Doctors and nurses expect to see some pretty strange things when they come into work each day. From truly violent deeds to accidents that got out of hand, many of the strange sights at the emergency room are more gruesome than most people can handle.
And even people coming in for routine check ups are sometimes told that they have a serious medical problem that needs immediate care. These medical nightmares might make your stomach churn, but they could also teach you a lesson in patience. If some of these people had seen a doctor much sooner, their problems wouldn’t have gotten the chance to get as bad as they did.
A Bad Way to Find Out You Have a High Tolerance to Pain
When I was 14 years old, I started getting an upset stomach one night and it wasn’t just another bellyache. Maybe a little bit more intense, but I slept through it pretty well. The next morning, my parents got me an appointment with the doctor to see if I was okay. We got through it all, but we had to wait at one point, and it was taking quite a long time.
I told my mom, “We should just go home, it’s probably nothing…” and then the next thing I knew, I needed surgery. When I was talking to the doctor before the surgery, he explained that my appendix had burst, and he said I just had a very high tolerance to pain. In fact, he was surprised I was able to sleep through it.
He also explained that if I didn’t have surgery when I did, I wouldn’t have made it. I can see now why a lot of people think that having a high tolerance to pain isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Story credit: Reddit / Iron_Archer
I Don't Know What the Big Deal Was
I’ve always had headaches, almost daily. About 10 years ago, I started seeing weird auras that would take up my whole vision, and then I’d get a terrible headache that would make me want to end it all. Maybe once a year that would happen. About three years ago, we got really good insurance. Then, I got several auras in a row, and I started to worry that it was a detached retina or something.
So I went to an ophthalmologist, who dilated my eyes and looked around. He suggested I see a neurologist, and maybe they’d do an MRI. Meanwhile, I had a stomach ache that lasted for a few days—very odd for me, since I don’t really get them. But it woke me up in the middle of the night, and I had another aura visual—but no headache.
I saw the neurologist a week later and boy did he like talking about how fat I was. I had three kids in three years, so naturally, I became squishy—not morbidly obese, but I did have some mobility issues. Deal with it. They were able to get me in for the MRI that day, and despite being claustrophobic, it wasn’t terrible.
I walked out to the parking lot, and they called me back in. When I got in, she told me I’d had a stroke, and they needed to admit me to the ER. The office was at the hospital already, so she literally just walked me through like two doors, and I didn’t even have to wait in the lobby. I spent three days being poked and prodded.
I never really saw the big deal, it was just a stomach ache and dancing lights. I’m doing a lot better now.
Story credit: Reddit / MANDALORIAN_WHISKEY
Something Felt Off
When I was a fourth-year resident, my first rotation in the hospital was in radiology. I was waiting with a patient after an ultrasound and they told me they were thirsty. They take a sip of water but then start mumbling. It was incoherent to us but his daughter said he had spoken like that before. She said something felt off. She was all too right.
One second he was fine, and moments later he’s just quietly staring off into space and I start to wonder what’s going on. We check him and one of my seniors calls our resident and immediately starts CPR. He was wheeled down to the ER but we lost him later that day. Since then I’ve had many patients but this memory still makes me feel weird.
Story credit: Reddit / ecksdeeeXD
Strong and Silent Type
My father went to the hospital with chest pains, and they decided to do an angiogram. The process injects dye into his valves to look for clots. During his procedure, the surgeon asks if he suffers from blackouts, and a few more doctors get called in to have a look. My dad is the strong silent type but admits to minimal daily pain.
They take him to another type of X-ray machine and again are looking in bemusement without explaining anything. Turns out there was a blood clot the size of a golf ball floating free in his heart. It normally should have taken out someone quickly and the doctors were all intrigued. He had a triple bypass 30 years ago and is still the strong and silent type.
Story credit: Reddit / monkeypowah
A Horrible Treasure Hunt
My sister was having stomach surgery and the surgeon mentioned that her uterus looked strange. The surgeon thought there might be an ovarian cyst and recommended getting checked. After she recovers from the stomach surgery, she checks out the uterus, and she finds out she has uterine leiomyosarcoma. In other words, her entire uterus was just one big tumor.
The tumor also impacted her ovaries and her fallopian tubes. She had another surgery where they got it all out and then she went through chemo for five months. After six months of clean scans, she goes to get a mammogram and finds breast cancer. She chose to have a mastectomy last week and she starts radiation soon. It’s the worst treasure hunt ever.
Story credit: Reddit / carriegood
The Case Still Bothers Me
A patient mystery I never understood was a healthy 23-year-old male. He came into the ER with chest pain that started after eating something spicy. We check his vitals, do an X-ray, and are about to discharge him when he collapses lifeless. We start CPR and get a pulse. He was stable for a CT scan but doesn’t survive the procedure.
The team was baffled. During the autopsy, it was revealed his major blood vessels basically just imploded. This sometimes, though rarely, happens to men in their 70s with a long smoking history and high blood pressure, but this patient had zero risk factors and was a non-smoker. This was a few years ago but the case still bothers me.
Story credit: Reddit / crazycarl1
Our elderly patient went into cardiac arrest but was revived. We did all the possible tests but couldn’t find the reason. Just as she was getting better, her heart attack came back for a sequel. We did CPR and were able to get her pulse back, and closely monitored her that night. Things were not looking good so we called her husband.
We asked him to come in as we were worried she would not survive the day. Her husband told us he would be there within the hour. Well, three hours passed and he didn’t show up. We tried calling and couldn’t reach him. Eventually, a nurse found out that he was downstairs in our ER! Apparently, when he left his house in a hurry, he fell and broke his hip.
Story credit: Reddit / poofseal
She Only Has a Small Scar
When I was a medical student on my surgery rotation, I was working a shift with the trauma team. I’m observing a simple repair surgery when my trauma pager goes off. I run into the trauma bay and a young gentleman is brought in on a stretcher with the lower half of his body covered in blood, but he’s awake and coherent.
He’s screaming and had been shot 15 times, all below the belt, and one shot had gone straight through his scrotum. We’re doing an evaluation when a code is called in the next pod over. Turns out it’s the patient who was brought in with our current patient. Several of us run from patient one and into the next pod to see a woman lying on a stretcher receiving CPR.
We roll the patient on her side to get her clothes off and notice she’s bleeding out of her back. There is a tiny exit wound and we piece together it’s a ricochet from our previous patient. We take her to the trauma bay to perform the primary surgery. She’s not breathing and has no pulse. We intubate and find the entry point in the center of her chest.
Ultrasound confirms a hemothorax and we get a chest tube in place. Instantly there are two liters of blood gushing onto the floor. The resident I’m with immediately takes a scalpel and makes an incision, then they clip the sternum in half. This woman’s chest is now completely open and we can see the heart, and the clean entry and exit wound.
All of the blood and fluids we were pushing was just draining right out of her heart and into her chest. We’re running her to an OR, when I notice she’s bleeding from every single opening in her body. Her body had used all its clotting agents. The blood still flows but she can’t go for surgery under this duress. We transfer her to intensive care and monitor her for three weeks.
She can’t talk or move, and the family is having conversations about life support. I find out she was discharged as a quadriplegic and the future is bleak. The real twist happens six months later. I was working a shift in intensive care and bring up this patient to my attending. They remember the night and working on the body and proceed to tell me that a month ago at a follow-up visit, this patient walked in. After the traumatic experience, all she has is a scar from her thoracotomy.
Story credit: Reddit / ED_Medicine
Food Poisoning Lead to Something Much Worse
One time, I got food poisoning. I’d never had serious food poisoning before, but my boss who I was at a conference with had. After clearing myself completely in a very short period of time, I told her I would probably miss the next day. She asked if I needed anything and I said, “No-no… I’m just trying to drink water but I can’t keep it down…I’ve put all my pillows on the bathroom floor so I can stay close to the toilet.”
She brought me ginger tea and asked if they could take me to the hospital. I declined and tried the tea which also came back up. After a while, I was still heaving and I could hardly get up, so I finally let her and a co-worker drive me to the hospital. But I felt so stupid—who goes to the ER for food poisoning? They stabilized me in the ER after a few hours and ran some tests.
They told me then I could go home if I wanted, or stay the night in the hospital if I preferred. I’m really not the type to worry about my health and I always assume things will be fine, but some instinct told me to stay. I felt terrible when they wheeled me over to the hospital and I told them that. The next thing I knew, I was on a hospital bed surrounded by med staff. I had a life-threatening seizure.
Story credit: Reddit / not_thatkindofdoctor
He Thought I Was Just Being Difficult
I was the patient. I had a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass in April of 2017. After I went home from the surgery, the expectation was that I would be on a liquid diet for a week, and then slowly start reintroducing soft foods, etc. I even used a check-in app that reviewed how I was feeling, just to monitor if something was wrong.
Two weeks in and I still couldn’t keep down an ounce of protein shake. My husband at the time was getting frustrated with me because he thought I was being deliberately difficult. While he was gone to a city three hours away by plane, I woke up in the middle of the night heaving and dry vomiting. My mother drove me to the hospital in the middle of the night where I spent the next 12 hours having every test imaginable run on me. That’s when doctors made a gruesome discovery.
It turns out, within 24 hours after my surgery, my intestine that was reconnected at the “Y” junction had actually come apart (it was leaking anastomosis, if you want to look it up). Everything I’d tried to eat had just been draining into my abdominal cavity. I was septic and had four large abscesses. After emergency surgery, I spent 10 days in the ICU recovering before I went home.
The surgeon told my mother that if I’d been even 24 hours late getting to the hospital, I wouldn’t have made it. Side note: less than two months later, my husband left me.
Story credit: Reddit / Boose81
She Couldn't Have Waited Any Longer
My pregnancy was really painful. I was the only woman in my family besides my mother who went through this, and even she didn’t get sick at all while pregnant. I thought it was normal that I couldn’t stand straight or go farther than ten feet from the bathroom, or that I spent days on the bathroom floor unable to keep anything down to the point where I would lose track of days.
My fiancé begged and begged for me to go to the ER because of all the pain I had. It turns out, I had an acute UTI that was ready to spread to my kidneys. They told me if I waited any longer, I would have miscarried. The thought definitely makes me hold my baby tighter.
Story credit: Reddit / postteenagebitch
Tanning Made it Worse
When I was about 16, I started having these little red irritated spots show up on my arm. My mom was immediately like, “You have psoriasis, just go tanning.” So I tanned for about a week and they just got worse. Now I had them all over my body. I even had spots on my eyelids. I went to the doctor finally, and he made a gruesome discovery.
It turned out I had ringworm. Even worse? By tanning, I was basically rubbing them all over with the lotions and incubating them while I tanned.
Story credit: Reddit / Blackbird6
He Went from the Hospital Directly to Jail
I had a husband and wife brought in at the same time, both with major flame burns. He was about half his body surface area, and she was 75% or more. The woman was intubated at the original emergency room they went to. She was waking up a bit when she got to our unit and kept trying to mouth something around her breathing tube.
In hindsight, I’m pretty sure it was “my baby,” as she miscarried about 36 hours after she was admitted. She developed an arrhythmia while we were starting a new IV and we couldn’t control it. Then we found out what really happened. We found out the husband lit her on fire when he discovered he wasn’t the baby’s father. He survived and after medical treatment moved to a penitentiary.
Story credit: Reddit / Nervich
All Because of Eye Drops
The year I was a medical intern I had a 34-year-old woman for a patient. She was manning a grill for two days during a weekend festival for her church. During the festival, her eyes got irritated from the smoke off the grill so she asked a friend for eye drops. After using them for two days, she developed a rash. The rash rapidly progressed to cover her whole body.
It then developed into Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis Syndrome, which essentially means the most superficial layer of the skin separates from the deeper layers. This leaves a wound that is similar to the raw spot underneath a big blister. In her case, it involved three-quarters of her body. Her body was also fighting off infection in her mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines.
We had silver-impregnated dressings that we had to wrap her in like a mummy and change every day. Despite everything we could do at the main burn unit in a huge metro hospital, her body couldn’t continue to fight. Her friend was racked with guilt. All over some eye drops.
Story credit: Reddit / Nervich
She Went on Vacation Instead of to the Pharmacy
My patient came in with a badly infected foot abscess. Like, the entire foot was showing signs of cellulitis and we had to put her on antibiotics for a few days of inpatient care. She was paying out of pocket and kept trying to leave, but we insisted she finish the treatment. When the infection was mostly cleared she was discharged.
She had strict instructions to change the bandages, monitor the wound, keep it clean, and also had a list of prescriptions. We also scheduled appointments at a wound clinic to monitor the abscess. She did none of those things. She never even picked up the antibiotics from the pharmacy. She skipped her wound clinic appointments and was unreachable.
We later found out this was because she went on vacation. Several days after getting home, she decided to go on a two-week-long camping and river rafting trip with some friends. Her camping trip was cut short after the first week because she developed septicemia and her friends drove her to a local hospital to get airlifted back to our hospital.
Story credit: Reddit / Namika
He Thought it Was Hilarious
One night I had a young guy; a walk-in who thought it was hilarious he had a stab wound. He arrived at 3:00 am and had been waiting hours before deciding to get help. He also brought in his family and friends who also didn’t think it was a serious injury. During his evaluation, it registered as a level one and his blood pressure was low.
His heart rate was soaring as his body tried to compensate for the loss of blood. As soon as we brought him into a room, he coded and never woke up. We tried to revive him with a manual cardiac massage, which meant cracking his chest and manually pumping the heart. The knife had nicked his abdominal aorta, which ruptured. But that wasn’t the most chilling part.
When we went back to the waiting room, his friends and family were having a pizza party, not recognizing the fatal status of their loved one.
Story credit: Reddit / Yellow_filletofish
I Had All the Symptoms
I had all the symptoms of a GI bleed, including vomiting blood that looked like coffee grounds. I went to the ER, had an NG tube put in, and spent the night in the ICU. They scoped me the next day and determined I had three minor erosions, then they released me with a script for antacids. I thought I would be okay from there, but I felt awful for the next two weeks.
I was tired, weak, and dizzy, but I dismissed it all because it was “just three minor erosions.” Two weeks later, my doctor sent me in to have my blood drawn. My hemoglobin was at 4.6 and my hematocrit was 15.1, which is critically low…like “How are you still standing” low. Long story short, I was rescoped at this new hospital and they found a two-inch tumor in my stomach.
It was a very rare tumor that usually doesn’t happen to people under 40, and I’m 33. I had a total of five tumors and half of my stomach removed a few days later. Where my GI found the “erosions” was basically right where my two-inch tumor was. I don’t get how he missed it, but he found what he was looking for, and that was that I guess.
All I know is I’m not paying the $7,200 bucks that the hospital wants from me. How they missed a two-inch mass baffles my mind. I’m still waiting on the bill for the week-long stay and the surgery in the second hospital.
Story credit: Reddit / vonshiza
My Psychiatrist Noticed What Other Doctors Didn't
My psychiatrist saved my life! I have always had heavy and irregular periods, so when I had bleeding that didn’t go away for a month, I pretty much just kept on keeping on. Eventually, a doctor referred me to the emergency department because of the constant blood loss, and all I was told was “You’ve got endometriosis.” So for five months, I had a heavy period, with doctors just dismissing it.
Eventually, my roommate called an ambulance when I passed out in the shower. The doctors did a blood test and I was admitted overnight for a blood transfusion. Fun fact—blood transfusions make some people nauseous, which is not a fun way to find out you’re allergic to an antiemetic! A few weeks later, at about the six-month mark, I drove for an hour for my regular appointment with my psychiatrist.
He took one look at me and freaked out. He told me to proceed directly to the ER. So I did and was promptly admitted to the ICU with a bilateral pulmonary embolism. I was hours away from suffocating to my end. Turns out, all the birth control that the original doctors had been giving me to shut me up and get rid of me had caused massive clots.
The doctor that looked after me and ultimately saved my life wrote a paper on why it’s stupid to ignore a nulligravida (never pregnant) woman in her mid-20s with severe dysfunctional uterine bleeding.
Story credit: Reddit / seriouslampshade
She Thought She Was Pregnant
Nurse here. We had a 67-year-old woman who thought she was pregnant. I’ve got to say, she did look pregnant since her abdomen was full; similar to those pregnant women who look like they’re carrying a basketball when they are at the end. But she was 67. Turned out, it was a 37-pound ovarian cyst, and it was the largest one I had ever seen in my career.
I asked if I could watch the surgery. That thing came out all in one piece, and I’ll never forget the sound it made. This was at a community hospital many years ago, before HIPAA, so naturally, the lab announced that anyone who wanted could come down to the lab and view this incredible thing before it was dissected by pathology.
The line at lunchtime was so long you’d think they were giving away free concert tickets.
Story credit: Reddit / neverdoneneverready
She Heard Voices
Psychiatrist here. One of my first patients was a female college student who couldn’t sleep because of the voices that constantly talked to her. Apparently, she felt forced to answer them at all times. From what she was saying, I gathered that depending on the particular voice, she was either being cautioned about people or situations or outright pushed towards violent acts.
The voices started appearing when she was 16 if I remember correctly, and we met when she was 20. For four years of her life she believed that it was normal to have such voices in one’s head, because, as she explained, many people talk to themselves. To some extent, she was right; but I had to explain to her that most people really talk with themselves and there are no other identities in them.
There’s just an internal dialogue to clarify or resolve issues that bother them in their own privacy, so to speak. She was later diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Story credit: Reddit / InhumanVoice
Always Wear a Helmet
As an EMT trainee, in my first ride-along we responded to a call where a guy fell at a skate park. When we got there he was conscious, walking, and talking coherently. He hadn’t been wearing a helmet when he fell and a bruise was forming above his eye. With no scrapes and his pupils dilating, we assumed it was a concussion and black eye.
We talked him into coming with us to the ER just to double-check. We get him in the ambulance, lay him down, and his blood pressure had gone down significantly since our first check. Then it took a very dark turn. It escalated quickly to him getting drowsy and throwing up blood. We turned on the sirens and started fluids, but his blood pressure kept dropping.
He was unconscious by the time we got to the ER. Skipping the bruise meant we hadn’t felt the soft skin filling with blood and the crushed bone around his eye and cheek. He ended up having emergency brain surgery. Coincidentally, they also found and removed a tumor while operating. He recovered to skate another day, and hopefully will remember his helmet.
Story credit: Reddit / localhelic0pter7
It Was Worse Than Expected
We had a patient call our clinic and say they cut their hand. They wanted to know if we were busy or had time for a couple of stitches. They failed to mention that they were working with a table saw, and had nearly cut off three fingers. Their tendons were exposed and severed, and I sent him immediately to the hospital. He received a hand specialist and kept his digits.
Story credit: Reddit / ruralprimarycarepa
He Never Expected to Become a Teacher
My brother is a paramedic, and he said every time, practically without fail, dispatch would downplay the calls. So one call he had was for a girl “with minor bleeding.” He arrived and found her 14-year-old brother frantic. His 12-year-old sister was bleeding everywhere and wouldn’t stop. My brother braced for a major cut and expected a blood bath.
Instead, the girl was terrified she was a goner….because of all this blood coming from between her legs. So yeah, that became quite clear quite quickly. She was in the bathtub and he calmed her down and asked them both where their mother was. They called the mom at work and she got on the phone to explain to her daughter what was happening.
When she was passed back to my brother, she asked if ambulances had sanitary pads, but they don’t carry them. He did however use gauze to make a temporary pad and explained to the girl what to do. The mom ran into the house 20 minutes later, thanked my brother profusely, and hugged her daughter for a long time. He never expected to teach someone about the menstrual cycle.
Story credit: Reddit / Small_Palpitation898
At Least She Wasn't in Pain
I’m a nurse with twenty years of experience and a master’s degree. This lady had a non-healing, large wound on her left chest area for six months and painful axillary nodules that she had for six years prior to the wound. Any non-healing wound is immediately assumed as cancer until proven otherwise. Well, this lady had stage four, untreatable cancer—all for a heartbreaking reason.
She just wasn’t taught that cancer was treatable. The patient told us, “I wish they could do something for breast cancer, and cancer in general.” Clearly, she was not informed about how most women with painful nodules should come in ASAP as the cancer is most treatable when detected early. She passed on three weeks after her diagnosis.
She was sedated for about two weeks and five days after diagnosis because that’s how she wanted to go. At least she wasn’t in pain, and was pretty much asleep for all of it.
Story credit: Reddit / dragracesssss
He Should Have Been in Pain
My 13-year-old son complained to me that he was unbearably itchy down there. I figured probably sweat, so I told him to wash the area thoroughly and make sure to dry well. A couple of days later, he said it was still itchy and getting bigger. Bigger? He said there was no pain or anything, but it was still itchy and swollen. I still didn’t think it was anything more than a sweat rash that maybe needed some ointment.
But when we went to the doctor, we were sent off for an ultrasound. The scan showed zero blood flow to the area, so he was immediately transferred to the emergency room. He went in for emergency surgery where the urologist removes one necrotic mass. It had become randomly twisted and passed at least a week prior. The swelling was a major infection setting in, which also caused the itchiness and swelling.
He had no pain whatsoever and the doctor said that was amazing. For most boys, torsion feels like being kicked in the nuts continuously, and by the infected stage he was in, he should have been screaming and crying from the pain. If we had waited any longer, he could have developed sepsis. He had a follow-up surgery a month later to insert a replacement part and to stitch his remaining one in place so it doesn’t happen again.
Story credit: Reddit / MrsFlip
He Waited Too Long
We learned of a medical case involving a man who had a rash on his foot. He googled it and decided it was eczema or some similar inflammatory disease, so ordered and applied a steroid cream. For those who don’t know, those kinds of steroids act by dampening the immune system—the overactivity of which is the cause of diseases like eczema and psoriasis.
However, he, in fact, had a fungal infection and was just reducing his body’s ability to fight it off. If I remember correctly, by the time he got to the doctor’s, he needed it amputated.
Story credit: Reddit / keirlikeswhales
Everyone Goes Through This
As a teenager, I was listening to my best friend complain about her bad periods. She snapped at me and asked why I didn’t care that she was in so much pain. I basically told her that we all go through it every month: “Everyone bleeds through tampons every hour or so. Everyone hurts all the time. Everyone gets the few moments where it’s so painful you can barely stand. Everyone does this for eight days.”
She looked at me like I was crazy and said no, that’s not normal. I argued and said it’s exactly how it is for me…it sucks but what can we do? She gently assured me that what I had just told her was not normal and that I should probably see a doctor.
Story credit: Reddit / ToofyTwo
They Thought I Only Wanted More Medication
I have Crohn’s disease and spent the majority of 2012-2015 going in and out of hospitals due to malnutrition, anemia due to blood loss, an inflamed colon, infections, etc. No medications helped calm my disease down. As a bonus, I got something called Pyoderma Gangrenosum two months after I was diagnosed with Crohn’s.
Pyoderma Gangrenosum gave me several open wounds on my legs that were painful and required wound cleaning twice a week with high doses of pain medication. Due to building a resistance, I went from 5mg to 20mg over the course of a year and a half. My daily prescription was valium 5mg and morphine 10mg five times daily to manage the pain.
Under one of my many hospitalizations, I was sent to a bigger hospital than my local one, since they had better resources, equipment, and a special ward for people with gestational issues like mine. A couple of weeks into my stay, I got into big trouble. My stomach was hurting a lot more than usual. I also stopped making bowel movements, which was a big red flag.
I was still going to the bathroom like 50 times a day to pass blood and minuscule amounts of waste, but then stopped overnight. I informed the nurses and spoke to the doctors when they had visitation, but I was getting brushed off by everyone. I asked to be checked out, showing my stomach, which by now looked like a six-month pregnancy.
Regardless, doctors did nothing more than feel my tender stomach daily. I started crying a lot, could hardly sleep, and stopped eating the first or second day because of the pain. Eventually, I was vomiting and overall deteriorating. After six days, I had enough, and finally, someone wheeled in an ultrasound machine to my room.
After a quick look in my stomach, I got a meek, “Oh, your intestines are twisted around on themselves, you need surgery.” The next morning I was on the operating table and ended up having my whole large intestine removed because of the extent of damage from the twisting and inflammation. I now have a permanent stoma to function.
The reason they did nothing for a week despite my daily complaints was the doctors thought I was addicted to my pain relief medications. They thought I was complaining for more medication…even though I never asked. The doctor responsible had never interacted with me face-to-face and made the decision based on my medical history alone.
Story credit: Reddit / insideisdead
There's No Way I Got it All Out
This one was actually from back when I was a medical student, but it’s still the weirdest thing I’ve seen. It was my last rotation in medical school before graduating and starting residency. I had completed all my requirements and just wanted to take a few interesting electives of things I hadn’t seen yet. This was a dermatology rotation at the VA.
The rotation had been interesting and chill, and I was seeing my third-to-last patient as a medical student. The guy came in and the resident asked him why he was there. He said, “I have hair coming out of my hand.” I figured he meant a weird mole with some hair coming out, but this guy (who was probably in his late thirties or early forties) said, “No, the hair is coming out from under the skin.”
The resident asked him what he did for a living and he said he was a barber. Apparently, it’s not too uncommon for hair to poke through the skin, especially for barbers who cut men’s hair. It’s short, thin, and can be kinda pokey after all. It was sort of like getting a sliver, but with hair. But the guy said, “No, it’s a lot of hair, look!”
He held up his hand, making a fist, and there were several hairs poking out from between the knuckles of his pointer and middle finger. I stared in confusion, and the resident grabbed some tweezers to pull out maybe a half dozen short black hairs. The guy said, “Yeah, I already pulled out like 50.” That’s when the resident’s face dropped.
We numbed up the backside of his hand between the first and second knuckle and made a little incision. We were shocked at the mass of hair that we uncovered. We started pulling out GOBS of short black hair. A chunk of 20, a chunk of 30, etc. At some point, she got the magnifying glasses out with an attached light and said, “Oh my gosh, there are still more in there! Sir, do you know how all this hair got into your hand?” His answer was so disturbing, it’s unforgettable.
The guy said, “Oh it probably came in through there!” He flipped his hand over to reveal a HOLE in the palmar aspect of his hand’s skin. It turns out, the dude had cut himself like TWO YEARS before this, and it had never healed properly (he was diabetic), so he just kept cutting hair with this open wound on his hand. Probably every day, a few hairs got stuck in his hand. For two years.
Now those hairs had tunneled through the webbing between his first and second fingers from the front of his hand and out the backside. We spent like 30 minutes MILKING his hand and fingers while more and more hair came out. She said, “There’s no way I got it all out, so you have to come back every two weeks for a few months for us to keep removing more hair from your hand.”
Story credit: Reddit / TheOtherDoctorMike
I Wasn't Prepared For That
Our patient had a pilonidal cyst that bothered them for years. This is the type of cyst that can be very large at the cleft of your backside, and is caused by hairs that burrow deep under the skin. It flared up while the patient was sitting for long periods, and became inflamed and infected. Normally we would recommend a surgeon for this procedure.
When we examined the cyst, we could see it had opened on its own and was beginning to drain. When I took a closer look, I could see the nest of hair in this opening and my curiosity and an absolute need to remove it took hold. But I had made a fatal error. I didn’t predict the nest acting like a plug, and the removal released the most foul-smelling pus.
Thankfully due to protocol, I was wearing a face shield but it did land on the bridge of my nose and eyebrow. I will never forget the sheer force, trajectory, or smell, but would do it all again if I had the chance. Chalk up my fascination to too many episodes of Dr. Pimple Popper. Even so, I still wasn’t prepared for the results.
Story credit: Reddit / WearsAblueshirt
I work at a dentist’s office. A patient came in for an exam, concerned that a part of her tooth was chipped off. On examination, it was not a chip, but rather a piece of calculus, which is the build-up of hard tartar that covers your teeth over time when you don’t brush them. It can be small deposits, or in this case, an entire “bridge” covering her actual teeth.
She thought the calculus was tooth material and was quite shocked to learn we were actually unable to see her real teeth. We gave her an extensive cleaning to remove it all.
Story credit: Reddit / GrayGhoast
I'll Never Forget the Experience
I was a resident in the ICU and we had a patient recovering from Steven-Johnson Syndrome, which is a rare drug reaction where skin blisters uncontrollably. At the same time, he had a clotted femoral pseudo-aneurysm that was at risk of bursting and bleeding. Between the afternoon and evening rounds, this patient’s nurse asked me to assess his leg swelling.
His whole body was swollen because of all the blisters and he had fluids he’d been getting for his blood pressure. When I checked his right leg, it did look more swollen than a few hours ago and the skin was worse. However, the aneurysm was stable on the ultrasound earlier in the day so it didn’t seem like there was much to do other than keep it well dressed and monitored.
A couple of hours later, my co-resident and I are doing our evening rounds as the general surgery team is assessing a few doors down. The leg looks even worse than earlier and is another few centimeters swollen. Even with the swelling, his vitals are stable and he’s receiving the right treatment. We were scratching our heads when his leg burst.
Where the swelling had occurred has now split open and is gushing. The nurse and my co-resident throw on gloves and apply pressure while I grab a surgical kit and try to find the source. Our team is running down the hall to grab the surgeons who are still evaluating patients. Within two minutes, there’s a small team searching through this man’s leg, looking for the cause.
Another minute or two later and they’ve found they found the ruptured vein. They stopped the bleeding as best they can. I think on the repeat blood work that evening he’d lost maybe 10-20% of his blood in five minutes. Now we had to treat the infection. This patient was pretty frail and had already had a near-fatal reaction to one class of antibiotics.
I wish I could say it was a happy ending, but his wound became purulent and he developed bacteria in his blood. It was a bad day that got worse with all the other medical problems he was having. It was just too much and we transferred to palliative. I’ll never forget the experience and know my team kept him as comfortable as possible.
Story credit: Reddit / Canuck147
I Hope He Was Lying
When I was a medical student, a patient and his brother came in together. The patient was just there for a post-op visit after a hernia repair. Turns out, after inspection, he actually had another baseball-sized hernia. Somehow, that’s not the craziest part. His brother, on the other hand, LITERALLY had a football-sized hernia visibly coming out of the left leg of his shorts.
It looked like an inguinal hernia, and he was able to use it as an armrest. I asked him if that bothered him at all, and he just straight up said: “My brother’s hernias were painful but this isn’t, so I thought it was just a quirky defect.” I hope he was lying to save face, but we recommended he get it taken care of.
Story credit: Reddit / shaknawefeh
Thanks For Saving My Life
One time, we had a woman come in through the ER with excessive bleeding three weeks after childbirth. That’s fairly unusual timing and I took her to surgery for a dilation and curettage, or D&C. I expected to find a little retained placenta and that the bleeding would improve as soon as I got it out. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
As soon as she was on the table, it only got worse. We eventually performed a uterine tamponade balloon. This is a big balloon you fill with saline inside the uterus to apply constant pressure. With medication, we finally got the bleeding stopped and she did ok after a blood transfusion. In total, she lost 1,000cc in the ER plus another 2,000cc in surgery.
Her lab results never showed any retained placenta, meaning her uterus just tried to murder her that night. It’s incredibly rare and I’ve never seen this since. She took the time to send me a thank you card a few weeks later with a handwritten note in it: “Thanks for saving my life, I guess.” I kept it in my locker for a while and wish her a happy uterus future!
Story credit: Reddit / justpracticing
There's No Known Cause
I got a new OB-GYN and went for a check-up. I braced myself for the horrible pain, and she immediately stopped. As it turns out, extreme pain down there ISN’T normal, but I’d just had three other OB-GYNs who apparently didn’t care that I cried in pain every time I was checked. She called it vulvar vestibulitis, but the most commonly used term now is vulvodynia.
Apparently, there’s no known cause, but some doctors think it may be due to having too many nerve endings in the area. I am doing somewhat better now thanks to some physical therapies and a lidocaine ointment that I can apply beforehand.
Story credit: Reddit / itsybitsyemu
Mom and Baby Were OK
When I was an anesthesia resident, a pregnant woman came into our medium-sized community hospital in the night with some abdominal pain and nausea. Her doctor determined she was not in labor so we just treated her with medication and kept her overnight. In the morning, a new obstetrician started daily rounds. When he saw her, he immediately raised the alarm.
The new obstetrician noted that the patient’s blood pressure had dropped. They felt the patient’s uterus and it was exquisitely tender. At this point, our patient is feeling very faint. Now the diagnosis is likely a uterine rupture, which is when a small hole has burst in the womb. In these cases, the solution is an emergency C section, and my team was called in to perform this delivery.
A uterine rupture is bad enough, but when we removed the tiny preterm baby, we discovered a horrific truth. It wasn’t a rupture but a placenta percreta. That’s when the placenta grows through the wall of the uterus and into the surrounding organs, in our patient’s case her bladder. The surgery became more complicated and we had to call for help.
In the OR we now had a urologist, and two other anesthesiologists and started a blood transfusion as she had lost a lot of blood. This condition is usually detected on a prenatal ultrasound, but the patient had skipped hers. If she hadn’t missed it, this surgery would have been performed in a big city due to its risky and delicate nature. Thankfully, mom and baby were OK.
Story credit: Reddit / TableWallFurnace
It Never Slowed Him Down
My oldest son was 11 years old and he needed a physical for youth tackle football. He had complained that his ankle hurt during the middle of baseball season so she asked if he could take off his shoe. When he did, she immediately pointed to the side of his foot where there was a strange bump and informed us he had a broken foot.
I didn’t believe her because he had the same thing on his other foot as well. So she took a look at the other foot and said, “Oh…he has TWO broken feet.” She then sent us over to get X-rays from the hospital. I was laughing in my head, thinking it was so crazy that my son, who not only finished playing in a baseball tournament but had also been running and jumping at the swimming pool literally an hour before, had two broken feet.
After the X-rays were completed, my smile quickly faded as the doctor was right. That’s when we learned about how completely flat feet can be damaged with stress fractures that go undetected. He was put into a cast for eight weeks and was made to wear special shoes and insoles for the rest of his life. His feet are still deformed, but it has never slowed him down.
Story credit: Reddit / Tbjkbe
The Worst Thing I've Ever Seen
My patient was a teenage girl who was taking a nap at home. As she slept, a reckless driver crashed into her house, causing an electrical fire, igniting a ruptured gas line, and setting the entire house ablaze. Originally she got out with her sister, but went back in to try and rescue her dad and dogs. When firefighters pulled her out, her body was 95% burns.
When she arrived in ICU we registered smoke inhalation, lung damage, carbon monoxide, and cyanide poisoning plus toxic inhalation. She survives the initial presentation to the trauma unit and now she’s in our burn unit, and it’s only going to get worse before it gets better. The only intact skin on her body was a small area around her inner thigh.
Her hair, face, eyelids, and lips are gone. We do what we can with moist sterile dressings and debridement plus broad-spectrum antibiotics. At the end of the day, she looked like a mummy fully wrapped by the end. There is no chance of her having a normal life ever again. The chances of her surviving are in the single digits. After a few days, the infection begins to set in.
All that damaged tissue was a breeding ground and the first thing we noticed was the smell. The only thing you can really do to encourage healing at that point is IV/Topical antibiotics and debridement. Basically, large wounds heal better when they are scraped or shaved to expose the wound bed. This removes dead cells which hamper growth and encourages new skin formation.
It takes weeks of treatments, and we had to do this all over her body. This was scheduled multiple times per week. One day, I said out loud in the OR, “This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” Several years in medicine later that statement remains true. She survived the next few days, and we started with the skin grafts. Trying to re-build her face, and cover her body.
Her average surgery time was about 10 hours per procedure. We have to keep the room at 98 degrees because burn patients go hypothermic quickly. This meant 10 hours in full scrub gear at nearly 100-degree heat.
Story credit: Reddit / Allopathological
Have You Put On a Few?
I went to the doctor to get a note for a day off work because I didn’t feel so great. The doctor poked me in the stomach and said, “That’s not normal,” then sent me off to have a scan…which took me two months to get around to. Two weeks later, I got a letter from the doctor asking me to come in. When I got there, the doctor went off at me for not coming in sooner…
He told me to go home, pack a bag, and make my way to the Royal Brisbane immediately as it might be cancer. Some more scans later and it was determined not to be cancer, but a four-kilogram cyst. My only symptom was an enlarged stomach and the “You’re getting fat” comments from my mother.
Story credit: Reddit / ShaddiJ
The Worst Part Was Telling Him
This patient had a history of kidney cancer but was in remission. On his latest scan, there was surprising news. There’s a focal mass on one kidney. Still, if it’s actually just a focal lesion we can chop off the tip of his kidney and cure him while retaining most of his kidney function. The lead surgeon requests better imaging, so we send him to radiology.
When radiology calls us back with the results and it was the worst possible outcome. The cancer is back and has spread into the renal veins. This takes our patient out of remission and into stage three. The radiologist also mentions he sees shadows in the liver and brain. After the dust settles, everyone agrees that this patient is more advanced and surgery is no longer an option.
The worst part was telling him. Remember, this patient came in thinking he was having a short surgery and leaving completely cured. Instead,the surgeon walks in and says, “I’m sorry, but your cancer has spread and you most likely have about six months to live.” His son was five years younger than me and standing next to his dad at the time.
Story credit: Reddit / Allopathological
All Because of an Accidental Fall
My husband and I were messing around and he chased me through the kitchen. When I took a hard left turn, he lost his footing and fell on his side. He’s a big dude, so falling is a bit more traumatic for him. He couldn’t put pressure on his leg and he knew immediately he was hurt pretty bad. He was able to crawl to the couch, and once he settled in, he said he wasn’t in too much pain.
He decided to sleep on the couch that night so he wouldn’t have to go upstairs. We made an appointment in the morning for the ER so we wouldn’t have to sit there all day, but they didn’t have an opening until 2 pm, so we just hung out at the house. He was in a decent amount of ambient pain, but it didn’t seem too urgent. Once we got to the hospital, however, we found out the shocking truth.
He had broken his hip, breaking off his entire ball joint from the top of his femur. The nurses said they couldn’t believe that he was able to sit up and sleep on it, which implied that we should have come the night before—and probably by ambulance. It required surgery with some hefty bolts to put it back into place. But the crazy part is that, apparently, a healthy 30-year-old man breaking his femur from standing is highly unusual. That’s when we found out that there was an even more terrifying cause behind it.
After several tests and an MRI, it turned out he was in the early stages of osteoporosis. Even craziest? It was due to a pituitary tumor in his brain. So we discovered a benign brain tumor all because the dude was wearing slippery socks.
Story credit: Reddit / yourerightaboutthat
Matters of the Heart
A young woman in her 20s comes in with an infected heart. Her infection and heart failure are pretty much past the point of recovery. Her only option was IV antibiotics, hope they work, and plan for hospice care. Her IV lowered the infection but the heart and valve damage were extensive. It was so extreme that the heart was producing micro-clots.
After the micro-clots, her fingertips went purple and clots migrated to her lungs. When she arrived in my ICU ward she was struggling to breathe. At this point, she decides to fill out a DNR or Do Not Resuscitate and move into hospice care. Unfortunately, our state has a loophole where if the patient becomes unresponsive their proxy can change the DNR. Sadly, the worst happened.
Her mom went to court and was granted healthcare proxy rights. This meant once the daughter was disoriented, her medical decisions belonged to her mother. The first thing her mom did was cancel the DNR, and our team was forced to put her on life support. This lasted for months and her arms and legs became purple, black, green, then necrotic.
Her organs were failing and the clots had traveled to her brain. She was unresponsive and we knew it shouldn’t be prolonged. We took the case to risk management, we held ethics meetings, and we went to court against the mother to revoke her healthcare proxy to fight for the patient’s right to die with dignity. The court refused and mom stayed in control.
Story credit: Reddit / _AVA_
Surgery Because of a Clerical Error
I work in the pathology lab where the hospital sends all the specimens. One day, a surgeon did a double mastectomy based off a different hospital’s pathology report. The report said the woman had the kind of breast cancer where both breasts need to be removed. But when we examined her specimens, we made an utterly disturbing discovery.
We found zero cancer in either breast. Obviously, the surgeon was beside himself and made us look through both breasts IN THEIR ENTIRETY…It’s unheard of to submit all the tissue like this, but he needed to find cancer. I’ve never seen a surgeon stand there and watch the pathologist like this guy did. We all felt so bad for him and of course the patient.
He was so upset, cussing up a storm the whole time and screaming about “this is why I never take outside pathology reports!” Turns out, the other lab had mis-labeled her tissue, so some other lady got the all clear who had cancer, while she lost both her breasts when she didn’t need to. All around a horrible situation, and the surgeon was sick over it all.
Story credit: Reddit / anutteranceofshush
All of This Could Have Been Avoided
One night, when I was 16, I had a very sharp pain in my right side. I tossed and turned for a couple of hours before getting up and knocking on my mom’s bedroom door; a forbidden action. My mother swung the door open and snapped at me. Then, when I explained my pain, she told me it was just heartburn. She ordered me to drink some milk and go back to bed.
I drank the milk, tossed around my bed for a few more hours, and finally passed out from exhaustion. The next day and a few weeks after that, I felt fine. But then, a couple of months later, the pain was back and I woke my mother in the middle of the night again. She gave me the same response as the first time, and I once again just passed out from exhaustion.
Because it was starting to become a pattern, the next time I felt the pain, I didn’t bother going to my mother and just rode it out. This continued until I was 18. My parents were out of town one weekend and the pain came back worse than ever before, waking me from a dead sleep. After hours and hours of utter agony, hurting to move, hurting to lay still, I broke down and called my mother.
On the voicemail I left her, I told her that I thought I was dying. I finally passed out as the sun began to rise. I was woken up by my uncle banging on the front door and he took me to the doctor, who then referred me to an ultrasound and a surgeon. I was able to get the ultrasound done on the same day but the surgeon didn’t have availability until the end of the week. I didn’t think anything of it as, once again, the pain had disappeared by then.
My mom begrudgingly took me to the appointment with the surgeon, but I’m pretty sure she thought I was faking it since I’d been completely fine all week. I remember sitting in the office with the surgeon, just chatting while we waited for the nurse to bring him my ultrasound file. I’ll never forget when she handed it to him. He opened the folder and the smile immediately fell from his face.
Surgeon: Did they give you any pain meds when you went to the doctor? Me: No, just some antibiotics. Why? Surgeon: Nancy, call my 2 pm and tell them we have to reschedule as I’ll be doing emergency surgery. You should have been sent to me last week. I’ll meet you in the ER. So yeah, my gallbladder had apparently been filled with stones since I was 16 and it kept making more for the next two years. The surgeon said he’d never seen anything like it.
All of this could have been avoided if my mother had just listened to me when I first complained to her.
Story credit: Reddit / alltheyarnthings
She Was a Fighter
I once had a middle-aged female patient, with no prior medical history, who was flown in from another state for escalation of care. She was transferred for intracranial hemorrhage. But one thing made her case stand out. According to her family, it had happened after she tried smoking the green stuff for the first time. She had taken a big, long toke and she coughed so hard that it ruptured a vessel in her brain.
She survived her surgery, but during her post-op recovery her heart stopped and she went into cardiac arrest. I attended the code blue with the team, and with rapid sequence intubation and CPR, we were able to bring her back. After she was stable I was outside the room reviewing my patient list when she went into cardiac arrest a second time!
The same team had to sprint across the hospital again to handle it. I’ve never seen the code blue team so out of breath. In one night she was flown in, had a ruptured aneurysm, hemorrhagic stroke, and two cardiac arrests back to back and lived. She was a fighter but I hope her family understands no means no next time!
Story credit: Reddit / katgeek
Is This Pain Normal?
There are so many, but perhaps one of the most stunning cases was the man who thought searing pain while urinating every once in a while was normal. He would have tremendous back pain for a day or so, which he thought was due to advancing age and the highly physical nature of his job. Not incredibly unreasonable, but something he should have still checked out.
Usually, a few days later, he would have searing pain while urinating, then be fine again. Of course, it turned out to be chronic kidney stone formation. He said he never noticed the stones coming out because he never looked down while urinating. Honestly, I still don’t understand. I have had kidney stones myself and it definitely feels like something solid is coming out. Baffling.
Story credit: Reddit / 1skepticalguy
They Amputated the Wrong Leg
My grandfather’s friend needed to have his leg amputated. Somewhere between him leaving the hospital bed to go into surgery and coming back out, someone had mislabelled the leg and they amputated the wrong leg. He went back into surgery three days later—he’s very old and they were worried about him going under once let alone twice—and they removed the other (correct) leg.
This is one of those stories that I couldn’t believe until I actually met the guy and realized he really does have both legs amputated, for no good reason other than negligence.
Story credit: Reddit / I_Fahmy
Never Touch the Surgeon's Table
I’m a surgical tech, and we were doing a skin graft on a burn patient. In those types of surgeries, you have two different operative sites if you’re taking the skin graft from the patient and not using cadaver skin. This means I have two different surgical teams going and only one me bouncing back and forth and assisting both the teams.
This was also at a university hospital, meaning I have attending surgeons, residents, and medical students all working alongside. If you work in surgery, you know that unless you’re the tech, YOU DO NOT TOUCH THEIR TABLE OR ANYTHING ON IT. As we’re doing the skin harvest, you have to keep the skin moist until it’s ready to be transplanted on the site.
I wrap mine in damp sponges and keep it on my table. I bet you can see where this is going. I turn back to my table and the sponge WITH THE SKIN IN IT is gone. I look everywhere and finally stop everyone from working to ask who has the damp sponge that was on my table. A resident told me my table was “too cluttered” and he threw the sponge in the trash. I saw red.
I’ve never had to scold a doctor so bad in my life. Not only did he touch my table, he threw away an item that needs to be accounted for after surgery, and it had specimen in it. Since the skin was no longer sterile, we had to use cadaver skin, and you know who pays for that? The PATIENT. So, a note to all the baby docs, please don’t touch your scrub’s table unless we okay it.
Story credit: Reddit / SucculentOwl
Most People Don't Realize That
I’m an eye doctor, and many people don’t realize that diabetics need to have their eyes checked regularly. After all, a diabetic complication can result in blindness. I had a patient 15 years ago that was experiencing severe diabetic vascular changes against the retina and required laser intervention. On the day of her surgery, she chooses to go to work instead.
She worked in the cleaning industry, and on that day she inhaled some of her cleaner fumes. They caused her to sneeze, which spiked her blood pressure, and she blew the fragile blood vessels in both of her eyes wide open. Immediately, she’s blinded in both eyes in a matter of seconds.
Story credit: Reddit / OscarDivine
I Ignored it Until it Got Worse
I was rushed to the ER after frequent blackouts and sudden-onset fatigue. I worked a physical labor job and attended college after my shift, so I didn’t think anything about the fatigue and the blackouts. I thought it was just my brain giving me a fast forward through mind-numbing tasks. Typically, I would have blackouts while driving because my commute to work was about 45 minutes and my school was about an hour away from my work. I can’t believe how dangerous it was.
I would get on the highway, blink, and the next thing I knew, I was in the parking lot with 45 minutes having passed in an instant. I told my girlfriend about this and she told me something was wrong; but being a dumb 19-year-old, I ignored it. It wasn’t until I was at work stacking chairs that it really started to sink in—I had an empty cart, put a chair on it, turned around to pick up another chair, then turned back to a chilling sight. The cart was full—but I didn’t remember filling it.
When I saw the full cart, it was like someone hit me in the back of the head and I instantly felt like I hadn’t slept in days. I ended up sitting down and one of my co-workers noticed I was white as a ghost. The guy in charge forced me to go to the hospital even though I insisted I was fine. Once I got to the hospital and got brain scans done, it turned out I was having mild seizures caused by a lack of sleep.
When I told the doctor about my commuting blackouts, he looked like he just saw a ghost. He told me he had no idea how I didn’t crash. He basically told me to find a new job and get more sleep.
Story credit: Reddit / Hangman_Matt