still chuckle about it now and then because he was so nonchalant about it.
The doctor had instructed a diabetic gentleman in his 70s that it’s important for him to wear socks and supportive shoes throughout the day. Then this guy decided that meant, “Wear the same pair of socks for weeks and never take them off.” He had showered, slept, and carried on wearing the same pair of socks for weeks.
He came to the ER because there was blood oozing through his sock, and there was pain under there. We took off the sock. He had a diabetic ulcer that had opened and was full of maggots. It was not a pretty sight. We clarified those instructions pretty quickly.
A patient cut their leg while chopping wood about a week prior and was itching. He was an old gentleman who didn’t drive and lived alone. We unwrapped the ungodly swollen leg to find that he had tried to superglue the wound closed. The maggots started growing inside. The itching was the writhing maggots under his skin.
I had a guy come to the aid station at about 2 AM with his arm wrapped up. I took the wraps off. It looked necrotic. I asked him what happened—and his response made my jaw drop. He had his whole forearm tattooed and spent the next week wading through chest-deep swamps figuring that if he just kept his arm wrapped, he’d be okay. I was like, brother, no.
A patient said he had a wrist replacement years before, and there was a hole. I figured he had a small draining sinus. The first thing I saw was his X-rays which looked like he had a massive contracture. I took off the wraps to see a very big hole on his implanted wrist replacement. He had noticed it four years before.
We had a guy admitted because he had had an erection for several days and had lost the ability to pee. His bladder was close to bursting and his poor junk was...just think microwaved hotdog. Very bad. But none of that was as interesting as the fact that this guy had untreated skin cancer on his nose for several years.
Over some time, it had become infected, developed MRSA, and spread across his face. He had no nose, no cheek, and no eye on one side of his face and was starting to lose his other eye. You could see part of his skull. I don’t know why he chose to leave it untreated, and I have no idea how long it took to get like that.
I will never ever forget the smell and texture of his rotting face. We convinced him to have reconstructive surgery. He ended up getting a skin graft that covered up his eye, nose, and cheek. So, if you ever meet a very grumpy dude with nothing but a mouth and one eye know that this is way better than the alternative.
After I got my appendix out, I went back a week later thinking I was constipated. Nope, I had a giant abscess that had started to wall itself off. They went in the drain it, and I woke up in ICU five days later recovering from sepsis, septic shock and kidney failure.
I got really sick really fast. I had stage 4 Burkitt's Leukemia CNS positive. Less than 100 people my age will have that cancer each year in the USA, so it’s uncommon. I got super sick and just happened to have a doctor’s appointment scheduled. I went feeling like absolute trash. I was hot, lethargic, and light-headed.
I also could barely breathe. My dad who was driving me to the appointment had to wake me up, and I remember him saying, "Get up, fatty. We have a doctor’s appointment to get to. You had better be actually sick!" In his defense, he had no idea and neither did I just how sick I was. Two weeks before I was fine working.
We got to my appointment, and they did bloodwork and an ultrasound of my chest cavity. Then we left to go home and would hear the results later. The doctor saw the ultrasound photos and was stunned. He looked at my bloodwork and told me to get myself to the hospital right away. The doctor saw seven tumors on my liver.
The biggest one was the size of a grapefruit. The second-largest was the size of a baseball. They saw the bloodwork was trashed. They diagnosed me with cancer and said it was a miracle I was awake let alone walking and cracking jokes. I found out later that Burkitt’s Leukemia cell can double in size within 24-48 hours.
The doctor wondered why I hadn't had problems with my monster tumors before since I only scheduled the appointment to fix heartburn.
I'm a 22-year-old paramedic. Once, I responded to a cardiac arrest where an officer had called us after responding to a welfare check where she found a man unresponsive. We worked the guy, but it was quite futile. The officer had started CPR after calling, so we kept going for a half-hour with no response to treatment.
We called it after he remained in asystole without a hint of a response. The story was that the guy was out mowing his lawn when he began having chest pain. He stopped mowing, went inside, and called his wife who was at work. He told her he wasn't feeling well and wanted her to know. He sat down in a living room chair.
He took out a notebook and started journaling his symptoms. I'll never forget the two sentences he wrote: "My chest hurts. It's hard to breathe," and, "I think I'm having a heart attack." His wife tried calling him back after an hour and couldn't get him. After another hour she’d called for a welfare check.
They found him in the living room chair next to his journal, gone. Literally, this guy lived a block from our ambulance station. We hadn't had a call all morning until we responded to his house. He was a block away from me and my ambulance. I was mucking about the station. Had he just called me, I could have saved him.
Don't be this guy. Call emergency for chest pain, folks. I'll come. It's ok.
I’m a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner and went to a suburban ER to see a man who said he had a horrible stomach cancer and needed to lose weight to be better. He insisted that he'd been diagnosed by a very prominent gastroenterologist with "Barrett's stomach," which he couldn’t. It’s an esophageal problem.
His story was bizarre, and the staff did not know what to do with him. He eventually disclosed that he had shot himself in the leg a few days before and was waiting for gangrene to set in. He believed that the resulting amputation of the leg would allow him to lose the required amount of weight, thus curing his cancer.
I excused myself to let the ER staff know that they should probably examine the leg and to call the county psychiatric service, which was protocol at this particular hospital. I'm not sure whatever happened to him but that was a very impressive manifestation of a delusion!
This woman came in for abdominal pain, but five days before admission, she’d fallen and hurt her head. The emergency department ignored it because why look closely at an open head wound. They sent her straight up to our floor where we began to clean her up. While cleaning the blood, it seemed like the wound was moving.
Sure enough, it was maggots. We ended up cleaning them out, but I raised both the question of “Why would you wait?” and “Wait, you didn’t even come in because of this?”
I’m a medical physicist. 12 years ago, I was asked to look at and give advice to a lady who had a very slow-growing tumor on her nose. A Basel cell carcinoma. It’s usually not much of an issue if caught early. It could be removed with surgery or a short course of radiotherapy, and that's it. This lady was quite vain.
As soon as the lump had started to grow, she hid it under a scarf. She ended up hiding it for twenty years. By the time any medical professional saw it, the tumor had taken over most of her nasal cavity, crushed one eye, deformed her whole face, and grown in between all the nerves and blood vessels. It was inoperable.
There was very little you could do with radiotherapy without doing a lot of damage to everything else. Such a shame as it would have been so easy to fix 20 years ago. Please get lumps and random bleeding checked out.
I’m a nurse and had a sore throat. I didn’t think much of it; my daughter had come home from school with strep a few days prior. My fever spiked. I let it ride. My head hurt, and my neck began to feel stiff. Now I was thinking, “Oh no, do I have meningitis?” Fever was 104, so I called my doctor to explain the symptoms.
They essentially told me to hold off until tomorrow morning. I was like, “Okay, cool. I’ll take Advil and do that.” Lo and behold, throughout the night, my fever had spiked higher and higher. I don’t remember much of what happened, but I know at some point my ex-husband demanded I call in with my temperature above 105.
They still told me to ride it out at home, so in my brain cooked state, I thought, “Yeah, okay.” Well, thank goodness at one point, my ex got fed up and fireman carried me to the car and drove me to the hospital where I’d just finished my ER internship. My fever was still 106 or above, and my heart rate was a bit over.
What I remember most vividly was the shock at my triage rating, 2/5! That’s what they made possible heart attacks. All the nurses and techs shook their heads at me like, “Dude, you know these things! Why didn’t you come in sooner?” First of all, nurses don’t seek care for anything. Get help if you get a fever over 106!
For months, my friend had stomach pain, very sharp pains, that she ignored. She was not eating real food anymore because anything she ate came up, so she was surviving on popsicles for months. One day, she went with her sister to a fair, and as they were walking from the parking spot to the fair, she twisted her ankle.
She was in pain but ignored it. She went to work the next day. The week later, her foot was swollen, and she could no longer stand at work. She works retail. It’s all she does. Her manager made her leave so she could go to the hospital. After switching several hospitals, they narrowed it down to heart or kidney issues.
Her kidneys had absolutely no function anymore. In fact, doctors could no longer find them on scans. She’s waiting for a new kidney now, she’s on dialysis, and I still have my best friend. Now she tells me when to go to the hospital and sent me so much help and support when I was diagnosed with covid earlier this year.
I had a guy come in complaining of a cough who wasn’t able to swallow; he thought he had tonsillitis and wanted antibiotics. I noticed his voice was hoarse but had no swollen tonsils. I sent him for a chest X-ray. Big, baseball size tumors all throughout his lungs. One of them pressed on the recurrent laryngeal nerve.
That was what was causing his speaking and swallowing problems. He was gone within a week.
My dad went to the hospital for pain back when he used to power lift. A nurse came, looked at her chart, looked back up, and said, "Sir, you are having a heart attack." He got up on the bed and flexed saying, "Does this look like a man that's having a heart attack to you?" She looked at her chart again and then nodded.
While I was deployed to Afghanistan as a medic, a medevac pilot came in because he had a small abnormality on his flight physical EKG. He’d been getting waivers for it for years apparently. I had just finished an A&P class and learned about something that was called Brugada's Syndrome, which is basically an arrhythmia.
It causes sudden cardiac arrest in the patient. I jokingly mentioned how his EKG reminded me of the abnormality I saw in my textbook thinking there was no way he actually had it and it had to be artifact from the EKG. The doctor’s eyes widened, and he sprinted out of the office.
I'm an ER nurse. I cared for a patient who came in because she woke up with a severe headache and a knot on her head. She went to CT for a head scan. There were two bullets in her head. One had gone in at the top of her head just past her hairline and traveled under the skin on top of her skull to the back of her head.
The other went straight in but just fractured the skull behind her ear. It didn't go all the way through. They were smaller caliber bullets. She’d gone to sleep the night before after taking an Ambien, and there was a drive-by shooting on her street. The bullets went through her window, and she slept right through it.
I have male pattern baldness and needed a prescription for hair growth medication from a dermatologist. The doctor said he would give me a prescription but first wanted to do a full skin checkup, which he did for each new patient. I got annoyed by the fact that I had to fully undress for him just for the hair medicine.
A few weeks later, I got a call. There was melanoma cancer on my back. They caught it early enough that it hadn't spread. That checkup saved my life.
There was a lady in ED who had a headache. She basically provided no history and just kept repeating that her head hurt. I tried to get some background, past medical history, etc., but she wouldn't share anything other than, "My head hurts give me something for the pain." On her chart, she had numerous previous visits.
She’d gone in with vague complaints and requests for narcotics, which all resulted in basically nothing, so I initially thought maybe she was drug seeking, but I just had this dark, nagging feeling about it. Thank god I listened to my gut. We decided to scan her head and left to go see other patients. I came back a few minutes later, and her husband was there now.
I asked what happened, and he said she was just standing in the kitchen cooking when all of a sudden, she dropped to her knees and then immediately complained of a horrible headache. While I was speaking to him, she began vomiting all over herself. We rushed her to CT, and she ended up having a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
She had a bleed in her brain. She was taken straight to surgery and ended up being fine after spending about six weeks in the hospital.
We got an older patient in the E.R. because he fell from a stool while replacing a light bulb. The family just wanted him to be checked because he fell on his head. He had nothing. While waiting for the papers, the family started to scream, "Doctor, doctor!" We rushed in. It seemed as if he was having a cardiac arrest.
We put him back on the bed and hooked up an ECG. He had an AV block. So, the reason he probably fell from the stool was because of the AV block. At first, he was such a happy guy and joking around. After we told him what he had, he kept repeating the same thing over and over—those words are still stuck in my memory: "It's in my heart. This means the end is coming.”
I was working a busy emergency department shift, and a man in his 60s walked in with vague abdominal pain symptoms. He came over to the counter after waiting for over an hour in the non-urgent section saying his pain felt worse. He was calm and polite throughout. Next thing we knew, he collapsed, and his heart stopped.
He was having a massive heart attack. We amazingly got his heart going again, and just before we sent him to the catheterization lab, he was sitting up and was as calm and polite as before.
I was studying to be a paramedic, and there was a patient who went in for back pain. They decided to do a bedside ultrasound because they felt a pulsating mass in her abdomen. She was about one funny movement away from her aorta exploding.
I'm an internal medicine resident who's doing rotations in the ICU. If there is an emergency on the floor on admitted patients, the ICU team gets called to see them. We were called to an emergency where an admitted 59-year-old patient got dizzy and almost passed out while on the commode, a portable toilet for patients.
He was first admitted the day before for high fevers and a high white blood cell count, which they believed was some unknown infection. He had no real medical history except high blood pressure and cholesterol. We assessed him. He seemed a little tired but was awake. His vitals were okay, but heart rate was a tad high.
His belly was somewhat tender on examination. We ordered a lactic acid, which is elevated if an organ isn't getting enough oxygen, and a CT scan of his abdomen. The labs were ordered STAT, but since his vitals were fine and his exam was not too alarming, we didn't push for things to be done immediately. I took my break—totally unprepared for what was coming.
I got a call from the radiology resident. The results showed that the patient had ruptured an abdominal aorta and right iliac artery. In other words, the major vessels in the abdomen had completely burst, blood was pouring out at incredible rates, and this patient needed surgical reparation NOW. Survival rates are 10%.
At that point, we ran to the patient, who was still awake but irritable, and his blood pressure was around 60 systolic when normal is 120, which meant this guy was probably bleeding out like crazy. His sister saw the urgency in our faces and just broke down in tears knowing something was wrong. A nurse led her outside.
We gave him fluids to bring his pressure right up and called a vascular surgeon. The surgeon said, "This guy is already gone," but was on his way. But this was a Sunday, and none of the OR team was in the hospital. So, we needed to keep him alive while we waited for the surgeon and his team. His blood pressure went up.
It was 110 systolic, but it didn’t mean much. His belly suddenly got crazy distended, and his heart rate fell to the 40s with ST elevations seen on the monitor. He was having a heart attack due to decreased oxygen. His pressures tanked, and we lost a pulse. It was time to start chest compressions and intubate the guy.
We got his pulse back, and his pressure surprisingly came back to an acceptable range. What happened was that the blood had filled his abdomen to its max capacity, so all that abdominal pressure was causing his belly to get distended and hold the blood in its vessel. The guy was hemodynamically stable for another hour.
He finally made it to the operating room. The team was ready for quick action. The team had a few seconds to clamp off the vessel while they tried to repair it. But as soon as they cut the abdomen open, blood poured out at a rapid rate. The pressure dropped so fast that the patient was gone within seconds on the table.
I had a 65-year-old guy who was diagnosed with lymphoma eight months before. He lived one hour out of the city and didn't want to drive in for treatment so decided he wouldn't get any at all and stayed at his remote place in the country by himself. Essentially, because it had not been treated, it spread along his skin.
His neighbors called an ambulance while popping by. It’d spread so far that it went from his head to his knees. It had started to invade his eyes and mouth membranes. He couldn't drink and could barely see. His skin had started to slough off, and he was so severely dehydrated because he was losing so much excess fluid.
It was all coming from his open skin, and we had to treat him like a severe burn patient. The consultant said if he had received treatment, there was a chance he could have recovered. Instead, he was gone three weeks later.
The worst I’ve ever seen was a man in his 50s who drank and had anxiety problems. His neighbors brought him in for a “facial infection.” We found out that he had squamous cell skin cancer, which made him look a lot like the Batman villain Two-Face. The CT scan of showed it had spread into his lymph nodes and mandible.
The skin on his face was literally sloughing off as I spoke with him, and the smell was absolutely horrible. I’d never almost vomited in a room except until now. I asked him why he waited, and he said he was just terrified of doctors and hospitals and I believe him. He was really anxious the entire time he was in our ED.
His neighbors were saints. They said they had been trying to get him to the hospital for months but he wouldn’t come in. We transferred him to a tertiary hospital with ENT and cancer specialists. When I checked his chart a few days later, they basically said he was terminal.
I’m an OR RN and got called in for an exploratory laparotomy. Some late staff had gotten the case ready and patient in the room when I arrived. I walked into the room to see the patient’s testicle was bigger than a basketball with two people holding it up to prep it. The guy had a big part of his bowel in his testicle.
His bowel had ruptured due to the pressure. We suctioned poop out of his abdomen for over an hour. He lifted something heavy the week before and felt a pop. He hadn’t urinated in two days because it was so swollen that his thing was not visible. That’s why he finally came in, he couldn’t pee. But it’d grown for a week.
Unfortunately, he didn’t make it. He lived through three abdominal surgeries, but sepsis did him in from the ruptured bowel.
My dad felt lousy for two weeks one December. He didn’t know what was wrong; he just figured he had gotten a bug somewhere. After a couple of weeks, he started feeling better again, yay! Less than a week later, he started feeling terrible again, and this time it was bad enough his girlfriend took him to an urgent care.
The people at the urgent care told them to get to the emergency room ASAP. Like, get there yesterday. So, she took him to the emergency room. They started checking him in…and we lost him. It turned out he’d been leaking stomach acid into his abdomen.
I had an older female patient come in for abnormal labs secondary to extreme diarrhea. Her potassium was critically low, and her other labs were out of whack. We learned that she had had at least five totally liquid stools for six weeks before she came to get treatment. Her poor, poor bottom. It was red and excoriated.
I set up group health for a company and was helping the employee pick out his health plan. He said that he hadn’t been able to the doctor since he got off Medicaid at 18. For ten years, he’d been walking around with a split skull, and you could actually stick a penny in the crack. A big cyst had formed in his forehead.
He told me he had been randomly going blind and blacking out for three years, and it was getting worse lately. This guy worked on top of buildings doing construction and driving a work van for the company, and they had no idea. Some days, he wouldn’t come into work, and they thought he was just passed out or something.
No, he was out with migraine blindness. I told the guy to go immediately the next day and not wait for his stupid card to come in the mail.
The patient had a small cut on their leg and had asked their family doctor for "medical maggots" to help heal the wound. The family physician obviously denied. The patient went home, opened up a can of cat food, and left it out until it was covered in maggots. We went over several months after beginning self-treatment.
The maggots created an insane infection. I never found out if they were able to cure it or if they had to amputate the leg.
I had just gotten my first job out of college at the local hospital. My first week went by with the usual stitches and broken bones. My second week around midnight, this very obese woman came in complaining of chest pains. So, we rushed her back, grabbed her vitals, and did an EKG and blood work. Everything was normal—or so it seemed.
The problem was, she was still complaining of chest pain. So, my supervisor and I asked the lady if we could do a head to toe check-up. Now this woman had a rather pungent smell to her when she came in, but I have learned to not think of it as the people in the area weren't known for their cleanliness. We were looking at her chest.
I noticed that her left breast was reddened and swollen. I told her that I was going to lift up her breast to rule out any skin infections. As I lifted up her breast, a wave of noxious stench engulfed the air around me. As I kept lifting her breast, I could see what looked a mass of rotting tissue going into her chest.
My supervisor ran out of the exam room and proceeded to vomit in the nearest trash can. I looked at the lady and asked her why she didn't come in earlier as it looked like a massive skin infection was raging under her left breast. She replied that she did not have insurance and that she didn't think it was a huge deal.
I called in some nurses and the doctor to assist cleaning the wound. As we’re cleaning, one nurse noticed a bit of fur and bone. That's when we made the most horrifying discovery of my career. We found out it’s a small animal of sorts. They collected the sample and sent it to pathology. We removed it and noticed that it had rotted into her chest so much that her ribs could be seen.
In the end, it was the lady’s missing kitten. She spent four months in the hospital for massive sepsis and other related issues.
I had a guy come into my clinic one day with a complaint of finger swelling. His finger got swollen and painful about a week prior. It just got worse and worse, and about three days before coming, a hole opened up in the tip of his finger. The day of the visit, he said, “By the way, I pulled something out of the hole." The second he said it, my stomach dropped.
“I did it yesterday with a pair of tweezers, no idea what it is.” I asked him if he took a picture or had it, and he produced a tissue from his shirt pocket. It was his distal phalanx, the last bone in the finger. The bone had gotten infected, did its thing, and his body basically tried to eject what was now a hot foreign body.
The guy pulled his fingertip out of his fingertip. A better magic trick, I have not since seen.
I was sitting in a hostel with an emergency nurse and an emergency doctor who had just learned that while they worked on different continents, they did similar work. We were happily chatting along, and this older guy walked in. He overheard that they're in the medical field and asked a question. He showed them his leg—the sight of it is still burned into my memory.
It had large black spots on it everywhere below the knee. Both the nurse and the doctor looked at it and immediately said, "You have to go see emergency services. That leg is necrotic. You'll lose the leg if not your life.” He said, "Ha, that's what my doctor said too. But the leg feels fine, I would know if it’s bad.”
He finished with, “You’re wrong. Besides, I'm not going to ruin my vacation by seeking medical treatment,” which left me wondering why he asked in the first place. He went to sit at the bar, and over the course of the evening, both the nurse and the doctor unsuccessfully tried to get him to understand that he may not even have ten days.
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