Confused Doctors Share Their ‘How Are You Even Alive Right Now’ Stories
Doctors are some of the toughest people in the world. They go to school twice as long (and longer) than anyone else. They work long hours and impossible schedules. Seeing human beings at their worst – people in pain, people near death, people who are sick and wondering whether they’ll live – is just part of the grind every single day.
You might think that after a few years on the job, your average doctor is a lot like your average New Yorker – they’ve seen it all. But sometimes a case falls into a doc’s lap that even they can’t explain or comprehend.
The doctors of Reddit were asked about the most extreme medical cases they’ve ever seen. These are the patients who walked in, and the doc’s first thought was, “how are you still alive?” It might make you feel like your odds of surviving out there in the world are pretty good! Mostly, it’ll make you laugh. Check it out.
#25 The Guy Who Couldn’t Use A Thermometer
Patient stabbed himself in the neck with a thermometer that pierced his trachea. Missed all the important arteries (carotids, vertebral); just hit some minor nerves.
The good guy/patient provided his own temperature reads until they removed the thermometer.
#24 The Slip Of A Kitchen Knife
My dad’s a doctor, so I asked him about when he couldn’t believe someone was alive.
When he was an intern in the ER, someone walked in the front door with a kitchen knife sticking out between his eyes to the handle. The knife went through his sinus cavity and ended with the tip in his throat, millimeters from his brain stem. He goes into surgery and walks out of the ICU the next day. My dad says he is the luckiest man he ever saw.
#23 The Body Writes Its Own Rules
Guy comes in with a bit of chest pain. Tells me the big coronary artery on the front of the heart was 100% blocked.
I tell him “who told you that?”
He says his doctor did about 10 years ago.
I don’t believe him since patients never ever get any of the stuff their doctor tells them right.
I let the cardiac surgeon know what this guy said and he too goes “haha 100%? So, he’s dead?”
If the biggest coronary artery is totally occluded (and for 10 years, no less), you are a dead man. Lo and behold, we get an angiogram and it was 100% occluded.
The artery on the back of the heart made a connection with the front of the heart to pick up the slack. It was some lucky stuff.
#22 Time To Stop Drinking
Blood alcohol of .730
Too much blood in their alcohol system.
#21 The Knife Beat From His Heart
I had a guy with a Bowie knife sticking out of his chest. The knife was pulsating.
I could literally count his pulse from across the room.
#20 The Bum Deal
Hemoglobin count of 35 (3.5) in a 35-year-old guy with a chronic rectal bleed he’d refused to have looked into for months because he didn’t want anyone lookin’ at his bottom.
He was finally brought to the ER by ambulance when he fainted (AKA “started dying”) in a grocery store.
#19 The Improbable Recovery From Suicide
Guy had an argument with his girlfriend, wanted to leave the apartment. Instead of taking the door, he was really angry and jumped off the balcony. He fell down 40 feet directly on his heels on cement. He ended up having an ankle sprain.
I wondered how he managed previous issues in his life.
#18 The Glass That Didn’t Move
I used to work as a clerk in diagnostic imaging at a hospital and we had a man come in for an X-ray complaining of chest pain.
His records showed his last visit was two years prior when he got drunk and fell into a fish tank, breaking it. ER stitched him up and sent him home. Fast forward two years, and we are all gathered around the computer screen looking at an X-ray that showed a 12-inch-long piece of fish tank glass sitting in his chest, with his aorta resting right on top of it (it was on an angle running from his left shoulder down towards his right hip).
There were other shards of glass too, but this one was the biggest. Emergency surgery happened right away.
#17 Some Folk Are Just Plain Lucky
Simply meeting someone who was 110 years old.
#16 The Lazarus Moment
Had a patient come in confused and delirious because his kidneys were shutting down. He had multiple myeloma and a history of colon cancer plus a bunch of other things. He was jaundiced and needed to be shocked several times.
The physicians, residents, and even the family thought he was going to die. The man insisted on full measures to keep him alive.
He recovered in the span of five days. His kidneys improved, his delirium evaporated, and the man, incredibly, walked out of the ICU.
#15 A Trial Procedure Saves A Life
About 20 years ago, I had a patient come in with obstruction of his colon thanks to colon cancer. The cancer had spread to his liver, and a CT scan showed the liver basically replaced by metastatic tumor.
He wouldn’t die on intestinal obstruction (I won’t go into detail, but trust me, it is a very unpleasant way to die) so the patient, his family, and I decided to try placing an expandable metal stent through the tumor. It worked! His obstruction was relieved and he was able to go home to spend his last days with his family.
Eighteen months later, the patient came in for an office visit… for heartburn. He was even more jaundiced than when I first met him, but he felt basically well and was eating well. The stent was still functioning. I never saw him again and assume he finally succumbed to his disease, but he got at least 18 months of precious and really GOOD time.
#14 A Car Fell On His Face
A patient I took care of had a car fall on his face. He was underneath it working when it slid off of the jack. The only reason he survived was that he broke every bone in his face (he had a Lefort III) which allowed his brain to swell. He also needed an additional surgery to relieve the pressure of cerebral edema, but the facial fractures did allow for a great deal of “give” in his skull.
I was rotating through ICU (Intensive Care Unit) so I first saw him just a day after the accident. His head was so swollen he didn’t even look human. Fast forward a few weeks later, I was rotating through a different unit in the hospital and came across the same patient. He was quickly recovering and had minimal neuro deficits.
#13 The Ripstick Miracle
Not a doctor, but I’ve been a paramedic for 15 years. Had an 8-year-old kid on a ripstick (similar to a skateboard) lose control and roll into the path of an oncoming SUV in his neighborhood. He was hit by, then run over, by it. We arrived to find him face-down under the vehicle, unconscious, barely breathing.
After all was said and done, he had bilateral femur fractures, one lower leg fracture, multiple rib fractures, a blown pupil, an open skull fracture, subdural brain bleed, a tension pneumo (air escaping lungs into the chest cavity which will squish the lungs and heart if untreated), and when we were bagging him (breathing for him), we felt subcutaneous emphysema (free air that crackles like rice crispies/bubble wrap) in his hip. Yes, hip.
We flew him to the children’s hospital expecting him to die within the hour. He was in a coma for days and had to have multiple surgeries, but made a complete recovery (100% neurologically intact as well) and graduates high school in the spring. This was such an amazing case, the hospital made him one of their “miracle kids of the year.”
#12 The Bouncing Bullet
Not a doctor, but I encountered a woman that was shot point-blank in the head by her boyfriend. Bullet entered one of her eye sockets and exited above her ear on the same side. She called 911 on her own and survived, was in ICU for weeks, and testified against the jerk who is now thankfully in prison!
#11 Don’t Use A Weapon
Anesthesiologist here. There’s a dozen, but they all tend to blend together. Usually the most impressive are the failed traumatic suicide attempts.
A weapon under the chin can completely remove a face and frontal lobe of the brain while leaving the patient very much alive. Tends to remind you of Predator.
#10 Scoliosis Is Not Insurmountable
I design spine implants for a living. Every now and then, I’ll be in a case of severe adolescent scoliosis.
With corrective surgery, patients like this can go on to live very healthy lives. Blows my mind.
#9 The Assassination Attempt
Story time. First, some backstory. In Brazil, you can get an internship way earlier than in most American and European med schools, so keep that in mind.
I was in my 4th year of med school and on the first day as an intern in a trauma hospital (after training), there was a bus crash, so all the staff was occupied when a woman came in screaming: “I AM GOING TO DIE! I GOT SHOT IN THE HEAD!” When I look up, I see a really thin woman, deep eyes, white as snow skin, with a bullet hole in the center of her forehead. She told us she owed money to a dealer and he put a weapon against her head, shot, and ran. Now, I believe her because she has burn marks and gunpowder right there in her skin (and a hole).
Now, remember that I am a student, and there were no available doctors at the moment. So I run to my professor and tell her story, and also mention that she is lucid with normal life signs, and get an order to do a CT scan.
The CT shows that the bullet entered the forehead through the first layer of the frontal bone, but not the second, and headed down through her palate and stopped at a vertebra (c5 if I recall correctly). No brain damage at all.
So we admit her and a tracheostomy is put in place, along with emergency reconstructive surgery (only a first, not definitive, approach), along with a cervical collar.
After she is stable, three hours later in her room, we go down to see other patients. The emergency room then gets a call:
“Hello. We are from the X hospital (20km away from ours) and we found a patient of yours in our emergency.”
Then the nurses on the floor realize she was missing.
She jumped a 3rd-floor window, broke her ankle, and got in a bus and went the other hospital. Why?
“I saw him in here, he came to finish the job.”
And before you ask, yes, some people lost their jobs.
#8 A Ghost Of The Past And Future
As a very junior doctor, I looked after this mega-alcoholic who needed ascites (fluid in the abdomen caused by liver failure) tapping out every month or so. He kept coming in a worse and worse shade of yellow/ green (jaundice), needing more and more fluid removed, still merrily drinking all the while. Well, the obvious happened — he died.
So I wander into the ward a few weeks later to find him sitting there in bed, green as you like, looking very alive.
Turned out it was his twin, also an alcoholic, also not to live much longer.
#7 The Case Of The Upside Down Lung
Pathologist here: Had a guy who had died suddenly and unexpectedly. I soon learned he was the recipient of a lung transplant about 15 years prior.
When I opened the man up, his transplanted lung was upside down. I flipped the lung into the proper position, and bloop. It flipped right back to upside down. That was quite alarming.
The surgeons who originally performed the transplant incorrectly attached the organ.
When he, by chance, entered the correct position, the lung flipped over, causing his pulmonary artery to seal shut, resulting in his death.
The man lived for 15 years with a lung that was dying to flip upside down. And it was only by sheer chance he didn’t move in such a way that allowed it to do so until the fateful day of his death. It is one of the most fascinating cases I have ever witnessed.
#6 They Left A Wire In Him
Presented with abdominal pain, walked into the ED with a pH of 6.9, lactate of 24 and acute renal failure from metformin toxicity.
He got a dialysis catheter placed and some idiot left the wire in, nobody realized that, got dialyzed through the line and coded in dialysis.
Resuscitated, they discovered the wire in his heart on the post-code chest x-ray, transferred to us for removal of the wire in IR. Walked out 5 days later.
#5 Where Have All The Lungs Gone?
I have thought that after seeing some CT scans of lungs in severe COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). It’s like there is no normal lung tissue, just huge air pockets. It is hard to see how they exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide at all.
#4 How Many???
Also not a doctor, but my very elderly great-great uncle just had a sextuple heart bypass. Had four prior heart attacks. How he was still functioning somewhat normally before his last heart attack I honestly don’t know.
#3 He Walked Away From Death
Had a gentleman in his late 50s come in with multiple myeloma. A short history of progressively worsening breathlessness and it turned out he had a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in his lungs). He was a good candidate for surgery, so he had the blood clot removed, but unfortunately, the clot had caused such bad issues with his heart (acute right heart failure) that he couldn’t be weaned off the bypass machine. Instead, he went to ICU on ECMO (like a circuit for your heart and lungs outside the body to give your heart/lungs time to “rest”). His chest was still open (cannulated centrally) but covered up with sterile stuff.
After three days, he was booked to be weaned off the ECMO or at least have the tubes put in peripherally so his chest could be closed. Morning of the procedure while he’s waiting to be moved, somehow the tubing of the ECMO machine broke (oxygenator tube) and blood spilled all over the floor and he went into cardiac arrest. The Cardiothoracic consultant had to do internal cardiac massage (basically CPR on the heart by squeezing it via his still-open chest) until the circuit got fixed and he returned to a normal circulation. He ended up going to OT and having his chest closed, but he had more clots pulled out of his pulmonary arteries (clots had recurred).
At this point, I thought this guy was utterly unlikely to survive. I figured if he even lived long enough to be woken up, he’d have some degree of ischaemic brain injury. After about two weeks, the guy left ICU and a week later went to rehabilitation. Speaking, walking, cognitively largely intact.
It was one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever seen during my short career.
#2 Drinking Is Not Going To Save Your Life. Usually.
Not a doctor, but a few years ago I was called to the hospital to go see my friend unexpectedly. Once there, the doctors told me my friend should be dead, if not in a coma.
What had happened was that day my town had a beer-fest on the Main Street, $20 all you could drink. We all partook, but I was sober at the time so I just enjoyed watching my friends get ripped.
Fast forward to later that afternoon when all my friends had moved on to a friend’s house, but now hard alcohol was involved. I went home at this point because I wasn’t in the party mood. My good friend hit it hard, though. He was GONE. Three sheets to the wind overly merry. He ended up taking another friend’s scooter out for a joyride. Ended up wrecking it pretty darn hard on his head.
When I showed up at the hospital, there were bloody rags everywhere. He was conscious and a big smile went across his overly-merry mug when I walked in. Then he tried to escape. Pulling IVs and wires off him, but I stopped him. He blew a .35 a few hours after the accident. He was a pretty heavy drinker, tolerance saved him. Doctors told me they were in shock he wasn’t in a coma or dead. Needless to say, it humbled him out pretty well.
#1 Sounds Like They Treated Our Favorite Merc With A Mouth
I’m a medic, not a doctor, but my first week or so on the job we picked up the town regular. The nurse didn’t even need me to say anything, but let me see his admission record. If there was one visit per line it probably would have been at least 10-15 pages.
Multiple stabbings, shootings, beatings, substance, and ETOH (ethanol withdrawal), problems out the ear. He was set on fire twice and hit by two or three cars at highway speed.
He was just unkillable.