The human body is capable of some amazing things normally when you consider everything required to keep us going daily. Sometimes we skin a knee or make it through something much, much worse by only the skin of our teeth.

To quote Ingrid Michaelson,

"We are so fragile
And our cracking bones make noise
And we are just
Breakable, breakable, breakable, girls and boys."

But every now and then you hear about someone who really beat the odds and survived the unsurvivable.

Who better to share those stories than doctors?

Reddit user TheDestroyer asked, "Doctors of Reddit, what made you say 'how are you still alive'?"

Here are some of their stories.

50. It's Really Not A Joke


Late I'm sure it'll get buried..

911 dispatcher story time!

Got a call from a 50s male's wife who had just arrived home to find a suicide note. The note basically read that he lost his job a year earlier and was too ashamed to tell her so he just kept up the facade by dipping into savings. A year goes by and he's out of everything, retirement, reverse mortgage, everything was gone. He felt so ashamed he didn't know what to do. He was going through paperwork and found how his life insurance policy he maintained still paid out for suicide. He wrote her a letter explaining everything and how to cash out, left her the gun and took off.

His note told her he was going to hike into the nearby woods and to tell their police officer neighbor (one of my administrative guys) to come find him because he didn't want the wife to find him like that. That officer he named, and a few others set off in the woods to find him.

One of the Sergeants gets through this tick brush and over a gorge sees the guy slumped over in a camping chair bright red (which is a sign of lividity). Sergeant calls over the radio "hey, I see him he's over here. Not sure how to get to him though gimme a minute. Dispatch go ahead and record the time and outside temperature for the report" so I do.. A few seconds go by and the Sergeant keys up again "OH MY GOD DISPATCH GET ME MEDICS HE'S ALIVE!! HE'S ALIVE!!"

Guy had swallowed an entire full bottle of sleeping pills and drank a fifth of whiskey over two hours earlier and was still alive. He was bright red because he was sunburned as hell. They get him to the hospital and pump his stomach. He showed an alcohol level of 0.540.

While recovering he then asked one of my officers if he could borrow her gun. He said "I'll give it right back" she was not amused.


49.  Jokes At A Time Like This Are Good, I Guess...

My friend who works in the ER told me about a motorcyclist who flew off his bike and got impaled by a tree in the air, high enough up nobody saw him for several hours, it may have even been overnight.

The man was cut out of the tree, taken to my friend in the ER but still had the trunk stuck in him. The guy was still totally coherent and making jokes. He asked the man for his weight and he said:

"With or without the tree?"


48. The Chances Were Low, But There It Was

Obligatory " I'm not a doctor but..." When I was working as a tech on a behavioral unit one of my tasks was taking blood sugars. One morning I was checking a blood sugar on an 80 some year old lady who was very alert and happily chatting with me. First reading was 12, so I retook it on both hands with same results.

For those of you unfamiliar with blood sugar levels, 12 is so low that it beat the ICUs lowest record and no one could believe she was awake, let alone alert. I had to interrupt staffing for it and I had never seen this group of doctors and nurses react in a panic before this.

She ended up being mostly annoyed with us because we had to force feed her really high sugar content food until she was stable. Given her age and how low her sugars were I'm still not sure how she was ok, let alone survived it.


47. Forcibly Pushed Back From The Light

This guy had some serious stab wounds all around his torso from a recent attack. He had even been stabbed in the heart. I think he'd been cornered by some guys he trusted, and I heard the thugs had even got a little kid to take part in the stabbing.

Turns out the victim had been clinically dead for an extended period of time. He miraculously came back, I don't know how. So, you see, the question isn't "how are you still alive?", but rather, "how are you alive AGAIN?" I haven't seen him in a long time, but I heard he moved back home, where the poor guy found some squatters. I hope things have turned around for him; he seemed like a good guy and had clearly been through a lot.


46. It Was The Funnest Of Times, It Was The Not So Funnest Of Times


Not a doctor. However I had a doctor ask me this! So I developed a disease called fibromyalgia and have a fairly severe case of it.

Before I was diagnosed I had to work as a delivery driver to pay bills, which I ended up having to quit because of my health. To make it through my shifts I'd pop 4 acetaminophen, 4 ibuprofen and 4 naproxen every day. That alone freaked out my doctor and immediately had my liver checked. Then I was sent to a pain management Dr because of not being able to keep the job.

The doctor decides to put me on a pain patch. The only warning I was given by him and the pharmacist was no alcohol. They never described much else about the patch, just that it's for pain and releases so much meds every hour. I figured if it worked it was worth it. However my tendons and ligaments like to tighten and lock up if I'm too cold and it was January.

I put the first patch on, turn my electric blanket on to keep me warm through the night. I woke up 21 hours later overdosed on a weeks worth of opioids. Turns out it was an opioid pain patch for opioid experienced patients only (I wasnt) and I wasn't even put on the lowest dosage.

To make it worse I have under developed bladder and kidneys so they're very sensitive. It took me a couple more hours to figure out to look up the meds and realized what happened. To put this in perspective having a fever has hospitalized people and electric blankets have killed many people on it.

I had some more side effects and the Dr tried to convince me to stay on it. I never went back. When I told my main doctor she freaked out, asked how I'm still alive and told me to not live alone anymore. I moved back home and started seeing my old Dr again. His face went very pale when I told him what happened. Said that Dr could lose their license for it. Fun times.


45. This Is Something From A Horror Film

There was this patient who had come in with some abdominal pain. He had described it as something vague and his vital signs and blood work never actually gave us much concern. So he ended up being warded for a while and had some tests done. He got a CT Abdomen done and it showed some weird collection in his abdomen.

We then proceeded with a diagnostic laparascopy. The moment the port was inserted, all we could see was pus. At this moment, the operation was converted to a laparatomy and when the abdomen was open, pus just started gushing out. Apparently he had a perforated appendix that looked to have been at least a couple of weeks old. The whole abdominal cavity was filled with pus. Every time we thought we drained it all, a pocket would arise somewhere. His bowels were so tightly adhered to each other with adhesions that parts actually spontaneously tore apart when during manipulation.

The surgeon that I was with was this stoic plump dude with a face made out of stone. All I can remember is his eyebrows raising a little as the first fountain of pus spurted forth. Oh yes, and the smell. Did I describe the smell? It was probably the foulest thing I had ever encountered. It was as though Satan himself had laid a turd within this man's abdomen. Anyway, this man was discharged well. Went to ICU for a night and was discharged to the general wards the next day. Walked out as he had walked in.


44.  The Incident Likely Drove Her To Drink

Woman outside in a snowdrift overnight. Had been hit and buried by a snowplow. When we got her, her temp was 78F and her BAC was still 200. Rib fractures and pneumothorax on the CT. No reflexes. Blown pupils. HR in the 40s. Eventually sent her to the ICU after heated fluids got her into the low 80's.

A few months later the cops brought her in on IDO for public intoxication. I thought to myself, "I thought she would die."

Also, I just saw a case of psychogenic polydipsia (drinking water psychotically) with a serum sodium of 105. 140 is normal. Below 120 can cause seizures, and below 115 can be life-threatening. Somehow the patient was awake and talking to me, telling me her OCD won't let her stop drinking water. No medical person I've talked to since then (and trust me, something like this is frequently talked about) has ever seen a sodium below 110 in any patient, living or dead.


43. Cute Lil Thing

Vet here

I've seen an alpaca WALK in with a PCV of 6% due to parasitism. PCV=% of blood that is red blood cells, the part that carries oxygen. Normal is 30% +/- a bit. This sucker had literally lost 80% of its red blood cells and was still walking around.

A few transfusions later, good as new


42. Perhaps These Things Need More Warning Labels

I'm not a doctor but i work in a hospital OR and this actually happened about a week ago. A guy came into our ER with a drill bit in his eye and apparently he was using it to scratch his nose. The fun part is that the bit was still in the power drill when he was itching himself and he accidentally engaged the drill. Although the injury wasn't that bad, when i heard about it my initial reaction was like how do people like this make it this far in their lives and not choke on their cereal in the morning.


41. Anxiety, Take A Back Seat


Not the doctor, but the patient. I was in ventricular tachycardia (heart beating way too fast) for 18 days (ICU for 7 days and heart hospital for the other 11). I was in heart failure. During my second catheter ablation (go up the artery in your groin to burn troublesome spots in your heart) the doctor told my wife that my blood had less than 1% oxygen returning to my heart. During that whole hospital stay, I was told I should be dead multiple times.

Other fun instances while I was in the hospital: Presented to the ER with a heartbeat ranging from 210-260bpm. Had heart intentionally stopped. Cardioverted (shocked) over 12 times. 2 Catheter ablations. Proud owner of an implanted defibrillator and am not supposed to go through metal detectors.


40. Inspector Gadget

I'm not a doctor, but a friend of mine rolled a tractor as a teenager and wound up being crushed by it as he was thrown from the seat. After months of therapy and nearly $100k in skeletal reconstruction you would never know what happened. His jaw, top of his skull, both femurs, one of his shins and a 9" square in his chest were all replaced/reinforced by metal. He likes to show this off by having people hit him or by ramming a hole in a wall (I've seen him get drunk and literally run through a wall like a rhino). I tell people I'm friends with a cyborg.


39. Why Do We Need To Test These Things

General surgery resident here. Kid bought a "knife proof" vest online and tried it out with his friends by putting it on and asking them to stab him in the chest. Turns out.... it wasn't... and the kid ended up with a hole in his heart that needed an ER thoracotomy where they opened his chest and put their finger there to stop the bleeding. He was then taken to the operating room where it was repaired. Kid survived... left ICU against strong medical advice a couple of days later...


38. What A Journey

In middleschool a pair of kids in my class was playing with airsoft guns on the roof of one of their apartment buildings. One of them ends up falling 4 stories and hitting concrete. Broke just about every bone on his left side Including a shattered pelvis and skull fracture. My mom's friend worked in the hospital he was cared for and this being a 13 year old kid in a tight community, word got around. Every single step, people amazed he was alive.

The EMT's were shocked when they arrived at the scene, the ER was relieved to stabilize him, the doctors who induced a coma and the surgeon who realigned his shattered skeleton, it was all crazy. His mom blogged about it for a couple months tracking his recovery.


37. Nothing Like Shacking Up With An Attempted Murderer

My prof, a dentist, talks about how she had a patient that got stabbed from the eye socket to the mouth by his girlfriend (she found out he was cheating on him). Somehow she missed all the numerous nerves around the eye and ended up with zero permanent damage. And the best part is that he got back together with the girlfriend after healing up.


36. No Blood, Just Fat


My dad was an ER doctor, and when I was little, he would tell me stories of his patients when he tucked me in at night. Yeah, not your typical bed time stories, but I loved it.

One of the stories that stuck out because it surprised him even was a very overweight guy who came in for some reason I don't remember now (sorry this was a bedtime story from 20 years ago) and got treated for something minor and sent back out on his way.

A few hours later the lab - which was supposed to run some routine blood tests and mail him the results - called the ER and asked if the guy was still there. His sample had settled after a little while, and it turned out that over a third of the tube was fat. You'll get that sometimes in patients with high cholesterol, but no one had ever seen this much in one sample.

They had to call the guy back in for a second round of tests and make sure it wasn't a mistake. Guy was through the roof lipids and cholesterol. Turned out he was eating Burger King three meals a day every day. They had to explain to him why burgers and milk shakes three meals a day wasn't good for him.


35. Pure Spirit Keeps Him Alive

I am not a Doctor, but I have seen multiple Doctors react this way to my father.

The full details would take far too long, but the short version - before the computerisation of medical files, everyone had their own little file. My dad had a cabinet.

Over the course of his life, he has been: Shot (several times), stabbed, hit by a bow and arrow, blown up, burned, nearly drowned, broken every bone in his body, and to cap it off, struck by lightning - twice.

Combined with various care related issues, like MRSA, along with terminal heart failure, several GPs have seen him, and said "you should be dead". He tends to agree.

Pretty much, hes alive because hes far too stubborn to die.


34. Just Barely Scraped By

This gets asked about once every other month, still with the same answer

Pediatrician here

18yo female came to the ED with shortness of breath

Most of the time this is anxiety, constochodritis or pneumonia. We put her on a monitor and her saturation are really low (normally 95% and above is normal on room air). We put the patient on 100% oxygen and her saturations don't change at all, when that happens its a bad sign because it tells you there is a ventilation/perfusion mismatch.

Long story short she ended up having a massive saddle pulmonary embolism.

When we got the CT result every doctor in the room turned pale. We all slowly turned around to look at the patient sitting on the exam table thinking... how the hell are you still breathing. For those that don't know these kind embolisms can be fatal because the blood from your heart can't get into your lungs.


33. Well It's Broke As Hell

Not a doctor, but a patient.

When I was 39, I got a pain in my shoulder neck and jaw so bad it took my breathe away. After taking a quick look online to see the symptoms of a heart attack, I decided to drive myself to the hospital. Told them that I think I might be having a heart attack. After a battery of tests, the ER doc decides to send me for a cat scan.

After getting back the results the doc comes in with a very solemn expression and says, "You have an Aortic dissection and you'll need surgery." This really doesn't phase me because as a tinkerer, my philosophy is if it's broken just fix it. So they have to fly my off to a larger hospital for surgery. ( I took a pic of the helicopter and posted it on FB saying, "Woohoo, my first helicopter ride." Also sent a text to my supervisor saying that I have to have open heart surgery and I probably won't be in Monday.

Few years later, I have a chest pain. Nothing like before, but I make sure to have certain twinges checked on, just in case. Well, I'm sitting in the ER when the doc quickly pops his head in and says, "IT IS YOU!" He tells me that he really didn't think I was going to make it when he shipped me off and that he tells EVERYONE about me.


32. Two Cases, One Day

US medical student here. I shadowed in one of the only Level 1 Trauma Centers in my region while I was in college. On one particular day we had a man helicoptered in from the reservation 50+ miles away. This gentleman had downed about 80oz of malt liquor by 11AM and got into an altercation with his neighbor over a woman.

The neighbor caved in the back of this man's head with a crowbar. It was gruesome. This guy had lost a good amount of blood by the time he rolled into our bay but he was completely lucid and conversational, his only deficits were evident alcohol intoxication and marked visual loss. Pretty sure he ended up surviving the ordeal.

The most striking thing about that day though was a case that rolled in not even two hours later. A middle aged woman–a lifelong equestrian–had been bucked off her quarter horse and hit her head. Superficially she looked fine, like she was peacefully sleeping. Under her skull, however, she had a massive hematoma and would almost certainly never wake up.

Sometimes medicine is crazy.


31. Truly A Miracle


Young otherwise healthy woman with post partum pre-eclampsia and post partum cardiomyopathy. Basically her heart was severely weakened as a pump and the blood vessels it was pumping into were clamped down creating immense resistance for even a healthy heart to pump against.

She had the most rapid onset of flash pulmonary edema I've seen in 2 decades of ER practice. (Pulmonary edema is fluid in the lungs). There was so much fluid accumulating in her lungs when I tried to intubate her (put a tube into her trachea so she could be mechanically ventilated) I couldn't see her vocal chords because frothy water was pouring like a faucet from her trachea. I got the tube in by shoving it into the flowing fluid from her lungs.

She not only survived, she was out of the ICU in 2 days and spent less than a week in the hospital. Mostly this was because of her overall good health... Its hard to kill a healthy young person... Though not impossible.


30. Eighteen Years Later

Not doc, but patient. 2001, I'm 18. Severe abdominal pain starts on a Tuesday morning. Tuesday evening, moves on to vomiting. So frequently, in fact, that I begin to vomit bile...coils of bile (think of sh*tting out of your mouth). Convulsed all night. Wednesday around noon, head to ER. Admitted with fever of 105. White count still normal, treated for fever and dehydration and released.

Feel good, for two hours. Admitted again with fever of 107. Left alone and forgotten in ER for two hours. Still convulsing. G/f hunts down doc, get private room for observation at 10pm. Midnight, MRI and hear tech say "oh sh*t." Appendix had perferated. Full blood sepsis. Doc says emergency operation at midnight. 8am wheeled into preop. Surgeon tells my parents I probably won't survive surgery. Pfft, still here.


29. Circumstances Kept Him Alive

I've been a part of an EXIT (ex utero intrapartum treatment) procedure:

In this case a child had a giant facial mass called a lymphangioma growing on the face and obstructing the airway. It was detected on fetal ultrasound. It would block breathing if the baby was delivered and cause death.

When the baby was old enough a planned C-section was performed and only part of the baby was delivered and the baby was left connected to the mother via the umbilical cord to the placenta, thereby negating need for breathing and he was getting oxygenated blood from Mom..

A pediatric ENT surgically prepped this newborn baby immediately and then created a surgical airway in the neck (tracheostomy) and put in a tube to bypass the airway obstructed by the facial mass. Then the umbilical cord was cut and the baby started to breath through the artificial airway on his own.

Any kid born this way is the definition of 'how are you still alive' and would have died in another age and still in many poor countries to this day.


28. Ninety Eight Fractures

I'm not a doctor, but a patient.

I crashed my motorcycle at 170+mph I had 98 fractures (including some broken vertebrae), a punctured lung, ruptured spleen, massive internal bleeding, severe nerve damage, etc. Triage gave me a 2% chance of survival... I was so messed up that the cops didn't even show up at the hospital regarding the accident because they thought I had died. I'm still in touch with some of the people that saved my life and they still call me "miracle man".

Not only did I just celebrate my 10th anniversary since the accident, I'm also walking, working out, have VERY minimal long-term damage (some loss of sensitivity and range of motion in my arm due to nerve damage), and I just completed a Half Iron Man competition!

Life is amazing!


27. The Definition Of Heart Attack Is So Loose

Not a doctor, but a paramedic. I had a patient who was alert and sitting upright with a blood pressure of 60/30 with a heart rate of 50 (sinus). He was pale, but not even sweaty.

I don't really know how he was conscious, and looked so well.

Laying him supine and a fast bolus brought things up to 90/50. He ended up being NSTEMI. My 12 lead had 2.5mm elevation in v2, and 1.5mm in V1, V3 - not enough for me to call a STEMI. No reciprocal changes or chest pain/shortness of breath either, just dizziness and nausea

Non medical professionals - his blood pressure was barely enough to sustain consciousness, but he looked very well. Turns out he was having a heart attack with abnormal symptoms and no clear changes on his electrocardiogram.


26. Dyin' Ain't So Bad

Not a doctor, but I am a medic. (See post history.) But this is about my mother.

I get a call from my great-aunt that my mother collapsed on the bathroom floor from chest pain. Now, I'm on duty in practically another city. I tell her to hang up, call 911, and have them transport her to Hospital A, 15 minutes from the house, because it's a really amazing cardiac center.

Make it noted that my mother is 48 at the time of this incident, with a heart attack at 40, about 6 months after she had my little brother. 2 stents put in. You'd think she'd have lifestyle changes, right? Nope. Smoked a pack a day since she was 16, drank heavily, and had three BIG ASS CANS of monsters a day. You know, the ones with the twist off caps? And she ate like sh*t too, when she actually had food. She refused to eat a lot of the time because it would interfere with how drunk she would get, so she was maybe a size 6. Small but tall. This has been an ongoing battle with her for literally her entire life. I'm not expecting the best.

Anyway, I run into the hospital (still in uniform) and they think I'm here dropping off a patient. Husband and I get taken back into the private family waiting room, where my great-aunt already was. I'm technically next-of-kin, so after 45 minutes of agonizing waiting, the doc comes out. My mother is covered with a white sheet, intubated but bucking the tube. Her blood pressure was so low, they couldn't even sedate her.

They're taking her to the cath lab RIGHT NOW, she's having a full blown heart attack. I'd learn that she had a 100% right coronary artery occlusion. They shocked her once in the ambulance because she went into v-fib, and then was clinically dead for 8 minutes in the ER. Did CPR, got a shockable rhythm back, shocked her twice, got her back and threw her ass in the cath lab where they gave her 6 more stents (total of 8) and had to shock her AGAIN. She died 3 times. (Technically, kinda)

She got out, was intubated for 20 hours, in the ICU. On 8 different drips, pumps, ventilator, NG tube, cath, external defibrillator, you name it. Blood thinners out the ass. I didn't leave her side but once as soon as she was stable, to go home, shower, sleep for 4 hours, and come right back. I see critical patients like this and literally transport them all the time, multiple times a day even, but seeing your own mother? It's a different story. As much as I don't like my mom, it broke my heart to see her like this. It hurt.

She walked out of the hospital with zero defects or problems four days later. The doctors were stunned. The cath lab doc that came to see me, saw me in uniform when they were wheeling her out after surgery, and said, "I am not going to try and pull one over on you. You know how bad it looks. She shouldn't be alive right now, but she is, and we all need to be grateful for that." He also told me things he couldn't really use in layman's terms, (no offense, like, if I was a civilian with zero medical knowledge I would have been flipping sh*t, some med words sound terrifying) so I wasn't intimidated and was relieved.

You'd think that my mother would have a massive lifestyle change after this. Did she? Two weeks was all it lasted before she went right back to her old ways. Literally got a second chance at life, and threw it in the trash. I found out she was doing the sh*t again and told her that I was planning her funeral in my head, while at her bedside. I might as well have buried her that day for all it did. "What about little brother and sister?" "[Your ex-stepdad] will remarry, they'll have someone else."

How is she still alive? If she keeps this sh*t up, she won't be for long. It's sad. Sorry for the rant, I didn't realize how mad I still was about all this... but it's relevant so what the hell.

Supervisor relieves me himself and I race to the hospital with my husband (also a medic) and we are tense. I'm in full uniform. They wound up taking her to Hospital B. (It's sh*ttier, but closer, with a working cath lab.)


25. Be Still My Beating Heart


I had a guy with a Bowie knife sticking out of his chest. The knife was pulsating. I could literally count his pulse from across the room.


24. The Stories They Could Tell

I used to do elder care and was constantly amazed at some of the tough cookies I took care of.

Man - 99 - Once ate dinner with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Made sure to serve me ice cream as his wife of 73 years lay dying (I was caring for her, she was in a coma and on her last journey), because it was a warm afternoon and manners must be followed, regardless of circumstances. I tried to refuse, but...he's 99 with a dying wife. It was strawberry.

Woman - 96 - Was in the Nursing Corps in the Navy/Marines in WWII. She married a Marine. She told me, "I always like 'em rough and ready!" Her lecherous grin spread its icy fingers into my soul, and I had to laugh.

Woman - 101 - Tried to attack me with a clothes iron because dementia can change people into superheroes when they think the care aide is a stranger breaking into their house.

Woman - 96 - An atheist Jew from New Jersey, with the accent to boot. WWII Navy nurse. She would threaten spam callers. Graphically. It was hilarious.


23. A Century Plus 10%

Simply meeting someone who was 110 years old. (Wow!)


22. 100% Alive


Guy comes in with a bit of chest pain. tells me the big coronary artery on the front of the heart was 100% blocked. I tell him "who told you that?" he says his doctor did about 10 years ago. I don't believe him since patients never ever get any of the stuff their doctor tells them right. I let the cardiac surgeon know what this guy said and he too goes "haha 100%? so he's dead?"

If the biggest coronary artery is totally occluded and for 10 years no less, you are a dead man. Lo and behold...we get an angiogram and it was 100% occluded. The artery on the back of the heart made a connection with the front of the heart to pick up the slack. It was some lucky stuff.


21. Grocery Games

Haemoglobin of 35 (3.5)! In a 35 year old guy with a chronic rectal bleed he refused to have looked into for months because he didn't want anyone lookin' at his bum hole. Finally brought to the ER by ambulance when he fainted (aka "started dying") in a grocery store.


20. Helpful

Patient stabbed himself in the neck with a thermometer that pierced his trachea. Missed all the important arteries (carotids, vertebrals); just hit some minor nerves.

Good guy patient provided his own temperature reads until they removed the thermometer.


19. Touchdown


My best friends brother-in-law during the Superbowl was acting totally normal until about halfway through and started talking gibberish, walking into walls, taking all his clothes off, and generally being NOT himself.

It took about 5 EMT's to even get him in the ambulance because he was fighting them all off, and he continued to do so until they took him to the local hospital where he was put into a medically induced coma and airlifted to 'The S*** Is Real Hospital'. Turns out he had bacterial meningitis and he had been acting like that because his brain was had gotten so swollen.

Everyone was convinced he was going to die because of how severe it had gotten before he presented any symptoms. It took him weeks to recover, relearn how to talk, understand where he was, etc...but he did. He completely 100% recovered. Doctors think it was caused by a dog bite. Which I've never heard of... his wife and kids also tested negative thankfully.


18. Benefits of Obesity

I'm an ER nurse. Had a guy walk up to the front desk after hitting himself in the throat with a chainsaw.

All the flesh of his neck was flayed open. I could see his trachea and his right jugular vein. If he had cut in just a tiny bit deeper, he would have sliced right into both.

The only thing that saved him was that he was a big fat guy with a huge neck. A skinnier man would have died very unpleasantly.


17. They're Called Internal Organs for a Reason

I was in school to be a paramedic and I was doing my externship in an ER. A guy came in happily complaining about a sore on his belly that wouldn't heal. He was really pleasant and didn't seem to be in much pain. When he lifted his shirt, we could see his liver.


16. Slight Overreaction


Guy had an argument with his girlfriend, wanted to leave the apartment. Instead of taking the door, was real angry and jumped off the balcony, fell down 40 feet directly on his heels on cement.

He ended up having an ankle sprain. I wondered how he managed previous issues in his life.


15. One for the Medical Books

Not a doctor: My grandfather had a heart attack. He went in for a simple stent in his heart. Hours go by and we hear code blue over the intercom. Doctor comes out to tell us his left ventricle has an inch and half tear in it. They had to transport him to another hospital ASAP. He died three times that night and went through 11 pints of blood. The surgeon successfully repaired the torn ventricle.

They woke him up on my birthday and he sung me happy birthday. 3 weeks in Cardiac ICU my grandfather walked out. The surgeon told us for a man of 75 years to have lived through a left ventricle tear is unheard of. The doctor wrote a Journal on him as well. He's still alive today. He even got his hip replaced a year after.


14. Don't I Look OK?

Saw a guy with a machete lodged up into his skull. Asked him if he was OK (not sarcastically, just threw a generic question to check his ability to respond), he said "yup!"


13. Small Mercies


A patient I took care of had a car fall on his face. He was underneath it working when it slid off of the jack. The only reason he survived was because he broke every bone in his face (he had a Lefort III) which allowed for his brain to swell (he also needed an additional surgery to relieve the pressure of cerebral edema, but the facial fractures did allow for a great deal of "give" in his skull).

I was rotating through ICU so I first saw him just a day after the accident. His head was so swollen, he didn't even look human. Fast forward a few weeks later... I was rotating through a different unit in the hospital and came across the same patient. He was quickly recovering and had minimal neural deficits.


12. This End Up

Pathologist here: Had a guy who had died suddenly and unexpectedly. I soon learned he was the recipient of a lung transplant about 15 years prior.

When I opened the man up, his transplanted lung was upside down. I flipped the lung into the proper position, and bloop. It flipped right back to upside down. That was quite alarming. The surgeons who originally performed the transplant incorrectly attached the organ. When he by chance entered the correct position, the lung flipped over, causing his pulmonary artery to seal shut, resulting in his death.

The man lived for 15 years with a lung that was dying to flip upside down. And it was only by sheer chance he didn't move in such a way that allowed it to do so until the fateful day of his death. It is one of the most fascinating cases I have ever witnessed.


11. Stroke Of Laughter


Not a doctor or anything, but my grandmother has had 7 strokes. I couldn't help but laugh at the 7th one, she said, "Aww sh*t, I'm having another stroke". She said this during a phone call abruptly. She's a very tough lady, she runs a garden and eats her weight in vegetables.


10. Head Over Heels

Not a doctor but I work in cardiology, and my doctors all do rotations at our hospital. Our hospital is a level 5 trauma and it's the closest hospital to a lot of rural area, so a lot of traumas that happen way out in the middle of nowhere end up at that hospital.

This guy came in having been in a car accident; he was covered in road rash and his chest was more or less torn open. Apparently, as we all later learned, he'd been drinking and riding passenger in his friend's car. He wanted out of the car, his friend said no, so this guy (once again, very drunk) decided to try and jump out of the car window. He somewhat succeeded, but his shirt caught on the side view mirror and he got dragged until the driver stopped flipping out enough to come to his senses and stop.


9. Tickle Me ECMO

Had a gentleman in his late 50s come in with multiple myeloma. Short history of progressively worsening breathlessness, turned out he had a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in his lungs). He was a good candidate for surgery, so he had the blood clot removed but unfortunately the clot had caused such bad issues with his heart (acute right heart failure) that he couldn't be weaned off the bypass machine. Instead, he went to ICU on ECMO (like a circuit for your heart and lungs outside the body to give your heart/lungs time to 'rest'). His chest was still open (cannulated centrally) but covered up with sterile stuff.

After 3 days, he was booked to be weaned off the ECMO or at least have the tubes put in peripherally so his chest could be closed. Morning of the procedure while he's waiting to be moved, somehow the tubing of the ECMO machine broke (oxygenator tube) and blood spilled all over the floor and he went into cardiac arrest. The Cardiothoracics consultant had to do internal cardiac massage (basically CPR on the heart by squeezing it via his still open chest) until the circuit got fixed and he returned to a normal circulation. He ended up going to OT and having his chest closed but he had more clots pulled out of his pulmonary arteries (clots had recurred).

At this point I thought this guy was utterly screwed. I figured if he even lived long enough to be woken up he'd have some degree of ischeamic brain injury. After about 2 weeks the guy left ICU and a week later went to rehabilitation. Speaking, walking, cognitively largely intact.

It was one of the most unbelievable things I've ever seen during my short career.


8. Double Take


As a very junior doctor I looked after this mega-alcoholic who needed ascities (fluid in the abdomen caused by liver failure) tapping out every month or so. He kept coming in a worse and worse shade of yellow/ green (jaundice), needing more and more fluid removed, still merrily drinking all the while. Well, the obvious happened, he died. Now he dead.

So I wander onto the ward a few weeks later, to find him sitting there in bed, green as you like, looking very alive.

Turned out is was his twin, also an alcoholic, also not to live much longer.

7. Mercury In Retrograde

Patient stabbed himself in the neck with a thermometer that pierced his trachea. Missed all the important arteries (carotids, vertebrals); just hit some minor nerves.

Good guy patient provided his own temperature reads until they removed the thermometer.


6. Happy Ending?

Not a doctor but... encountered a woman that was shot blank in the head by her boyfriend. Bullet entered one of her eye sockets and exited above her and ear on the same side. She called 911 on her own and survived, was in ICU for weeks, and testified against the guy who is now thankfully in prison!


5. Just a Little More Time


About 20 years ago, I had a patient come in with obstruction of his colon by large colon cancer. The cancer had spread to his liver, and CT scan showed the liver basically replaced by metastatic tumor. So he wouldn't die of intestinal obstruction (I won't go into detail, but trust me, it is a very unpleasant way to die) the patient, his family, and I decided to try placing an expandable metal stent through the tumor. It worked! His obstruction was relieved and he was able to go home to spend his last days with his family.

18 months later the patient came in for an office visit...for heartburn. He was even more jaundiced than when I first met him, but he felt basically well and was eating well. The stent was still functioning. I never saw him again and assume he finally succumbed to his disease, but he got at least 18 months of precious and really GOOD time.


4. Helmet Reminder

Paramedic of 15 years. Had an 8 year old kid on a ripstick (similar to a skateboard) lose control and roll into the path of an oncoming SUV in his neighborhood. He was hit by then run over by it. We arrived to find him face down under the vehicle, unconscious, barely breathing.

After all was said and done he had: bilateral femur fractures, one lower leg fracture, multiple rib fractures, a blown pupil, and open skull fracture, subdural brain bleed, a tension pneumo (air escaping lungs into the chest cavity--will squish the lungs and heart if untreated), and when we were bagging him (breathing for him) we felt subcutaneous emphysema (free air that crackles like rice crispies/bubble wrap) in his hip... yes hip.

We flew him to the children's hospital expecting him to die within the hour. He was in a coma for days and had to have multiple surgeries, but made a complete recovery (100% neurologically intact as well) and graduates high school in the spring. His was such an amazing case the hospital made him one of their "miracle kids of the year".

Parents- please make your kids wear helmets. Even in the neighborhood. It wouldn't have prevented all of his injuries, but would have substantially lessened the brain trauma he suffered.

-- firefightin

3. Pace Yourself

Old guy comes in with his wife. She tells me "he passed out last week and I couldn't wake him up. After about two minutes he came around and he didn't want to go to the hospital so we booked an appointment to see you."

I'm a little concerned by this, and his heart rate is a little slow so I send him for an EKG (heart rhythm tracing). I get a call about an hour later from the cardiologist reviewing the EKG calmly thanking me for sending him in because the wiring in his heart essentially wasn't working and he could drop dead at any moment... again. Because the week before, he hadn't passed out - he'd died. Through some lucky miracle his heart started again. He's got a pacemaker now and he and his wife are doing just great.

2. Something Rotten


Responded to a well being check (basically check on someone no one has heard from in a while). Get there and police advise the woman is dead and appeared to be so for a while (middle of summer). Can smell her before getting close to house, put on protective gear and air packs to move the body. We go to carefully move her into body bag and she opens her eyes and gasps. She was alive and rotting alive, we got her to the hospital alive and she lived.

1. Thank Goodness There Weren't Any Fish

(Worked) in diagnostic imaging at a hospital and we had a man come in for an x-ray complaining of chest pain. His records showed his last visit was two years prior when he got drunk and fell into a fish tank, breaking it. ER stitched him up and sent him home. Fast forward two years, and we are all gathered around the computer screen looking at an X-ray that showed a 12 inch long piece of fish tank glass sitting in his chest, with his aorta resting right on top of it (it was on an angle running from his left shoulder down towards his right hip). There were other shards of glass too, but this one was the biggest. Emergency surgery happened right away.


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