Doctors are supposed to “Do no harm,” but that doesn’t always happen. In the middle of an important surgery or diagnosis, tensions run high, emotions run wild, and situations run off the rails. From dropping the baby to forgetting about basic anatomy, these medical professionals shared their “Oh God NO” stories for Reddit, and the results were very uncomfortable.
1. Off Like A Rocket
I was doing a C-section for this poor mom who’d been in labor for hours. The baby wouldn’t come out of the hole we’d made, so we applied more pressure—and suddenly whoooooosh, baby zooms out like a torpedo, covered in lubrication. She zips over the surgical sheeting, which has the texture of a Slip n’ Slide, and almost rockets straight off the table.
The nurse caught the baby’s foot and whipped her up in the air upside down like in old cartoons, but almost dropped her again. Thankfully, the midwife was ready with the towel and caught the baby to wrap her up. Mom and dad seemed to think this was normal practice and didn’t notice, but me and my colleague just stared at each other with a look of absolute horror.
It still makes me shudder to think how close the baby was to hitting the floor headfirst. Never happened before or since.
2. I Can See Clearly Now
I was doing a corneal transplant when I had the "oh no" moment. During surgery, I cut off the patient's own cornea and replaced it with a new donor cornea. During that moment when the host cornea was off but before I could get the new one on, there's literally nothing on the front of the eye except a tear film. Anyway, the patient takes that moment to start vomiting.
The reason we tell everyone to skip food and drink is so they don't aspirate in case they throw up. This patient lied about eating breakfast and started throwing up everything. The eye is still "open sky" at this time. Everything inside of the eye can now become outside of the eye. And she's bucking and vomiting. It’s awful. I had to grab the new cornea and start stitching as fast as I could on a patient actively throwing up. Don't lie about eating breakfast before surgery, folks.
3. The Tell-Tale Signs
I heard an "Oh God" moment happen…when I was a patient on the operating table. A couple of years ago, I was in labor for 28 hours, pushing for six, when my child started showing signs of distress. The baby had a slightly elevated heart rate. My midwife at the hospital told me the doctor was coming in to check to see if a vacuum assist could help.
She checks me. Then I see a horrifying sight. She immediately stands up with blood on her hand and says “We're going to the operating room NOW.” At that time, I started feeling that zoomed-out tunnel vision I know is shock. I had anxiety, but I figured she knew what was best. She did. We got in the OR eight minutes later, and when they opened me up, I heard the surgeon say, "Oh God. Look at this."
They saw blood in my catheter bag, and upon fully opening me up found my son was actually trying to come through my uterus. He had ruptured it. They got my son out. Those moments where he was stunned and not crying were an eternity. Then he cried and he was born a completely healthy baby. After I woke up and was back in my room, the doctor came in and told me what happened. I knew a ruptured uterus sounded bad, but oh darn I googled and started having a massive anxiety attack.
A ruptured uterus is extremely rare and often fatal. I read from the time it happens, you have about 15 minutes before you bleed out and the baby is gone. When I went back for my follow-up, my midwife let me know she had never once encountered that, and it was such a big deal for them that a few days after my birth, they all got together to discuss my case.
I was so incredibly fortunate I chose to labor in a hospital, and that the doctor just knew from my vitals and baby's that something was off. They just didn't know exactly what until they got me open. I can't even tell you how grateful I am for Dr. S. You saved my life and my son's life and our family will forever be grateful.
4. It All Comes Down
My dad had triple bypass surgery in 2011, and right when they were about to close him up, the vent fell out of the freaking ceiling, contaminating EVERYTHING. My dad looked like a Smurf when he finally came out of surgery because they had disinfected him so much. The surgeon was an ex-army surgeon and he came out SEETHING.
He basically told us that if my dad suffered any sort of post-op infection, we would own the hospital. Luckily, my dad was just fine and is still with us, healthier than he has been in a while. From what we have heard, the maintenance crew was epically chewed out, and the story is still told at the hospital.
5. Don’t Go Empty-Handed
When I was a new nurse working in the ICU in a large teaching hospital, I came into work one morning to a patient who was admitted that night, sedated, intubated, and all. Long story short, by the end of the same shift his breathing tube was out and he was completely alert and oriented, so he was able to tell us what was going on.
He was an end-stage renal patient, meaning his kidneys didn't work and he needed dialysis, and he was only in his late 30s. He said he never made urine anymore and didn't need his catheter so he wanted it out because it was hurting. So I went to remove the catheter as I’d done about a thousand times on other patients. It was the start of a nightmare.
As soon as the catheter left, blood started pouring out of his you-know-what in a heavy stream. Turns out, the nurse who placed it on admission hadn't advanced it far enough, since there was no urine production to indicate correct placement. This had caused a massive amount of trauma. It would not stop bleeding. I had to hold this man's nether region "shut" to put pressure on it while my co-worker paged the resident.
The doctor came in, looked at me with pity, and told me to just keep holding this 30-something-year-old man's junk in my hands to staunch the blood flow until urology could get there to assess. It just kept gushing blood every time I eased up to check. For over an hour total, I held it and tried to make polite conversation until the urologist arrived.
6. Close But Not Quite
When I was in med school, there was an "Oh God" moment for everyone. They were prepping a patient for surgery and put him under and the nurse said "Ok, he's out" before they were about to start slicing him open. The patient just had enough strength to move his head from side to side and said "No, I'm not out yet." Everyone laughed it off, but if the patient didn't do that, it could have ended badly.
7. Never A Dull Moment
I was a fourth-year resident and I was on call that day. Around 5 pm, I went to do rounds and as I got to the first room, I came in to find the first-year resident on top of a patient who had very recently had neck surgery. As I came closer, my blood ran cold. The resident was kneeling next to the guy’s head with his hands and clothes completely covered in blood.
There was blood on the roof, on the sheets, on the bed, dripping onto the floor, you name it. I was instantly petrified. I knew his carotid artery was ruptured, and I’d never repaired one before. I am completely unqualified to help this guy! Someone, please HELP US! I was the senior resident, so I was the only one on call at the time.
Besides that, no one could get there in time to help this guy. He was bleeding out, so it was up to me alone to help him. So I took the guy to the OR as fast as we could and I opened him up, all of the time praying and telling myself “It's OK, I can do this, I can do this!” I was pooping my pants while everyone was looking at me to fix him.
I open him up and I see the freaking artery loose, spraying blood all over. I clamped it, put a knot around it, and that was it. We closed him up, bandage, and transfuse the poor guy, and I went to collapse on a stool.
8. It’s Getting Hot In Here
I was working in obstetrics during a heatwave. This is important, as maternity wards are kept quite warm since newborn babies aren't good at regulating their temperatures. Mid-emergency cesarean, the scrub nurse assisting the operation starts feeling faint. This is unusual, as this scrub nurse worked in these theaters full-time, so this was her bread and butter.
I can only conclude it was the heat that did it. Anyway, she has to step out and someone far more junior had to take her place, it was the nurse’s first section ever. They were trying to assist with the instruments in the uterus when they fainted. I had to jump in and grab the back of their gown to stop them face-planting the open uterus, and then sort of gently tug backward to let them fall into me while someone else took over. Thank God the baby was already out.
9. Small Cut, Big Consequences
I was the patient. I had a liver transplant and was having surgery to get a new bile duct stent. Well apparently, my anatomy is different than normal, and my lungs go more down my sides. So the doctor accidentally caused a nick. It had devastating consequences. When I woke up, I couldn't breathe. They did an X-ray and had to do a chest tube.
Apparently, he cried he felt so bad about it all. But it wasn't him being malicious or negligent, it was simply an accident.
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10. You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get
One day, I got called into a long, six-hour cardiac procedure to ensure a laparoscopic camera was working and able to record. The surgery was nearing the end, so I knew I was about to see something good—they wanted to record something big. Suddenly, the surgeon pulls out some kind of growth from inside this guy's heart.
This thing was the size of a chicken wing. It was growing through his valve, and I'm honestly amazed the patient was alive. Supposedly the only symptoms were shortness of breath.
11. The Swamps Of Dagobah
I’m a nurse. I was on call one night and woke up at two in the morning for a "general surgery" call. Pretty vague, but at the time, I lived in a town that had large populations of young military guys and avid substance users, so late-night emergencies were common. Got to the hospital, where a few more details awaited me: "anal abscess."
Needless to say, our entire crew was less than thrilled. I went down to the Emergency Room to transport the patient, and the only thing the ER nurse said as she handed me the chart was "Have fun with this one." Amongst healthcare professionals, vague statements like that are a bad sign. My patient was a 314 lb. woman who barely fit on the stretcher I was transporting her on.
She was rolling frantically side-to-side and moaning in pain, pulling at her clothes and muttering Hail Marys. I could barely get her name out of her after a few minutes of questioning, so after I confirmed her identity and what we were working on, I figured it was best just to get her to the anaesthesiologist so we could knock her out and get this circus started.
She continued her theatrics the entire 10-minute ride to the O.R., nearly falling off the surgical table as we were trying to put her under. We see patients like this a lot, though, chronic users who don't handle pain well and who have used so much that even increased levels of pain medication don't touch simply because of high tolerance levels.
We got the lady off to sleep, put her into the stirrups, and I began washing off the rectal area. It was red and inflamed, a little bit of pus was seeping through, but it was all pretty standard. Her chart had noted that she'd been injecting IV substances through her bottom, so this was obviously an infection from dirty needles, but overall, it didn't seem to me to warrant her repeated cries of "Oh Jesus." I soon discovered how wrong I was.
The surgeon steps up with a scalpel, sinks just the tip in, and at the exact same moment, the patient had a muscle twitch in her diaphragm, and just like that, all heck broke loose. Unbeknownst to us, the infection had actually tunneled nearly a foot into her abdomen, creating a vast cavern full of pus, rotten tissue, and fecal matter that had seeped outside of her colon.
This godforsaken mixture came rocketing out of that little incision. We all wear waterproof gowns, face masks, gloves, hats, the works—all of which were as helpful was rain boots against a fire hose. The bed was in the middle of the room, an easy seven feet from the nearest wall, but by the time we were done, I was still finding bits of rotten flesh pasted against the back wall.
As the surgeon continued to advance his blade, the deluge just continued. The patient kept seizing against the ventilator, and with every muscle contraction, she shot more of this brackish gray-brown fluid out onto the floor until, within minutes, it was seeping into the other nurse's shoes. I was nearly twelve feet away, jaw dropped open within my surgical mask, watching the second nurse dry-heaving and the surgeon standing on tip-toes to keep this stuff from soaking his socks any further.
The smell hit them first. "Oh god, I just threw up in my mask!" The other nurse was out, she tore off her mask and sprinted out of the room, shoulders still heaving. Then it hit me, mouth still wide open, not able to believe the volume of fluid this woman's body contained. It was like getting a great big bite of the despair and apathy that permeated this woman's life.
I couldn't breathe, my lungs simply refused to pull any more of that stuff in. The anesthesiologist went down next, his six-foot-two frame shaking as he threw open the door to the OR suite in an attempt to get more air in, letting me glimpse the second nurse still throwing up in the sinks outside the door. Another geyser of pus splashed across the front of the surgeon.
The YouTube clip of "David at the dentist" keeps playing in my head—"Is this real life?" In all operating rooms, everywhere in the world, regardless of socialized or privatized, secular or religious, big or small, there is one thing the same: Somewhere, there is a bottle of peppermint concentrate. Everyone in the department knows where it is, everyone knows what it is for, and everyone prays to the gods that they never have to use it.
In times like this, we rub it on the inside of our masks to keep the outside smells at bay long enough to finish the procedure and shower off. I sprinted to our central supply, ripping open the drawer where this vial of ambrosia was kept and was greeted by—an empty box. The bottle had been emptied and not replaced.
Somewhere out there was a godless person who had used the last of the peppermint oil, and not replaced a single drop of it. To this day, if I figure out who it was, I'll hurt them with my bare hands. I darted back into the room with the next best thing I can find, a vial of Mastisol, which is an adhesive rub we use sometimes for bandaging.
It's not as good as peppermint, but considering that over one-third of the floor was now thoroughly coated in what could easily be mistaken for a combination of bovine after-birth and maple syrup, we were out of options. I started rubbing as much of the Mastisol as I could get on the inside of my mask, just glad to be smelling anything except whatever slimy demon spawn we'd just cut out of this woman.
The anesthesiologist grabbed the vial next, dowsing the front of his mask in it so he could stand next to his machines long enough to make sure this woman didn't expire on the table. It wasn't until later that we realized that Mastisol can give you a mild high from huffing it like this, but in retrospect, that's probably what got us through.
By this time, the smell had permeated out of our OR suite, and down the 40-foot hallway to the front desk, where the other nurse still sat, eyes bloodshot and watery, clenching her stomach desperately. Our suite looked like the underground river of ooze from Ghostbusters II, except dirty. Oh so dirty. I stepped back into the OR suite, not wanting to leave the surgeon by himself in case he genuinely needed help.
It was like one of those overly-artistic representations of a zombie apocalypse you see on fan forums. Here's this one guy, in blue surgical garb, standing nearly ankle-deep in lumps of dead tissue, fecal matter, and several liters of syrupy infection. He was performing surgery in the swamps of Dagobah, except the swamps had just come out of this woman's behind and there was no Yoda.
He and I didn't say a word for the next 10 minutes as he scraped the inside of the abscess until all the dead tissue was out, the front of his gown a gruesome mixture of brown and red, his eyes squinted against the stinging vapors originating directly in front of him. I finished my required paperwork as quickly as I could, helped him stuff the recently-vacated opening full of gauze, taped this woman's buttocks closed to hold the dressing for as long as possible, woke her up, and immediately shipped off to the recovery ward.
Until then, I'd only heard of "alcohol showers." Turns out 70% isopropyl is about the only thing that can even touch a scent like that once it’s soaked into your skin. It takes four or five bottles to get really clean, but it's worth it. It's probably the only scenario I can honestly endorse drinking a little of it, too.
As we left the locker room, the surgeon and I looked at each other, and he said the only negative sentence I heard him utter in two and a half years of working together: "That was bad." The next morning, the entire department still smelled. The housekeepers told me later that it took them nearly an hour to suction up all of the fluid and debris left behind. The OR suite itself was closed off and quarantined for two more days just to let the smell finally clear out.
12. Game, Set, Match
When I was in pharmacy school, I was doing my internal medicine rotation in my final year. My supervisor and I were doing med reviews in the ICU when one of the doctors said "Hey, you wanna see something cool?" They were trying to extract a foreign object from a guy's lung in one of the rooms. So we go in and watch for a bit.
There were about six people in the room. A tube was down the guy's throat. Little grippers at the end. Two doctors are watching a monitor and trying to control the grabbers and get it like a claw game. I watched for a bit, then after a while, I lost interest and went back out to what I was doing. A few minutes later I hear: "Got it!" *Cheers from the room* "Oh it's a tooth!"
The dude aspirated his own molar. The doctor walks out with his trophy in a jar, and it's a completely intact tooth, root and all.
13. What Lies Beneath
My mom had to have a kidney removed due to her waiting for almost two years to go to the doctor about her pain in her back. The doctors found out it was a large kidney stone and that her kidney was infected and had lots of gross pus shutting it down. After draining the fluids through tubes, she was finally ready for surgery.
Cue last Wednesday, the day of the surgery, and she was ready to finally be done with it. They removed the stent and put in the tubes no problem, next was the kidney. Here comes the “Oh God” moment. As they get ready to remove the kidney, they realized the kidney’s infection had spread to a portion of her lung and a major artery, making them fragile as toilet paper.
As the surgeon removed the kidney, he tore a hole in the lung, and even worse, he severed the artery. At that point, it was a race to save her life and stabilize her. I don’t remember much about how they fixed her up there, but they had to fly her to a different hospital and have a heart surgeon fix the severed artery in a more permanent fashion.
Anyway, the heart doctor saw the grave situation and said she’s got a 1% chance to make it. But he did such an excellent job that my mom is still alive and getting stronger each day. The moral of this story is: If you have insurance and are experiencing pain, go to a doctor as soon as you realize it. You may save your life, and also save some doctors from an “Oh God” moment like this.
14. Lights Out
When I was in nursing school, I was observing a tonsillectomy and the power went out. Everything switched over to the backup generators, except for the suction—which is incredibly important for any surgery but particularly in the throat. They ended up having to connect a giant syringe to a length of suction tubing to suction manually while someone went to the other side of the building to find portable suction.
15. Hidden Agenda
I’m a paramedic...so many to tell, but this one will stick with me forever. Rainy afternoon in the spring. The call was for a tipsy person randomly pounding on house doors. Normally, it would be an officer response, but they were swamped. We pull up to the house, no lights, no siren. Heck, I'm so burnt out at the time, I don't even get out of the passenger seat.
I just power the window down. "Hey!" I snap at the older gentleman on the porch, "What are you doing?" He turns from pounding at the stranger’s door and begins shuffling down the walkway toward our ambulance. I can see the elderly woman close the curtains, her nuisance addressed. "Man, I just got to lay down!" The guy says to me.
I look at my partner, and she at I. Henry Ford Hospital is six blocks away. Surely we can take the guy there? "Get in the back!" I snap at him. "And if you puke in my bus, I'll mop it up with your clothes." "But I got chest pains,” He says, holding his hand closed against the pelting rain. I roll my eyes, "Man, I do too. So let's go to Ford and both get checked."
The guy begins fiddling with his buttons, and I reach over from my seat to dial up the heater. When I look back, he's got his trench coat open, to show me exactly where it hurts. What I saw still haunts me to this day. Right in the middle of his sternum, vividly defined against his white sweatshirt, is a star-shaped POWDER BURN.
A big one. Point-blank-to-the-chest, hole-punched GSW. Oh my God. The next four or so minutes were a blur. Rushing out the door to grab the man as he was about to fall. My partner yanking the stretcher out, loading the patient, and loading him in the back. Scissors cutting clothes, oxygen mask going on. Yelling, "Go, go, go!!!" to my partner as she raced the six blocks to the hospital.
I really only managed to get one IV started during the three minute ride. He was gone 25 minutes later. When we rolled him in the trauma room, you could see an exit wound the size of a fist. The doctors assured us that the only thing that could have helped this man was if he fell into the OR after being shot. But that didn't bring me any peace.
We probably spent 10 minutes talking to the man as he stood in the rain. For me, that was my out cue. I took a week off work, and resigned two weeks later.
16. Nightmare Fuel
It was my wisdom teeth removal. All four were impacted, and they had to break out the heavy hardware. I'm knocked out, don't even know the dentist entered the room. I wake up, but not able to move, just eyes open awake but my limbs won't react to my brain. I can feel the dentist hammering a chisel into my tooth to break it for extraction.
My jaw is just coming undone on every hit. My eyes are wide open, jaw even wider with some evil metal contraption. I'm staring at the assistant begging for her to see me, and after about a dozen hammers to my jaw, she glances over and drops the suction, jumps up and shrieks. The dentist stops to look at her, then looks at me and I see him say "Oh God.” Next thing I know, I'm waking up post-surgery. What nightmares are made of.
17. A Comedy Of Errors
My father told me this back when I was younger. He had a 21-year-old patient who needed to have a penectomy. Yep, he had cancer of the male member. There were two "Oh God” moments for this. The first is a common thing: He wasn't fully asleep. The second, however, is funny and humiliating. So, they are about to start the surgery.
Suddenly, one of the nurses who was there threw up and left. A test later, and boom! She was actually pregnant! Back to the surgery, though—halfway through, the other nurse leaves for a call about her father. So my dad is just standing there, the guy’s junk in his hand. He calls for help, but no one came to assist him again for 30 minutes, poor guy.
18. You Had One Job
We were operating on the carotid artery of a patient. Mid-surgery, there was a gaping hole in his neck, and suddenly the patient woke up. “Easy fix,” I think to myself, and I start shouting at the anesthesiologist to put him back under…only he’d gone out for a moment. I had to hold the guy’s head with my elbow so he wouldn't move too much and hurt himself until the guy came back.
19. When It Rains, It Pours
My grandfather was scheduled to have double knee replacement surgery when he was in his 70s. They go through a bunch of health screenings to make sure your body can take the stress of the surgery, and during one of these screenings, the cardio doctor found an aneurysm in my grandpa’s aorta. But that wasn’t even the worst part.
This beast ran basically the entire length of his torso. The doctors were shocked he was still alive with that in his chest. He ended up having to have stent surgery in his aorta first, and then a few months later was cleared for his knee replacements.
20. Did I Do That?
I once saw a med student suck up a skin graft with a suction device. The skin graft is a very thin piece of tissue that was being carefully laid onto the wound where it was then to be sewed on, carefully, like a patch. The med student was using the suction to clean up the wound and accidentally sucked up the carefully-prepared graft entirely. Gone instantaneously.
21. Gone In 60 Seconds
Gastroenterologist here. I was removing a large polyp during a colonoscopy. I put the snare around the polyp, and it took an unusually long time to sever the base of the polyp—until, all of a sudden, blood started squirting from where it was removed. The screen quickly turned red with blood, and I couldn’t see a single thing.
The patient’s blood pressure started to drop. The patient, who was a dark-skinned Middle Eastern man, turned pale white on the stretcher in front of me. That’s when I felt like I was going to faint and empty my own bowels...the only thing I could think was “Oh God.” I gave myself a moment to breathe and control my emotions.
Once I cleared my head, I let my instincts kick in. We gave him fluids to bring up his blood pressure and put him a safe position to maintain blood flow of his brain, lungs, and heart while reducing the blood flow to his gut, where the polyp was. I then turned on the water jet and diluted the blood with as much water as I could, hoping to see more on the screen and eventually clip or cauterize the blood vessel.
As it turned out, the patient's blood pressure dropped just enough to stop the bleeding automatically. That gave me a short window to identify the vessel and clip it. The man lost 1/3 of his blood volume in less than 60 seconds. He was admitted, transfused, and discharged the next day. These days, if I anticipate a similar situation, I just refer them for surgery. I am not interested in being a hero like that again.
22. I’m Sorry, Come Again?
Three years ago, my grandmother was in the hospital to get her brain tumor removed. Nine hours later, we got to see her—only for the surgeon to say, “It went well, for the most part, dropped the top of her skull though.” Just like that, he walked away eating his apple. We were all just standing there like ???????
23. Hips Don’t Lie
One of my dad's colleagues was doing a hip replacement way back in the day. Hip replacements aren't fun: They have to pretty much butterfly you like a boneless roast to get the top of the thigh bone clear of the ball-and-socket joint of the hip. They then saw off the ball end and attach the new stainless steel one, which is on a long stem they insert down the middle of the bone to keep it in place.
So the doctor has got to that stage, tapping the stem down the femur, when it jams halfway. Won't go down any further. Won't come out again. Can't saw it off, because bone saws won't touch hardened steel. Can't close up the patient and come back to it, because there's a foot-long spear stuck out the top end of his leg. Meanwhile, the anesthetist is saying they can't keep him under much longer. It was not a “successful” surgery.
24. Medical Insurance
I was the patient, and I'm pretty sure it was an "Oh God” moment for my OB-GYN. I was at the end of my labor and my daughter was stuck. I’d had two epidurals, both of which wore off. My doctor used forceps to try to get her out. I don't think she knew my epidural was as ineffective as it was, otherwise I don't think she would have shoved the forceps in like she did.
I obviously felt the forceps and started thrashing in pain. The doctor got scared and tried to take them out…but they got stuck. She had to wait for the next contraction to push them out. Then blood went everywhere. Most unsettling of all, she was on the phone with her lawyer while wheeling me in for my emergency C-section.
25. Cradle To Grave
When I was a surgery intern, I was pulled to help out in a circus of a case. One of our older doctors was doing a simple liver biopsy on a patient and nicked her artery. Because the patient was already pretty sick, her tissue had the consistency of toilet paper—so every time they tried suturing the hole, the tissue just breaks apart, leaving a bigger, more leaky hole.
Pretty much all hands were on board. The chief residents were scrubbed in, the seniors were literally squeezing blood bags into the patient's veins, and us interns were runners, going back and forth from OR to the blood bank to transport blood and plasma. We ended up transfusing over 12 liters of blood, so the patient lost over two times her total blood volume during that surgery.
A vascular surgeon eventually swooped in and did a rather slick patchwork that fixed the problem. Even better: the patient was like a daughter to the surgeon. He literally saved this patient's life several times already, and they got really close over the years. She even named one of her kids after him. The poor guy broke down a few times during the surgery and was convinced that he had just killed his daughter.
The chief residents had to take over a few times when he was mentally not there. That was his last surgery...He retired the next day. Heck of a way to end a surgical career.
26. That’s The Tooth
I had some dental work done in my teens. I had two impacted teeth, and one was being taken out by some elaborate gear. The surgeon thought, "Well, the tooth is sticking out, I can just pull it." He tried one tug and I almost fell forward out of the chair. The second pull, he had a nurse hold my shoulders. The third, he put his foot on the chair, used both hands while the nurse held me from behind around the waist and he YANKED!
Like in cartoons when a bullet bounces around the room and nobody can see it...yeah, that was my impacted tooth. I was numb and didn’t feel a thing except a warm sensation all over my chin...I learned then I was a bleeder.
27. Silent And Fatal
During my father’s residency, a gentleman came in with an infection he developed after having his gum scraped during a dental cleaning. The infection had gotten into his sinus cavity, and my father told his attending that the gentleman was going to die. They had a specialist from Harvard at the hospital at that time, and he called my father an idiot.
The attending corrected the guy from Harvard saying that no, my father was right and the guy was likely going to pass. He had seen 10 such infections previously, and each time the person didn’t make it. Apparently, there's a part of your face some physicians call the "Triangle of Death." The gums of your top teeth form the base, with the sinus cavities forming the arms.
Over the next two days, the infection spread to the guy’s left eye. Mr. Harvard said that they should take the eye, and hopefully, that would be enough to save him. My father said it's not going to make much of a difference and the guy should start working out his final affairs. Obviously not wanting to give up, the gentleman consented to have his eye removed.
It didn't make a difference, and within three days of having his eye removed, the gentleman was gone. The infection went from the sinus and ocular cavities and through the blood-brain barrier.
28. A Second Opinion
For months, I was going to the doctor every Wednesday, because after running just a mile I couldn't breathe. They checked my lungs and my heart and everything. Yet I still couldn't run the mile without collapsing at the end. All of my doctors told my mom that I was just doing it for attention and they saw this kind of behavior all the time.
I had a physical scheduled and my mom thought about canceling it. I had seen so many doctors already, why waste the time? She finally decided I should go, just to keep on schedule. My normal doctor wasn't there. He was sick and called in someone to take his shifts. She pushed on my stomach and asked if I was sexually active. My response made her panic. I said I was 11 and hadn't even started my period, and she rushed me to the hospital.
After a sonogram, they said they saw something. That night, I was having surgery. When I woke up, they told me they took out a three-pound, malignant teratoma. I'd have to start chemo right away. Being the sassy 11-year-old I was, I just smiled smugly at my doctor and said "I told you I wasn't lying!" I saw him recently, 15 years later. He still remembers me and apologized profusely for not catching it sooner.
29. A Warm Bedside Manner
I’m a female med student, and my first-ever patient had an inguinal hernia. I examined his lower abdomen and balls, and then I had to feel for the hernia. Except I was so nervous, I just started playing with his balls with my fingertips. Well, the obvious happened: He started to get “excited,” and I got so embarrassed I immediately left.
30. The Water Cure
When I had mono, I was getting incredibly overheated and was drinking lots of water. I still felt incredibly dehydrated, so I contacted a nurse on call and told them that despite drinking liters upon liters I was still feeling dehydrated and my headache was getting worse. She told me to just keep drinking more water. This turned out to be near-fatal advice.
My symptoms kept getting worse, so I finally went to the doctor—who told me I almost passed from over-hydration. A few Gatorades later, I felt a million times better.
31. A Stitch In Time
I was in sixth grade, and my family was living in an upstairs/downstairs duplex. The family above us had two small boys, first grade and preschool if memory serves. Their dad was at work and their mom had to run some errands, so she asked if I could watch them while she was away for a while. It was a nice summer day, so we were outside running around in the yard, generally acting like kids.
A game of tag or something soon developed, with the two boys chasing me. At some point, I ended up running right along the side of the house and losing my footing. Down I went. Instead of my knees or my palms, I hit the side of my head. It HURT. I got to my knees and put my hand to the side of my head, only to feel warm liquid. Lots of it.
I looked at my hand, and it was like it had been used as a prop from the movie Carrie. Blood EVERYWHERE. I looked up to see a nice little trail of blood on the wall of the house, leading up to the head of a nail that was sticking out about an inch. My dad grew Hollyhocks and would tie them up with twine so they wouldn't fall over, and I just happened to catch one right over my eyebrow.
So, I went inside and informed my mother in very precise terms that I was probably in need of medical attention. My history with the emergency room was pretty robust, so my mom is quite used to the sight of me coming into the kitchen bleeding and/or broken. She made very little fuss, other than a frantic towel-grabbing mission before packing me and those two now-very-scared little boys into the car and heading to the local ER. This is where the "Oh God" moment happens.
Remember, this is a weekday during the summer in a suburban neighborhood. The ER was completely empty, except for the receptionist typing away at something. Mom lets me out to start admission while she parks the car. Apparently, my arrival went unnoticed, because the receptionist didn't look up until I was just a few steps away. I smiled weakly and said something to the effect of, "I think this needs to get looked at" while pulling away the now very blood-soaked towel. At that moment, everything unraveled.
A small arteriole decided it had had enough and proceeded to burst forth, each heartbeat pumping a nice little jet of blood out, which I could just discern out of the corner of my eye. Needless to say, I was making a right mess of the place. The receptionist calmly responded by fainting. I have no idea how one becomes a receptionist at an ER while having issues with blood, but somehow this poor woman did.
So now I was standing there in that antiseptic-white reception room, bleeding quietly to myself, with an unconscious receptionist behind the counter and my mom out in the parking lot still dealing with two panicky little kids. I had a major "Oh God" right then and there. Fortunately, at that point, someone else of better intestinal fortitude came out and saw what was going on, and got me rushed back into an exam room.
I got 32 stitches and now the scar is barely visible as a minor line right above my eyebrow.
32. A Flesh Wound
I was working in the trauma unit one morning when I got an emergency call over the radio about somebody with arterial neck bleed from an unknown injury. Prior to arrival, I called down the surgeons and we all gowned up and were waiting for him in the critical bay. So in rolls this old guy with a 4x4 of gauze on his neck just sitting there, and EMS just rolling him in on a gurney.
Clearly in no distress. So we're assessing the guy and looking him over, half of the surgeons looking at me trying to figure out why I called them down. I remove the gauze... nothing obvious.. maybe a small dot of blood... but really nothing. So all of us are leaning in to get a better look, and all of a sudden one super thin stream of blood streaks out of this guy's neck all the way across the room and hits the wall.
All of us jumped back and half of us screamed. We all stood there looking at each other for a second before we all started laughing. Apparently this guy had been picking at something on his neck and hit a superficial arterial vessel. Scared the heck out of me!
33. Man Vs. Machine
My dad was observing a surgery during his residency several decades ago, just when electronic monitors were becoming a huge deal. He noticed the patient's fingertips and lips were blue and tried to tell the surgeon, who informed him the patient was fine because the machines showed normal oxygen and blood pressure.
Dad responded by jumping on top of the patient and performing CPR while someone had the common sense to rush them to the ER. Best part is that a representative from the company that made the machines was there to observe this miserable failure.
34. An Honest Mistake
I have a friend who is a doctor. He was doing a rectal examination using a camera, and all he could see was crazy psychedelic colors in this patient's rear. He was completely freaked out…Then he looked down and saw he'd pushed his tie in with the camera.
35. Let Me Introduce Myself
As a doctor, I've gone into the wrong room and started talking to the patient before, only to realize it's the wrong one after a bit. But probably worse than that is walking in and completely forgetting who the patient is and why they're in there. I just keep conversation going until I casually pull out my notes. Sounds awful, but easy to do when you've been up 25-30 hours and are following 15+ patients to remember each detail.
36. A Swing And A Miss
I had a biopsy done on my neck by an ear, nose, and throat specialist. It went horribly. He jabbed it in just below my ear, then wiggled the huge needle around, took it out, put it back in, wiggled it around...just awful. I was left with an enormous yellow and green bruise all over my neck. The results were inconclusive. But it gets worse.
A month later, I went to see a really old doctor. He pushed on the spot in question. "Is this the bump you're concerned about?" "Yes, that's it." "That's your second vertebrae. That guy tried to do a biopsy on it?" "What? Yeah..." "What an idiot, sorry."
37. Doing More Damage Than Good
My father is an ER doctor. One day, an old woman comes in with a headache. Attending sees her, sends her home with some Advil. You can tell where this is going. She comes back two days later with a stroke and chest pain. It is a massive stroke, so they get her on blood thinners right away. They send her in for a CAT scan, to check out her brain.
On the scan, they notice something odd. Do another scan: her aorta has almost completely dissected. This is the most blood-filled, high-pressure artery in the body, and blood thinners are the absolute last thing that an aortic dissection patient should be given. Commence freak out. They wheel her into emergency surgery to repair the aorta, but by then she's bleeding profusely.
Her heart stops shortly thereafter. Luckily, my father never personally prescribed the blood thinners, but apparently, that was a real "Oh, God" moment. Her condition was fatal either way, but it was not a good day.
38. Dirty Little Secret
When I was a nursing student, I was on surgery practicum. We had a guy in who needed an elbow repair. I was pretty useless in everything but emotional support, as I wasn't qualified, so was chatting to him before he went under. He admitted to having an (un)healthy substance habit. I informed the surgeon, who shrugged it off. This was a big mistake.
Apparently, I should have told the anesthetist, because this dude woke up mid-surgery and was trying to reach for his open arm that the surgeon was working on. Super "Oh God" moment as we scramble to contain this guy's arm and stop it from touching anything sterile.
39. Ignorance Isn’t Bliss
Former medical student here. I remember one young patient, 22 years old, was re-visiting the ER, where he'd been seen six weeks prior for sustaining some abrasions and bruises after falling hard off a skateboard. He was all scraped up everywhere but had healed up OK. But now he's in the ER again, feeling awful sick and vomiting.
As the third year med student, I was dispatched to the bedside and hung up the CT films on the lightbox, to much finger-pointing and grunting among the surgeons. I had no idea how to read a CT at the time—I wasn't even really sure what part of the body had been scanned. So when the surgical resident barked "Prep him for surgery," I decided to disguise my ignorance and just go for it.
We got him gassed and prepped and I scrubbed in. The surgeon said "Open." That’s where it all started to go wrong. First, I had to be told what we were doing: The Kocher maneuver, where you basically move the intestines to expose what you want to get it. By now, everyone knows I’m not with it, but they watch me do it anyway.
I slid my gloved hand up, getting ready to grab the entire sack of intestines and move it up and over—but I met unexpected resistance. I peered up, seeing in my confusion that everyone was edging away from the table. "What's the trouble young man, get your hand up there and complete the maneuver! Push harder!" A spongy sort of barrier gave way with a sickening stench.
Suddenly, a gushing cascade of grey-brown, bloody pus roared out of the incision, soaking my gown, scrub pants, and shoes before splattering on the OR floor and walls. The guy had a splenic abscess, as I just found out. After that, the other doctors cleaned it up and mostly cured it. The attending finished up and the patient was good as new. I had to throw out my shoes.
40. Lending A Hand
I was observing a hand surgery about a year ago at a teaching hospital. The surgeon was removing one of the carpals, which are the bones near the base of the hand, to be used later. A nurse was given the carpal to hold until it needed to be used. She ended up dropping the patient's bone right on the ground. The surgeon was not happy.
41. A Seed Of Truth
My uncle is a respirologist, and he was supervising lung surgery to remove a tumor. Well, when they opened the guy up, they all went white as a sheet. Turns out, the so-called “tumor” was actually a root ball. Some type of seed had gotten into the patient's lungs and started to grow. No one had ever seen anything like it before.
42. No Laughing Matter
I had an ingrown toenail, and it was supposed to be a quick fix. I was 14 and had my mom in with me. They let an apprentice do the surgery, and suddenly he goes “Oh God.” The doctor in charge just laughed and said "No risk, no fun." Turns out they messed up my toe, and I had to have four more surgeries to correct it. I cried.
43. A Win For Once
Fifth-year resident here. There are lots of bad moments throughout training, but I do have one positive “Oh God” moment. This patient had a kidney tumor. We made a big incision, and my attending and I are dancing around the aorta and vena cava. I was expecting that we'd need to cut and clamp the vena cava to get all the cancer out.
But my attending literally squeezes the tumor out of the vena cava and back into the renal vein and then has me tie it off. It was incredible, and incredibly rare to be able to do. The patient went home in like four days and is still doing great. First time I felt like “Oh man, I'm a surgeon."
44. A Rude Awakening
I was having surgery on my breast to remove what they suspected was cancer. I woke up during the surgery and I looked up and saw four people with scrub caps on, staring down at me. I looked at my boob in pure horror, and that is all I remember because they knocked me back out. Still makes me want to vomit thinking about it.
45. Caught Red-Handed
My husband went in for a routine colonoscopy and as they were prepping him, the anesthetist asks him if he's a ginger. My husband tells him, “Yeah.” When he was a kid growing up, he had fire engine red hair, though it's faded to a more strawberry blonde now. The anesthetist laughs and says, “Okay, I gotcha, we'll give you the redhead dosage.”
He then winks. Well, my husband thinks it's funny…until he wakes up at the tail end of the procedure and the doctors are just chatting it up. Turns out, it's not a joke and redheads have some type of natural block to anesthesia. The doctor had given him the maximum allowable dosage and he still woke up. It could have gone so much worse.
46. Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls
I had a hysterectomy a week ago, and I begged the nurse for four hours while in recovery to please take the catheter out because it was painful and I felt like I had to pee. She kept telling me it was a normal catheter sensation, and I know that that's at least part of what was going on, but it felt like my bladder was going to burst. I just didn’t know how bad it would get.
About 10 minutes after she obviously begrudgingly took it out, I paged another nurse to help me go to the bathroom. She was in the middle of telling me it might take 20 minutes or multiple trips to pee because it's usually just sensation from the catheter making you think you have to pee—when I unleashed an absolute waterfall of urine.
I don't know if it was clogged, not put in right, or if I'm just weird and somehow my body wasn't going to relax enough to let me urinate through the catheter. I really wished she would have pulled it without making me wait four hours.
47. Pobody’s Nerfect
I have a coronary heart issue. I once watched a video of my surgery, as they are used as teaching tools at Baylor, and I convinced someone to let me see. At one point the surgeon, while holding my half-heart in his hand, says "Oops!" I couldn't pick out the mistake, but it certainly freaked me out at the time. I still think about that.
48. Odd Anatomy
I’m a biomedical scientist, and my officemate was a medical doctor working on his PhD. He once did an appendectomy and cut into this person’s abdomen—only to find no appendix. He started freaking out. The support nurses in the room, however, started snickering at him because they knew right away what the problem really was.
Occasionally, they see someone with a rare genetic disorder where all their left-right asymmetries are reversed. This patient’s appendix was on the other side.
49. A Slip Of The Hand
I was the patient, and it was a kidney biopsy. I was pretty out of it, but still awake so they could talk to me, laying on my stomach as my kidney doctor worked behind me. He warned me, “You’re going to hear a click and it will feel like Mike Tyson punched you in the back.” “Ooookayy?” I hear, click, feel the punch, then hear, “Oh, GOD. Get on the phone now.”
A nurse came up near my face to calm me, and maybe keep an eye on me. I don’t really remember everything. Apparently, the doctor had nicked a blood vessel, and I was bleeding internally at an alarming rate. I got to spend the night in the hospital and peed what seemed like pure blood for about 24 hours. Never try to fit your kidney biopsy in on a Friday before the doctor leaves for vacation.
50. Feel My Pain
My friend had a horrible moment when he was going under the knife. Two minutes into surgery, the doctors noticed his pupils dilating or something. He said it was horrible, he could feel the scalpel cutting into his flesh, the agonizing pain, and the oxygen thing only gave him air every few minutes. They noticed he wasn't under and fixed it. But then the dark truth came out.
Turns out, the anesthesiologist who put him under was his ex-girlfriend, though no one knew about it, and she likely did it on purpose. The surgery went well, the recovery was a bit longer than expected, but he's all good now.
51. My Boss Is A Heartbreaker
I had a doctor that constantly ignored patients in serious pain, and it let to a serious "Oh God" moment that was also his comeuppance. He thought all of his patients were faking it to get painkillers. After a senior director at Microsoft died from a heart attack in our ER that he refused to do an EKG on, I went to management and told them what I had seen. He got fired the next day.
51. Don’t Assume
I’m an X-ray tech and was helping a woman who had been involved in a motor vehicle accident at around 9:00 am. They told me she was acting weird and kind of wild at the scene, so they brought her in and gave her Narcan, assuming she was on narcotics. We have a very high rate of substance and addiction issues in our area.
It turned out that her liver had been lacerated in the accident and it was causing her to act all weird. After she came out of the operating room, she was a completely lovely person.
52. He Was Itching For Some Help
I was in the hospital following a motorcycle accident. My hospital roommate, who was beside me, had been in an 18-wheeler accident. He was complaining that his back itched and someone finally came in and rolled him on his side. When they turned him over, their faces dropped—his back had pieces of glass stuck all over it. I still don't know how that was overlooked.