It's safe to assume that most of us have put off seeing a doctor until we were in dire straits. These doctors, however, have taken to Reddit to share stories of patients who, rather than just not go to the doctor, have really sought to forgo any medical care completely. A few of the below medical "hacks" have a chance of succeeding in principle, but have been soundly disproved by experience. In no circumstances should any of these methods be attempted at home.
1. Cost-Saving Measures
A gentleman walked into the emergency department one day after he tried to give himself a vasectomy with an animal neutering kit he bought on the internet. When we asked him why he said that his wife wanted to have a sixth kid and it was too expensive to pay a doctor to do it. He didn’t think it would be all that difficult to do it himself.
2. Just a Spoonful of Sugar
Sugar can actually 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. I asked my patient about it and offered to change it for them even though we didn’t typically do that in our clinic.
I go get fresh bandages and whatnot, then take the old one off. I immediately started gagging. It’s just sticky and stringy, picture the slo-mo shots of caramel being pulled apart. And it smelled…weird. 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 I was seeing. Maple syrup…they used maple syrup.
3. It's a Nice Gesture
One time when I was in nursing school, I was doing ER clinical and a guy came in with “penile pain.” Long story short, several days prior, he decided he wanted a texture implant to help enhance pleasure during bedroom activities for his lady friend. He and his buddy got tipsy (of course) and decided to do it themselves. It couldn’t have gone worse.
They went in his garage and took a box cutter to slice open the skin on the dorsal (top) side of his member, made some room between the skin and underlying muscle, and put a small porcelain heart underneath. Then he superglued it shut. To make matters worse, the guy didn’t wait for it to heal and decided to take it for a test run immediately.
He ended up with a major infection and presented several days later. I, unfortunately, don’t know the outcome; I was just there for the porcelain heart extraction.
4. He's Probably Fine
I saw a young child with a bruised, swollen, crooked forearm. He had fallen on the playground three days earlier and another parent there was a vet and had horse X-ray equipment in his truck. That parent took X-rays and told the mom that the kid was probably fine. So that was apparently good enough for mom and she didn’t do anything for three days.
Her child was up all night screaming in pain. Finally, she took him into my office and brought me the fuzzy copies of the X-rays, which were useless and impossible to accurately interpret. I got him real X-rays and a nice cast for his very broken arm.
5. Doctor in Training
I once had a young teenager with sickle cell disease who had been in the hospital for around a week already. He then decided to “manage” his pain himself. This was a few years ago, but I caught him pretending to take his meds. He would tip his head back and gesture that the pill went into his mouth, but really he either kept it in his hand or threw the pill behind his back.
He was also quite a talker, which I then assumed was a tactic to try and distract me. I kept seeing his odd behavior and caught him doing this a 2-3 times by the middle of the shift, so I was definitely onto him. He had a PICC line (which is essentially a long IV where the tubing goes all the way to your heart) in his left arm. I couldn’t have imagined where this was going at the time.
I noticed that it was quite a bit more swollen compared to his other arm. Sometimes clots can happen in PICC lines, so that was my biggest concern at first, but the line was drawing blood fine so I know it wasn’t clotted off. Told the doctor, then I drew blood from his PICC line and sent it down to the lab for it to be cultured to see if there was any bacteria.
Low and behold, it came back positive for a bacteria that is commonly found in tap water and usually not a source of infection in PICC lines. Fast forward a few hours later, he confessed that any oral medication he could slip by the nurses, he saved for later in order to crush them up himself, try to dissolve it with sink water in the bathroom, and inject it into himself via his PICC line.
6. The Worst He's Ever Seen
I had a guy come in for coughing and shortness of breath for the past few months. His lungs were making some very concerning noises. He 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. The dude had like 15 percent 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 concentrated air freshener bottles. It was clearly labeled “Not For Internal Use.” Apparently he had been using it like mouthwash spray, and had already gone through three bottles by the time he came to us.
7. Just Leave It to Us
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 the bleeding. Then the whole situation flipped upside down. 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 had inside it. He responds very proudly with, “Ah yes, I packed the wound with leaves and super glue.”
8. A Cat and Mouse Chase
A patient came into emergency with barbecue tongs hanging out of his back end. Unfortunately, the patient lost his bedroom toy so far up his colon that he couldn’t pull it out. He thought he would be able to reach the thing and pull it out with the barbecue tongs. Well, the tongs don’t make a complete loop, and hooked onto the inside of his sphincter.
He wasn’t able to pull the tongs out and had to go to surgery to remove everything.
9. The Last Straw
My dad had an abscess on his face. It was huge, about the size of a golf ball, and horribly red. It kept getting bigger. My mom kept telling him to go to the doctor, but my dad was ridiculously cheap. One day when she was gone, we noticed that a big white head had formed on the abscess, and it was apparently ready to bust. That was the last straw.
My dad went out to the garage, got his shop vac, placed it over the white head, and proceeded to suck out the abscess. It worked surprisingly well and healed up after that nicely. Mom was still furious, though.
10. The Job Was Finally Finished
When I was 19, I had no job, home, or money and was couch surfing various friends’ places. A back tooth cracked in half on me. I dealt with it for a few days before realizing something was wrong and this wasn’t your regular toothache. I loaded up the ol’ search engine and found that I needed a dentist to remove the tooth. Well, having no money made that difficult, but something had to be done.
One day while I was in pain, I went to the kitchen grabbed some needle nose pliers, went to the bathroom and pulled that sucker out, albeit not very successfully. For the next 11 years of my life, I would live with pointy little fragments of tooth stuck in my jaw. I finally got a job that gave me dental insurance, went to the dentist, and got the rest of the tooth fragments pulled out.
11. Cleared Out
Generally, whenever we get a homeless person for medical treatment, as long as it’s not life-threatening, we don’t go out of our way to treat them. Especially if they have a self-inflicted injury to obtain pain meds. I once had a guy come in for severe constipation. He hadn’t had a bowel movement in a month due to substance use.
We gave him laxatives and told him to drink lots of water and told him to be on his way. He kept on begging for help and refusing to leave without some treatment. It was a slow night and we didn’t want to have a scene, so I told the charge nurse I’ll take care of it, if it was okay. She was cool with it since he was in actual pain given how stiff and distended his abdomen was.
So I took a urinary catheter and a 50cc syringe to the bathroom with him. I filled the sink with water, then had him strip down. I got some lube and went up the rear with the catheter. It took a good 20 flushes for him to finally have a bowel movement. He went from looking like he had four turkey dinners to being a skinny featherweight.
12. You're On the Right Track
A patient came in with a snake bite on his lower leg. Not only did he tourniquet his upper leg, but both arms, and around his neck. He told me he didn’t want the poison to go to his head. To be fair, the upper leg tourniquet probably did help the poison stop spreading, but the rest of it was just ridiculous. Still, it’s the little things.
13. Stop It At the Source
My friend’s dad got skin cancer on his right bicep. At the time he was a large muscular man who ran a horse farm, so instead of going through all the normal processes of treating skin cancer, since he caught it early, he thought he could stop it at the source. So, he heated up a railroad tie with a massive torch he had on his farm.
He then shoved it into his arm where the skin cancer was…he did this TWICE. Then he wrapped up his insane burn hole. A while later he went to the doctor, who said the burn he inflicted was the craziest thing he’s ever seen. But here’s the kicker. All signs of the cancer were gone. His arm and burn healed months later and he remains cancer-free to this day.
14. She Never Learned Her Lesson
I had a patient who came into the ER with a chronic cough which was not resolving. She subscribes to holistic medicine and lives out in the bush. She had been struggling with this worsening cough and feeling unwell for about two entire months before she came. The whole time, she was taking a homemade bovine lung extract.
She made it on her farm. She was proud that she dried the cow’s lung herself. I suspect she either inhaled bacteria or she aspirated some of it. In any case, she now had a huge lung abscess. She required a lung pneumonectomy (removal of her upper lung). Pathology came back with some bizarre bacteria I never heard of, nor was taught in medicine.
She survived and has become my patient, but I still never see her unless her home remedies fail. She never really learned her lesson but has thankfully sworn off the bovine lung extract at least.
15. Don't Do It Again!
I had a patient come in complaining of pain in her arm. I looked at where she points and it looked like a cyst, but it was pretty deep. She said it was a recurring problem and it just kept coming back. I flipped through her chart and the first instance of that weird lump was nearly a year ago. I do some more reading on her chart. Its contents made everything disgustingly clear.
I found out the patient would come in every few months for the same issue, but in-between, she would use a kitchen utensil to dig it out despite being told multiple times not to, you know, do surgery on herself at home. That was probably why there was so much pain to the area and why it was now burrowed so deep underneath the skin.
I phoned the doctor on-call, who asked me a bunch of questions. In the end he said, “I don’t even know what to tell you. I’m referring her to surgery. And tell her not to take a sharp object to it again!”
16. Quick Thinking
I had a good ol’ boy farmer slice open his thigh with a chainsaw while cutting a tree. He proceeded to wrap about half a roll of duct tape around it until the bleeding was controlled. Then he decided to drive himself (with his horse trailer still attached to his pickup) from the country into the city to our hospital, about a 40-minute drive.
Now, our trauma center hospital is right next to the children’s hospital. He accidentally went into the children’s hospital, where they proceeded to panic and call for an ambulance to drive him across the street to our hospital. To be honest, that duct tape was on so tight he saved his own life because it essentially became a tourniquet.
17. I Think There's Something Wrong
My father just recently went back to work after being in the hospital and on home care since the start of the year. He had two small wounds on his ankles that he was treating with Band-Aids and Epsom salt soaks, hoping it would heal itself. When I caught a glimpse of it back in November I pressured him for weeks to go to a doctor and he refused.
He wouldn’t let my mom see it either. Finally on New Year’s Day, he made a full confession. He mentions to my mom, “Hunny, I think there’s something wrong with my ankle” and he pulled the bandage off. She was on the other side of the room and just smelled the decaying flesh, she hadn’t even seen it yet. By the time he went to the hospital, he found out the wounds on his ankle went to the bone!
The bones themselves were infected as well as the surrounding tissue. He’s still going to a wound center for it so they can continue doing bone and skin grafts to help it heal. If only he had listened to me back in November.
18. They Were Meant to Be Temporary
I had a patient come in with a mouth full of weird gloopy white mounds on his molars and some old caps on his teeth that were falling off. He was phobic of the dentist and hadn’t had insurance for 10 years. Turns out, his temporary healing caps from 10 years ago were falling off of his teeth. Of course, they were meant to be temporary, not permanent, hence the name.
To fix his “minor” issue, he was gluing them back in with plumbing cement! Then he decided to just go for it and do his own fillings! When the caps would come off while he was chewing (and they did) and he swallowed them, he would sort through his poop for them and glue them back in. Just absolute ridiculousness. That was NOT a good day.
19. An Old Remedy
I was working in a community practice in the country when an older male comes in complaining of ear pain. He was a sailor and said that out during long journeys on the open ocean there wasn’t always a doctor and you had to often fend for yourself when it came to medical issues. He had long had a problem with his ears and said it had been getting much worse recently despite the use of his favorite maritime remedy.
I examined his ears. What I saw stopped me in my tracks. Both of his ear canals were caked in a black/green mold overlying extremely irritated bleeding tissue. Looking down each canal, he had bilateral perforated ear drums with blood slowly emanating from his middle ear. I asked him what he had been doing with his ears.
He then pulled out a semicircular black piece of rubber tubing about the size of a bike pump tube. He proceeded to tell me that any time he had ear trouble, he would fill up his mouth with water, put one end of the tube in his mouth and the other end tightly in his ear canal. He would then proceed to push the water in and out between his mouth and ear trying to flush it out.
He lived to tell more tales, despite some deafness. I still shudder to think about his maritime “fix” to this day.
20. Lucky Break
I once impaled my hand on the top of a fence I was climbing when my feet slipped out while I had one hand on top. I wound up with 18 stitches total, 10 internal and eight external. They told me to come back in two weeks to get the stitches out. So two weeks go by, but I don’t have insurance. I figured, “How hard can it be to remove stitches?”
It wasn’t hard, however, a doctor probably would have looked at my hand and said, “Those aren’t ready to come out.” I did not have any such medical knowledge, so when I removed the stitches, I ended up with just a big hole in my hand. I didn’t know what to do and I definitely didn’t want to get more stitches in the raw skin I had just removed them from.
So I crazy-glued my hand shut and kept reapplying the glue a couple of times a day for two weeks. In the end, I peeled off the strip of dried glue and my hand was perfectly healed.
21. Some Things Aren't Sterile
l had a patient whose upper denture was loose so they applied superglue to it, dried their mouth, and stuck it in! It worked great. But there was one enormous problem. Obviously they couldn’t get the denture out again. A couple weeks later, his wife forced him to come see me due to the smell coming from his mouth. The gum tissue became necrotic and the patient lost all the tissue on the roof of his mouth.
22. I Was Almost Impressed
One day we had a kid, about 14, come in after getting his hand chewed up by a meat grinder. Apparently this is pretty common, because it was the second time I had seen it in a matter of months. Anyways, when I went to irrigate his wound I noticed he wasn’t bleeding at all but had chunks of dark red “crumbs” stuck in the wound.
Turns out they put cayenne pepper on it to stop it from bleeding before heading to the hospital. Honestly, I was pretty impressed…at least at the beginning of it all. The only problem is that the pepper was so deeply lodged into the cuts that I couldn’t get any of it out, so he had to go to the OR and get his hand amputated.
23. He Saved Some Money
I once had a guy come in who had severely broken his pinky to the point that it was going to have to be amputated. He asked about the treatment options and cost. When we gave him ball-park estimates for the surgical amputation, he refused treatment and left the hospital. About an hour later, the same guy came back. I couldn’t believe what I saw.
He now required stitches on his hand after his friend chopped his pinky off with a hatchet. Honestly, he saved himself a lot of money and they made a surprisingly clean cut. But still, I would not recommend.
24. Following the Procedures
I had a rather frail middle-aged gentleman who tested positive for some highly contagious illnesses, so he was on contact infection precautions. He had a large cyst on his inner thigh that was to be operated on the next day. However, this time frame was “not suitable” for this gentleman. He asked for a razor to shave his face and I gave him one.
A few minutes later, I heard the screams and shouts of one of the nurses walking past that patient’s room. I came running. As I come to the door I see the man sitting at the edge of his bed, undressed, with his thigh sliced open, razor in hand. I had to very quickly and carefully put on gloves and grab a towel to apply pressure to the wound gushing blood while avoiding the highly infectious individual.
25. Hiding the Evidence
As a teen, I dislocated two fingers and broke the knuckle of my pinky while skiing. I relocated the fingers immediately before I felt pain. I didn’t want to admit the break to my dad, who didn’t want me to go skiing in the first place. So I made a splint of popsicle sticks and hair ties and hid it from him for days until we got back home to Florida.
When he found out, I told him I smashed it in a car door. When we went to the doctor, he reveals this was not a crush injury, and I had to finally tell my dad the truth. My busted knuckle had already set, so I now have a pinky that goes at a 45-degree angle.
26. We Know It's Not Scurvy
The weirdest thing I’ve seen thus far was a patient mixing urine and fermented oranges into some kind of drink. The patient would drink this, but also use it as a shampoo. When confronted with this, the answer I received was that this mixture was something they needed to be able to ”see themselves properly” in mirrors. They were not given more oranges.
27. No Harm, No Foul
When I was a senior in high school, I had to go on a school retreat and stay in an old cabin for three days. As the weekend progressed, I was struggling to breathe more and more and couldn’t sleep, but I figured it was just bad allergies and nicotine withdrawals. By day three, it was so hard to breathe that I could hardly speak.
I just kind of walked around bent over and occasionally went outside for a smoke. I finally got home and told my parents about it and my dad decided it didn’t warrant an expensive doctor’s visit, so he gave me two pills and told me to take a shower and I’d be fine. Several hours after taking them, I still felt terrible and could no longer talk.
I drove myself to the ER. They finally gave me the horrific answer. Turns out I breathed in a bunch of mold at the cabin that I was allergic to and was having bronchial spasms, causing an extremely low oxygen level. It was to the point where I may not have made it through the night had I not checked in. The doctor called my family to find out what pills I had taken so they didn’t give me any medicine that would react poorly with it.
Dad’s response? “Oh those were just sugar pills; I was hoping the placebo effect would cure him.”
28. Cause and Effect
I’m a physical therapist and used to work in Alabama, where we would see some rural country folk. One poor guy was chopping wood and the axe slipped and gashed his leg pretty badly. An old country remedy for wounds is to put kerosene on it. Which he did. But after he did that, he unfortunately decided to light up a smoke. So we were treating him for a very infected, very burned leg.
29. An Unlikely Tool
A totally normal-seeming gentleman in his 80s came in looking uncomfortable and not really wanting to sit down for us. He said he hadn’t gone to the bathroom in days and instead of going to a doctor to get a catheter, he decided that all he needed to do was, you know, unplug it. So he stuck a pencil so far up his urethra that he lost said pencil.
By the time we checked it out, we couldn’t even see or feel it. The look of panic and fear on the urology resident’s face as the ER doctor told him what was happening and showed him the X-ray was unforgettable. All this while the guy who had the pencil elbow deep inside him looked like he was waiting calmly for the bus. The most confusing aspect of all of it was that he went eraser first.
30. I Still Feel It
As I’m leaving for the day, this patient comes walking in saying he has metal foreign body in his eye. Then he really surprised me. He admitted it was not the first time for him. While looking at his chart, I noticed the last doctor used a needle to pick the metal out of his eye. On the way back to exam room, he tells me that this time, he heated up a needle and tried to scrape the metal foreign body out on his own.
Thankfully, there was no permanent damage, but he scraped 70 percent of his corneal epithelium off and then kept scraping because he said it still felt like it was in there.
31. I'll Tell Them Myself
My parents went out of town one time and left my sisters and I in the care of our grandmother. I was playing around outside and got stung by several wasps. It hurt a whole lot and I ran inside yelling. My grandmother decided a swallow of Calamine lotion was the way to go. So she got out the Calamine lotion and a teaspoon for me.
I refused to take it and she threatened me, “If you don’t take this then I’ll tell your mom and dad when they get home!” No problem, I agreed that I’d tell them myself. Everything turned out okay in the end, but I don’t remember my parents ever leaving us kids with our grandmother to watch us again. That was the day I realized not all adults know what’s going on.
32. It's Beyond Me
This woman had wanted to have gender affirming surgery, but didn’t have the resources to go through the transition through proper medical channels. She decided to take matters into her own hands. She cut off most of her pre-existing stuff with a hacksaw and stitched herself up at home. By her account, she was able to recover from this without going to the hospital.
How someone would not bleed out or get infected is beyond me, so I doubt that this is the complete truth. Anyhow, once she had recovered, she cut off the rest at the base with garden shears. That was when it all went wrong. Apparently, she bled out and had to be airlifted to the hospital. She was transfused with several liters of blood and put on psychiatric hold.
33. That's Not Gonna Work
We had a doctor some time ago who was performing an emergency craniotomy. Someone had broken their skull pretty badly, but I don’t know the circumstances. He was operating and a piece of the skull fell on the floor. Well, that’s not sterile, so he can’t put it back, but he still wants to. My supervisor gets a call about placing the skull piece in the autoclave.
The autoclave is a 270-degree steam sterilizer. My supervisor had to resist making jokes and we contacted the right people who could tell this very stubborn surgeon that we don’t steam human body parts.
34. At-Home Remedy
One day, an older woman came in with a white towel wrapped around her forearm. I asked her what she was there for and she said she tried to treat poison oak at home and it didn’t work and it was really painful. I asked how she tried to treat it and she said she came across an at-home remedy which she thought would work. When I heard what she did, I nearly gasped.
Essentially, you make multiple superficial cuts or scratches to the affected area and then wrap the area in bleach-soaked bandages. Kind of like a bleach bath. It was day three when she came to the ER because it hurt so badly and she was having issues bending and moving her arm. My eyebrows went up at this and I asked to see her arm.
Her arm had such a significant chemical burn that areas were black around the cuts, other parts were fire engine red, and the skin was peeling. She was admitted for five or so days. She had an infection, debridement surgery, and would likely need skin grafts in the future.
35. Mouth Problems
I had a guy present to the ER complaining of a “mouth problem.” Something about his mouth just didn’t look quite right. Upon closer inspection, we realized he’d done some DIY dental work. The patient claimed he’d been in a fight and had all his front upper teeth knocked out. He had no insurance, so he decided to DIY a partial denture for himself.
He went to Wal-Mart and got one of those fake grills you use with a costume and used that as a mold. He took his knocked-out teeth, ground them into a paste, mixed with some epoxy-type material, and then put that into the grill mold to set. After they were hard, he cut away the rubber grill, trimmed the new fake teeth, and then tried to super-glue that to his gums.
36. DIY Surgery
I had a patient who had surgery on their leg a few weeks beforehand, and the dissolvable sutures were taking a long time to leave. No big deal, it can happen. However, it was causing some inflammation, pulling and swelling. Instead of going back to their surgeon to have them removed, they cut one or two, and to their horror noticed pus in the gaping suture hole.
Half an hour of rinsing and removing this “pus” layer with tweezers and a scalpel revealed it went all the way down to the muscle. How horrible. But here’s what was really going on. It turns out that body fat can look like pus, and the fat layer doesn’t have many nerve endings. Yep, this person just cut away at their fat layer like, well, an amateur.
37. There Are Other Solutions
I went to a house call where a lady was in a failure to thrive situation, meaning she wasn’t taking care of herself. She was in her 30s and capable of getting out of her bed and moving around, but refused to and would just go to the bathroom in the bed and have her boyfriend bring her food and drinks. She got an infection in her big toe that started to turn necrotic.
Her solution was to use nail clippers to slowly amputate her big toe over the course of the month. She got pretty far too. By the time I came, about half of the toe was missing, with bone protruding at the parts where she got really far down.
38. Spill the Beans
I found and resuscitated a missing 24-year-old lady slumped up against the side of a burned-out house. I ended up seeing her at the hospital weeks later; she suffered an anoxic brain injury from not breathing for so long, and now essentially looks and walks like she had had a stroke. I asked her what the deal was, because she looked like the type of person to spill the beans easily.
She tells me that she had just gotten out of being incarcerated, so her and her mom were celebrating. She did two bags of some substance, and I suppose that was too much, because she “started to freak out.” Then she went on to say, “My mom saw me freaking out, so she had me smoke something to calm down. Last thing I remember is hiding in the bushes. I guess you found me two days later in that field.”
39. Stop Overreacting
In grade school, I hurt my arm playing touch football over the noon recess. I tagged a guy way bigger than I was. My hand got rammed backwards and hurt more than words can describe. Everyone including the teacher thought I was overreacting from the pain. After school, I got off the bus to visit my dad’s office at the end of the day.
He decided to use some twine and a Kleenex to fix it like a sling, while joking that I needed to toughen up. Well, as soon as we actually got home, my mom took me right into the hospital, where they soon discovered I had a broken wrist.
40. Patient's Requests
A lady comes into the ER and refuses to tell triage what’s wrong, other than to say she had something growing “down there” and she would absolutely not elaborate. She wants a lady doctor and that’s that. So we get her set up for a pelvic exam in one of the OB/GYN rooms and call the only female physician working that night to come check her out.
The doctor is in the room for maybe two or three minutes before she comes out. The minute she did, we knew something was very wrong. She came with a stench that made everyone in the vicinity gag, and it was wafting from the room behind her. So here’s the store: The patient is about middle-aged and had about 11 children with no medical insurance.
Her uterus had begun to prolapse, basically turning inside out and starting to fall out. With no money and no insurance, it was suggested she just put something “up there” to hold her uterus in. Without much on hand that could both fit inside her and stay inside her without falling out, she came up with a “genius” plan. She decided to stick a potato up there.
And what do potatoes like to do in warm, dark, moist environments? The “something” she had felt growing down there was ACTUALLY growing down there. It was the vine the potato shot out for sunlight. The potato had fully rooted into the woman’s uterus as well, and the potato itself was rotting, hence the stench. She had to have a full hysterectomy.
41. Close Call
There was one family who was overly cautious about their mother who had just had a stroke. I come to check on her and find her hair and head soaking wet. She’s nearly on the verge of hypothermia because her kids felt like she had a fever, and as a precaution dumped cold water on her. In the middle of winter. She unfortunately couldn’t say or do anything due to the stroke but I straightened them out quick about just what a cold compress was and when it was needed.
42. Don't Believe Everything You Hear
A patient was admitted for syncope (passing out), and it turns out his magnesium is super high, which slows your heart and can eventually cause cardiac arrest. He wasn’t feeling well several weeks prior and went to a naturopath who diagnosed him with low magnesium. He started taking tons of supplements but started feeling worse. Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The naturopath said to take more magnesium. His wife called an ambulance when he passed out and at the hospital, we diagnosed him with an irregular heartbeat. He was still convinced he needed more magnesium, even when we told him it would be an absolutely terrible idea. He left against medical advice after a day. Because we’re quacks.
43. Get a Second Opinion
I had a really hard bump on the inside of my inner thigh. I was a teenager, so I googled it and the first thing that came up was that it could be a cyst. Then I googled what a cyst was and figured it was basically just like a big pimple, right? Similar enough. So I should just pop it. Only this thing wasn’t going to pop. So I figured maybe the skin was just too thick.
Cysts weren’t right up to the surface like pimples were according to Google. What now? So I decided to try to lance it myself using an old safety pin. After drawing quite a bit of blood this thing still wasn’t popping and I was getting kind of worried so I figured maybe I should just leave it alone and let it sort itself out without my help.
I found out a while later that I had swollen lymph nodes, so I unknowingly almost cut out my lymph node thinking it was a pimple-like cyst.
44. The Last Thing You Want to Happen
I had a patient with bilateral above-the-knee amputations. He was not fully conscious, and not really able to follow commands. His wife wouldn’t allow a Foley catheter (one that is inserted into the urethra), so he was using a sheath catheter. It’s exactly what it sounds like. So this guy, he was on the small side, and I’m not talking about his height.
His wife was tired of the sheath catheter slipping off, so she put rubber bands around his dangly bits to hold the catheter on. Well, sure as anything, they were too tight. The worst happened. His member became necrotic from lack of blood flow and the little thing fell off.
45. Banned From Visiting
My cousin’s wife got a terrible burn on her foot from a bunch of hot oil falling on it. She goes to the doctor and is treated well, and given good instructions. My cousin follows these to the letter, changing her gauze and keeping her wound clean whenever he needs to. All seems well and she’s properly on her way to a full and healthy recovery.
One day, I walk up to her house and see her with her burned foot out uncovered in the sun. The hot, middle eastern sun, by the way. She’s got tears streaming down her face and I immediately run over and urge her back inside. I then clean and cover her wound. It turns out she had fluid buildup and her uncle had told her to dry it out in the sun.
This led to me getting in a screaming fight with her uncle, who told me it was sound Chinese medicine to dry fluid retention in the sun. I explained he was encouraging further damage to her tissues. He would not hear it and kept barking orders at this poor woman to do as he instructed. I had my cousin take her to the doctor again, and they explained how to properly treat this issue.
After it was explained to him by a professional, my cousin banned the uncle from visiting until she healed.
46. On the Outskirts of Town
I work as a home nurse for a very isolated part of Idaho. I generally check on people who live very far from civilization, people who don’t get any medical care. One time, I go into a house and an old man is sitting on a chair. He told me to come closer as he could not get up. He somehow had cut his leg badly a few weeks before. I wish I hadn’t gone closer.
To prevent infection, he had applied maggots to the wound. There must have been dozens of maggots in this wound and I had to go outside to throw up. I had to call for assistance, and the guy lived.
47. It Only Took a Few Weeks to Backfire
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. Surprisingly, he had no issues for a few weeks.
He set the vacuum to pull the blood through the tubing via the needle and drain into the Mason jars. No big deal. Except it all went wrong in an instant. One day he isn’t paying attention and sets the vac to pump 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. He goes in for treatment now the last I heard.
48. Unlike Anything I've Seen Before
I had a patient come into the ER with a makeshift bandage on his shin. He had fallen on some rocks while hiking and it left a three-inch-long, half-inch-deep gash in his leg. I go to pull the bandage off. As I’m peeling it away, I fought the urge to scream. 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. That’s when it all clicked, thank God. 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.
49. Don't Try This At Home
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 very beginning, I can tell she’s really stopped up with her nasally voice, and my history and exam are consistent with your 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.” Patient: “Yeah, I guess I wasn’t sure; I’ve been spraying Lysol everywhere and it doesn’t seem to be doing any good, and it says it removes the flu bug.”
Me: “Well, that’s something that could help disinfect the house and keep it from spreading.”Patient: “I guess, I just wish it didn’t burn so much” Me: “…what do you mean, ‘it burns’?” Soon enough, it all became too clear. Patient: “You know, when I spray it up my nose, it burns so bad.” Yep. My patient thought that since Lysol gets rid of influenza, the best way to nip it in the bud was to flush her sinuses with it like a saline spray. It did not work, for the record.
50. On Top of Your Head
One day, a patient comes in and is pretty vague about his actual complaint, something about head pain but he looks just fine sitting while he was 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 three 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.