Doctors Share The Most Shocking Times Patients Said, 'Oh, I Thought That Was Normal'
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Doctors roll their eyes more than most people, given the characters who walk through the doors of their offices. But some people really take the cake, testing the limit of a doctor's time and patience.

After Redditor aalleeyyee asked, "Doctors of Reddit, what was the most shocking case of 'Oh, I thought that was normal' you've seen in a patient?" doctors and other medical professionals shared stories of the wildest things they've seen patients tolerate (and sometimes for far too long) before seeking medical attention.

"A couple years back..."

MD here. A couple years back, had a walk-in complaining of a few months of Abdo pain/swelling. I sh!t you not, the man was Simpsons character yellow with jaundice and ascites (fluid filling the belly). He seemed shocked when I told him I was calling the hospital to arrange direct admission.


"Her family shamed any injuries..."

When I was a Med student we visited a clinic in the country where I studied. Lots of people would get horrible injuries and use the local elixir of dirt/motor oil/spit from the local old lady to patch up an exposed arm bone, or whatever.

Had one woman in her 20s come in with a fungating breast cancer that looked like a hard mushroom/mold growing through the skin and to the outside world, constantly bled anytime you touched it. Her family shamed any injuries or "impurities" and she thought she just needed to keep it covered until it got better.


"So I had this woman..."

I'm making my internship and one night I was attending at triage at ER (triage is the area where you check the patients and decide how urgent is the attention they need).

(Context here, I'm in a third world country and I'm at a public hospital that attends uncovered population, and instead of one hospital with all the specialities we have three, the "main" one, the GyO hospital, and the children's hospital).

So I had this woman of late 30's, she started telling me that she had an extreme pain (10/10) in the lower abdomen, no other sign that food could be involved, neither kidney stones or urine infection.

I proceed to ask about last menstrual cycle, she doesn't recall the exact date, but she says that was like 4 months ago.

Without hesitation and without asking more or anything else I told them (she and her familiar) to go right away to the hospital that was crossing the street, because if it was something obstetric we didn't had any GyO in this hospital, and if it was something of general surgery they had general surgeons there.

We got a call like 20min later lol, that woman delivered her baby at triage of the other hospital.


"One of my first patients..."

Psychiatrist here.

One of my first patients was a female college students that couldn't sleep because of the voices that constantly talked to her and she felt forced to answer them at all times. From what she was saying I gathered that depending on the particular voice (with name and identity) she was either cautioned about some people or situations or outright pushed towards violent acts. Her voices appeared when she was 16 if I remember correctly, and we've met when she was 20.

So at that point for 4 years of her life she believed that it was normal to have such 'voices in your head', because, as she explained, many people talk to themselves. To some extent she was right, but I had to explain to her, that they really 'talk with themselves', that there are no other identities in them, but only an internal dialogue to clarify or resolve issues that bother them 'in their own privacy', so to speak.

She was later diagnosed with schizophrenia.


"I knew by the smell..."

ER MD here. Had a patient come in for cast removal literally YEARS after it had been put on. She had just decided it wasn't worth taking off. Her leg skin was literally growing OVER the top of the cast and then down it. Once we finally cut the cast off, she was surprised to find that she had no skin underneath, but the dead tissue over her muscles and bones was being cleaned by about 300 maggots. I knew by the smell that something under there wasn't right, but wasn't expecting that. Patient seemed completely fine with it.


"The rotation had been interesting and chill..."

It was my last rotation of medical school before graduating and starting residency. I had completed all my requirements and just wanted to take a few interesting electives of things I hadn't seen yet. This was a dermatology rotation at the VA.

The rotation had been interesting and chill, and it was my last day, and my third-to-last patient as a medical student. The guy came in, and the resident asked him why he was there, and he said "I have hair coming out of my hand." I figured he meant a weird mole with some hair coming out. But this guy (prob late thirties or early forties) says "no, the hair is coming out from under the skin." The resident asked what he does for a living, and he says he's a barber. The resident tells me that it's not too uncommon for hair to poke through the skin, especially for barbers who cut men's hair (it's short, thin, and can be kinda pokey after all) and it was sort of like getting a sliver, but with hair.

But the guy says, "no, it's a lot of hair, look!" And he holds up his hand, making a fist, and there's several hairs poking out from between the knuckles of his pointer and middle finger. I stare in confusion, and the derm resident grabs some tweezers and pulls out a tweezer full (maybe a half dozen) of short black hairs. The guy says, "yeah I already pulled out like 50." The derm resident was like "50?!"

So the derm resident numbs up the back side of his hand between the first and second knuckle, and makes a little incision, and starts pulling out GOBS of short black hair. Chunk of 20, chunk of 30, etc. And now she's got the magnifying glasses on and the attached light and she like "oh my gosh, there's still more in there! Sir, do you know how all this hair got into your hand?"

And the guy goes "oh it probably came in through there!" And he flips his hand over to reveal a HOLE in the palmer aspect of his hand's skin. Turns out the dude had cut himself like TWO YEARS before this, and it had never healed properly (he was diabetic) and he just kept cutting hair with this open wound on his hand. And probably every day a few hairs got stuck in his hand. For two years. And now those hairs had tunneled through the webbing between his first and second fingers from the front of his hand and out the back side.

Long story already (sorry). The poor resident spent like 30 minutes MILKING his hand and fingers while more and more hair came out. She said "there's no way I got it all out, you have to come back every two weeks for a few months for us to keep removing more hair from your hand. (Which is a weird sentence) In the meantime WEAR GLOVES WHILE YOU CUT HAIR!" We gave the dude a whole box of latex gloves.

I don't remember anything about my last two patients that day. It was literally my last day as a Med student, and boy, what a way to go out! Still probably the weirdest thing I've ever seen, not to mention how "meh... there's some hair in my hand... happens I guess" the guy was about it.


"I've pulled so many things..."

OBGYN here. I've pulled so many things out of vaginas that people claim they didn't know were in there or don't think it was abnormal to leave them in there. Old rotting medical devices, what looked like a plastic car wheel or bottle cap, used condom, old tampon, insects, you get the drift.


"When it finally came to the exam..."

Resident doctor here, although not an Ob/Gyn.

In my Ob/Gyn rotation in medical school, I had a patient who was a first time mother having difficulty nursing her baby. The patient said she had some redness and it had been hurting to nurse on one nipple so she often had to switch until finally it became unbearable for her to nurse from either. She had mentioned that she thought her nipples might be cracked or chafed.

When it finally came to the exam, she had the most chafed nipples I had ever seen. It looked totally raw and macerated to the point that they looked like two large pepperoni slices. One of her breasts also looked like the wound had led to mastitis. It definitely led to a new appreciation of how difficult breastfeeding can be on new mothers.


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