This article is based on the AskReddit question "Medical professionals: What was a time you were skeptical about what a patient was telling you, only to find out the patient was right?"
Source can be found at the bottom of the article.
1/16. Guy came in for an arteriogram. He kept telling me he bleeds really easily. Like if he cuts himself shaving the bleeding won't stop. I mentioned this to the doctor but all the patients lab results were normal so we didn't worry about it. After the procedure this guy bled EVERYWHERE.
2/16. This elderly lady kept screaming periodically about the men looking in her window. I go in to reassure and reorient her, and almost have a heart attack when I see a face in the window. I call security, some stupid college kids thought it would be funny to run around on the first floor roof (the first floor of the hospital is larger than the other floors, you get the picture).
The best part was that the patient totally made fun of my reaction. She laughed all night about it and kept teasing me "remember when your face did this, and you said "what the F**K?!?" Yes, Mrs. Smith, if only you could please forget that by morning.
3/16. I had this patient who was a really nice guy but had pretty severe untreated mental illness and was always telling me stories about his celebrity friends, how he was producing a Broadway show, just really grandiose stuff that there was no way it could be true. He was just scraping by, he was always dressed very neatly but his clothes were very worn and he had Medicaid and an alcoholic roommate.
Anyway, at one point he needed a colonoscopy and I tried to send him to a clinic where I knew they would take Medicaid but he said he had been in a medical research study with a Park Avenue gastroenterologist and the guy told him he would do free colonoscopies for life. Right, I thought, and resigned myself to having this conversation again in three months.
Three weeks later a colonoscopy report from a Park Avenue practice arrived on my desk. I've always wondered how much of the rest of it was true.
4/16. Had a patient who thought she had tetany. Very skeptical at first since it is so rare in the area. She got admitted and turned out she had tetany due to vitamin deficiency.
5/16. I work in psych and we had this one patient who was psychotic and delusional run out to the nursing station at one in the morning screaming that there were naked people stealing their things. Due to the patients history of, well, being delusional, we were definitely skeptical. Threw out a few words and reassurance and agreed to check the room to ensure there weren't any people stealing things from room.
Walk down the hall with the patient and go into the room and there was a demented patient walking around butt naked with an arm full of items.
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Our facility has rooms set up so two rooms of two people have one shared bathroom that connects each of them together and the demented patient has apparently disrobed and wandered into the adjoining room.
6/16. Had an odd 74 year old patient keep telling me her mom died upstairs last night, and her mom's lover, "a 51 year old Mexican man," would be down to bother her, and we were not to let him in her room. I deal with a lot of dementia patients, so I treated all her comments like I would any other patient making odd claims.
Turns out her 94 year old mother really did die on the unit above us the night before, and that 94 year old really did have a 51 year old Mexican caretaker/alleged lover who was turned away from the daughter's room the next shift.
7/16. I'm a paramedic. A 15 year old female called 911 for a headache. History of migraines, didn't take any meds. She was in wrestling practice when it the headache started. She said it was worse than a normal migraine. She was on her period so we assumed it was hormones because she was being very emotional.
Turns out she had a massive brain bleed. Fortunately it was caught early before onset of things like pupil changes and stroke symptoms. Edit: we took her to a stroke receiving hospital just to be safe despite our wrong assumption.
8/16. Had a woman come in, usual drug seeker, writhing in the floor and putting on a show. Come to find out she had a rupture in her stomach that was leaking gas into the peritoneal space. Serious medical condition that required pretty acute surgical intervention.
9/16. I am a Labor and Delivery Nurse and I had a patient come in to the hospital about 20 weeks pregnant complaining that she thought she felt her bag of water "coming out" after having sex. She said she felt into her vagina after having sex because something felt weird and she thought she felt a bubble there. I highly doubted that her bag of water was truly bulging considering her early gestation, but assured her she did the right thing coming in to get checked out. After talking with the doctor on call and explaining the patient's story, the MD examined the patient and found that the patient was exactly right. Her cervix was dilated about 4cm and the bag of water was bulging into the vaginal canal.
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We immediately put her in reverse trendelendberg and started antibiotics. Our only hope was that maybe the bag of water would fall with gravity back up into the uterus and we could place a cerclage, but unfortunately she delivered shortly after and the baby passed. It was a really sad case. I had to reassure her that the sex didn't cause the pre term delivery. I'm sure her cervix was thinning and dilating LONG before she had sex, but it was difficult to convince her.
10/16. A few weeks ago I was dispatched to our local casino for a 30 y/o "having a stroke."
Yeah right, I thought, as I approach the guy, who was an obviously fit and athletic dude pacing up and down a hallway. He reeked of alcohol and had apparently spent the whole morning on the slots before coming up to security and announcing that he was having a stroke. I did my assessment, and besides the typical slurred speech of an intoxicated person and some lethargy, nothing was especially worrisome, but we transported him anyway because he was insistent, had started to make a scene, and you don't really fuck around with strokes. But there was no way in hell in my mind that this healthy-looking athletic young dude with completely normal vital signs and very little medical history was having a stroke.
And by gosh golly, he was having a stroke. Never before in my career have I been so dramatically proven wrong.
11/16. Was talking to an elderly lady who had known dementia about her pending hip fracture surgery (her son as NOK had consented for her surgery).
She was very confused and said she already had her surgery. I smiled kindly at her and her roommate and gently reassured her that I had talked to her son and everything was OK.
That's when I picked up her observation chart at the end of her bed and saw a discrepancy with the name above her bed.
I took a deep breath (it was the end of a 16hr shift), apologised and told her that I was looking for a different patient who had dementia and that I was told they were in this room. She and her roommate burst out laughing and told me that the nurses had switched a few patients rooms around and that the confused lady I was looking for was in the next room.
Luckily she was lovely about it ... even asked whether I was quite sure that I didn't have dementia.
12/16. I work as a paramedic doing critical care transport. Most of our work is from a semi-rural hospital about an hour away from the closest city.
Anyway, a woman came into the emergency room with back pain. The hospital staff thought she had a kidney stone. Patient didn't think so, but they worked her up for a kidney stone anyway.
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CT scan didn't show a kidney stone, but showed a massive dissecting abdominal aortic aneurysm. By now she had been in the hospital for a couple hours, and we had to get her to the bigger hospital for surgery before she bled out into her abdomen.
She lived, but it definitely could have gone differently.
13/16. I work in Palliative Care/Hospice, where delirium is extremely common. It presents itself differently in different people, but delusions and hallucinations aren't uncommon. We had a guy who was clearly delirious--agitated, disoriented, and unfocused. That said, many delirious patients have clear patches. But one day, he tells me that he's waiting for a visit from [past Prime Minister of Canada]. We sort of chuckle to ourselves and play along, since it's dickish to be mean to patients. It gets put in the notes that he's started having delusions.
Until, of course, a security detail shows up with [past PMoC], and they spend a few hours visiting. Turns out this guy was a staffer for multiple past PMs, but was especially close with this particular one. Egg on my face, for sure.
14/16. My family's pediatrician was on vacation for a couple weeks and had a doctor filling in for her. My little sister had intense stomach pain so my mom (who is the opposite of a hypochondriac...gash on the head? Just butterfly it. Knocked out your front teeth? Sigh, I'll call the dentist) took my sister to the substitute doctor and he was like "She's being a dramatic 7 year old; she's fine."
A week later, my sister still wasn't doing well so my mom took her back and he said the same thing. Once my normal pediatrician came back, my mom took my sister back AGAIN and the second she saw my sister, my pediatrician was like "To the hospital, NOW!"
Long story short, she had freaking cancer!! A tumor the size of a melon in her little 7 year old belly. The substitute paediatrician came to the hospital in tears to apologize a couple weeks later!
15/16. Me to school nurse: "I think I broke my arm." Nurse: "You probably didn't, I'll get to you in a minute." Me, waking up on a cot: "What happened?" Nurse: "You passed out because you broke your arm."
I should probably look her up and write her a thank you note for instilling a healthy skepticism of doctors at an early age.
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16/16. Ex-Paramedic in Melbourne Australia. (PTSD issues after a kid, different story) Cheerful guy we get called to, very friendly. Says he's feeling very suicidal. We talk for a while, he definitely seems ok, very happy, quite amicable. Me having had very little experience with how depression can hide in people (at that time at least) wasn't exactly sure how to handle it. Didn't really see many issues to be frank. He seemed fine in every aspect, lucid and happy. We are almost wondering if it's a prank. Original call out was for a hanging, so we are kinda relieved to see a healthy looking and friendly dude.
He asks us if we would like some cake. Sure, why not (slow day, and there was two teams on so we were covered). So he gets this lovely giant chocolate birthday cake out of the fridge and then gets a knife to cut it. We sit at the table looking forward to tasting this gorgeous looking thing.
And then he promptly jams the knife about 3 inches into his neck. Twice.
In the space of what felt like 30 seconds we go from having a pleasant conversation, to having my fingers in his neck trying to hold an artery shut. Blood is fucking everywhere, I've never seen that amount come out of someone without ending up with a corpse. He survived, but ended up with slight brain damage due to lack of oxygen to the brain. Or maybe it was something else that caused it, clot or something. I dunno.
I met him again a few months later when I visited another psych ward patient I knew, no other major mental illnesses had been diagnosed at all, just depression.
Still the same funny, amicable and lovely guy, but slightly slurred speech and a couple of great big scars.
I think what shocked me the most was how fast the situation changed, how it went from stand still to on the very edge of life in a couple of seconds.
I see a psych now and that one comes up occasionally.
Sorry if I disturbed you, but I think this was actually helpful for me. Thanks.