Doctors Share Their 'This Just Got Really Serious' Patient Experiences
Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay

Doctors are a widely respected group of people. They've attended school for long enough to possess an inspiring amount of knowledge that most of the population does not access at all.

And yet, during a routine checkup, one may wonder exactly why they needed all that school.

While they chat about our social life with a hand on a stethoscope, it's easy enough to be lulled into assuming the professional is actually, dare we say, easy?

But those are the mundane moments. Unfortunately, there are other moments that absolutely demand all of that knowledge.

And those are the truly scary times when doctors become the most important people in the world, bar none.

Redditor YeetMasterChroma asked:

"Doctors and Surgeons of Reddit, what was your 'this just got even worse' moment with your patient/s?"

Many doctors chose to recall experiences that grew serious because patient wasn't ready to acknowledge their medical reality.

These patients brushed off their symptoms. And they paid for it.

Caught in a Lie

"ER Doc here: Patient arrived with complaints of vaginal spotting. History revealed she had been bleeding for 2 days, not very heavy, just a little pain. Stated it started after her female partner had been 'a little rough' during their last sexual experience."

"Physical exam revealed a complete tear through the posterior vaginal wall into the rectum consistent with what we would usually see during a difficult childbirth. The situation was a bit fishy given the amount of trauma and the back story so I ordered the usual tests (blood count, coagulation panel, chemistries)."

"In accordance with OR protocol (she was definitely going to surgery) tacked on a urine pregnancy test (even though she denied the possibility of pregnancy given her sexual preferences). The pregnancy test came back POSITIVE… Needless to say this opened a huge can of worms."

"Turns out, she had delivered a child 2 days ago in secret but didn't tell anyone. Had been hiding the child from her family/girlfriend. Child protective services, the police, EMS, pediatrics, ON/GYN all got involved in the matter of minutes after that revelation. They found the child in her apartment under some towels alone in her home. It was a doozy of a night."

"To those who are wondering: yes, she was a larger woman whose pregnancy was hidden by her size. This happened 5 years ago and I have seen the child since…doing well with her grandparents who have full guardianship."

-- Chocsaltyballz

A Temporary Fix For Way Too Long

"Homeless man is brought into the ED by EMS for a foot wound that is giving him trouble. We eyeball his foot that's poking out from the blanket as he's rolling by and it's a little roughed up, but doesn't seem too bad. We go in to get his story and he says he hurt his foot a few days ago and that it just hurts to walk on."

"We ask if we can take a peek, so he whips off the blanket to show us his other foot, the one that is actual hurt, releasing a horrific stench cloud in the process. We knew we were in for a treat."

"Guy has his foot bandaged in a very dirty ace wrap, toes are completely black and necrotic, and there's a maggot butt wiggling near the edge of the ace wrap. We tried to remove the wrap, but it was stuck together with blood, dirt and who knows what else, so time to cut that sucker off."

"As we cut more maggot began to present themselves, and the smell of dead flesh just kept getting more and more intense."

"We finally make it through and go to pull away the wrap and I swear at least a hundred maggot fell out of that thing. But that wasn't the worst part. The entire bottom of the man's foot was stuck to the wrap and just fell away from the underlying muscle and bone."

"We told the man we were unfortunately not going to be able to save the foot, to which he responded 'Oh man, really? I didn't think it was that bad.' "

-- jennysubwoofer

One Extra Day Was All It Took

"Eye doctor here: you may have heard that diabetics need to have their eyes checked regularly because Diabetes is actually a blinding condition. This happened probably about 15 years ago, but this patient of mine I had noted had severe diabetic vascular changes against the retina and required laser intervention as soon as possible."

"Without getting into the socio-economic arguments here, she scheduled her surgery and on the day of the surgery decided to take a work day instead of her surgery. Her job was cleaning, and on that fateful day, she inhaled some of her cleaner fumes which caused her to sneeze spiking her blood pressure and she blew the fragile blood vessels in both of her eyes wide open and blood started gushing into her eyes."

"As you might imagine, blood is opaque. You can't see through it. She was instantly and completely blinded in both eyes in a matter of seconds. It took 3 years, multiple surgeries, and a complete lifestyle change, but this patient did recover to have actually fair (but not good) vision. I still see her now for her annual visits."

-- OscarDivine

Unwilling to Change

"EMT. We had a man in his late 40s that lived with his invalid mother in a run down trailer out in the middle of the country that first called us to have us check on his hyperglycemia. He was 450 mg/ dl which is the highest my partner or I have even seen and advised him to go to the hospital. He was morbidly obese and wasn't taking care of his type II diabetes in even the slightest."

"He refused any attempt to have EMS transportation to ER. We couldn't force him into the ambulance so we had no choice but to leave him but advised our medical control (Doctor in charge) of the incident as soon as we got back into the ambulance. Two months later we get a call back to his trailer by a third party caller again for his diabetes."

"This time his feet have gangrene and we can see the exposed bones of his toes. I mean all ten of his toes have had the soft tissue eaten away to down to just the bone. This time he wasn't the least bit hesitant but we still can't believe he had gone two weeks like this."

-- gil_beard

Others shared their experiences with gruesome accidents. These doctors had to act fast to save the person who hobbled through the door one day.

Just a Tragedy All Around

"the husband and wife who were brought in at the same time, both with major flame burns. He was about 50% TBSA (total body surface area) and she was ~75%."

"The woman was intubated at the original ER they went to (big burns are literally hot potatos and will get transferred to the nearest burn center ASAP when they arrive in a small town ER). 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 (her nurse found the fetus in her bed)."

"She developed an arrrythmia while we were starting a new central line (big IV in the neck or chest) and we couldn't stop it. And she died."

"We later found out that the husband put their 2 kids in the car, then went back inside and choked her till she passed out, and then poured gasoline all over her and lit her on fire after he found out she was pregnant with someone else's baby."

"He also caught on fire (gasoline will do that). He survived, got multiple skin grafts and went to jail. The kids were uninjured (physically)."

"That was during the first 3 weeks I was a doctor."

-- Nervich

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Beware the Garage Door Spring

"Used to be an EMT. We were too far away to respond when this happened, but we heard it over the radio."

"Dispatch: 'Caller reports two children playing with garage door spring, reporting unknown injuries.' "

"Dispatch: 'Responding LEO (Law enforcement officer) reporting possible juvenile fatality' "

"EMS: 'EMS reporting juvenile fatality. We're gonna need a cleanup crew. It's a mess here. Can we get someone to confirm an Injuries Not Compatible with Life?' "

"EMS: 'Yeah, we're gonna need another crew here. Kid was playing with a garage door, the spring snapped or something, and... his face is gone.' "

"Dispatch: 'EMS please repeat. What did you say?' "

"EMS: 'There's brains on the wall. We need another EMS rig here.' "

"Dispatch: 'Roger......... I'll have another crew en route shortly.' "

"The tone in everyone's voice when talking about that on the radio is something I will never forget. The absolute pain in the voice of everyone after they heard one of the responding EMTs say that the kid was killed like that."

-- adragonthatsgay

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Do. Not. Move.

"Not a doctor, but the cause of some doctors 'oh sh**' moment..."

"So, quick back story, I came out of a tree the hard way when a half-grown cat I was trying to rescue took a swipe at my eyes and I jerked backwards. Landed on the concrete patio about twelve feet below, which had a little curb that was like two inches wide and inch and half high. (oh, and the cat jumped down and landed on my chest)"

"Naturally, I had a big bruise right across my lower back, just below the belt line. It was a Friday. My dad said to wait before going to A&E [english ER], they're swamped at weekends. Figured, he's a doctor, so he knew better."

"Turns out.. no he didn't."

"So there I was sitting on the bed after being x-ray'ed, and a very pale looking doc comes in and the very first thing he says is; 'Don't move. Stay perfectly still.' "

"I'd cracked the three lowest lumbar vertebrae, According to the surgeon, I was probably the luckiest guy that day, they'd split and broken in such a way they jammed against each other and totally missed all the nerves [well, almost, I've a dead patch on my right thigh I can't feel a thing with and a bit of a limp when I'm tired]."

"I ended up in a body cast for a few weeks after they fused the broken bits, never had a problem since aside from the back being stiff enough I can't bend at the waist too well."

"And yeah.. I've never let Dad live it down. He's a darn fine heart guy, top of his field... but he's a lousy EMT. 'Walk it off' is not good advice for someone with a back injury. It's ok.. he say's it keeps him humble."

-- Kflynn1337


"Not a doc but I use to work for Radiology in a small hospital and was their kinda Mr Everything we don't want to do, lifting, security, transport, babysitter, etc. A young mid-twenties couple gets brought in on backboards after a car wreck. Middle of February, icy af and the guy rolled the car."

"The girl gets a bed in the ER. She's mostly fine, beat up quite a bit but still coherent and talking. A state trooper is in her room with her. The dude is complaining but overall seems fine. She's asking me to see him and I tell her that they're stabilizing him and he's not going anywhere."

"She says 'What does that mean?' Over and over again and I tell her that he's in a bed on a board, so he can't move. She's freaking out."

"I take the guy back to Radiology, he's talking and joking, things seem fine. We do the CT and he's spine is broke, not just broke, severed. Guy is in for some serious surgery, rehab, might never walk again kinda stuff."

"The girl runs out of the room, cop chases after her, they start fighting. A little 110lb girl is straight up squaring up with this big cop. Cop ends up tasering her in the middle of the ER. Her dude is screaming because they told him about his spine, his girl is now chained to a bed. Turns out they were running drugs, high as balls, flipped the car and the dude probably never walked again. I always wonder though."

-- DrRoborknik

Bigger Than Expected

"Had a patient call our clinic saying he had cut his hand and needed a couple of stitches. Sure, come on in, I'll stitch you up."

"Failed to mention until I got in the exam room that he was working with a table saw. And that he had nearly cut 3 fingers off. Tendons were exposed and severed, bone visible."

"Sent him immediately to the hospital, they had to call in a hand fellow after hours to try to salvage his hand, which they were able to do fortunately."

-- ruralprimarycarepa

Finally, some discussed the medical rarities that, unfortunately, afflict people when they least expect it.

It Only Took a Tooth

"Patient came complaining of swelling in face; we suspected an abscess from a sick tooth. When they came we called 911 immediately because the 'swelling' had almost completely cut off her airway and her o2 level was an 87…. "

"A PSA to all, if you have a cavity or a broken tooth it is a big deal. A rotten tooth can absolutely kill you."

-- shyangeldust


"Obligatory not a doctor, but I was a forensic technician assisting forensic pathologists at autopsy."

"One day, the chief and I were doing 3 routine narcotic OD autopsies. Often times with ODs, our doctors would let us (the techs) do the whole evisceration to save time, so all the doc had to do was to examine the individual organs. So on the third decedent, she gave me the green light to start cutting."

"Once I had the chest plate removed, something didn't look quite right with his lungs. I called over the doc and she takes one look and goes 'I really hope you have your mask on as tight as it can possibly be...' "

"Her next words were terrifying... 'That's tuberculosis.' We immediately had to inform the public health commission, kick everyone else out of the autopsy room, and convert our 'deco room,' where we primarily did the exams of decomposed people, and turn on the extra duty ventilation system and had to complete the exam with the full PAPR kit on."

"That was fun."

-- Zaexyr

When It Rains It Pours

"I work in a cancer center and fairly regularly a patient with multiple cancers will get a biopsy of a lesion trying to figure out which cancer has metastasized and it instead turns out to be a totally different and unexpected cancer"

-- foofarraw

When It Rains, It Pours

"Had a young (mid 30's) patient with metastatic cancer (cancer that spread to other sites in the body), including both proximal femurs (hip bones) and the pelvis. Cancer progressed and spread despite various chemo regimens and a clinical trial."

"We (Orthopedic Surgery) got consulted to assess if it was safe for him to walk, do physical therapy in the hospital with the bone lesions, and possibly put metal rods into his femurs to strengthen them and allow him to walk. 2 days later he had a massive stroke involving 60-70% of the left side of his brain."

"In a matter of hours, this poor guy went from having terminal metastatic cancer, to also being paralyzed on the right side of his body and being unable to speak (aphasia)."

-- Bdawg312

Recall All Teeth

"My teacher works in a health center, she deals with teeth (hygienist) and they found out that the newbie and a senior worker (someone who had been there the longest) didn't turn the autoclave on, meaning they had been using unsterilized equipment on quite a few patients until my teacher noticed..."

"...they then had to call every single patient they had that day or that batch was used on and had to get the office to pay for every. Single. One of them to get tested for STD's and other blood borne diseases, everything was negative but I feel like this can fit here"

-- Give_one_hoot

Bearer of Bad News

"A young newly married couple moves to town, he gets a good job, but gets admitted to my ICU with terrible pneumonia. Didn't take too long to figure that he AIDS associated pneumonia (what we now call HIV). We didn't then know how to treat it, so we had to tell the soon to be widow that she was soon to be a widow."

"Then we told her about how HIV is transmitted, and she needed to be checked."

"Not a good day."

-- DoctorNotAnEngineer

So if you're thinking about becoming a doctor because your last yearly physical seemed chill enough, remember to keep things in perspective: there are the tough days too.

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