Doctors Share Stories About Patients Who Made Things Worse For Themselves

Doctors often prescribe self-care for patients, however, some people don't follow instructions, leading to even more problems. And when they're in the hospital, patients get double doses of crazy from loved ones.

BadElf21 asked, Doctors and nurses of Reddit, what was the craziest example of someone stupidly making their condition worse?

Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.

It's only a flesh wound.

Had a patient come in and had accidentally stuck a chainsaw in his leg the day before. He managed to cut the fibula I think and partially cut the tibia. He put some diesel on it and wrapped it in duck tape and kept working. The next day he steps off something and it snaps the rest of the way through. Came in the front door with his leg flopping/ bending where it shouldn't be. And to top it off he rated his pain at 6/10. Tough old man. We admitted him to the ortho to clean out the diesel and necrotic flesh.

Using a screwdriver to remove and elbow screw? Really stupid.

Surgical nurse here: Had a patient return to the OR who had some hardware (plates and screws) put in their elbow for a fracture. The hardware was causing them discomfort so instead of talking to her surgeon they decided to try and remove one of the screws with a knife and screwdriver.

I got the case for the wound clean up and replacement of said exposed screw. One of the strangest ones I've had yet.

Oh sure, ride roller coasters while your eye literally falls apart. Great plan.

I saw this young guy in the ER once who had gotten into a drunken brawl with some guys at a bar. When he woke up the next morning, he started getting some vision changes. He said that it was like a "black sheet coming down" on his left eye. This is a textbook symptom for retinal detachment. Picture an incredibly thin, delicate membrane on the back of the eye, slowly peeling off because of trauma. It's an emergency in ophthalmology because if it fully detaches, you get permanent vision loss. You basically need to immediately go for surgical repair, and then be extremely careful with that eye for weeks afterward. You even have to keep your head down most of the time for the next couple days to help the re-attachment process take.

So, naturally this guy goes and rides roller coasters all day at the local theme park with his buddies. He first presented to our ER two days later with permanent vision loss in that eye. Six Flags was not worth it, poor guy.

Um... ouch.

A male patient was in for dehydration and other very routine issues. He had an indwelling catheter placed. Now an odd thing about some men is that they cannot wrap their minds around not standing up to pee. So even though he couldn't feel any urge to urinate he stood up to pee. Felt the catheter, forgot why it was there, and promptly ripped it out. Now he's incontinent.

Oxygen is inflammable and smoking kills, y'all.

My wife (nurse) has seen on more than one occasion, a person on oxygen for emphysema blow themselves up with a cigarette.

Doctors>Chinese medicine. Or else you'll have a bad time.

Had a patient with stage 0 breast cancer, decided not to get the lump taken out and instead pursued traditional Chinese medicine. Came back a couple years later with metastatic breast cancer EVERYWHERE.

Another patient treated her breast cancer with coffee enemas. spoiler alert it didn't work.

Gut pain is confusing and unpredictable, but this sounds terrible.

I WAS a nurse for 20 years, but this is a story about my husband. The man has a very high pain tolerance and is always hungry, so one day when I met him for lunch I was worried when he wouldn't eat and said his lower abdomen hurt. I talked to a doctor friend and husband was sent for an immediate CT scan. Husband was sent home to wait for the results. So....being him....felt better and ate two chili dogs with Fritos. Of course, when the doc called and told him to get to the hospital NOW because his appendix was about to rupture, husband had to be kept in a holding pattern for 12 hours because he'd eaten a big meal. I may have shouted at husband a little bit that day.

Teeth are important, don't be cheap.

I used to work at an oral surgeon's office.

A patient came in needing a tooth pulled and bc the root was near the jaw they needed to remove it under anesthesia.

The patient did NOT want to pay for the anesthesia ($350) so he decided to try and take it out on his own. He used pliers and ended up breaking his jaw....we had to go and fix his jaw and wire his mouth shut.

Ended up costing him $9,000 instead of $500.

Just a little sweet tooth, they said. It'll be fine, they said.

I'm a tech.

This fairly large woman came into our unit with type two diabetes and diabetic ulcers all over her lower legs, toe amputations, and a wound that would not heal. Her husband frequently visited her, and just before my shift brought her SIX tubs of the chocolate Pillsbury frosting icing because of her "sweet tooth" and "they have insulin at the hospital to match the sugar."

When I stopped to check on her she had already finished tub #4 and said to me "but I'm already at the hospital I might as well."

Glasses "spoil" your eyes? Sure, and oxygen spoils your lungs.

I'm an optician and optometrist and SO MANY semi-blind people refuse to get glasses because they don't want to "spoil" their eyes. They come back six months later with migraines and complain about not being able to drive in the dark or read, and get angry because their eyesight is not getting better although they're always "training" their eyes. It doesn't work like that.

This happens more often than you'd think... *shudder*

Patient here. I got an itch in my eye one night and figured my contact had dried out. I went to remove it but the damn thing was stuck in my eye! So I started pinching, hard, trying to get it off, and then my vision went all wacky and my eye started to really hurt.

Gave up and went to the ER cause I couldn't see. Turns out my contact had fallen out before the whole process started and I'd been scratching my eyeball. Had to wear an eye patch and put in some very unpleasant drops for a week or two.


What a terrible wife, why didn't the hospital stop her?

The condition was not worsened by the patient himself, but his choice of life partner certainly did not help.

Patient wad utterly ravaged by advanced cancer. Several doctors have told him and his wife that his condition is terminal. Patient seemed to understand when he was lucid. Wife said she understood as well. He was in hospice for comfort. One night he had trouble breathing (as the dying tend to do). Wife called 911 against patient's wishes. Thus began a three week pointless and painful, painful ordeal that involved life support, dialysis, at least one round of CPR (on a man whose bones were riddled with metastasis) and diarrhea.

Wife was adamant that he will get better through holistic medicine. She filled the intensive care room with all sorts of new age chachkies like inspirational pictures and rocks. She even refused pain medicine because it would, like, dim his chakras.

Wife left a crystal geode on the bed. Crystal worked its way underneath patient's hip. Patient developed a raging bed sore that never closed. On a patient who wanted to die and was in already excruciating pain.

This was years ago. Still, I can honestly say I hate that woman.

That pesky paperwork, I'll do it my way.

I had a client with a stroke, who received TENS-Treatment in rehabilitation (really low electric impulse to stimulate muscles and nerves). After Rehabilitation he was offered to get one of the things for home-use (completely free of charge/ costs) he refuses because filling out the paper (1 page) was too much work. He decided to just use what he had at home. And tried using a transformer/ transistor for this 'therapy'. That completly destroyed the small amount of nerve function we had achieved in rehabilitation and screwed up his condition a lot.


This is what cigarettes do to you...

My mom's current bf has oral and throat cancer. Guy literally has a stoma and no tongue was still smoking 3 packs a day until recently. MIL got diagnosed w stage 3 lung cancer quit smoking and drinking for a couple of months. As soon as Dr said her condition was improving she went straight back to smoking & partying. Only took a few months for cancer to get to stage 4 and spread to her liver, kidneys, and brain. She smoked up until a couple days before she died and even then only because the brain cancer caused her to lose control of her limbs and she physically couldn't hold a cigarette anymore. It was so sad to watch. Am incredibly proud of my husband tho, he quit smoking with her to help support her & never started again even after she did. Said he never wants our girls to have to go through that with him.

He's insolent for insulin.

M.D. here. Had a patient who was found unconscious and taken to our hospital. Turns out he was diabetic (unbeknownst to him) and went into a coma. We got him straightened out and sent him home with insulin.

Fast forward a week or two and he comes into the ER for vomiting, dehydration, and blurred vision. He hadn't been taking his insulin since 'only really sick people need insulin'.

Meth. It does nobody good.

Work comp adjuster here had a claimant completely disappear after a surgery was ordered. Fast forward 2 years and he gets an attorney who demands the surgery be approved now. After months of back and forth, we approve the wrist surgery.

2 days post op the police find him walking down a county road, blasted out of his mind on meth, ripping out his stitches. Apparently, he went on a meth binge and just tore apart his surgical site.

The doctor dropped him, his attorney dropped him, the state basically closed his case. The last I heard was he got out of jail, grabbed all his meds from home and disappeared again. Never followed up with the doctor. I cringe to think what his arm looks like.

Maggots? In my head? Nope nope nope.

Homeless man came into the ER with a small cut on his scalp. Doc stitched it up but he went back to sleeping in the gutter. Never came back for his checkup a week later. Six months later he showed up with an entire colony of maggots living under his scalp.

Never give a dog ibuprofen (it's not even good for humans) or chocolate, isn't this common knowledge?

I'm an animal nurse (vet tech) and had a chihuahua come in that had been limping. The owners had been giving him ibuprofen inside of pieces of chocolate.

Herbal cures are scams and they really do kill people.

Oncology nurse here. Had a patient with a relatively treatable cancer fail to tell us about an herbal cure that his son bought for 300 dollars a bottle. He was taking it while getting chemotherapy. He wound up basically shutting down his liver and kidneys, hospitalized for weeks and delaying treatment, so yea, the cancer spread. System too weakened to resume treatment. He's dead, and all because of the snake oil cure. Sad that families spend hundreds to thousands of dollars out of desperation, and wind up causing more harm/ death.

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