If you work in healthcare, you know it’s pretty common to have a terrible patient now and again. Sadly, some medical providers are forced to deal with difficult patients on a more regular basis. The patients you’re about to hear about are terrible on another level. You just have to read to see what we’re talking about. And if you don’t work in health care, try to remember to leave medical treatment, advice, etc. up to the professionals! They know what they’re doing…unlike many of these patients.
1. Equal Division of Labor
This girl came to the pharmacy to return her birth control. I asked her why and she said she got pregnant. I asked if she took it every day. She said, “No. On the days I didn’t feel like taking it, I made my boyfriend take it”. I couldn’t believe the stupidity. I made them answer a bunch of questions until they realized how stupid they were.
2. Mother And Grandmother Of The Year
There was an eight-year-old boy whose lips were turning blue. He was hardly moving and babbling. His tests come back. The potassium levels are so low, this child’s heart is about to fail. The kid also has other issues. The doctor calls for emergency medical transport to a children’s hospital in Tampa. Both the mother and grandmother say, “Just give him the prescription we will pray to Jesus to save him it will be fine, we have bingo later and I’m not driving to no Tampa”. I wanted to SCREAM.
They remove the child’s IV and head out the door. I inform them they are making a horrible choice. They must get the child treatment because he is near the end. They say “But we have a hair and nail appointment, Jesus will save him”. We call child protective services and with officers they are brought back.
3. Sleep Tight
I have one. It’s not about a patient, but rather, a patient’s family member. I had a patient in the ICU for some respiratory issue. He had chronic pain and some mental health issues at the baseline, but worst of all, he had this co-dependent girlfriend who was always VERY present at his bedside all the time.
She was constantly worrying that he wasn’t getting enough pain medication or sleep. We kept reassuring her that we were giving him his medications and not to worry. The day he transferred out of the ICU, I was working a night shift and heard a code blue paged overhead.
It was for him. He had gone into respiratory arrest. Fortunately, he was found right away, intubated, and resuscitated. Back to my ICU he went. After some digging, we discovered the blood-chilling truth. We found out that his girlfriend was worried he wasn’t going to be able to sleep, so she bought some Seroquel on the street and gave it to him.
He was already on his home dose of Seroquel and opioids, plus some additional opioids for the acute pain he was dealing with. The sedation from that extra Seroquel in conjunction with the rest of his medications tipped him over the edge. Once he woke up, he was mortified and asked that his girlfriend not be allowed to visit him anymore.
Of course, this presented a different problem. I had to call her and tell her she was not allowed to visit him anymore and that hospital security had been alerted. She was…not happy. The lesson: If someone is hospitalized, WE WILL PROVIDE THE APPROPRIATE MEDICATIONS. You do not need to bring in extra medications. We got it.
4. Don’t Put The Blame On Me
A woman comes into the Emergency Room with a six-year-old girl. The mother is frantic and crying, “My baby’s tooth fell out! It’s my fault”. I ask her, “How is it your fault? Did she fall or something”? She tells me, “No. It’s my fault because I didn’t give her the good juice with concentrate in it. Now all of her teeth are gonna fall out”!
Genuinely confused, I ask, “Concentrate”? She says, “If you don’t give kids juice with Concentrate in it…you know…the one with the big letter “C” on it, all their teeth will fall out”! “Ma’am,” I sighed, “your child is six years old. She is going to lose all her baby teeth now and get her adult teeth. She does not have scurvy”.
5. (Don’t) Do It Yourself
An old man I knew always had a bandaid on his nose. He had a cancerous growth on it and he would cut it off himself. He would always say “All the doc will do is cut it off, I can do that myself and save $200”. Guess who didn’t survive when the cancer spread elsewhere?
6. Take It Easy
I had a patient who had just gotten a below-knee amputation. We gave him the prosthesis shortly after surgery, as soon as the surgeon signed off. We told him several times to take it easy. He was very excited and we knew he was not going to listen. To stress the issue, we had the owner of the company and several coworkers who are also amputees talk to the patient. Being a new amputee the limb goes through a lot of changes and is still healing.
After he took his new leg home we hadn’t heard from him in a few weeks, he even canceled his follow-up appointment since he was “doing great” A week after that one of our coworkers calls us and tells us that he was at the surgeon’s office. He saw said patient waiting to be seen since his limb was scabbed over, with several lesions and extremely discolored.
After asking what happened he told her that he was feeling so good with the prosthesis he decided to run a marathon and obstacle course. He ended up getting a major infection due to the mud. He is extremely lucky that he did not need a revision making him an above-knee amputee.
7. Is It His Will Or Are You Witless?
We had a case in the news here recently. A little boy broke his arm playing, his mother took him to a local healer instead of a hospital. I’m not sure exactly what he did to the arm, set it wrong maybe or just sprinkled some herbs on it, but after a while the boy complained that he was in pain and the limb was turning blue. Finally, the mom takes him to a real doctor. At this point, it got so bad that they had to amputate the arm.
The worst thing about it is that the mother didn’t feel any remorse, didn’t even blame the healer. No. She said that it must have been God’s will for her son to become an amputee at such a young age
8. I Do What I Want
We told this patient, “Please don’t get up on your own”! He didn’t listen. He got up on his own and pulled out the line that was going into his jugular, which led directly to his heart. The result was gruesome—he proceeded to bleed all over everything until he passed out. He almost died that day.
9. Have You Seen The Gingerbread Man?
A patient came in breathing through his mouth. His mouth was opened as wide as he could stretch it. His breath sounded like someone sucking that last bit of liquid through a straw. Turns out he had snorted 250 grams (nine oz) of cinnamon after his mum’s boyfriend dared him to. He then tried to snort some water to wash it away.
His mucus became like a biscuit. He had a cold, too. I tried very hard not to insult their collective intellect.
10. Sugar-Free Diet
My “non-diabetic” patient with a blood glucose of 1250 said, “I’m hungry, can I eat”? I replied, “Well, sir, your blood sugar is really high so let us get it under control first”. “He asked for a drink, and I told him I could get him some water. “No”, he says, “something else without sugar…like JUICE”. You’re kidding me, right?
11. Who’s Your Daddy?
A mother requested a maternity test for her child. You read that correctly. Not a paternity test, but a maternity test. She was convinced that her husband put “another woman’s sperm” in her when she was sleeping.
12. The Doctor Was Too Stunned To Speak
The most outrageous thing I’ve heard was from a boy who was something like 20-22 years old. He came from a very poor, illiterate family. The boy had a bad case of tonsilitis and refused to take any medication because all he needed to do was “bite the sun”. I asked him to explain—but that didn’t make it any better. Basically, at noon he had to look up to the sun, open his mouth as wide as possible and “bite” the sun several times.
This apparently would “burn” his tonsils and cure him over the course of a couple weeks. If that wouldn’t work, Plan B was to do the same at night, but only under a full moon.
13. Seriously Serious Seafood
I had a repeat patient as a medic that would always call for a severe allergic reaction to shellfish every other month or so. She always had the allergy and knew her reactions were getting worse. After a year of this silliness, my crew and I stayed behind in the emergency room with her. We talked at length about the situation since she’d always stay silent about how it kept happening. Her explanation was mind-boggling.
She told us she comes from a patriarchal culture. Her father made an amazing seafood soup. If she didn’t eat it and “force her body not to reject his gift to the family,” she would lose her car, phone, or whatever punishment her father deemed necessary. We pleaded with her to do whatever it took to show him it was dangerous and carry her Epi-Pens with her.
Fast forward a few years when I went into nursing and joined that emergency room, I saw a familiar bloated face. Turns out, she had gone off to college in another state and hadn’t been home for a while until visiting her folks for a holiday. Of course, she had the soup. But despite hitting herself with the Epi-Pen when her throat started tightening, the reaction continued. Her mom, who I had never seen before, told me she tried to eat it fast and rushed to the bathroom. They found her on the floor.
Medics couldn’t tube her in the field and tried medical management until they could drive her to our emergency room. The doctor performed a tracheotomy at the bedside and she went to the intensive care unit. It took a week for her to recover and I was told by the nurses that her father “finally got it” that her allergy was a real medical condition.
14. Fatal Flaw
When I was in medical school, I had a gentleman in his late 60s come in for chest pain. We found he had suffered a large heart attack, but he refused surgical treatment because he wanted to bring his car home and planned on taking an ambulance back to the hospital. Apparently, he was in the parking ramp and it cost $20 a day to park, so he didn’t want to pay.
He came back by ambulance and my worst fears happened—he went into full cardiac arrest with no pulse and quickly passed away. The doctor had to call his son and explain what happened. The son was like, “Yeah that sounds like dad, he’s always been cheap”.
15. Waiting For The Tooth Fairy
I’m a dental nurse. My favorite case was a 30-something-year-old woman who came in for a checkup at the emergency low-cost clinic I worked at. Her teeth were broken and almost black. Her gums were swollen, bright red, and bleeding just from moving her tongue against them. She needed multiple hygienist appointments, scaling, and a debridgement.
The X-ray showed that the patient had all her wisdom teeth and 10 fillings. She needed root canals to try and save some teeth and at least three extractions. Her mouth was so messed up, I wouldn’t be surprised if she needed more work than that. I told her everything and did the usual explanation of proper oral hygiene.
Then I asked her if she had any questions, to which she says, “It’s okay if I lose this set of teeth, my others will come through”. Me and the dentist just looked at each other, probably a lot longer than we should have. We had no words. I couldn’t come up with a single reply to that comment.
16. Old Habits Die Hard
This lady was morbidly obese and had already lost a leg to diabetes. While on the basic medical floors, she and her family would consume large quantities of fast food. She didn’t have the strength to lift her own chest up enough, so she eventually went into respiratory failure and ended up on a breathing machine in the ICU.
When we finally weaned her off the machine and pulled out the tube, the very first words out of her mouth were, “Can I get some fried chicken from the cafeteria”?
17. Silence Is Golden
I had a teen patient who lost speech for a couple of days and got better. When I saw them again with their mom, I went over the tests and started discussing the possible causes. Mom interrupted me and said “Don’t say anything else. I’m a firm believer that if you don’t tell someone their diagnosis they can just heal on their own”.
She literally didn’t want me to tell her anything because she thought saying words out loud would give her kid diseases.
18. Dad Vs. Dentist
Dentist here. A dad brought his 16-year-old daughter down out of the hills of New Hampshire and told me to take out all of her perfectly sound teeth and make her a set of dentures. After I picked up MY jaw, I asked him why–he explained that she was engaged, and he was giving them a wedding present. By getting rid of her teeth, her husband wouldn’t have to pay for dental bills for the next 50 years.
All attempts at educating him about the importance of natural dentition, the shortcomings of dentures, the fact that his daughter’s teeth were near-perfect, and that removing them would be gross malpractice on my part–all met with blank stares and continued insistence. I told him he was flirting with a call to social services if he kept trying this, whereupon he stormed out with daughter in tow.
That was 20 years ago and I still facepalm over it.
19. Denial Isn’t Just A River In Egypt
We recently had a married couple come in and the wife had late-stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that had been undiagnosed for years. My boss diagnosed her and told her she had it. He told her husband, too. Her husband kicked up a major fuss because he was sure because the Internet said she had borreliosis. He refused to let himself or her accept the disease.
Turns out, before they came to us, they’d been to THE Mayo Clinic where they‘d also been told she had ALS. And he‘d kicked up a major fuss there, too. So this woman is dying of a disease she refuses to believe she has.
20. Dad Doesn’t Know Best
When I was in seventh grade I hurt my pinky finger playing softball, but my dad being the assistant coach that he is told me I “just jammed it”. I told him I think I did more than that since my finger was completely numb, yet in excruciating pain. I picked up the softball after it happened and it felt like there was a hole in the ball where my finger was supposed to be.
Disregarding everything I was sobbing to him, he decided to pull my finger since it was “jammed”. For the next couple months I continued to play softball. Thank God for Icy Hot and Advil. My dad said “Maybe it wasn’t jammed. Since it still hurts you probably just got a bone bruise”. Eventually, my finger also developed a very solid bump on the side of my joint—it’s still there—and the pain never really went away.
When softball season ended we finally went to the doctor and had X-rays taken. When the doctor saw them he was amazed I still played since my bone was completely shattered into at least six pieces. He said he couldn’t give an exact number because of the healing and the angle of the X-rays. The bump on my finger was a calcium buildup from the healing which could have been avoided if I had gone to the doctors when it happened. The only good thing was that I didn’t need to have my finger rebroken to fix the placement of any of the fragments since my dad pulled it initially. Gotta love coach dads!
21. Double The Trouble
My boss was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer after a lump grew on the side of his neck, and it bloomed like something out of a movie. His doctor wanted to start chemotherapy and radiation immediately, but my boss decided against it. He wants to cure it naturally by drinking freshly squeezed juice and doing foot baths to cleanse his body of toxins. He now has a second lump growing on his neck.
22. You Know I’m No Good
I was working on a general surgery unit as a new nurse. An elderly diabetic patient ran over her second toe with the bedside table and her nail was ripped off. She was incredibly mean and didn’t want anyone touching her. I tried to explain the severity of her injury, especially because she was an uncontrolled diabetic and already had compromised circulation to her feet.
She still refused to let me treat the wound. She also refused care from the physician. There was really nothing we could do other than a gentle cleansing with antibiotic ointment and sterile dressings, which she eventually relented to. She was refusing everything else despite not being demented or disoriented. We just had to respect her wishes.
She had overall poor hygiene and still refused more than just the bare minimum care days later. All of her objections would eventually lead to the worst-case scenario. When she came back to the hospital, she needed to have her leg amputated. That toe was now gangrenous and everything below the knee had to go. The doctor told her she likely would have been fine if she didn’t refuse treatment.
Except, after her amputation, she again tried to refuse care. We did what we had to do and eventually she was discharged back to the nursing home where she came from. Reportedly, she still sabotaged her own healing several times by introducing new infections to her wounds via neglect and carelessness. I saw her obituary in the newspaper a few weeks later.
23. A Mistake Of Magnitude
I had a throat cancer patient. We offered him surgery to remove the tumor and it was actually a fairly conservative procedure. He left because he didn’t want a “mutilating” surgery. Instead, his daughter-in-law had been studying magnet therapy and she was “quite good with it” (his words). He came back a year later, it was all too late—he was out of reach from any treatment.
His cancer was so advanced that there was nothing we could do for him.
24. Built To Spill
We had a college student come into the ER with a wonderful case of appendicitis. He needed to get surgery ASAP, as surgery is way easier and safer if done before the appendix ruptures. He called his parents to let them know, and their response chilled me to the bone. They told him to refuse because he had a test later in the week and they didn’t want him to miss it.
He left the ER “Against Medical Advice” despite all of us telling him that if his appendicitis got worse and ruptured, it could definitely be fatal. The kid luckily came back about 10 hours later after it ruptured. He got the emergency surgery and the amount of time he got to spend in the hospital probably doubled, so I’m sure he missed his test anyway.
25. The Name Game
This is a pretty classic case. I work in pediatric critical care, and at my first job we had this kid that was immediately post-op from a small surgery. He was doing great and was probably going to sleep it off and transfer to a general floor the next day. His mom wanted to knock him out with meds and kept on insisting he had pain.
The kid denied this, and none of his vital signs or actions suggested he was hiding anything. He was getting scheduled oral opiates and Tylenol, but this lady was insisting on something through the IV. When she didn’t get anywhere because the kid kept denying pain, she asked for something so he would sleep through the night.
The nurse said, “We can try some Benadryl”. The lady SNAPPED.She demanded a doctor, then she berated the nurse and essentially said we were mistreating her child. Meanwhile, the kid was like, “Moooooom, oh, my God, I’m FINE“, the whole time as he played Xbox. The doctor on service was this awesome, brilliant man who was tired of this lady seeking drugs for her kid.
He put on a smile and asked what the concern was. After listening to her complain about how the nurse had offered the kid Benadryl, he cocked his head and said, “Well, what about Diphenhydramine? Have you ever tried that? It’s a very effective sleep aid”. For anyone that doesn’t know, Benadryl is the brand name for Diphenhydramine. They’re the same thing.
Immediately, the lady perked up and said, “Difanhymeen? Yes, yes, let’s try that”. Meanwhile, the bedside nurse was struggling to keep from laughing. She says, “I’ll go get that,” and runs to the locked medicine room where she loses it. The kid got his Diphenhydramine.
A 20-something-year-old patient comes to ER. The chief complaint on the board is “private”. This should be good. I go in, and he is visibly depressed. He tells a story about how he slept with a woman, didn’t use protection, and then noticed she had a “plastic box on her”. She told him it was an insulin pump for diabetes, and he was mortified.
He came in immediately to be tested for diabetes.
27. Mr. Clean
I once thought I was having a heart attack at work, so I drove myself to the ER. After skipping triage and getting an EEG/EKG right in the hallway, I was placed in a bed with a curtain divider. One of the five other roommates separated by curtains was a 53-year-old man. He was there for a “burning sensation in his crotch”.
I know this because multiple people asked him about his condition, and he had no volume modulation. Everyone kept asking him, “Did you put something…chemical in it”? His response to each one was, “Yeah…I might have”. It took five nurses and a doctor before he finally admitted the horrific truth: bleach. He said he dribbled bleach INTO THE TIP OF HIS PECKER to keep from getting an STD.
The nurse was silent for a few solid moments. Then she asked why he did this and if he did it every time he was intimate. He said he wanted it clean, and that he wasn’t intimate with anyone at the moment. He wasn’t intimate with anyone. He had done it after fooling around with himself and was under the impression that he could infect himself with something he didn’t want.
The nurse had to lecture him that if he wasn’t intimate with another person, he likely wouldn’t contract an STD. She also told him that soap and water were a good way to stay clean in the future. I was frozen in my bed making that face from Edvard Munch’s The Screamwith my wife mirroring it back to me. The man was moved elsewhere, perhaps to rebuild his urethral lining.
We were still too shocked to discuss it until leaving the hospital four hours later.
28. Half-Baked Health Hack
My mother believes that if you make food from scratch then it’s healthier for you. For instance, she thinks that making a chocolate cake from scratch, including milling her own flour, is a healthier alternative to a store-bought cake with identical ingredients. She is diabetic. Her doctors have said in as many ways as they can think of that she has to reduce her carb intake.
What my mother thinks is, “gosh, maybe I should grow the sugarcane myself instead of buying sugar at the store and my bloodwork will finally be in the normal range”. Her liver and pancreas have failed multiple times. Each time, the doctors manage to restore organ function by restricting her carb intake. They explain that she has to continue to follow a low-carb diet at home. She does not, because she’s convinced that she’s already on a healthy diet. Rinse and repeat.
29. I Didn’t Get It From My Papa
My father was a stubborn idiot and was adamant about not following doctor’s orders. He was a long-time smoker and drinker. So dear old father goes in and has a mole excised from his privates. Uh oh. Biopsy comes back and it’s not malignant. Great, except he didn’t follow the doctor’s order on how to take care of it after the fact. Gangrene.
Yep. They lopped it off. I only found out about that in my late teens. It was a mind-shattering reveal from my mother and older sister.
30. That’ll Show Them!
This patient was being treated for her diabetes. She had long been non-compliant with her diet and medications. We had tried everything and the patient was just not doing anything about her disease. The doctor being fed up basically told her what was going to happen to her if she doesn’t start caring for herself. The patient’s reaction was beyond nuts.
The patient got mad at the doctor and drove to the store and came back with a bag full of candy bars and decided to sit outside in the waiting room and eat her candy to spite the doctor.
31. Keep Calm And Carry On
I’m a nurse. I had a very polite and lovely patient try to remove all of his chest tubes and IVs after his motorcycle accident. He was obviously delirious from the pain medications and the head injury, but he was still a nice guy. I left him in the care of my co-worker for my lunch, and 10 minutes into my lunch break, I saw him stagger past the breakroom door.
He was trailing blood everywhere, but that wasn’t even the worst part—a couple of seconds later, he collapsed. He said he needed the bathroom! I don’t know how the heck he pulled his own chest tubes out. Removing them always makes me cringe, but he did it himself! He was put back to bed, this time in the ICU, and he got some more sedation.
Even though ripping it all out set him back a couple of weeks, he was still eventually discharged. He later came to say hi and thanks on the way out. The happiest delirious patient I ever had. What a bloody trooper.
32. Kiss And Tell
We had a mom in the NICU who would constantly kiss her premature baby on the mouth. Several nurses educated her around why that’s not safe for the baby, and thankfully documented their teachings. This was during the cold season, and it became even more concerning when the mother was coming in with related symptoms like coughing, sneezing, and obvious congestion.
She still continued to kiss the baby right on the mouth. The baby was almost ready to go home by this time, but things took a turn for the worst—the baby got extremely sick and ended up on a ventilator. It had quite the extended stay with many, many close calls.
33. Nothing Hurts Like Family
Family members can do as much damage as a non-compliant patient. I have had family members un-restrain an intubated patient even after being told why it wasn’t safe when the nurse wasn’t looking. I remember one patient—his family encouraged him to extubate so he did, but there was one major problem…he was too fragile to survive it…so yeah. Congratulations, you just ended your loved one’s life because the restraints bothered you.
I’ve also had family members cough in an immunosuppressed patient’s face. It probably added a month to their ICU stay. Poor lady.
I had a Marine check into my battalion and tell my Corpsman that she was allergic to epinephrine. I questioned her, incredulously, about the circumstances of her allergy: “So, Staff Sergeant, your record says you’re allergic to epinephrine”? “Yeah”, she said, “when I went to the dentist, he gave me epi and I had a bad reaction to it”.
That piqued my interest, “Oh? Oh, really? How so”? She told me that it made her jittery. Okay, but that wasn’t an allergic reaction. I said, “Uh…no. No, you don’t have an allergy to epi”. She tells me that the dentist diagnosed her allergy. “I doubt that,” I stated. “Feeling jittery is a common side effect of epi. It’s adrenaline”.
“So what? It’s in my record”, she said. I tell her, “Yeah, and it shouldn’t be”. She asks why. I finally said, “You can’t BE allergic to adrenaline. You’d die in utero. Your body MAKES it. Naturally”.
35. Crossed Wires
I had an odd interaction with a patient after looking at her chart and seeing she had diabetes. I asked her if she had any medical conditions, and she told me that she didn’t. I asked, “Are you sure? You’ve never been told you have any diseases”? “Never”, she said. So, I asked, “What medications do you take”? With a straight face, she says, “Insulin…for my diabetes”.
36. A Sticky Situation
We were doing an auditory brainstem response test on a kiddo with severe developmental delays. At the top of the chart, in bold red letters, it says “ADHESIVE ALLERGY”. Well, to perform this test we need to use adhesive electrodes. Plus, the kid had already had the test in the past, so I was wondering how they did it before.
I went to talk to the kid’s mom about it and she goes, “Well, I just don’t like the way his skin looks after they pull all of that tape off him”. I just left.
37. There’s No Cure For Stupidity
I’ve seen some really stupid people over the years. A few weeks ago a patient’s family member got into a verbal altercation with me over the fact that I was trying to “freeze his mother”. He kept pointing to the digital thermostat displaying a temperature of 23 degrees Celsius. When I gently explained to him that 23 Celsius is not at all cold, he just kept pointing to the display and shouting, “You don’t think 23 degrees is cold?! It’s 23 FREAKING DEGREES IN HERE”! and acting insane.
After multiple attempts to explain to him what Celsius is by myself, the charge nurse, house supervisor, and security, we finally gave up and had him escorted out. He was a man in at least his late-30s who graduated high school and had never heard of Celsius and Fahrenheit. He literally thought we were making it up in an attempt to conceal my efforts to freeze his intubated, critically ill mother.
38. It Is What It Is
I’m an attending physician at our Triage Unit. On a Friday, an older gentleman came in with his entire family, none of them with a face mask. All had mild COVID symptoms except him. He had shortness of breath. We insisted on doing tests to look for COVID, but he and his wife refused. They said that COVID wasn’t real and it was just a bacterial infection.
The more we talked with him the more agitated he got, to the point that his face was red. We suggested hospitalizing him to stabilize him and start treatment. They accused us of exaggerating his symptoms and that we only wanted to hospitalize him so we could steal the liquid in his knees. They both cursed at us and said they were going to a better hospital to get antibiotics.
I knew what was coming, but it was still heartbreaking. 24 hours later, we get a call from a neighboring hospital next telling us they intubated one of our patients because he went into respiratory failure when he arrived and they had to transfer him here because they don’t have the appropriate equipment. We transfer the patient on Sunday only to find out on the CAT scan he had 90% lung damage. He passed on Monday morning.
Just before the family took the body away, I gave the widow the death certificate. Before walking away, she turns around and waves the certificate yelling “See! I told you it wasn’t COVID! It says here: “due to pulmonary pneumonia due to SARS-CoV-2! I knew it was a bacteria”!. I told her: “SARS-CoV-2 is COVID-19, ma’am”.
39. Just Vampire Things
I offered a diabetic a tissue after doing a finger prick to mop the two drops of blood on his finger. He looked at me like I was an absolute idiot, said “you don’t know very much do you” and sucked it off his finger. What he said next still blows my mind: Then he spend the next five minutes “educating” me that because he was a diabetic, he needed all the blood he had.
Therefore he needed to “put it back into his body” rather than wasting it by putting it on a tissue. He was under the impression that if he just swallowed, it would go straight back into circulation.
40. An Unclean Cut
I’m not a medical professional, but my aunt is and I’d like to share her horrifying story. She once had a patient, a young guy in his early 20s, who had very poor hygiene. He didn’t shower regularly, didn’t brush his teeth, wore the same clothes for days on end, etc. One day, he came in with a nasty rash on his lower abdomen that was starting to show signs of infection.
My aunt provided antibiotics and extensively stressed to him to improve his hygiene, otherwise, it would just keep coming back. Well, as the story goes, he didn’t pick up the prescription and apparently choose to just keep putting A&D Gold ointment on the area. He would live to regret this so, so much.
She later found out he ended up in the ER after going into shock at work. Turns out, he ended up getting gangrene in the area and it had spread to his scrotum, which had to be removed.
41. Eat Your Vitamins
My wife is a labor and delivery nurse. When a baby is born, they give it a vitamin that the baby can’t produce for the first 6 months of its life; I think it’s Vitamin K to help with blood clotting. Obviously, if the baby doesn’t get this, it’s potentially lethal, as they can bleed out internally. Welp, one mother didn’t want their kid getting the vitamin—a sentiment she would soon regret.
The baby ended up meeting a heartbreaking end in the NICU. There was no way to know if the lack of Vitamin K was a factor, but I think most medical professionals would point to it being part of the reason. The cause was related to a bleeding issue. I don’t recall the cause of the bleeding or what the specifics of the issue were, but the lack of Vitamin K likely played a role.
42. Starved For Sense
This patient was supposed to have starved for eight hours for her morning-scheduled breast surgery. During the procedure, we were treated to the most disgusting sight—she regurgitated what can only be described as a partially digested English breakfast, with identifiable sausages, egg, beans, and possibly black pudding, up into her unprotected airway as she attempted to inhale the lot.
We managed to prevent the majority of it from going down, but she needed care for a day or so for her lungs to recover from the stomach acid.
43. Too Little, Too Late
The patient had vague abdominal symptoms, so I recommended a CT scan. He refused because he was afraid of radiation. He also refused a colonoscopy, so all we could do was an ultrasound, which found nothing because he was fat and abdominal ultrasound is a difficult, inconclusive examination anyway. A year later, he was admitted again, and this time. he couldn’t refuse a CT. That’s when we diagnosed him with a life-changing illness—we found massive colon cancer. He’s probably gone now.
44. Time To Celebrate
I was required to stop working while I was pregnant, so I went into the WIC office to sign up for vouchers. I was in line behind a woman who, when asked if her newborn was fully breastfed, replied, “Yes. Except for the cake and ice cream”. The staff told her that babies under six months old should only have breastmilk or formula.
I kid you not, this woman replied, “But it was her BIRTHDAY. She had to have cake and ice cream”! All these years, I’ve thought she was just a special kind of stupid.
45. Playing Catch-Up
One of my patients thought he was getting better, so he stopped taking his prescribed medication last week. When he started feeling sick again, he went ahead and got caught up on the medication—seven days’ worth at one time.
46. Three Snickers A Day Keeps The Doctors…Not Away
I was working in outpatient medicine and one of my patients came in for a normal follow-up. She was obese and told me that she’d read chocolate is good for your heart. She had been eating three Snickers a day diligently. Poor woman. I had another patient who proudly told me that she never received vaccines. I asked why.
She said the last influenza vaccine stopped her heart. I thought maybe it was anaphylactic shock, but that couldn’t be it because she hadn’t been hospitalized or received any treatment. And her legs had some mysterious mild swelling at the ankles, which could be from a lot of things. I asked her how her heart had been restarted. She confirmed it was still stopped.
47. Allergic To Common Sense
Patient with seafood allergy presents to the emergency room with swollen lips, hives, itchy throat. The provider takes a history asking if the patient could’ve been exposed to seafood or cross-contamination. Have they eaten new food or at a new establishment? The whole nine yards. While being treated, patient adamantly denies this.
They keep trying to figure out what the allergen could’ve been because it’s a pretty strong reaction. Eventually, the patient gets frustrated and admits they ate shrimp pasta, but it CAN’T be from that because he took two tablespoons of honey first and “it coats things in there”. As in, shrimp can somehow not penetrate the magical honey fortress.
48. Kids Are The New Dogs
These parents bring in their child whose hair is infested with lice. The lice was visible to the eye and could be seen crawling on the child’s clothing. While the medical staff examined the child, in order to determine a course of action, they discovered the child was covered in a white powder and smelled heavily of chemicals.
They asked the parents what were the substances and the smells emanating from the child. The parents said, quite matter of fact, it was Sevin Powder and flea and tick spray they used on their dogs on the family’s farm. Needless to say, social workers were notified about this case.
49. You’re Not Helping!
I was treating cavities on a very nervous four-year-old. We had finally gotten into a cooperative groove when the genius mother looked up from her phone and noticed that I was drilling teeth. She was in the room the whole time. I had reviewed treatment with her, she knew we were fixing cavities. She proceeds to curse me out under her breath saying “You’re drilling holes in her teeth! this is freaking ridiculous, you people are thieves making holes in people’s teeth”!
I kept my calm and said “Ma’am if you have questions I will be happy to answer after I’m finished”. I’m shaking with rage at this point.By the way, she was 20 minutes late to her appointment already. I’m bending over backward to make sure her kid has a good visit and doesn’t end up scared of the dentist. Appointment is over, kid jumps down high fives and gives me a big hug.
I turn to mom and ask her how exactly she thought cavities were fixed? She said, “you don’t drill, my mother is a dental assistant”. I then proceeded to explain in excruciating detail the scientific process of how we remove decay. She said, “that’s not true”. I then told her that she can go ask her mom, ask Google or go to dental school if she wants to know more. But I won’t be treating her child anymore. What a nutbag.
50. Adding Fuel To The Fire
I’m a paramedic and my partner told me the worst he has ever seen was for a burn patient. He said that he saw a teenager hobbling towards him covered in a bunch of white gooey gunk. When I found out what it was, my jaw dropped. So apparently homeboy was out in the country trying to start a big bonfire and he first decided to douse his big bundle with some gasoline before tossing a match in. Well it caught on fire real fast and he got a big old flash burn across his whole body.
His mama apparently use to be a “certified nurse” and covered him in mayonnaise because that would help treat the burn. Yeah no. All she did was introduce a ton of infection into his body and make it much more excruciating for him when my partner had to wipe it off of him and place burn bandages on him while they transported him to the hospital.
51. There’s A Time And A Place
My friend’s baby was born with multiple birth defects. Baby lived longer than expected. Several heart surgeries prolonged his life, but he passed age two. At the funeral, her sister-in-law tells the grieving mother that baby would still be alive and healthy if mother had fed him more carrot juice and surrounded him with healing crystals.
52. Well If You Insist
My mom had a patient who wanted a pregnancy test done in the lab. She had taken multiple home tests, all of which came back negative, but she was very convinced she’d gotten pregnant after doing it unprotected while visiting her family in El Salvador six months earlier. My mother tried to convince her a test given at the clinic wasn’t needed.
She was most certainly not pregnant because it occurred so long ago and she was clearly not six months pregnant. My mom pointed out the lab fees would be expensive. But the woman still persisted. So my mother collected some saliva and pretended to send it to the lab. The woman was very relieved when my mother called the next day to tell her she wasn’t pregnant. The woman was 90 years old.
53. Your Own Worst Enemy
I had a patient signed out by another ER doctor at a shift change pending a chest X-ray. The X-ray showed aortic dissection, meaning this guy should’ve been gone already, and I had no idea how he was even still alive. This being a small hospital in the middle of nowhere, we called the closest big hospital to transfer this guy.
The ambulance showed up for the transfer, but we were met with the totally unexpected—the guy suddenly decided he was not going. Apparently, he had enemies in that city and they’d track him down. After a standoff in the ER hallway involving security, officers, EMTs, multiple doctors, nurses, and a very scared scribe (AKA me), the guy got on board with the plan.
Later, we found out from the EMTs that he tried to jump out of the ambulance en route to the other hospital. Once he arrived, he left immediately against medical advice. No clue what happened to him after that, but darn, the dissection was INSANE.
54. Inside Out
I worked in ER admissions throughout college. A teenager and his parents came in one day because he went over the handlebars on his bike. The staff wanted to keep him in observation overnight, but his parents refused even after they offered to put him in a recovery room that was near the ER (and normally only used during the day for outpatient surgeries).
They came back the next day and how he looked shook us to our cores. He was white as a ghost. It turned out he had punctured some part of his digestive system in the fall and, I think, had some internal bleeding. It’s the only true emergency surgery I saw in the four years I worked there when the staff actually ran to the OR with a patient. He was lucky to survive.
55. Baby On Board”!
Wait”, my patient said, “second-hand smoke? Yeah, right, that doesn’t exist. Baby’ll be fine”. An hour later, he says, “No, my fiancée and I don’t want our daughter to have any of the vaccines, the vitamin K shot, antibiotic eye ointment, or PKU testing. It’s poison. Poking her with the needle is worse than the cold she’d get without the poison”.
He then drove his newborn daughter and fiancée home in a car that absolutely reeked of weed.
56. The Repeat Offender
When I was working in the ER, I had a guy come in with a gunshot wound to his leg. It was a simple injury, missing the major arteries and nerves in his thigh. All GSWs have to be reported, so I asked the guy what happened. The more he talked, the lower my jaw got:Apparently, he was upset that his neighbor had done something annoying. The patient grabbed a hammer and used it to “knock” on said neighbor’s door.
The neighbor answered the door holding a .22 rifle and told the patient to leave or else he’d blast him. My patient then tells me, “I didn’t think he’d do it again”! That’s right, “AGAIN”. Apparently, this wasn’t their first confrontation. They’d had an argument the previous year that had ended in the neighbor firing on him.
I can only speculate that it was justifiable since the neighbor wasn’t locked up. I couldn’t believe this guy went back to the house of a person who had previously blasted him, banged on the door with a hammer, and was surprised when he got shot again. Heck, the neighbor was nice enough to give him a warning. He even called an ambulance for the moron.
That patient was the dumbest human being I’ve ever met.
57. Freshening Up
One of my patients called me up and sounded worried: “You know those holiday air fresheners that you plug into a wall? Are they bad for you”? I asked, “Bad for you how”? They said, “My baby got into one and drank the stuff inside, so I put some in my mouth to see if it’s bad. Now, my mouth burns”. Mission accomplished.
58. Poor Little Rich Girl
The worst ones are the parents of pediatric patients because they’re the parents who apparently know much more about their child’s oral health than we do. For example, we had an 11-12-year-old patient come in and this kid clearly needed braces. We had been forewarned about how this kid’s mother had already brought her to almost every dental office in the area asking for a “second opinion”. That’s a HUGE red flag.
So this consultation was probably their fifth or sixth opinion on the matter. When I say this poor girl had an underbite and some of the most crooked teeth I’ve ever seen on a pediatric patient, I’m not lying. This girl’s mandibular jaw protruded almost an inch further that the maxillary. She would complain about having trouble doing simple things like chewing her food, speaking correctly, halitosis, and containing saliva so she was unable to control herself from drooling… a lot.
This office was in the Back Bay of Boston, an expensive area. Most patients were more than well-off in the money department. A lot either paid out of pocket or had amazing insurance. The mother was decked head to toe in designer clothes, fur shawl draped on her shoulders in the middle of August. She was clearly wealthy.
Once we finished the exam we told the mom that her daughter absolutely 100% needed orthodontic intervention ASAP, that’s how bad the situation was. She FLIPPED, accused us of just wanting her money and how no child of hers would ever be caught wearing braces. I wanted to throttle her. We told her that it was going to take more than braces to fix the issue. She was going to require a referral to oral and maxillofacial surgeon to correct her severe underbite.
This poor little girl was horrified, not because of what we suggested, but because of her mother’s behavior and lack of understanding. The daughter was crying and begging her mother to let her get her teeth fixed. This crazy lady dragged her daughter out of the office, screaming that all of the dentists in the area were in cahoots. I still wonder if she ever got the help she needed.
59. The DIY Doctor
There was a guy who would go in once a year or so for checkups. He had surgery on his foot and needed it looked at regularly. My dad was the surgeon so. One day this guy comes in for his appointment. He says he isn’t feeling well. He thinks he might have gotten the flu from his kids. No big deal. Unrelated illness happens, right?
Well, he was talking to my dad before he took his shoes off. He was beaming “yeah, I fell pretty hard, gashed my foot open. But I fixed it myself! Saved a trip to the hospital”! Then he showed me, and it looked like a horror movie. He had taken copper wire and “sutured” the gash shut. It had been a week and it was badly infected…that’s where his flu-like symptoms came from.
If he waited a few more days it would’ve ended him! Dad took those out and dressed it. The skin had degraded too far to sew up properly. Dad prescribed him antibiotics and referred him to the hospital for observation. He ended up spending $3,000 on his care instead of the $200 for stitches in the first place.
60. More Than A Mouthful
We had a patient show up through the emergency room and was admitted for emergency radiation treatment. The sight of her still haunts me. She had a massive fungating mass in her mouth that had consumed half her head. When the radiation oncologist tried to examine her and open her mouth, her remaining teeth fell out into his hand. It had eaten through the bones of her face, invaded her eye socket, everything.
The doctor said it was the worst case of mouth cancer he’d seen. According to her husband, she had a small lesion on her hard palate, and upon receiving the diagnosis of an early-stage squamous cell carcinoma, she decided to treat with essential oils and things like frankincense because chemotherapy was garbage.
Her husband said he had tried to reason with her, but she was adamant about the “natural” treatment. She passed in agony shortly after.
61. Breathe In, Breathe Out
My stepdad is a lung doctor who had a guy come in with trouble breathing. They took an X-ray and saw what appeared to be calcium buildup. While he was in the waiting room they saw him snort something and he said it was an all-natural remedy he bought from someone on Craigslist to cure his cough for $200. He did this because “doctors are liberal fraudsters who think they know better with their harmful agendas, ObamaCare money, and he’s only here because his wife is making him be here”.
Suspecting illicit substances they ran a test on it and found out it was not that. It was plaster. His wife confessed that he’s been using it for at least three months now. He saw a Craigslist ad where a guy claimed you could mix it into your water to clear a cough. But this guy figured the best way to get it in was to breath it in.
62. Bet Your Life
Eye doctor here. I had a patient who came in and during her evaluation, I determined that her diabetes was out of control by the look of her retinas, which required immediate intervention. I sent her straight to the retina specialist who then scheduled her for an OR. She decided that day not to go in because she had work and couldn’t afford to take off any days.
She was cleaning houses and the sprays made her sneeze, causing massive hemorrhaging in her eyes due to their weakened vascular state from diabetes. The consequence of this was absolutely shocking—she went immediately blind and got into emergency surgery that day. It took months of recovery and injections to reverse some damage and she now (years later) has functional vision again.
Her kidneys were also failing her and she had no idea. This kicked off a massive lifestyle change and a chain of doctors’ appointments that saved her life. All starting from an eye exam. Of course, I understand the economic reasons to have no-showed for her surgery—it was an awful situation, but the reality is that she had to choose: go blind, or go to work.
The specialist was even willing to curb the cost of her emergency surgery due to her extenuating circumstances. She chose to go blind. Modern medicine thankfully saved her, but the decision she made was objectively the wrong one. You can’t make much money blind either. Hindsight, however, is 20/20, and she was taking a gamble.
63. Bargaining With Fate
Paramedic student here. We had a patient who was morbidly obese and couldn’t get out of his house. He decided after about four days of uncontrolled chest pain to call it in. We got there and found evidence of an upcoming heart attack, but he refused care and wanted us to leave. About 45 minutes later, we got a call from the building he lived in—we got chills up our spines from the news.
We got there and he was in full-blown cardiac arrest. This man was so obese that we couldn’t get him through the door. We even had to knock out a wall and lift him down off the second story with a lift…all the while my paramedic lead and I were bagging him through a tube. Lots of firsts on that call. I’ll never forget it.
64. Cut Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face
This patient came in with an abdominal bleed. The doctor was in the middle of surgery and the current patient’s vitals were good, so we monitored her until the doctor is finished with his surgery. Two hours later, the OR sent for the patient, but she refused. Her reason made me shake my head.
She said that if the doctor could make her wait for surgery, then he could wait for her…as if it was a game of petty revenge. Nothing worked to change her mind. After several rounds of doctors and nurses educating her and begging her, the surgeon came down to see what was going on.
After speaking with her for a while, he came out of the room and said, “Keep monitoring her and don’t feed her—she’ll come one way or another”. Several hours later, I was taking a set of vitals and talking with the patient when she just flatlined in the middle of a sentence. Luckily, she came back right away. It’s safe to say the incident shook her to her core.
After she felt a little better, the patient apologized profusely and signed consent for her surgery. We rushed her to the OR. It just boggled my mind that she almost did herself in. Some people have more bitterness than brains, apparently.
65. You Are What You Eat
I had a patient who was NPO (not allowed to eat) because he had a bowel obstruction. He didn’t like that we weren’t feeding him, so, unbeknownst to the nurses, he called up Papa John’s and ordered some garlic knots. He ate the entire box, then his ignorance came to punish him—he vomited them up, aspirated his vomit, went into respiratory arrest, and coded.
We did CPR and got him back. He had some underlying lung issues so we never could get him weaned off the ventilator. He spent a month in the ICU and was eventually discharged to a long-term care facility with a tracheotomy on the vent.
66. A Long Way Down
I reported to a car accident on the highway when I was working as a medic. The guy involved in it was fairly messed up. He adamantly refused treatment and transport. Instead, he signed himself off and started walking down the slight decline off the road where his car had come to rest after the accident. Yeah, bad idea.
He made it about 10 feet from the back of the ambulance until he lost consciousness and tumbled the rest of his way down the decline. What started off as a smack on his head and a few cuts turned into a broken left arm, serious concussion, and a nasty gash on his head.
67. Action And Reaction
I’m a resident doctor. During my coronary care rotation, I saw some stuff. In this case, I told the patient, “This heart attack was a warning. The most important thing for you to do, regardless of what medications we give you, is to stop lighting up. I know it’s very difficult, but we can help you quit”. The patient replied, “Yeah, I’m gonna think about it”. That ended up being the wrong answer.
He came back a few years later for another heart attack. This then became a regular occurrence. Sadly, unless a patient genuinely wants to quit, it’s a difficult habit to break and it often takes major consequences before people realize the dangers…even more major than a heart attack, apparently.
68. Delicious, Not Nutritious
The patient wasn’t necessarily the one ignoring doctors, but the family. This patient was extremely overweight and unable to swallow properly because of it. Also, being diabetic, he was put on a strict diet while in the hospital. In the middle of the night when the patient should have been sleeping, the family would wake him up and feed him KFC, chips, cakes, and other things the patient should not have had.
The result of this was so, so sad—the patient just stopped breathing. During CPR, he aspirated the fried chicken they consumed about an hour before. We were unable to bring him back. But somehow it got even more disturbing than this—the family had a “picnic” in the waiting room while we were coding the patient. That was a bad day.
69. It’s Taco Tuesday
The patient was in critical condition, intubated, sedated, and on vasopressors. His family brought in a bunch of tacos. After explaining that the patient couldn’t eat because he had a breathing tube and a ventilator that was giving him life support, the family paused and said, “Yes, but can we put the tacos down that tube”?
They were pointing at the breathing tube. I live in a community where people think food is love and can cure anything.
70. Suitable Living Arrangements
One night, when I was a paramedic, we received a call for respiratory distress. We arrived to find a middle-aged woman sitting cross-legged on her living room floor, completely bare and out of breath. Turns out she had heat-induced asthma and thought taking her clothes off “would help”. Meanwhile, 15 cats roamed her house, and she hadn’t refilled her inhaler prescription for months.
71. The Patient Is Always Right
One incredibly dumb patient stands out. He adamantly told me, “I can smoke with the oxygen on. I smoke through my mouth and the oxygen goes in through my nose. I know how this works”. Sure, you do, buddy.
72. Good Intentions
We got a call for a stab wound. Okay, not a good call, but depending on the blade and location, stab wounds are pretty in-and-out for us. It was the aftermath of a shady deal gone sour, and someone got shivved in the leg. The guy pulled the blade out, but his buddy read or heard that you should leave it in. So, he put it back in the poor guy’s leg.
73. Ignorance Is Bliss
Optician here. We had a patient who refused to let us use the tonometer, a machine for checking ocular internal pressure to diagnose glaucoma. He said that the “puff machine” gives people glaucoma and we weren’t going to pull that on him. He told us that his father had an exam and got glaucoma after using that machine.
He said that his uncle and brother also had no signs of glaucoma, yet after getting the puff test, both people had been diagnosed with the disease. Glaucoma doesn’t have any outward symptoms before you start going blind. This moron just told me he has a very strong familial disposition to glaucoma and refused to be tested for it.
74. For External Use Only
I worked at a pain management clinic. To combat opioid use and addiction, a lot of patients were prescribed a medicated cream. It looked a lot like sunscreen. I watched the nurse carefully tell people how to rub it onto the skin. She used small, uncomplicated words and went through the motions of applying the cream several times.
But every so often, patients would complain that their cream “tastes bad”.
75. A New Scientific Discovery
I am an ER doc. I once had a 20-year-old and his girlfriend come in at 2 am freaking out because “something tore his throat open”. He seemed fine. There was no blood. He was breathing fine. I had him open his mouth, saw nothing. I checked again because didn’t want him to lose confidence in me, and clearly something had happened.
So, I’m looking and looking but there was nothing wrong with this kid’s throat. Finally, I said, “Look, it seems ok. What do you feel or see”? He says, “I don’t feel it, but LOOK, ITS RIGHT THERE”. WHERE??? Looking, looking…Then it suddenly hit me: It was his uvula. Somehow, this kid had gotten to the age of 20 without ever noticing his uvula. His girlfriend was also horrified.
I told them it was normal, but they still didn’t believe me. So, I told them I was about to AMAZE them and showed him his girlfriend’s uvula. It was great. Minds blown, and another life saved in the ER.
76. Blinded By Reality
I work for an optometrist and it was the month before school started and a woman brought in her son to have his eyes checked for the first time. Seems like a pretty reasonable thing for any parent, even if he was a little older than usual for a first eye exam. Better late than never I guess. The mom was well-spoken and appeared fairly intelligent. Everything went as normal. The doctor examined the boy and ended up prescribing glasses.
When the doctor was explaining to the mom that her son had to wear his glasses all the time since he’s nearsighted and basically can’t see clearly past five feet in front of him. He will definitely need glasses for school. For some reason this made her LOSE it. She freaked out on the doctor. She said her son doesn’t need glasses and that the doctor is only saying that he does because he wants to sell glasses.
She says that she only brought her son in because there was some form for school that needed to be filled out and that doctors are all con artists trying to push unnecessary medications and interventions. The doctor tried to calm her down and explain that he’s only trying to help them but that she was free to get a second opinion.
He gave her a copy of the kid’s prescription and sent them on their way. About four months later the lady is back asking for another copy of her son’s prescription. Apparently, the first semester midterm results were in and her son failed them all because he couldn’t see the board in his classes and needs glasses!
77. Strong Independent Woman Who Needs A Man
A female patient came in complaining of infertility. She and her partner had been trying to conceive for five years and had “tried everything”. At one point she let the pronoun slip, “she and I…”. My wife said, “Wait, let’s back up a minute”. Turns out the woman had been in a hetero relationship for a few years and never got pregnant despite using no protection.
She then entered a relationship with a woman. Again never got pregnant even though she really wanted to, leading her to believe she was infertile. When my wife tried to explain that conception requires sperm as well as an egg, the patient was incredulous. She exclaimed that she “didn’t need a man in my life” and didn’t like being judged.
78. It’s What They Deserve
A friend of mine had stage four cancer. She went through chemo for over a year. Doctors told her that they would let her take a break. Well when they looked at the cancer, it hadn’t shrunk as much as they’d have liked. So her doctor told her that she couldn’t take a break. She started posting on Facebook about these organic green juice cleanses that someone messaged her about.
I was at her bedside begging her to keep doing the chemo. I told her that she could do the juice cleanses if she thought they’d help, but don’t stop the chemo. She responded, “But they won’t work if I don’t stop the chemo! That’s garbage in your body. I know my body, and it’s going to heal it”. She wound up entering hospice on her 30th birthday and passing about a month later. I’d love to find who peddled that garbage to her and punch them right in their mouth.
79. The Kids Aren’t Alright
A kid had such severe meningitis he couldn’t SIT in a car because his back was so stiff. His dad owned a naturopathic food company and they just gave him that garbage and like horseradish, hoping he would get better. A friend of theirs who was a nurse told them to get him actually checked out and they didn’t. The kid didn’t make it. They have three more.
80. The Greatest Showman
One lady is convinced that magnets cure body ailments. She has magnets in her car and occasionally she’ll make a big show of being unable to breathe–she is fine–and demanding no one call an ambulance. She will walk all the way outside to her car, bring the chintzy fridge magnets back inside. Then by rubbing the magnets on her chest through all of clothes, she is cured and doesn’t need the paramedics or medical help.
And don’t get her started on how oranges and vitamins are the cure for autism. Really, don’t. I will smack your hand so hard.
81. Are You For Real?
A family friend of ours was diagnosed with fairly advanced uterine cancer at the relatively young age of 46. Now, with surgery and chemo, she could have at least had a chance at a decently painless few months, if not a cure. Instead, she and her husband chose to go to a naturopath who claimed they could cure the cancer by putting her on a diet of exclusively fruit and vegetable juices, in very small quantities.
She obviously lost a ton of weight within a month and became so weak that she was bedridden and barely conscious for the last week of her life. The day she passed, she started having severe vomiting to which the naturopath told her husband that it was a good sign “because it means the cancer cells are finally coming out of the body”.
My mom attended her funeral and said she couldn’t even recognize the body as her friend, because all that was left of her was skin stretched over bones. But want to hear the worst part? The husband still says, “It’s a shame she passed from some other cause after the cancer left her body” completely seriously.
82. What A Nut
I had a guy come in with an allergic reaction to peanuts. I told him hey, no more peanuts because each allergic reaction will get worse and worse. I sent him home with a prescription for an Epi-Pen just in case he is accidentally exposed to peanuts, and I also advised him to follow up with an allergist. THE NEXT DAY, he was back—but something was very, very wrong.
He was barely breathing and his vital signs in the dumpster. His wife was with him and she told me he filled the script for the Epi-Pen, gave himself the shot ahead of time, and then ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He went through with that decision despite my strict instructions for him to stay away from peanuts. His wife said she also told him not to do it, but he didn’t listen.
The guy ended up intubated and with chest tubes on both sides because his allergic reaction was so far along. He was in the ICU for two weeks because they couldn’t wean him from the ventilator, either. Last I heard, he had permanent lung damage and is on a bunch of medications just to get through the day. All for a PB&J.
83. Not Worth It
My grandmother fell and broke her hip. She had it repaired and was in a skilled nursing facility during her recovery. Now, she also had emphysema. Accordingly, she roomed with another older woman with emphysema and as I understand it, she was told repeatedly about how there was only one place outside that she could light up, and everywhere else was off-limits.
Yes, she had emphysema and flatly refused to quit even as it progressed. One night, her situation suddenly turned into total nightmare—she got up and went into the bathroom in the middle of the night, lit one up she was on oxygen (which she wasn’t accustomed to), and quite literally blew up the room. She had third-degree burns over 25% of her body and she received a bunch of grafts for them. She remained in the burn unit of the ICU for a while until her heart gave out one day.
Visiting her in the hospital was the most traumatic thing I’d ever seen. It’s been about 15 years now. I miss her all the time.
84. Cast Away
I had a patient come in stating that he couldn’t bend his knee. I asked him to remove his trousers so I could examine his leg. After he removed them, I nearly gasped. I saw that the reason that he couldn’t bend his knee was that he had a plaster cast around it. Checking his notes frantically, I learned he had been sent numerous letters asking him to come in for removal of this plaster cast.
As he hadn’t attended any of the outpatient clinics, the hospital had assumed that he had removed the cast himself. Well, I guess not.
85. Young At Heart
My cousin had cystic fibrosis, but she always wanted to feel normal and live as her friends did. She would regularly not listen to her doctors about medication and would fight against new procedures to avoid having to deal with an extended hospital stay. She was such a smart girl, but things eventually took a turn for the worst—she passed in her sleep at 22 years old when she could have had at least another decade.
Seeing some of the improvements and innovations in treatments for CF in the years since gives me hope for the kids growing up with it now. Please listen to your doctor. Days or weeks of inconvenience are far better than decades lost down the line. I miss her every single day.
86. Cutting Your Teeth
Six years ago, we had a female patient in her late 20s who wanted to have a dental implant done. We told her she needed a sinus lift for her body to really accept the implant, otherwise, we could very easily perforate her sinus with the implant. She kept saying no to it even after we explained everything to her.
We eventually draw up the consent form and said we needed her to sign. She would basically agree to let us perform the procedure against her best interests. In addition, if any problems arose in the future, we would still be able to help her, but we would not be liable in any way, shape, or form. After a bit, she ended up signing the document and even took a picture of it.
We did the surgery. It was just one implant, so it was a 30-minute job for us to do, not a big deal. It was a successful operation and initial stability was achieved with no perforation of the sinus membrane. A healing cap was placed on it to prevent her from playing with it, and she was required to take antibiotics for two weeks as well as maintain her dental hygiene before she returned in six months.
A month later, she called us up and said she was having a really sore throbbing pain on her cheek, which either meant a pinched nerve or a serious infection. We prescribed amoxicillin. Two months later, she called back and said that her implant fell off and she was intending to sue. Apparently, greenish-yellow pus was oozing out of the failure site, which indicated peri-implantitis as the cause.
Still, the infection should have ceased by now. At this point, we started to get suspicious, so we got the dental association involved. Nonetheless, we offered to treat her infection for free and replace the implant for free, but she didn’t reply. Three months after her scheduled appointment, we finally heard from her again. I’d never been so horrified.
She called back crying after she heard the news from her ophthalmologist that she was now at risk of going blind in one eye. Another physician said she had a major infection along all the major nerves on one side of her face, a massive amount of pus in her nasal and optical sinus, pus squirting out of the corners of her eye, and possibly even an infection at the lower parts of her brain. That’s when she confessed everything.
She admitted to us that she never bought any of the prescriptions. She regretted all of it, and couldn’t stop crying over the phone. We wanted to help her still, but she hung up and we couldn’t call back. We don’t know what happened to her, but we hope to this day that she’s OK.
87. The Handyman
Turns out that using cement as a DIY cast for your broken leg is a bad idea. Turns out that the chemicals in the cement irritate and dissolve your skin. The patient became septic and almost died by the time he decided to come in for medical care. Emergency medicine: preventing natural selection one stupid person at a time.
88. Double Dipping
“I want an STD test”, my patient said. “I slept with two people without washing my willy in between”. I asked if he knew whether he or the people he slept with had an STI. He told me, “No, they don’t. But that’s how you get them, isn’t it”? I was confused, “I’m sorry”? He said, “You get STDs by not washing your willy in between women”.
I had to stop myself from cringing. “No. No, they have to already have…You should always wear a…That’s just bad hygiene”.
89. Recipe For Disaster
A patient came to the emergency department during a July heatwave. He was vomiting so much I had to admit him for intravenous fluids. I took the usual history, including what he’d eaten recently. There was nothing out of the ordinary. A few hours later, he called me over: “Doctor…I did eat some chicken and rice earlier”.
He told me, “My girlfriend made it yesterday and we left it in a pan on the stove overnight. I ate it this afternoon, do you think that could have been it”? I sighed, “Yes. Yes, I do”. We had a little talk about food hygiene.
90. You Are What You Eat
When I was a med student, we took a history from a guy who drank more than 10 cups of tea every day. He put six sugars in each one and said that he drank them “for the thirst”. He also had six meals a day. These meals consisted of four bacon sandwiches with butter “for the energy”. That’s all he had every day. That’s it.
He couldn’t understand why his heart disease wasn’t getting better, why he’d put on weight, or why he was now showing high blood sugar and was borderline diabetic.
91. Squeaky Clean
We had a girl in the emergency room who got drinks poured over her while she was at a party. She went to the bathroom to get cleaned up but didn’t find anything to wash herself with, like a sponge or something. So, the girl used the next best thing that she could find and meticulously scrubbed her chest with steel wool.
92. Traffic Jam
I had an old coot who was sweet but had clearly spent his adult years drinking away whatever brain cells he started with. He presented with a chief complaint of, “I can’t drink anymore. Every time I drink, I just throw it back up a few minutes later”. Well, turns out this guy hadn’t been able to eat actual food in months.
He was subsisting on pretty much just booze and hadn’t pooped in over two weeks. But that didn’t bother him one bit…until he couldn’t drink Then it was an emergency! The man had a big ol’ tumor blocking the distal part of his left colon, which is near the end of the road, intestinally speaking. Everything gradually got backed up all the way to his stomach. It was the worst case I’d ever seen.
That’s why he couldn’t keep drinks down—there was just no more room at the inn. I fixed him with a colostomy, and he got better and left. He refused chemo and I figured he’d just go home and succumb to cancer. But then, almost exactly one year later, he came back to me with just about the same complaint. He was obstructed to the point of not being able to drink.
Except this time, his ostomy had essentially retracted into his abdomen and the skin had nearly grown shut over it. He was pooping out of a teeny-tiny hole in his skin. What the heck? Even my oldest partners had never seen anything like it, but once again Cooter wasn’t remotely fazed. He just wanted us to fix it so he could go home and keep drinking.
I did. I haven’t seen Cooter since. I kind of hope he’s still out there, treating his cancer with Budweiser and just blissfully ignoring the Grim Reaper.
93. All The Colors Of The Rainbow
This lady came in with a fungal infection on her toenails. They had turned black and were falling off. She refused treatment and didn’t listen to anything the doctor said. “I’m curing this with essential oils,” she told us. “I don’t want any chemicals on me, and I don’t need to have them removed. I just came here because my husband kept bothering me to”.
According to the husband, this had been going on for a year and her nails had changed all colors, from yellow to black.
94. A Bright Idea
Not long ago, I had a lady come in complaining of dry eyes. I asked what she was using for it because you could smell the Vick’s from down the hall and her eyes were insanely bloodshot. Said she was using Vick’s Vaporub. I asked how much she used and how she was applying it. She proceeded to take the bottle and rub it DIRECTLY INTO HER EYEBALLS.
Emergency room nurse here. I once had a pregnant patient come in with some abdominal pain. After a workup, we ruled out emergent conditions, but couldn’t determine the exact issue. I explained to her that it was probably indigestion. “No,” she responded, “I just saw a picture of the ultrasound and I figured out the cause”.
“What did you find”? I asked. I wasn’t prepared for the answer:She pointed proudly to part of her ultrasound and said, “Right here! See this part of the ultrasound? It’s clearly a demon-face! That’s what’s causing my pain”. I had to stifle laughter for the rest of the conversation. Sorry, we didn’t diagnose your condition as demon-face, lady.
96. Throwing The Baby Out With The Bathwater
I’m a retired paramedic. I’ve seen a lot of messed up stuff—but one moment was worse than all the rest. I was once told to immediately place a freshly delivered newborn baby back inside of its mother’s body. She delivered in a transport ambulance en route to the Weill Cornell Medical Center. She then lost her mind over the fact that her baby wasn’t born in a hospital and, furthermore, not born in a good hospital.
As a result, the mother then told me to “hold the baby in with your freaking hand”! I explained that this wouldn’t work and that we were having this child on 3rd Avenue. She completely flipped out and started yelling at me like a complete lunatic. Finally, she and I made an agreement that I would say that the baby was still inside her body until we backed up at the hospital driveway.
I guess this satisfied her requirement of her kid being born at a hospital versus next to a dry cleaner’s on 3rd Avenue. So, as far as that kid knows, she was born in the Weill Cornell Emergency Room Ambulance Bay. She will never have any idea how much turmoil surrounded her birth, and how unreasonable a request I was given in the process.
97. Allergic To Everything
Registered nurse here. I see some crazy stuff, but one thing that stands out was the time I was admitting a guy to the hospital. I can’t really remember what for but he was diabetic, had heart disease, and was generally unhealthy. Anyhow, I’m at the computer going over some admission questions with him and his 10 family members who are crowded in the room with him.
A few minutes in, he starts complaining that he’s thirsty. He needs something to drink right now. So I get on my phone and call the nurse assistant, and ask her to bring in some ice water. As soon as the words are out of my mouth the whole family screams: “NOOOO! NO WATER! HES ALLERGIC TO WATER”! Well, this is going to be a problem.
Turns out the guy had been drinking nothing but Sprite and sweet tea for years, because of his “water allergy”. The next question his wife had was “Where are we all supposed to sleep”? The whole family, 10 people, were planning to stay at the hospital with him. You can’t make this stuff up.
98. The Milk Is For The Baby
I saw a patient who was concerned because she was still lactating, despite the fact that she stopped breastfeeding her twins two years ago. She said: “sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and find my husband sucking on the breasts. He says he’s trying to drain the milk for me”. I had to explain to her that breastfeeding her husband will lead to continued Lactation.
99. Baby’s First Attempted Chemical Lobotomy
So, I’m a therapist and I work with kids. Worst misdiagnosis was a family with a two-week-old who was convinced the baby had 1) anxiety—because he cries, 2) autism—little eye contact, and 3) bipolar disorder—because the baby would seem content then suddenly angry. I spent HOURS explaining child development, what these diagnoses mean, how they would present in kids.
I provided them with books, handouts, etc. They insisted on going to see my co-worker and a psychiatrist as I was surely lying to them. Even after meeting with the other two professionals, they still weren’t convinced. They requested psych meds from the doc.
100. Hunger Pains
My patient was a three-year-old who needed surgery on her tonsils and adenoids. The day before the procedure, I told her father, “Don’t let her eat or drink anything after midnight”. While I was intubating the girl the next morning, she vomited scrambled eggs, causing her to aspirate them into her lungs. Then her heart stopped.
I did chest compressions on her for 25 minutes. We got her back, aborted the surgery, and transferred her to the pediatric ICU on a ventilator. Her father’s response made me want to scream: “She said she was hungry. I thought you were being too hard on her. It must have been something you did to her”. Sure, blame me for your inability to follow a simple direction. Idiot.
101. And The Worst Parents Award Goes To…
A couple had a malnourished seven-month-old and decided their kid was gluten intolerant. So they never gave him anything besides junk like quinoa milk. They also owned a health food store and were health nuts. Things went bad FAST. Anyone who came in and saw the sickly child commented. But they brushed it off and didn’t seek help.
They drove to a homeopath across the country who sent them to a hospital. They decided to drive back home first. The baby passed before they got to the hospital. The autopsy revealed the child was severely dehydrated and their stomach had been empty for days. The baby was about nine pounds, which is just slightly higher than a newborn.