Medical Professionals Share The Dumbest Patient They’ve Ever Encountered
There’s never a dull moment when you work in the medical field. You come across all sorts of cases and situations that most other people don’t typically see on a daily basis. Most of the time, the stress that doctors, nurses, and hospital technicians face comes from dealing with life-and-death situations upfront. However, there are times when the stress is sourced from the idiocy of the patients they have to treat. Medical professionals from across the world took to the internet to share the dumbest patient they’ve ever encountered. From stubborn people who self-diagnose themselves to patients who are just totally clueless of their health situation, these stories are sure to make you shake your head:
EMT here. I had a woman who was in active labor, despite insisting she couldn’t be pregnant. She said her last period was “like ten months ago” so she’d gone through menopause. She was 25.
#2 Alternative Care
RN here. I had a pregnant patient who called our L&D unit asking if she should come into the hospital. From her explanation, the midwife on call decided that she should indeed come in to be evaluated as it sounded as if she were in active labor. The patient became concerned and asked if she had enough time to drive home to feed her dogs first. Long story short, we told her she could do whatever she deemed necessary at her own risk though we strongly advised her to find alternative care for the pups being that she was a good hour and a half from the hospital.
#3 What The Heck, Dad
My dad thought it’d be a good idea to go for a walk when he was actively having a heart attack. His explanation? He thought he was having ‘esophageal spasms’ This was his second heart attack too. You’d think he would’ve realized the similarities… This is why I hate when people say, “You’ll know when it’s happening” about a heart attack or a broken bone or something. I probably won’t know!
#4 Oatmeal Lady
A woman comes in after having a baby and tells us she’s having trouble breastfeeding. I book her an appointment at a breastfeeding clinic, give her some resources, etc. Her appointment was fine and she went on her merry way. A few weeks later, we get the fax that she went to the breastfeeding clinic and everything was fine. Awesome.
A year later, she shows up for her doctor’s appointment, and she’s morbidly obese. She must have put 100 lbs on an already obese frame. She’s developed many health problems related to her weight (that she refuses to acknowledge are due to her weight. Of course.) She tells us she’s never been more active after having a kid, her diet hasn’t changed, her work life hasn’t changed, nothing has changed—the weight gain just happened due to hormones. We ask if she’s breastfeeding, and she says yes. We ask how she’s getting the extra calories for the breastfeeding, and she tells us the clinic told her to eat one to two bowls of plain oatmeal a day. It worked, so she’s still doing it.
We figure this is how she gained so much weight (she’s probably eating two large bowls of oatmeal on top of her meals, with milk, sugar, butter, etc), but the woman insists she’s eating one to two packets of plain oatmeal a day. Nothing on it, nothing added to it. It says plain on the package, it tastes plain, it’s plain.
We send the doctor in to see her after briefing him on the whole story about the oatmeal. He’s in the room with her for a long time — much longer than normal. When she comes out of the room, she keeps her head down and walks off, looking angry and embarrassed. The doctor walks up to the nursing table and fills out the chart.
“You never asked what brand of oatmeal she’s eating”.
Yeah. Turns out she didn’t know plain rolled oats were a thing. She thought the breastfeeding clinic meant plain oatmeal cookies. She was eating an entire package of Dad’s oatmeal cookies every single day for a year (basically a ‘bowl or two’ filled with cookies), and could not understand how that was different from oatmeal.
#5 The Wrong Kind Of Smoothie
I had a patient who was coming back post lap band for a check-up. What we usually do is revise the patient’s weight and ‘tighten’ the band or ‘loosen’ it as needed. Now the thing to remember is that getting a lap band isn’t as easy as just throwing down some money. For six months, the patient must meet with a psychiatrist and a dietitian to understand what they’re getting into and if they can adjust their lifestyles to commit. A goal weight loss target is usually set for the end of the six months to ensure the patient is serious. After all of this rigorous evaluation, a patient is deemed fit for operation.
Enter my patient ‘Sylvia.’ I checked her chart: her BMI before surgery was 40, she was morbidly obese, and she now had come in for her first follow up to ascertain if she’d lost any weight. Well, I put her on the scale, calculate, and what do I see? Her BMI was now 45. Perplexed, I asked her to explain her diet to me.
Sylvia: Well I’ve been doing a liquid diet just like you said.
Me- Very good! Can you maybe what you have?
Sylvia: I make smoothies and have them whenever I feel hungry.
Me: So what do you put in your smoothies?
Sylvia: Cake and ice cream.
Yup. She was serious. Somehow it didn’t occur to her that this wouldn’t be healthy. We reversed her band.
#6 Space Cakes
An older lady was brought into the ER barely conscious by her husband. In a very thick Italian accent, she told the doctor she was dying. She had complained of feeling tingly and having a dry mouth prior to passing out. The doctor sat the husband down and they did a history. There were no serious medical problems and she was very fit. In fact, she spent the morning cleaning her son’s bar, as she often did on a Sunday morning.
Considering her age, they took these symptoms very seriously and began running tests to find the source of her ailments. The son came in to visit his mother, and on the way, he bypassed his bar. He noticed that his mother had helped herself to some of the ‘treats’ prepared the night before. The son, the apple of his parents’ eye, had to then explain to his father and the doctor that the treats she had enjoyed were space cakes. And apparently, she really enjoyed them as she ate quite a few.
#7 Quite The Overreaction
A secretary buzzes back to me that there’s a call on line two that needs medical advice. I pick it up and one of our patient’s mother is on the phone having a panic attack. She is hyperventilating into the phone. I asked her if she was alright, thinking maybe she needed an ambulance, and through her breaths and now tears, she starts telling me that she thinks her four-year-old son has a skull fracture.
I ask if he fell. No.
I ask if he’s conscious. Yes.
I ask if he’s breathing. Yes.
I ask if he is bleeding from his ears, eyes, nose, mouth, scalp. No.
I ask if there is any visible wound. No.
I ask why she thinks he fractured his skull. Because underneath his eyes is red and puffy and Google says that’s a skull fracture. I tell her to go to the ER for proper assessment (we don’t do MRIs, X-rays, CT Scans). She doesn’t want to. She says she was supposed to take her kids to the beach. Mind you, she is still crying and breathing heavy at this point. I tell her to come right over then but warned her we would probably have to send her to the ER.
She shows up 15 minutes later, cradling the child and crying. The little boy was crying too and screaming “I don’t want to die Mommy!” She kept hushing him and saying “Mommy loves her strong boy, no matter what!” Which only made him cry harder. I pull her back into the room and she just dissolves as she tells me how she looked at him in horror this morning and saw the guarantee signs of a skull fracture. She swears he must have hit his head yesterday at swim practice.
The little boy is crying hard but I can see the noticeable swelling and pinkness under the eyes that she was referring too. I went to get the doctor and told her what I thought. She went in, came out about ten minutes later shaking her head. She had the same diagnosis. You know when you wipe your eyes after swimming, you usually wipe under your eye too? The kid must have wiped off his sunscreen around his eyes the day before. All the pinkness and puffiness was from a mild sunburn under his eyes.
#8 Cheetos And Pepsi
I had a little boy with very little intestine left after many surgeries. He could not eat by mouth, so he was fed a high-calorie, highly-nutritious formula through a tube in his stomach, which then went through for absorption, ending into his ileostomy bag. As you can imagine, it was very hard for his body to retain calories nor nutrients so his growth and development were very behind. One day, he was brought into the ER by his mm because he was dumping too much liquid into his bag. He was brought in on a gurney, holding a bag of Cheetos and drinking Pepsi in a baby bottle.
#9 Wasted Years
Trauma surgeon here. Smart patient, Dumb parents. One night we had a car accident come in: car vs. pole, a 22-year-old driver with 6-year-old passenger. The 22-year-old was intoxicated and unrestrained, but thankfully the 6-year-old was in the backseat with a three-point belt on. The 22-year-old was seriously jacked up, and I admitted him to my service to take him urgently to the OR.
The 6-year-old was stunned but appeared uninjured. I placed an adorable little c-collar, recommended a neurological exam in the morning and admitted him to the pediatric hospitalist. The 22-year-old did fine in the OR, as they tend to do, and I had a quiet night. At about 4 a.m. I got a call from the pediatric nurse asking me to come re-evaluate the patient. They thought his neuro exam was “funny.”
We had a quiet census and I was friendly with most of the staff, so I jogged across campus to the pediatric building. I met his parents who were very nice but dim people. They didn’t think anything was wrong. I woke up the poor, sleepy kiddo to do my exam, and something became clear which wasn’t obvious in the din of the trauma bay: he didn’t respond to instructions.
I did a ten-second hearing exam. Nada. “Holy cow, I think. I missed a HUGE head bleed if this kid is deaf in both ears.” I did an otoscopic exam. Pristine eardrums. This is weird, I thought. The parents were watching my increasing frenzy with blank faces. “Is your son deaf?” I asked. “Nah, he’s just a little funny,” the father responded. As I asked for clarification, I learned the child had never spoken a word. Ever. He never responded when called from another room. Ever. I called his grandma. She corroborated their story.
I stuck around after my shift to follow up on his audiology exam. This kid was born with some rare form of congenital hearing loss. His parents never figured it out and had never brought him to his wellness visits. Hellen Keller aside, the specialist team was very pessimistic about him ever learning to speak, and he was severely behind on learning sign language, with a risk he’d never gain full proficiency. I almost cried I was so frustrated.
#10 ” I Take Meds For That”
“I don’t have diabetes, I take medicine for that.” This happens so often I can’t put a face to that quote. That and high blood pressure. I normally ask if they have ever had high blood pressure rather than if they currently have it because people think that their ACE-inhibitor has magically stopped them from having any problems.
#11 Every Year
I don’t like speaking ill of my patients mainly because I think we all neglect our health to a certain extent volitionally, and that can be viewed as “dumb”. But the winner is Aristotle. Aristotle is a 35-year-old, highly functional corporate lawyer. Aristotle has G6PD deficiency and (in his case) he develops mild hemolysis when exposed to certain foods, including fava beans.
Every year for his birthday, Aristotle goes to the fancy Greek restaurant and gets gigandes plaki, his favorite dish. Every year, he develops mild hemolysis with jaundice and dark urine. Every year, he comes to see me, his gastroenterologist, urgently and without an appointment on the day after his birthday —bull-in-china-shopping my clinic, yelling at the secretary and other patients if he could be seen first.
Every year, he repeats his highly anxious concerns that his liver is screwed up because he’s mildly jaundiced and has dark urine. Every year, I tell him it’s from the gigandes plaki. Every year, he resolves never to eat it again and is fine for the rest of the year on his G6PD diet. And every year on his birthday, he forgets. And then the cycle continues.
#12 He Said, She Said
Dentist here. In school, I had a 70-year-old patient who was still in the dating game and looked like Joan Rivers. She had a ton of acid erosion on her teeth. She told me she drinks only “3-O” water. I didn’t know what was in it. We looked it up on Google. Apparently, it meant she only drank water with a pH of 3. All of her water. Plus, she liked to put lemons in her water. I told her that is also acidic. She told me I’m wrong because her friend who took a few nutrition classes said that as soon as the lemon juice enters the body, it turns basic.
I told her I had a biochemistry degree… And that was wrong. Also, her blood pressure is super high every visit. She tells me that she stopped taking her BP meds because she thought they were unhealthy. I told her that her method was not working at all. A few weeks later, she stroked out. It’s just sad.
#13 Doctor’s Pet Peeve
A lot of patients come to the hospital because they are “sick” but refuse to do any tests or take any medicine. Do people expect healthcare workers to do a ritual dance and chant around them and magically heal their illnesses?
#14 Snail Eater
A dude consumed a snail off the ground for 10 bucks. He got sick, didn’t get seen by a doctor for four days, and ended up developing sepsis. He came to the hospital in a wheelchair because he was paralyzed due to the infection. When I think of reasons why I don’t eat snails, I think, “Looks gross, slimy, smells gross.” I’d never have thought, “Because you could end up with a parasite that will puncture your major body parts and screw over your entire life”. It’s good to know, though.
#15 No Chemicals Allowed
I’m a medical student but the number of patients I’ve seen who refuse to take medicine because they ‘don’t want chemicals’ inside them is staggering. I had a friend in college who ended up having to drop out due to getting sick and refusing to take any medication for it. Same justification—”no chemicals in my body”—the guy just didn’t like pharmaceuticals.
#16 Poor Dog
I don’t have to deal with people patients, but I helped out a vet for a while and there are a lot of dumb pet owners. I had one lady who was really concerned about her obese lab getting hiccups. The vet let her know the dog was overweight. She told him he was wrong and then insisted we do diagnostic tests to “figure out” the hiccups.
#17 Those Darn Vultures
My grandma insisted we cremate her within 24 hours of her passing. “So those vultures don’t steal my organs and give them away.” Yeah, because doctors are gonna use your 94-year-old decrepit organs. She passed away a few years ago. She read an article about illegal organ harvesting for profit and that’s what put her off. She also had a history of cancer so I’m not sure if she would even be a candidate.
#18 Diabetes? No Problem
I had a friend get diagnosed with diabetes. He was advised to proceed immediately to the emergency room—I’m not sure why, I mean, they still let him drive. He stopped at McDonald’s on the way. On a separate occasion, he went to the hospital because another friend insisted after seeing him drink two gallons of water.
#19 Rx Help
I got a phone call late at night through the answering service.
Him: This is somebody, a pharmacist at the Walgreens on Third. Sorry to bother you, but a quick question. How do you spell 40?
Him: That’s what I thought. We have a person filling a script for forty pills. We’ll take care of this.
I write opioid prescriptions that last a day or so for patients unknown to me until they see their primary care physician.
#20 Dr. Google Strikes Again
A patient came in with a rash around her mouth; she was going on about how she had it 14 years ago and the dermatologist prescribed a certain antibiotic to cure it. He diagnosed her with “perioral dermatitis.” She started showing us pictures on Google. Okay.
The doctor diagnosed her with impetigo and prescribed her an antibiotic ointment. She left to fill the prescription and she comes back flipping her lid. She Googled impetigo and, with the help of WebMD, came to the conclusion that it was a children’s disorder on the arms and legs that can only be contracted from children. She made it clear that she was never around children. She insisted that what she believed she had (perioral dermatitis) is a “woman’s disorder” and she didn’t have this “children’s disease.” She said that the antibiotic he prescribed wasn’t on the list of treatments on WebMD, either.
The whole time, she was showing us these pictures on Google of “perioral dermatitis,” saying it’s a woman’s disorder. Half of the pictures were of men. Now one thing you should know, perioral dermatitis means a rash around the mouth. That’s it. It’s not a type of rash. It’s not only cured by a specific antibiotic. It’s just a rash that happens to be around the mouth. She was furious, shaking with rage. The doctor told us to call the cops if she ever came back. People are crazy.
#21 Needle Fix
When I worked in A&E, I had a patient with a minor neurology-related complaint. She told me she couldn’t feel the tip of her pinkie. A vague 0.2 cm by 0.2 cm patch right at the top. No sensation there whatsoever. No other history or symptoms. I grabbed a needle, poked it and cured her.
#22 The Ultimate Faker
I had a woman who refused to be discharged as she couldn’t keep any food or drink down. Her room was filled to the brink with sweets, chips and fizzy drinks. I asked her to show me her. I pH tested her stomach acid in front of her and, of course, the pH was normal. She then stuck her fingers down her throat and physically forced herself to repeatedly gag and vomit in front of me.
The next day I returned and said she had blood in her urine. She’d filled a sample pot with red juice. It literally smelled of fruit. Her boss discharged her that afternoon. She was back within a week I think.
#23 A Surreal Consultation
I’m a student and my GP supervisor was involved in a scheme to reduce A&E waiting times by having a GP in A&E to take patients that weren’t actually in an accident or an emergency. As none of the patients were actually dangerously ill I was basically doing the consultations with the doctor supervising, double-checking and signing prescriptions, etc.
A guy in his late 20s walks in, looking very healthy, and sits down. “I was stung by a bee this morning”. OK. “Where?” “On my cheek.” There was no swelling or anything visible. “How long ago was this?” “Well, it took me about half an hour to get here and then I’ve been waiting another three and a half hours” I wonder why. “Did it stop you from swallowing or breathing?” “No.” “Are you allergic?” “No.” Umm… “What would you like us to do?” “Check I’m OK.”
At this point, I turned around to my supervisor? He said, “You’re OK, go home.” It was the most surreal consultation I’ve ever had.
#24 Scratch Resistance
I’m an optician. I had a guy come in raging that his lenses were scratched. He bought scratch resistance, so this shouldn’t happen, he argued. First off, we give you the scratch resistance for free—it isn’t called “scratch impossible” for a reason. Second, we also give you a free warranty with purchase that covers scratches and breaks for an entire year. So it’s pretty generous and can be used multiple times a year. Turns out his glasses were just dirty. Not a single scratch beneath the filth.
#25 Serious Business
I saw a man in his 30s who took Cocodamol (paracetamol + codeine) to get his fix. He had been doing so for three days. He presented in acute liver failure, horrendous pain, and passed away later that week. Please follow the instructions on paracetamol (acetaminophen for those over the pond). They’re not sweets.
#26 Toothache Drama
Not a doctor, but an EMT. Had a patient call around 12:30 at night complaining of a toothache. It was going on for about a week. Didn’t take any type of over the counter medications for it, nor did she visit a dentist. I asked her what she expected the staff at the Level I Trauma Center that she requested to do for her. She couldn’t give me any type of answer to that question. Maybe she couldn’t answer cause she was distracted due to texting on her phone. She signed a refusal. I lost a little bit more faith in humanity.
#27 Doctors Aren’t Dentists
I’m an ER doctor. Patients come in all the time for dental disease and I have to explain to them that medical school and dental school are different. If you have a case of Ludwigs I’m your man, but I don’t know anything about pulling teeth or filling cavities. It’s sad because they end up getting billed for ibuprofen and information that could be found with a 10-minute Google search.
#28 That’s Not Medicine
Not a doctor but my dad is an ophthalmologist (eye doctor). He once told me that one of his patients came in utterly confused as to why the “medicine in his glasses doesn’t work anymore.”
#29 The Problematic Diabetic
A diabetic girl in her 20s wasn’t compliant with her treatment and now all of the dialysis clinics in the city refuse to accept her. She can’t go to the suburbs for her dialysis either and will likely pass away within a few weeks unless that changes. My advice: if your kidneys don’t work, you should probably show up for your dialysis appointments.
A morbidly obese man was in the hospital after he fell. He needed his edema, heart and lung problems to be treated. He insisted that he only needed help with his legs. He started raising his voice and refusing to answer questions because he said they weren’t relevant. Then, at the end of the interview, he started complaining about his shortness of breath.
#30 Placebo Effect
My dad is a doctor. He told me a story about two parents who brought their child in because she was having seizures almost every day. He told the girl that he was going to squeeze her “seizure gland” which would probably trigger one in her. He pinched her shoulder and she went into a seizure. Placebo effect?
#31 In Theory…
Not stupid, actually kind of sad. My friend told me that she met a man on her Oncology rotation who had lung cancer, and who was convinced that some chlorophyll drink his wife was making him could help him photosynthesize, make oxygen and breathe better.
#32 Maggot Treatment
My girlfriend is a nurse. She had a diabetic patient who had circulation problems and decided to cut off his own foot instead of receiving treatment. He was treating it with sterile maggots for about two years before the infection ended him.
#33 Big And Young
I had an obese 11-year-old girl that we operated on but were having trouble extubating her because she was essentially too fat to breathe while at all sedated. Her mom thought the problem was that she was hungry—she wanted to come and put some fried chicken down the endotracheal tube.
#34 About The Flu
I was working in pediatric urgent care and had a parent rush their kid in after watching the news about kids dying from the flu. She was worried about her kid having the flu. When I asked if he got his flu shot this year, she said: “We don’t believe in getting any shots, especially the flu shot.” This has happened more than five times this month.
#35 Hypochondriac Thoughts
Not a doctor, but I was a caregiver for decades and have a biology degree. Friends come to me all the time as I’m often confused with being a nurse (even by doctors). My friend texted me one night, frantic about how he was bleeding. After talking to him, it was clear to me that he had hemorrhoids. In spite of my reasoning or, any logic whatsoever, he had convinced himself that he had ripped a hole in his colon. I told him he’d be much sicker and would have sepsis by now, but he didn’t believe me. He went to the ER, was probably laughed at, and texted me that he wasn’t dying after all.
#36 Overly Dedicated
I am not a doctor but as a paramedic, I once had a patient who crushed his forearm in a steel press. I could literally see every bone in his arm at this point (compound fracture). He looked at me and asked, “Can I go back to work tommorow?” I had to explain the severity of the situation to him. I realize he was likely in shock. The patient went on to tell me he was trying to make enough money to buy his children Christmas presents. I still feel bad for him to this day.
#37 Chemtrail Theories
A woman I worked with was pretty sick for a few days with sinus problems and a headache. I told her it may have been a sinus infection, but she said it wasn’t. Instead, she looked straight into my eyes and said, “Have you ever seen those planes with the white trails that come out of them?” I reluctantly said yes. She said, “They’re poisoning us. Those are deadly chemicals they’re dropping onto all of us, that’s why I’m so sick.” She had a cold and was fine in a few days.
#38 Wrong Child
This isn’t exactly what the OP wants but I feel it suits the theme. It didn’t happen to me, but to colleagues in the medical center. So, around 11 p.m., four men entered the medical center in panic, screaming: “The child, the child, help the child!” They were carrying something; obviously, the child, wrapped in blankets. So they entered the examining room, unwrapped the child and well, it was a child… but a calf, not a human.
#39 Ineffective Wake-Up Call
A friend of mine developed diabetes due to his poor diet. He didn’t take care of it and just kept eating horribly. Now he lost the vision in his remaining eye. You’d think going half-blind would be a wake-up call. Now he doesn’t get to see his two-year-old son grow up.
#40 One More For The Road
This happened to a friend of mine when he was in training to become a paramedic. He was on a ride-along, basically, and they had received a call where a woman fell down the stairs. They get to the address and knock on the door. The woman who called was inside folding clothes. Apparently, she had been drinking on her medication. She twisted her ankle and called for an ambulance. So they asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital. She said yes, then proceeded to the fridge to pour “one more for the road.”
We get a lot of religious families bringing members to our psychiatric hospital, but they blatantly refuse to let us treat them medically. A few times, some families got fed up and tried to exorcise demons out of them.
#42 The Determination
I’ve worked in a dentist’s office for about 10 years now. Just doing computer stuff and insurance checking and all that jazz. I’ll never forget the time one of our patients came in with blood all over her mouth like a vampire. She really wanted pain pills (later on, we figured out she sold them) so bad that she took a butcher knife to one of her teeth to try and force it into getting pulled. I couldn’t imagine the determination she must’ve had to jam a knife into her teeth. The situation still screws me up.
#43 Cry Wolf
I’m not a doctor, but once I was in the waiting room at the accident and emergency department and overheard a man say, “I went to the gym two days ago, and my arms are still sore today, so I thought I better come to A&E”. The nurse just sighed and told him to take a seat. Utter idiot.
#44 Garlic Remedy
One woman I met had had thrush and her friend had told her that garlic could help. So she came to me two weeks later with a while bulb in her mouth which she was unable to get out. It had started to germinate.
#45 Gluten Lies
Dietitian here. I was explaining a ketogenic diet to a patient who was very adamant about how I was lying to her. There’s no way eating fats could help her lose weight because athletes eat carbohydrates, not fats. She then tried to threaten me with a lawsuit. Not sure what’s worse. This, or parents insisting that gluten is toxic and will end their children.