Perhaps the most annoying thing about many jobs is the need to deal with the general public. Today's topic: Doctors. When it comes to public health, they have to deal with people who don't know any better, people who think they know better, and others who are so melodramatic that their doctor's advice can't seem to reach their ears.
After Redditor LushLover13 asked the online community, "Doctors of Reddit, who was the most overdramatic (or underdramatic) patient you've ever had?" medical professionals lined up to tell their stories.
"I think we have all seen..."
I think we have all seen our share of overdramatic patients or heard the tales, so I'll go with the less common underdramatic patient.
Patient presented to the Trauma ER with an 18 inch Machete blade firmly implanted across the top of his skull. He was driven to the hospital by a friend (possible assailant/owner of said Machete), ambulated on his own into the ER, had totally normal vital signs in triage, a slight steady trickle of blood from the wound, denied pain and was in no apparent distress.
Due to a mass trauma event, the ER was insanely busy, so it took us a while to get him a bed. In the meantime, he calmly sat in the waiting area, (nearest to the Triage station so we could keep an eye on him) and watched TV, as staff were running around like crazy, phones ringing nonstop, patients bitching about the wait time to be seen and exhibiting other types of tomfoolery. Machete man just sat there tranquilly exhibiting his true Zen mastery of machete head wounds.
All these years later, I can still see him with that machete lodged in his skull. He had an uncomplicated treatment course and suffered no impairment from the injury. He was cooperative and nice to all his care givers.
He also profusely thanked us for caring for him. Probably one of the few that did that night!
"CT scan later..."
I once cared for a repeat self-harmer that put a knife into their neck, regretted it, taped it in place ... and BICYCLED TO THE HOSPITAL. A few miles, past carfuls of normal people. Parked the bike, walked in to triage to check in. Through a waiting room of grannies and kids and men with chest pain. With a kitchen paring knife duct taped in place sticking straight out.
CT scan later showed that the tip of the blade was 2mm from the carotid artery.
"She was being chased..."
60~70 year old lady arrives at Trauma ER. She was being CHASED BY A COW, running for her life and fell off a 2 meter cliff. She had several fractures, but only really complained about her leg, and tried to get up and walk away several times telling us she was fine. Initially we thought she had some head trauma and was completely disoriented, but it turns out she was just that stubborn. She was hospitalized for awhile and had a good recovery. I do wonder if the cow fell of the cliff as well.
"We were doing paternity testing..."
We were doing paternity testing for an apparently extremely acrimonious case of "Your son impregnated my daughter!" "No he didn't, your daughter sleeps with lots of other boys!". Each side sent a lawyer to the appointment. Each lawyer had their phone out recording, and followed the blood and cheek swabs from collection, through the lab for DNA extraction, performing the test in our PCR room, and watching me analyze the data files which is exactly as boring as it sounds...
It's like dude, we're the neutral third party lab here. We have literally zero interest in the outcome of the case, you don't need to be so dramatic. All the chain of custody stuff is documented. We have a second observer signing off on sample IDs. We're not going to risk lose our license by accepting a bribe from either set of parents.
"Instead of the patient..."
Instead of the patient, I find it's always the family that's the most dramatic.
"I was in my last week..."
I was in my last week of school as a rad tech student and a patient can in through the ER for a series of xrays. He claimed to have fallen down some stairs and we basically had to xray both legs from the knee down.
Reader, I have never met a bigger, whinier baby. He moaned and groaned and flinched at the lightest touch, refused to hold still, would not straighten his legs, complained about the table and xray cassette being too hard...There were no visible injuries aside from a few scrapes and nothing obvious on the xrays. He was still convinced that he would never walk again and had broken both legs irreparably.
Funniest part was that we had a different patient come in on the same day with a similar complaint. He actually had fractures in both legs and feet and was very calm and co-operative for the xrays despite his injuries.
"One day we picked her up..."
Had my fair share of over dramatics, though I would say most of them suffered from some sort of mental impairment or dementia. Most were manageable but I do remember this one woman that we had to take to dialysis on a regular basis.
It was always hell from the moment we walked into her nursing home room. "WHO ARE YOU? WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME?!? HELP IM BEING KIDNAPPED!" Etc.
I'm pretty patient. The first maybe five or so times we ran her we were very slow and gentle with her, I would explain multiple times to her who we were, what we were doing, showed her our ids, and so on. But the screaming and yelling and flailing would continue.
One day we picked her up from the dialysis center and they told us that she was absolutely not welcome back unless the nursing home started HIGHLY medicating her. See, not everyone that goes to dialysis is old and feeble. A lot of younger folks come in on their own power. And they told us that nearly a dozen clients had stopped coming in and switched centers due to her outbursts. In the USA healthcare is a business...
Most underdramatic was the gentleman that we were taking from an ER to a specialty trauma center. He had been in a bar and witnessed a bar fight. He tried to break it up. One of the guys smashed a beer bottle over his head.
Spoiler....its not like on tv.
The beer bottle was hard enough to break his skull, but it also broke the beer bottle. The way the impact hit it partially popped his eyeball out of the socket. Then the broken beer bottle traveled down his face and sliced the eyeball in half.
Very few injuries bothered me that I saw as an EMT but the second I saw his face my eyes just started watering.
But he was the calmest, most polite mexican gentleman. Only spoke a little english but everything was "Si senor" or something of equal politeness. Didnt utter a single complaint.
"When people get to this point..."
I'm a nurse, and we had a patient recently who was palliative (expected to die naturally). His body functions were only at about 10%, he wasnt eating or drinking and he wasnt peeing or defecating anymore. He just laid in bed with his eyes closed breathing.
When people get to this point usually the only care we provide is for comfort vs. Sparing life. So we dont give people food or water because they are usually unconscious and more likely to choke and be harmed.
This patient's daughter was some big shot lawyer from the US and when she saw that we werent feeding her dad she started recording everything we did and said to her and then phoned the police. I remember a police officer coming to the unit, asking to speak to me (the most responsible nurse at the time) and asking me why I was withholding food. I explained to the officer that I had physicians orders to withhold food, and that the patient was at a severe aspiration risk. The police officer was like "cool, case closed", and left.
The daughter was unfortunately banned from the hospital premises by management for interfering with patient care.
Not a patient, but a family. Third year of my residency in Emergency Medicine, we get to lead the Trauma bay (with extremely immediate supervision of course). Since we advance ranks in July, my first shift happened to fall on July 4th, a holiday well known in EDs everywhere for being a special mix of booze and fireworks. We got an alert that EMS was bringing a coding gunshot patient. Now, if a patient with "penetrating trauma" loses pulse before the hospital, the odds are dire, but it later turned out this patient had no vitals even on EMS arrival (they realistically died before the ambulance arrived) but the commotion on scene was such that EMS decided to extricte and transport rather than call it on scene.
Patient arrives, clearly already having bled out. We went through the usual motions looking for anything fixable and I called the code. Then, I went to the family room to break the news. This is a skill that is carefully taught. Assemble the family. Sit down. Make introductions. Find out what they know. Get a sense for how they speak, so you can match them. Be empathetic but also very concrete. Answer questions.
I had a grouping of 3 or 4 family members and I did all the things and it went ok. Then, over the next fifteen minutes, another twenty family member trickled in, festooned in red white and blue, largely quite intoxicated, and they yelled the news of the death to each other out of my control, and as each one joined the room it got wilder. People not only cried, but they screamed.
Soon, an aunty was vomiting in the corner. Two small kids were ignored, wide eyed off to one side. A grown adult man actually lay on the floor and kicked himself around in circles like Homer Simpson.
I've never seen anything else like it, before or since.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/