Doctors Share Their Horrible Patient Stories
If there’s any profession that involves a lot of cringe-worthy stories, it’s the medical profession. Doctors, nurses, and hospital workers see odd things every day. Add in a couple of horrible patients and you’ve got yourself some interesting experiences to share at the dinner table.
This article takes a look into some of the most horrible cases that real doctors have come across. Strap yourself in for some truly shocking tales of near-death experiences, dangerous DIY projects, and dumb decisions.
Don’t forget to check the comment section below the article for more interesting stories!
#1 Cup of Broken Water
I work in the ER. We had a very pregnant patient come in needing stitches in her nether regions. Turns out she was a realtor and didn’t want her water to break while she was showing a house, so she put a glass cup in her pants to catch the water. Instead of using a pad or an adult diaper, she went for a GLASS CUP. She sat down while showing a house and sure enough, it broke and cut her up pretty bad.
#2 I Like To Think I’m “One” With Nature
Had a patient come into the ER with a makeshift bandage on his shin. He had fallen on rocks while hiking and left a three inch long, half inch deep gash in his leg. I go to pull the bandage off and as I’m peeling it away I notice the skin is completely black and there are dark chunks of fungus falling out of the wound. It looked necrotic-like it had been left alone for a week.
I look at this guy like he’s crazy as he tells me the wound is only a few hours old. He’s pretty proud as he explains that he created a makeshift poultice by chewing up leaves and moss, mixing it with river mud and stuffing it into his leg. That’s what all the black mossy stuff was.
#3 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.
#4 Half-Diet Soda
Was working at a clinic. I was speaking with a non-controlled diabetic patient about her sugar intake and she said she drinks a 32 oz. soda every day. I ask her if it’s regular or diet, and she replies with “It’s half-regular. I let the ice melt first, so there isn’t as much sugar in it.” Sorry, but that isn’t how it works.
#5 Dude, Your Foot Is Rotten. Don’t You Smell That?
I’m a Firefighter and EMT. We got a call this winter for someone having a seizure. We get there and it’s a dude sitting on his porch with some friends. I forget the actual chain of events but someone says we need to look at his foot.
He takes his shoe off and his foot is rotting away. The smell was horrifying. Turns out his heater broke during a cold snap 2 weeks before, he fell asleep and apparently his foot got frostbite. Thank god he lived around the corner from the hospital because even with all the windows open the smell was overwhelming.
#6 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.
#7 Smuckers Jelly
Had a young woman with recurring urinary tract infections that began after a recent partner. She had no STDs and we went through the standard questions trying to figure out what could be causing them. We eventually found out that she had been lubricating with jelly. Not KY jelly. Like, Smucker’s. The mix-up had literally been a joke on the TV show House. It took me some effort to keep a straight face, but we eventually resolved the problem and she stopped getting UTIs.
#8 Just Put’A Windex On It
Finally, something I can add to! 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 beginning, I could tell she was really stopped up with her nasally voice and her history and exam were consistent with a 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.” (It was June.) Patient: “Yeah, I guess I wasn’t sure it was; I’ve been spraying Lysol everywhere and it doesn’t seem to be doing any good, and it says it kills the flu virus.” Me: “Well, that’s something that could help disinfect the house and keep the virus from spreading.” Patient: “I guess, I just wish it didn’t burn so much.” Me: “…what do you mean, ‘it burns’?” Patient: “You know, when I spray it up my nose it burns so bad.”
Yep. My patient thought that since Lysol kills influenza the best way to nip it in the bud was to flush her sinuses with it like a saline spray. The fact that I didn’t immediately fall over laughing and instead seriously counseled her against ever doing that again is still the greatest feat of composure in my entire career.
When the label on Lysol says “not for internal use”, they mean it.
#9 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.
#10 Fart Attack
A lady comes screaming into the ER. Now, she’s all dressed up, and so are her two grown daughters. All of them screaming hysterically that their mother is going to die. I go by them and nearly get tackled by the husband of one of the daughters. “Save her, she’s having an embolism.” Shaken, I examine the lady, asked her where she was coming from—a wedding, that explained the dress. She apparently ate a bit too much of the potatoes that were served at the wedding. A shot of pantoprazole later, her embolism is gone. She just had a bad case of gas.
#11 Because I’m A Thug…
Dental student here.
We had a patient who declined a much-needed cleaning saying he could do it just as well at home with a scalpel. Didn’t brush his teeth but every few weeks he would go at the accumulated plaque and tartar with a scalpel.
The same patient also insisted we do a procedure without local anesthetic. He was an amateur boxer and was “building up his pain tolerance.”
He also told us he smoked all day and only drank Coca-Cola. We could tell.
#12 Time To Stop Drinking
Blood alcohol of .730
Too much blood in their alcohol system.
#13 Dehydration Therapy
I had a patient who was a completely non-compliant diabetic smoker who had his first heart attack at 45. His blood pressure was also super high. And instead of taking his anti-hypertensive medications, he went to the gym. In the gym, he would sit in the sauna for a very long time, sweat a lot, and lower his blood pressure by becoming dehydrated.
#14 Hardcore? Or Idiot?
A guy put white bread soaked in milk on an armpit abscess to draw out infection. He needed an I&D and a couple weeks of IV antibiotics by the time he got to us.
Then there was the guy who crashed his motorbike, scraped his leg to kibbles and bits and then decided the best course of action was to self-cauterize it on his tailpipe.
#15 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.
#16 Fast Food Treatment
A patient had low blood pressure. Their self-treatment plan was to eat more fatty foods, in order to decrease the size of their blood vessels in order to increase the blood pressure within their system…
#17 Throw Some Sugar On It
So sugar can 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. Asked my patient about it, offered to change it for them (we didn’t typically do that in our clinic), they said yes. I go get fresh bandages and what not, take the old one off and it’s just sticky and stringy (picture the slo-mo shots of caramel being pulled apart) and it smelled.
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. Maple syrup… They used maple syrup.
#18 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 Bacon Wrap
We had a diabetic foot patient a couple weeks ago who thought that wrapping his foot in raw bacon would help get rid of bacteria. He’d apparently been doing it awhile, ‘cause it cost him four toes.
#20 I’m Pretty Sure This Is Child Abuse
My grandpa thought a “leg discrepancy was causing my back pain, which was causing spasms.” He put several pieces of cardboard in my shoes to try to even out my legs which were already even.
(He also thinks black beans cure everything.)
My dad thought those pesky spasms were due to a pinched nerve, so he would take me to the chiropractor to get my neck cracked when it happened.
Seizures, people. They were seizures.
#21 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.
#22 Radical Cure
I had a pregnant woman whose ultrasound showed the baby had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. It means the baby has half a heart, and it’s 100% fatal without surgery. She stopped seeing her obstetrician so she could have the baby in the forest and bathe it in breast milk to cure him.
#23 You Might’ve Gone Too Deep Buddy
When I worked in the ER, my colleague had to see a guy with an ear problem. He had something stuck in his ear and had been trying to get it out. This wasn’t a new thing, he’d been trying for some time.
Turned out, he had completely removed his tympanic membrane, and the “bits” that were stuck in his ear and that he was trying to pick out with cotton buds and hair clips, were his ossicles.
#24 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.
#25 Home Sweet Home
Most of my own stories go along similar lines to “patient has chest pain driving a coach load of school children, thinks its indigestion, swigs bottle of Gaviscon, later diagnosed with a huge heart attack.” My favorite ever story from a colleague: a patient comes in with abdominal pain. As part of the work up, he gets an abdominal X-ray, which shows the problem as clear as day.
The colleague has then proceeded to remove, from the patient’s rectum, an 8-inch replica of Nelson’s Column, the statue in the center of Trafalgar Square in London. On showing it to the patient, his response was: “Oh that’s Nelson, he lives up there.” Like, what?
#26 No Problem, I’ll Just Cut It Open Myself
We had a guy come in with an abscess on his right thumb. When I asked him what happened to his hand, he told me about his recent deep sea fishing trip and was given the responsibility of cutting the fish with an open wound in his hand. A sliver of fish got in there and became infected as it healed, so this guy gets the bright idea of doing a little DIY wound drainage by grabbing his pocket knife and cutting it open, leading to a greater infection.
#27 Some Folk Are Just Plain Lucky
Simply meeting someone who was 110 years old.
#28 Shove It up Your Nose
I’ve got two stories that stick out in my mind. The first is the mother of a toddler who came into emergency. The kid had cruddy stuff coming out of his left nostril, and a lot of redness and swelling of only the left side of his nose and the adjacent cheek. Mom was sure he caught a sinus infection and just wanted some antibiotics.
Now, I know some kids like shoving whatever will fit into their bodily orifices, and that this was more than likely given the one-sided nature of his condition. But Mom was insistent that he NEVER puts things in his nose. It took some convincing, but I finally got her to let me take a look. Gave a squirt of midazolam in the good nostril to settle him, then dug with some tweezers through the crud until I pulled out a big ole button battery—like the kind they use in watches. It would’ve been burning his nose for a couple days. Hopefully, he healed up well.
#29 People Seriously Use Duct Tape For Everything
This happened when I was still a med student doing a rotation in the ED. A patient comes in and is pretty vague about his actual complaint, something about head pain but he looks just fine sitting waiting to be seen. When I finally get to see him and ask him what actually happened, he removes the hat he was wearing and a chunk of skin about the size of my hand literally flaps off of his skull.
This guy managed to basically scalp himself, and apparently, it had been like that for 3 days. According to him, it was caused by falling in his bathroom and hitting his head on the toilet. He had been previously duct taping it down or using the hat to hold the skin on, but it wasn’t sticking well and that’s when his wife convinced him to come to the hospital.
#30 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.
#31 Bad Diet
I had a patient who had a hard time getting pregnant. She finally conceived but miscarried. She has a procedure to clear the uterine lining so that she can try again, this time with medical help. We monitor her blood to ensure the pregnancy hormone is gone before beginning the new treatment. But she keeps coming back with high levels of hormone.
Docs are worried because she might have some retained placenta or pituitary disorder and this could be super bad for future fertility. We call her in for a conversation about the hormone levels not clearing up. After talking together about what might be wrong, they are going to go home and think about further tests. She says “I need to go. I have an appointment at the weight-loss center for an HCG shot.”
Turns out that she is on the HCG diet. HCG IS the pregnancy hormone. And this was after an hour of the docs saying “We don’t know why you have these constant high levels of HCG in your blood and we are worried.”
#32 Jesus Approves Of Hospitals You Know
A neighbor came over to borrow a chainsaw. I noticed he had a thick bandage around his arm and asked him what happened? He said he fell out of a tree last week and cut his arm. I asked if he got stitches and he said he just wrapped it and his family is praying over it. About 4 days later I saw his wife and she said he was really sick and may have the flu? Come to find out he had septicemia and was dying. He died a week later of kidney failure and sepsis.
#33 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.
A patient inquiring about birth control was adamant she wanted an IED (improvised explosive device).
#35 There’s Naturopathic Treatment And Then There’s Denial
I am not a medical professional, but my father in law had severe skin cancer. He basically had an open sore on his back for several years that bled and bled. We never knew about it until one day we saw a pancake-sized crater through his shirt. Went to the hospital finally and they basically said he has cancer throughout his whole body at this point.
His response was he thought it was a cut that wouldn’t heal and put gauze and Neosporin on it.
#36 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.
#37 Making It up
I told a patient’s mother that his heart rate sped up in response to pain as a “physiological” response. She exploded at me and got very confrontational. Turns out she thought I was saying it was “psychological,” or all in his head.
#38 Got Staples?
Not me, but my boss (mother of the child I care for) is a nurse practitioner. I asked her what the worst thing she had witnessed was. She continued on to tell me the story of a man who had stapled his scrotal sac together and onto his body after “slipping with the razor.” He had it that way for days, metal holding his poor parts in place, infected and gross as you would expect before he came to a professional. He later admitted his ex attempted to castrate him. He and his parts lived.
#39 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.”
#40 Bigger Isn’t Always Better
An ER physician told me this one: a 16-year-old boy presented to the ER with extremely swollen and discolored genitals. Apparently, he has been using his mom’s insulin needles to draw blood out of his arm and inject it into his own genitals. He thought that adding blood would help increase his size. His penis was terribly infected and he was hospitalized for a week or so.
#41 “There’s A Bird Inside Of Me!”
When I was an Internal Medicine resident I came across a very nice 50-year-old Dominican lady, she was well mannered but one could tell she was not the sharpest tool in the shed. As I was prepping her chart for our first visit, I noticed that she’d been seen by every single digestive disease MD in our hospital system. Not only that, she’d had EVERY SINGLE PROCEDURE IN THE BOOK. Ranging from endoscopies up both holes and culminating in an exploratory laparotomy.
All of this because for years she had one single complaint, she reported severe gnawing pain in her stomach. At this point, I should mention that she was Spanish speaking only. Not only that she had a very heavy Dominican accent, and I was the first Hispanic doctor to ever see her. My first language is Spanish and even I had difficulty understanding her. So she comes in and after exchanging some first-time pleasantries I politely ask her how she’s doing. Sure enough, although she was smiling and said she felt well she pointed at her belly and said “it” was biting again, and asked for the cream to kill “it”.
At this point, I was intrigued. Her medication list only mentioned a cream used for herpes breakthroughs. The previous fellow only mentioned in his note that in every single visit she only asked for the cream and nothing else. When I asked what she meant by the biting and what she intended to do with the cream, she very calmly tells me she intended to stick the cream up her behind in order to kill the bird living inside her.
After delving more deeply into her story, it turns out she didn’t have a medical condition. Ever since she was a little girl, she believed that after eating whole quail egg, the bird had spawned inside her and gnawed away in her insides whenever she was very hungry. After a short visit to psych, she was diagnosed with a somatic type delusional disorder. No amount of medication or psychotherapy will cure her, but she is still a fully functional mother of two who pays her taxes and has two part-time jobs. I reached out to every digestive disease doctor in our hospital system once more to make sure she never receives an inappropriate invasive intervention. I’ve been following her now for three years and she’s happy as one can be, considering she has a bird living inside her…
#42 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!
#43 Wishful Thinking
I’m part of a military medical unit, not a doctor, but I once had a patient tell me that there was no credible research that showering was bad for one’s health. Okay.
#44 All Of The Worst In One
Had a dude try and pull out a rotted tooth with pliers. Had a kid drug test, so to “cleanse” his system he drank a jar of pickle juice and then busted open a bunch of niacin pills. Had a patient with festering leg wounds that wrapped them with tampons and duct tape. (First time I saw maggots in a wound.)
Had a patient stuff raw bacon in their nose to stop a bleed. (But it actually kind of worked??!) Waaaay to many people with big pus collections under their skin that get tipsy and stab them with broken glass or something else sharp. Stop watching YouTube.
#45 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.
#46 Disease Machine
Optician here. We had a patient who refused to let us use the tonometer, which is a machine that checks ocular internal pressure to diagnose glaucoma. He said that machine gives you glaucoma, and we weren’t going to pull that on him. He told us his father got an exam, and had glaucoma after using that machine.
His uncle and brother also had no signs of glaucoma, and after getting the puff test, both people had been diagnosed with the disease. Glaucoma doesn’t have any outward symptoms before you start going blind. This idiot just told me he has a very strong familial disposition to glaucoma and refused to be tested for it.
#47 When Hippie Goes Wrong
A patient was told by her doc that she had low magnesium and should consider supplements. Not uncommon. Instead of getting Mg supplements, she ate an entire tub of “naturopathic volcanic ash” and completely destroyed her electrolyte imbalance and ended up in ICU. We admitted her as a pharmaceutical overdose so Poison Control automatically follows up with you. It was hard to explain to them.
Think of a tub of protein powder, but volcanic ash. Her husband brought it in for the poison control report. You were supposed to mix a scoop in water for the health benefits. She ate the whole tub and had a seizure and wrecked her kidneys. The activated charcoal/volcanic ash vomit that was all over her when she came from the emergency room was hard to clean up.
#48 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.
#49 Annoying Family
An 80-year-old patient was declining with multiple diagnoses and three bedsores. The daughter was adamant that her father was kept on his strict “paleo” diet because that would “supercharge” his healing. She had a stack of diet books. He simply wasn’t getting enough nutrition to heal the ulcers. He didn’t like the diet at all. At some point, you kind of have to stop being polite, and just tell patients/ family members bluntly that you don’t have time for this and what you recommend, and they can do what they want and just document everything. It happens a lot but she sticks out.
#50 Dogs Are Therapeutic, Just Maybe Not This Therapeutic
An old lady told me the rain hurt her arthritis. That’s reasonable.
She also swore that dog spit had healing properties so she let her dogs lick her feet when she felt it coming on. She then wanted to show me a video of said dogs licking said feet.
I swiftly and politely declined.
#51 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.
#52 Tales From the Eye Doctor
As an eye doctor, I’ve seen a lot and could write a book about all the weird ways people neglect their eyes, but three stories in particular stick out. I had a patient tell me they clean their contact lens with MILK because it “gets the acid off them.” I had a patient with a 6-year-old translating for them. They basically couldn’t elaborate on the problem except to say that their eye hurts.
Another patient came in with her hand covering her eye. I asked to see the problem. Her eye looked like a shriveled up grape. The optic nerve was holding onto a shriveled up decayed eye loosely hanging in the orbit. She wanted glasses to fix it. I also had a guy recently come in because “wife made me.” He had tried to use tweezers to remove a piece of metal from his cornea. Didn’t look pretty. I removed the remaining metal rust with a needle and spinning burr tip brush. He needed antibiotics. I told him not to do that again.
#53 Paging Dr. Liar
I am a dental student. One patient, in particular, is a pathological liar. During one visit, they claimed to have gone to medical school. Next visit they said that they were in the Royal Army Dental Corps. Last visit was that they had a PhD. The patient will say things like, “Hey doc, do you need me to move my head mesial or distal?” No. I need you to move your head to the right. “Hey doc, are these cavities being caused by the anaerobic pathology microbes?” No. They are caused by you eating snacks all day and not brushing.
#54 That’s Not What That’s For!
I had a guy come in for coughing and shortness of breath. His lungs sounded terrible. Got a chest x-ray that looked horrible, so I did a CT scan. The radiologist called it the worst case of necrotizing pneumonia he’d ever seen. Dude had a 15% functional lung tissue left. The patient then mentioned things had been worse after he started using a new “breath freshener” spray.
He whipped out one of those BluntEffects concentrated air freshener bottles, supposed to cover up a skunky smell. Labeled “Not For Internal Use”. Apparently, he had been using it like binaca spray and had already gone through 3 bottles.
#55 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.
#56 We Didn’t Start the Fire
Not my story, rather, my colleague’s. A patient was admitted for anemia and a localized cancer was found. She was referred to surgery so that the cancerous cells could be removed. She started telling everyone that it was the doctors who had caused the cancer and that she was doing just fine before coming to the hospital. She lectured the surgeon and my colleague, who pleaded with her to get surgery, so that the cancer doesn’t advance, and yet she refused, saying she knew better and probably didn’t even have cancer…
#57 That Poor Child!
I work in the ER at a trauma center. This guy comes in with his little girl and says that she was bit in the face by the family German shepherd. I immediately take her back assuming that I need to control bleeding. What I encounter is a little girl with a laceration going all the way from over her left eye crossing her nose and mouth. It is not bleeding whatsoever and it seems to have an odd looking substance inside. So I obviously ask the dad what she got inside it.
He responds very proudly with, “Ah yes, I packed the wound with tobacco from my cigarettes and super glue.” Poor girl.
#58 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.
#59 Walking Dead
I didn’t treat this patient, but I was on shift when this guy came in with chest pain. His EKG showed tombstone shapes, meaning he was in the middle of a cardiac episode. He told the emergency doctor, “I want a second opinion before going to the cath lab.” This EKG is unmistakable. The interventionalist had to come down to the emergency department to tell him he was having a heart attack.
#60 Bad Plans
ER nurse here, not a physician, but you may find this interesting. A young adult male presents with multiple abscesses on various parts of his body. He states he injected his boyfriend’s semen into himself, trying to get pregnant. He tells one of the APCs he should have gone with his original plan and tried on his dog first. Somehow, psych clears him. He’s admitted to the floor and gets IV antibiotics. What.
#61 But, Suzanne Somers Did It!
I work in oncology pharmacy. I had a patient die of totally treatable breast cancer because they decided to treat it with mistletoe instead of chemo. All because Suzanne Somers did. Yeah. The Thighmaster lady. Don’t take medical advice from the Thighmaster lady.
#62 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.
#63 Wrong Kind of Doctor
Not a doctor, I’m an optician and at this point, I was a young lady in my mid-twenties. I had a guy come in saying he was a doctor, and he wrote himself a prescription for glasses and he brought frames. A few days later, his lenses come back, he puts on his glasses, and he can’t see. I start going through the possibilities.
Usually, with progressive lenses, it’s an adjustment issue, and they need to sit differently on his face. He completely refuses to let me adjust them. So I check the lenses, and the RX match what he wrote. I try to explain that there’s only two options, either they need to sit differently on his face, or the RX isn’t good. He tells me, “You don’t understand. I’ve had eye surgery for a disease that you’ve never even heard of.”
I offer to remake his lenses to prove a point. His new lenses come in a few days later, and an older coworker is helping him. I told her everything. Again, he can’t see. She tells him, “The young girl who tried to help you last time was trying to explain that if we adjust your glasses you might be able to see out of them. Will you please let me try?” He lets her, and suddenly, he can see—but not perfectly. It turns out that the dummy was a lung doctor and not even an eye doctor.
#64 Humans Are A Little Different Than Cows
Infections of the skin of the external ear canal are common and treatable. Hard to get to though. A dairy farmer (who didn’t have time to see us) got a long rubber tube that he used for something to do with his cows, fed it into his ear canal, then poured cow antibiotics down the tube. He came in when it didn’t work. Seeing a doctor in the United Kingdom is free…
#65 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.
#66 Spread of Hysteria
I had a mom in hysterics because she was convinced that her neighbor’s friend’s stepson’s teacher’s dog has MRSA, so her baby was going to die. It took everything within me to not tell her she was being unreasonable. But it took three hours for me to finally calm her down after I called: infectious control, her pediatrician, her gynecologist, and her family doctor. Yes, I had to call all these people; yes they laughed at me; yes she was beside me the whole time questioning their judgement. I love my job, but at times it makes me crazy!
#67 Hold The Lemons
Paramedic here. Once had to explain to a family that putting lemon juice in the eyes of an unconscious patient isn’t an approved treatment method.
And no, it didn’t work. (It was an interesting moment when I had to explain why his eyes hurt.)
#68 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.
#69 Teaching Moment
I had a patient who was a young child. She came in with an extremely high blood glucose level. Once she was stable we did some teaching and kept her for a few days for observation. For some reason, every time I checked her, her levels would be extremely high, although we were appropriately treating her. Turns out her family would bring her fast food for every meal and hide it in the side table.
#70 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.
#71 Home-Made Bloodletting Machine
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.
So he had no issues for a few weeks, just set the vacuum to pull the blood through the tubing via the needle and drain into the Mason jars. No big deal. One day he isn’t paying attention and sets the vac to “blow” 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.
#72 Who’s the Idiot?
Picture a middle-aged man, but his index finger is five times the size of the rest of his fingers. It smells, it’s leaking pus, there’s necrotic tissue. Basically, one huge infected cancerous finger. He was a firm believer in not taking any sort of medication; including antibiotics or chemo. He died a few weeks later, but he did manage to tell us we were all idiots before he passed away.
#73 This Is A First
A fifty-year-old man swallowed a chicken bone while eating and it got stuck in his throat (upper esophagus). Unable to take it out with his fingers or by coughing, he got a fish hook with a line and tried to rescue the bone with it.
He ended in an emergency room with both the bone and the hook in his esophagus.
#74 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.
#75 It’s Measles, Susan
I was working at a pediatric urgent care facility. A family brings in their 3-year-old unvaccinated son with autism for a weird rash. They couldn’t give me any reason why when I asked them about his vaccination status.
#1 Operation “Save The Peen”
In nursing school, while I was on clinical rotation in urology, there was a man who ended up having his man parts removed. It turned out he had an infection brewing for quite a while and thought the best course of action was placing a sock over it in hope that it would heal. He was generally confused and upset as to why this didn’t work to heal the issue.
#77 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.
#78 Some Extra Skin
Nurse here. The number of American 20-something males who don’t know what circumcision is, is ridiculously high. They think that boys are “born circumcised.” Evidence: New fathers (and mothers) asking me what’s wrong with their newborn son’s genitals. “Ummm… He still has his foreskin. Many parents choose to have it removed when the baby is a couple of days old. It’s called circumcision.” Often followed by a parent’s question: “What’s circumcision?” That’s when I face palm.
#79 Technical Dummy
I had a patient insist: “I didn’t have a heart attack, I had a myocardial infarction.” That’s just the technical term for a heart attack, genius.
#80 Stinky Attitude
Not a doctor but a gastro nurse. We had a recurring patient who was just a really very strange lady. She had a stoma (an artificial opening into an organ needed for certain medical problems) that absolutely stunk to high heavens because, for the last 20 years, she had not been cleaning it properly. Every single day her stoma would come off, because she was twisting the drain tube and wouldn’t allow us to change it.
So this lady was really rude and would shout at us too, and one night shift I couldn’t take it anymore and I snapped at her. I didn’t yell, but I was overly stern about the fact that if she did not let me clean and treat her stoma then the MRSA bacterial infection that she wasn’t able to get rid of would eat her alive. In hindsight, I didn’t handle that very well, but she let me change the stoma.
Throughout this entire ordeal, she’s yelling at me that her stoma bags are not cut to fit her stoma, that they are too small because her stoma is “50cm by 50cm,” to which I corrected her, saying that’s impossible. She was adamant that’s how big her stoma was. When I was cleaning the stoma, she yelled at me because it was hurting, so she wanted to just pop the new one on.
I explained it was hurting because of infection, as she never cleans it. She proceeds to tell me that she knows better because she has had the stoma for nearly as long as I’ve been alive. I eventually ended up telling her to shut up and let me do my job, which seemed to work, and the stoma did not come off again that shift. When she was eventually discharged—she refused every placement in any nearby care facilities to the point where we almost considered a court order to evict her—one of our staff nearly cried with relief.
#81 Whatcha Gonna Do With All Those Lumps
I’m ashamed to say I have a story that fits here. I have a ganglion cyst (pretty harmless) on the inside of my wrist, when it starts getting large, I smash my wrist down on a hard table and it goes away. I developed a similar bump on the top of my foot. I couldn’t smash it down like my wrist so I tried hitting it with a hammer.
Didn’t do anything and it was getting bigger and interfering with my shoes so I got it investigated. Not a cyst, but arthritis in the joint. No wonder my hammer trick didn’t work. The radiologist did find my treatment method amusing, but advised me to get any more lumps checked out rather than randomly hitting things with a hammer.
#82 Decide for Yourself
My aunt (who has varicose veins, pretty obvious to anyone who sees it) once asked me why her legs hurt and what those bluish lines under her skin were. I almost went on to explain to her about dilated veins, when she interrupts and decides for herself that those are her nerves. Dying nerves. And the blue stuff was blood clots inside the nerves. I’m a med student.
#83 Who Needs That Money?
I was doing a respiratory system examination on this guy who frequently (about once a month) gets admitted in the general ward with complaints of breathlessness. He’s had COPD for a couple of years. Quite bad. And he tells me that he isn’t going to quit destroying his lungs because God told him not to. When asked why, he tells me that the people who are relying on him for their daily livelihood won’t survive if he stopped. I went on to ask him if he meant the people at the factory or the health industry. He didn’t get the sarcasm though.
#84 Alternative Doesn’t Mean Better
Patient comes to the surgery clinic with complaints of a mass in his rectum. I wasn’t there the first time he came. The surgeon wanted to do a couple of investigations and advised him to get admitted. The guy decided he doesn’t want to. A couple of months later, he comes back to the clinic. Apparently, he went to one of these alternative medicine places or whatever, and they had tied this metal wire—not exactly sure why—around the mass. By then, this mass had eroded through it, was bleeding, and had gotten much bigger. It turned out to be a cancerous growth.
#85 Let the Doctor See You Now
I was a unit secretary and nurse aide on a radiation oncology unit in the early 2000s. We had a patient show up through the ER who was admitted for emergency radiation treatment. She had a fungating mass in her mouth that had consumed half her head. When the doctor tried to examine her and open her mouth, her remaining teeth fell out into his hand.
It had eaten through the bones of her face, invaded her eye socket, everything. Doc said it was the worst case of mouth cancer he’d seen. According to her husband, she had a small lesion on her hard palate (the top of her mouth). Upon receiving the diagnosis of an early stage squamous cell carcinoma, she decided to treat with essential oils and things like frankincense, because chemo was poison. Her husband said he had tried to reason with her, but she was adamant about the “natural” treatment. She died in agony shortly after.
#86 Positively Priceless
Not a doctor but am a medical technologist. There are plenty of dumb patient moments but this one was recent. I did a fingerstick blood test for a patient, ensured the little cut stopped bleeding, and then put a Band-Aid on it. Told her to collect a urine sample for testing. Test came back strongly positive (4+ reading) for blood.
She complained to the doctor that there is NO WAY she has blood in her urine, and that the blood from her fingerstick must have entered the urine, throwing off her reading. She said it was my fault that I did her blood test before her urine test, and I obviously made a mistake. She repeated the test later in the afternoon, still at 4+. Came back a week later, still at 4+. The look on her face when I told her “sorry, ma’am, your result is still positive” was priceless.
#87 Nasal Problems
A 70-year-old female tripped and fell two days ago. She came in with hip pain but reported after the fall her nose was bleeding—she had landed on her nose. About a year prior her dentist had messed up an infraorbital nerve block and caused some swelling in that region, but that all was resolved. This old lady became convinced the nosebleed she got after falling on her face was related to an “infection” from the dental issue a year ago. After multiple back-and-forths on the source of the nosebleed, she became the first patient I raised my voice and put down an authoritative “No, you are wrong, just stop it.”
#88 Get Glasses
I work for an optometrist. It was the month before school started and a woman brought in her son to have his eyes checked for the first time. Seems like a pretty reasonable thing for any parent, even if he was a little older than normal for a first eye exam. Better late than never, I guess. The mom was well-spoken and appeared fairly intelligent.
Everything went as normal, the doctor examined the boy and ended up prescribing glasses. The doctor was explaining to the mom that her son had to wear his glasses all the time, since he’s nearsighted and basically can’t see clearly past 5-feet in front of him. He would definitely need glasses for school. For some reason, this caused a switch to flip in the mom and she spazzed out on the doctor, saying that her son doesn’t need glasses and that the doctor is only saying that because he wants to sell glasses.
She says that she only brought her son in because there was some form for school that needed to be filled out and that doctors are all con artists trying to push unnecessary medications and interventions. The doctor tried to calm her down and explain that he’s only trying to help them but that she was free to get a second opinion and gave her a copy of the kids’ prescription and sent them on their way. About four months later the lady is back asking for another copy of her son’s prescription. Apparently, the first semester midterm results were in, and her son had failed them all, because he couldn’t see the board in his classes.
I’m a nurse who worked in the operating room at a trauma center. I was there for a surgery on a 19-year-old who had tested positive for drugs. He was grilling the anesthesiologist about every drug we were going to use in surgery because “he doesn’t like putting chemicals in his body.” Gotta stick with that organic, fair trade, Non-GMO cocaine.
#90 Anti-Vaxxer Sources
Med student here…on my pediatrics rotation a mother refused vaccines for her kiddo after “educating herself.” When prompted as to what she was using as her source, she replied, “my own brain.” Lovely.
#91 Yahoo Answers
I’m not a doctor, but I’m a patient whose mother was like this. The doctor had to speak to me on the side because of it. My grandmother has Crohn’s disease. Very, very badly. It skipped my mother and her brother. When I was 15 years old, over the course of six months, I went from being 5’9” tall and 190 pounds to being 110 pounds.
I was a skeleton, extremely anemic, and coughing up blood. My mother was CONVINCED it was something else. I forced her to bring me to a doctor and she spouted off all these possibilities. She then talked about what she Yahooed. Not even Googled. Yahoo. About genetics and such. And “Crohn’s can’t skip generations.” Well, the doc said, “Just in case. We’re gonna run some tests.” Long story short, I have Crohn’s in my throat and small intestine. So does my cousin. It just skipped a generation.
#92 Denial Is Not Just a River in Egypt
I had a patient come in with several pages he printed off the internet. He kinda slammed them down and said, “This is what I have.” He had bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool, and fever among other things. He insisted he had schistosomiasis. He was being a real jerk about it, like we’re wasting time since he already knew what he had.
So, I asked him when he got back from Africa. And he said, “Africa? I’ve never been to Africa. What the hell would I be doing in Africa?” I proceeded to tell him that schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease one gets while swimming in the Nile River or other rivers in developing countries, like in Southeast Asia. He got mad at me because he thought I was being a smart aleck. He got seen and diagnosed with gastroenteritis—regular old stomach flu. As for the bloody stool? He had hemorrhoids.
#93 Probably Never Heard of it
I was a fourth-year med student seeing patients on clinical rotations. The patient comes in with a laundry list of chronic conditions he suffers from—fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc. Guy is wearing over-the-counter braces on all of his fingers and both thumbs, as well as both wrists, forearms, knees, and shins, because of a rare bone disorder he has.
When I say I’ve never heard of it, he says, “Well that doesn’t surprise me, doctors go to med school to learn how to prescribe drugs and make money, not heal people.” Alright. He tells me that he suffers from a rare disease that I’ve probably never even heard of called myalgic encephalomyelitis. True, I’ve never heard of it. Again: “that’s because doctors don’t care about educating themselves about illness and healing, they just care about giving patients drugs and getting money from big pharma.” Ok.
I don’t have a vested interest in this patient thinking I’m smart, so it doesn’t really get to me. He continues “educating” me throughout the appointment, and I just make conversation with him, the third time he tells me about how all doctors just go to med school so they can put all their patients on drugs I just say, “Well, lucky for you, pharmacology was my weakest subject!”
That actually gets a laugh out of him, and I listen to his explanations of all of his rare diseases and disorders. The appointment ends, and he leaves. I look up myalgic encephalomyelitis. It’s the British term for chronic fatigue syndrome, which the patient also had. He has a weekly standing appointment with my teacher, which is the only thing that keeps him from visiting the local ER every day, sometimes multiple times a day.
His diagnosis is Illness Anxiety Disorder, although he would tell you it’s 800 other things you’ve obviously never heard of. He swears that my teacher is the only honest doctor in the country, because he basically just has him come in once a week and talk about all of his various illnesses for 20 minutes, after which the patent returns home feeling validated.
The ER docs love my teacher for sparing them. The patient is mentally ill, so I’m not insulted by him or anything, but you’d be surprised how many people come to the doctor to be treated for something, all the while telling the doctor how horrible they are and why all doctors are evil puppets of big pharma. It’s like when I worked fast food and people would say “Every time I come here you guys screw up,” and I’d just think, then why do you keep coming here?!
#94 What Do Nurses Know?
Not an MD, I’m an RN that works with oncology (cancer) patients, some of which are on clinical trials. I got a patient and, before starting his chemotherapy, reviewed some of his lab work with him. I told him his glucose level was 73. Normal range is usually between 70-100. He got really upset at this point, so I asked him, “What’s wrong? Your labs are within range!”
And he said, “I need it to be zero.” I said, “what? Why would you want your glucose to be zero?” He said he’s trying to meet requirements for a new clinical trial that requires his glucose to be zero. I told him, “I don’t know what clinical trial you’re trying to get into, but if your blood glucose was zero, you’d be dead or dying.” He was not convinced because I’m “just a nurse,” so I sent a message to his doctor asking them to educate their patients better.
#95 Dumb Doctor
I’m a physical therapist and vestibular (inner ear/balance) specialist here, with a dumb physician story. I had a patient come in with unmistakable signs of BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo), a condition where the salt crystals that fall on hair cells in your ears to tell you which way is down and which direction(s) you are accelerating in get stuck.
When this happens, your ears and eyes disagree about your current position and acceleration and you get really dizzy. She went to an urgent care where the doctor told her that she had BPPV. For treatment, he told her to go home, lay with her head hanging off the bed, and just let her husband (a retired accountant) shake her head around for five minutes.
Imagine being on the most intense rollercoaster you’ve ever been on, feeling like you’re going to throw up, and then having someone who has no medical training shake your head around for five minutes. She spent the next two days throwing up before she could get in to see me. For reference, there is a very specific set of motions, pre-care, and post-care that must be given in order to appropriately treat BPPV, and sometimes when you do it right your patient will still need to throw up once after you’re done.
#96 Organic Cigarettes
Paramedic here. I transported a guy who was adamant about only using homeopathic medicine, natural/healthy living, etc. He was refusing meds/interventions/X-rays on this basis. He also smoked a pack a day. The ED doc called him on this nonsense with something along the lines of “You smoke, so you’re not that homeopathic, you’re getting a chest X-ray.”
#97 Can’t Control Everything
I had a patient with a Hemoglobin A1C (a blood test for diabetes) result of 13, which is high. This guy believed that he could control his liver’s production of glucose with his mind. He believed himself to be very fit and active and felt that with his mental control he was a better athlete than most other people, because he could ramp up his glucose production when he needed to. He was in the hospital for a diabetic foot ulcer that required part of his foot to be removed.
#98 DIY Plastic Surgery
A male patient injected kitchen oil into his own cheeks because he saw a plastic surgery TV show where a surgeon injected something similar to a model. He was amazed that the bumps of the oil didn’t go away, and were turning red and painful.
#99 It’s My Poop In A Box
Patient made an appointment and brought in his poop in a box. He was concerned about the size of his turd, and if it’s normal. All he got from the visit was, “Normal turd. Yes, it’s pretty wide.”
Turd box was set out with biohazard waste. Waste guy thought it was a misplaced package and put it on the front desk. Secretary got quite the surprise that day.
#100 How Do You Fix It
I was treating cavities on a very nervous 4-year-old. Had finally gotten into a cooperative groove when genius mother looked up from her phone and noticed that I was drilling teeth. She was in the room the whole time—I had reviewed treatment with her, she knew we were fixing cavities. She proceeds to curse me out under her breath, saying, “You’re drilling holes in her teeth! this is freaking ridiculous, you people are scammers making holes in people’s teeth!”
I kept my calm and said “Ma’am if you have questions I will be happy to answer after I’m finished”—I’m shaking with rage at this point, because she was 20 minutes late to her appointment, and I’m bending over backward to make sure her kid has a good visit and doesn’t end up scared of the dentist. When the appointment is over, the kid jumps down, high fives me, and gives me a big hug.
I turn to mom and ask her how exactly she thought cavities were fixed? She said, “You don’t drill, my mother is a dental assistant.” I then proceeded to explain in excruciating detail the scientific process of how we remove decay. She said, “That’s not true.” I then told her that she can go ask her mom, ask Google, or go to dental school if she wants to know more, but I won’t be treating her child anymore.
#101 The Milk Is For The Baby
I saw a patient who was concerned because she was still lactating, despite the fact that she stopped breastfeeding her twins two years ago. She said: “sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and find my husband sucking on the breasts. He says he’s trying to drain the milk for me.” I had to explain to her that breastfeeding her husband will lead to continued Lactation.
#102 Junk in a Box
I had a guy present to the ER requesting an ice chest (a cooler full of ice). After a lengthy discussion, this is the narrative that we managed to sort out, as the story was erratic. This guy went to a party. Guy met gal. They had fun dancing. She asked him to her place. She asked for some alone time. She asked to kick things up a notch. He said, “Why not?”
She pulled out a syringe and injected a drug into his genitals to make his time last longer. They proceed to have lots of fun. A few days later, things are sore. Somethings not quite right in his genitals. Some red spot starts getting redder, larger, and darker across time. Things start turning black, and smelling bad. He decides it’s a good time to take some initiative, so he pulls out a knife and starts sawing at his genitals to carve out the dead skin.
Then, he hits a nerve. At this point, he changed his mind to see if he can fix the issue, and covered it in olive oil, then wrapped it in Saran wrap. You know, to fix it. Some more time passes, and he goes to the bathroom in a restaurant. He pulls down his pants, and his junk slides off of his urethra like a corn dog off of a stick, and lands on the floor next to him.
He picks up his junk, goes and gets a cup from the vending machine, fills it with ice, and puts his genitals in it—to help keep it fresh, of course. He wanders around for a few more days, then decides that his cup is getting too smelly, So…he goes to an ER and asks for an ice chest full of ice. He gets taken to the ER. The ER docs consult Urology, and it turns out that when he goes pee it just flings around everywhere like an unbridled firehose on full blast.
The hospital won’t let him keep it, as it is a bio-hazardous tissue at this point, but he won’t let the hospital take it…until they decide to give him a receipt. Then the junk is taken to wherever they incinerate penis, and the dude wound up admitted with a surgical/ urology consult. Moral of the story: Don’t inject stuff in your junk. Even if it is from random strangers for alone time.
#103 Look it Up in the Dictionary
This one happened to my ex-father-in-law, and it’s funny, but it’s not. He was a surgeon. He is a very gentle, soft-spoken guy, and came out to tell a patient their biopsy results, to which they responded: “Praise Jesus, it’s malignant.” He had to explain that malignant meant bad.
#104 One Disease at a Time
A guy brings his wife to the ER, Her leg has a 7cm x 7cm wound (diabetic ulcer) with greenish-yellow pus, and what looked like a few maggots. Now, I took one look at her and referred her to the surgery department for admission. But the hubby is adamant about his wife’s kidney disease. He says: “But doc, it’s just a wound, you gotta fix her kidney first doc, I read online that diabetes can cause kidney failure, and you gotta do something for that.” I spent an hour convincing him that his wife would probably die before the kidney damage sat in by sepsis from the clearly infected wound.
#105 Learning Experience
One day during my pediatric internship period, I was in charge of the general ward. Basic things, look after the kids, solve small complaints (coughs, breathlessness etc.), evaluate new admissions. Now where I work, interns are supposed to draw blood from children for tests. So I went about my job and there’s one little tyke who’s a bit too active, and jumps around when he sees the needle. The mother gives me a vile look and says, “You lot are just puncturing my child for your education.” At which point the kid just screams even harder. Yes, I’m studying a blood draw at two in the morning by waking up a kid. That’s what she thought.
#106 Protect Yourself
Lady walks into the office. The smell of cigarette smoke is so strong on her that I start coughing. Her dry leathery skin cracks while she talks, from years of sun abuse. She tells me, “I’ve stopped using sunscreen because I researched that it causes cancer.”
#107 Growing Pains
One thing I will never forget is how I learned never to be mad at a patient. Now, this was when I began as an intern, A patient had intestinal obstruction. We inserted a nasal feeding tube, as the patient could not eat anything orally before the surgery. The problem was that they would always come and complain to me about how I didn’t stick it properly.
After two to three such episodes where I reluctantly redid it, they complain that the tube is out of the nose, and lo and behold, it is out. It’s very uncomfortable, most patients try and pull the nasal tube out. I replaced it like four times. Poor guy was fed up by then. On the morning of the surgery, his wife comes and asks me, “Doc, can you just remove that tube so that I can give him some coffee?”
Now, I got totally mad. I was working a 72-hour shift, So I scolded her by saying that if she or he didn’t want the surgery then I couldn’t do anything, and it would be nice if they gave me some peace. She didn’t say anything. The patient, 50 years old with no other complications, died on the table. I couldn’t face her. The moral being, doctors know more things than patients. But it’s not always wise to bite their heads off. I could have convinced her it was impossible to remove the tube before surgery in a calm way. Since then I’ve tried to be a better speaker to patients.
#108 Very Superstitious
I’m still just a medical student, but our hospital sees a lot of poor and poorly educated patients, since we’re a big tertiary hospital in a developing country. Worst I’ve seen so far are the old ladies who everyone in the family turns to for health advice, their only qualification being seniority. They usually have a bunch of superstitions that end up contributing to the patient’s condition in the first place.
I once saw a baby brought to the ER for a really bad oral infection, and the mother clearly hadn’t taken a bath since the delivery (it’s a common superstition here that mothers shouldn’t take a bath a week or so postpartum), so we figured that’s the source of the infection. While we’re assessing the patient, the doting grandmother in the background decides she has to comment on everything we’re doing—remember, she’s probably the one who advised her daughter not to take a bath.
I just had to shut her down because: A) It was late and people were running out of patience in our understaffed, under-equipped ER; B) They’re more worried that device monitoring oxygen in the blood is hurting the baby’s tiny widdle toes when there’s freaking pus leaking out of the baby’s very inflamed salivary glands. I mean, I get that infections like these are a disease of poverty, that their poor education is just indicative of a wider systemic problem that society fails to address time and again, but by golly, does it get annoying.
#109 Flea Treatment
I have one. I got this from my friend, who is a doctor on the children’s ward in a rural hospital. These parents bring in their child, whose hair is infested with lice. The lice were visible to the naked eye and could be seen crawling on the child’s clothing. While the medical staff examined the kid in order to determine a course of action, they discovered the child was covered in a white powder and smelled heavily of chemicals.
They asked the parents what the substances and the smells emanating from the child were. The parents said, quite matter of factly, it was Sevin powder (a garden insecticide) and flea and tick spray they used on their dogs on the family’s farm. Needless to say, social workers were notified about this case.
#110 Take One Apiece
One day in the pharmacy, a girl comes to the counter requesting a refill for her birth control. We pulled up her profile and realized we couldn’t refill it because she just got a 28-day fill less than two weeks ago. When we asked what happened to the pack she’d been given, she said she was out. Apparently, both her and her boyfriend were each taking a pill each and was adamant that was how they needed to prevent pregnancy.
#111 Skipping Meals
We had a patient come into our hospital with anorexia requiring treatment, which, as usual, she didn’t want. However, she appeared to be eating her prescribed meals. After a few days it becomes clear she’s not putting on any weight, but the room is clean and she’s supervised for her bathroom visits, so we know she’s not flushing it away.
It turns out her family are going through some tough times and her dad’s down on his luck and out of money. So when he’s coming to visit his anorexic daughter in hospital every day, he’s eating the food prescribed to her because he can’t afford to feed himself. Meal time is unsupervised if there’s a family member there. The dad was blocked from visiting when the daughter fessed up.
#112 Allergic to Everything
Registered nurse here. I see some crazy stuff, but one thing that stands out was the time I was admitting a guy to the hospital. I can’t really remember what for but he was diabetic, had heart disease, and was generally unhealthy. Anyhow, I’m at the computer going over some admission questions with him and his 10 family members who are crowded in the room with him.
A few minutes in, he starts complaining that he’s thirsty. He needs something to drink right now. So I get on my phone and call the nurse assistant, and ask her to bring in some ice water. As soon as the words are out of my mouth the whole family screams: “NOOOO! NO WATER! HES ALLERGIC TO WATER!” Well, this is going to be a problem.
Turns out the guy had been drinking nothing but Sprite and sweet tea for years, because of his “water allergy.” The next question his wife had was “Where are we all supposed to sleep?” The whole family, 10 people, were planning to stay at the hospital with him. You can’t make this stuff up.
#113 A Flesh Wound
Heard this from an emergency doctor friend of mine a while ago. Female patient comes in complaining of severe abdominal pain, nurses take vitals, ask questions, etc. Eventually, my friend sees her and, after a few questions, he has her lift her shirt.
The “severe abdominal pain” on the chart was in fact due to a gash so severe that part of her intestines were sticking out of her. No one had noticed and she hadn’t thought to mention that her organs had started leaking out. In fact, she seemed just as surprised as he was.
#114 Not Fazed by Basal Cell Carcinoma
This lady came in and literally half of her face had been basically eaten up by basal cell carcinoma. One of her eyes was completely missing. According to her, it had been this way for years. And here’s the kicker, that’s not even the problem she came into the hospital for! She had come in for an umbilical hernia as big as a basketball that had been there for months, and she’d started vomiting over the past week so she finally went to the emergency department.
Thanks to our friends at Factinate.com for sharing this article with us!