For most of us, a bad day at work might mean a missed deadline, having to fire off a few snarky "per my last email"s or maybe a snoozefest of a meeting. For medical professionals, a bad day at work can mean literally the worst - or last - day of someone's life.
These are those stories.
Reddit user J0E_The_Psych0121 asked:
Doctors/surgeons/nurses of reddit, what's the worst thing you experienced while at work?
We're going to caution you, if you've got a weak stomach for talking about bodily fluids (or solids... or semi-solids) or you're easily upset by talk of death or dying, proceed with caution. This article will have plenty of it all.
The responses were sometimes funny in retrospect, but for the most part they ranged from disgusting to heartbreaking to disgustingly heartbreaking. Take a look.
Go Through It Alone
"Taking care of a fall patient that broke her pelvis. She just found out her husband had cancer and she wouldn't be there for him. She was crying, telling me that he was there for every appointment and treatment when she had cancer, and now he'd have to go through it alone. She felt like she was failing him or letting him down."
"She About To Die Anyway"
"Watching another nurse pulling a fall mat away from a patients floor next to her bed. When asked why, she said flatly (in front of the patient!) "She about to die anyway."
"The patients mouth was stuck open because she was so emaciated, but she could still cry. Her frozen face somehow allowed her to still cry after she heard that, and she did for a long time. I sat there with her. The patient was in custody of the state (a mental hospital) and they chose to withhold food and water as a type of forced DNR (do not resuscitate.)"
"Part of a DNR type of plan can include refusing artificial ways of being fed like a feeding tube etc... and if someone else is in charge of making you a DNR or not because you've been deemed not of sound mind, then yes that can happen. A lot of mental patients have no family and their "guardians" are the state. The state doesn't know the patient and will chose whatever option they want, typically the most "cost effective" one which can lead to situations like this."
"She was around 90 something. We were forced to watch her slowly starve to death and were not cleared to give her enough medication to ease her awareness of it."
"The nurse who made that heartless comment in front of the patient was reported, but I don't know what happened because I quit right after that."
The Longest Incident Report
"Former Paramedic, long story short, got a call for what turned out to be a very dead, decomposing man who had passed alone in his apartment. His body was filled with gas (fairly common.) As I'm standing by the body calling the hospital to give them a heads up about what's about to come their way and get approval to move, the new EMT decides to poke gas filled body. It explodes. He loses a hand and a trillion vaporized bits of dead old man cover me, got in my open mouth, under my clothes, etc. Taste was...awful."
"A lot of gas can accumulate in dead bodies, and if it gets trapped, it can be almost like a bomb. New guy was kneeling next to the body, I think this was his first serious call because he had that kind of glazed-over, "I'm in shock" look in his eyes, and he put his hand on the guy's stomach. NEVER press on bloated dead body's stomach. His hand sank down into this bloated, gas filled sack until said sack just..broke."
"My crew chief said it would be like sinking your fist into a box of firecrackers. Honestly, not sure how he came up with that analogy and didn't really work in my mind. But yeah... dead body exploded, got gunk everywhere and took off the EMT's hand."
"After hundreds of showers I could still smell corpse on me. My SO at the time said every time she nuzzled me, or got close to my hair she could smell it too. It was like that for about a week. It still makes me gag to think about - but that new kid's life was pretty much permanently changed."
"Longest Incident Report I have ever filed."
Fear Of Dentists
"This happened when my wife was a student nurse. A guy came in who had broken a tooth; but as he had a morbid fear of dentists and of anything to do with his mouth, he didn't seek any treatment for months and the tooth got horribly infected."
"By the time he came to hospital, he was seriously ill and it was too late. The infection got into his blood and he died a few days later of septicemia. Apparently, the smell from his mouth was the worst smell that any of the staff had ever experienced."
Why I Gave Up On Pediatrics
"This case in my internship made me give up on specializing in pediatrics."
"Young boy got brought in for rheumatic heart disease, already in heart failure. Apparently this all started from a minor skin infection and went all the way up into his heart valves. We met him already in the pediatric ICU. He was still conscious and able to talk, and so for his first day we built a sort of rapport."
"The next morning, before my friends and I clocked out, he wasn't looking so great so the resident in charge called in the general surgery team to perform a cutdown to expose his veins for access. I had to hold down the poor kid during the procedure, since local anesthesia could only do so much. He was screaming so I told him, "Just hold on, we'll get through this!"
"He nodded and said "Okay" then tried his best to be brave."
"That was the last conversation we had. When I came in for my next shift, he was already intubated. The only parent with him was his father, since his mother was employed overseas. Now for many of these cases, a letter to the employer is needed to explain why so and so must go home in this case of family emergency. I volunteered to draft the letter and send it out so we could get this lady on a flight soon, and have her come home for her son."
"As soon as I put the last period on that letter I was typing in the nurse's station, the kid coded just a few feet away. We couldn't bring him back. The next worst part, of course, was telling his father what had just happened and asking if he wanted us to stop the resuscitation. That conversation will stay with me."
"No one should have to bury a child due to something so preventable."
Death Over Debt
"The saddest one was a woman who had an aggressive but treatable cancer. She was riddled with guilt from all the debt her family was incurring and broke down when she told me she wished she would just die soon so that the debt would stop accumulating. That one hurt to hear."
When Mom Only Wants One Baby
"Respiratory therapist here. When I was a student we had to do a rotation through a NICU/PICU. The NICU was very busy with 7 or 8 sets of twins all on mechanical ventilation. As the therapist I was with was giving me a generalized report on the babies and trying to teach me about the disease states the babies were experiencing, she said "and mom only wants one of them" and moved on like it was nothing."
"I asked if it was common if a family only wanted one baby and she said "Oh, yes. all the times. sometimes it's because one baby is a lot worse than the other and mom doesn't want to get too attached in case it doesn't make it, or, like those two over there, mom can only afford one of them."
"I couldn't believe something like that took place and was as common place as it was. Made me never want to work in pediatrics. The human experience is far, far worse than the traumas and illnesses."
"People think they want everything possible done to save them until they see what that means on a dying family member. We had it happen in our family. It took two months for her spouse to finally let their dying partner go and the shock and grief made our younger daughter not talk for a year. I went gray in those two months and my husband barely spoke during that time. Death with dignity should be available for anyone who needs it."
"Our younger daughter is back to singing again after years of therapy. We all wish more people knew the importance of medical wishes being filed before things go really wrong so that nobody else suffers the way my family member did because of someone that just doesn't want to let go. She needlessly suffered and it devastated everyone else."
"I worked a temp job for a local hospital's home health/hospice department. One of my jobs was to call new patients and confirm their address before the nurse and/or therapist would make their first visit. I had to call this one patient who tried to take his own life by jumping in front of a commuter train."
"When I called, his uncle answered and went on a twenty minute rant about how worthless his nephew was and how he was a complete burden on the family now and that it would have been better if he died. I understand suicide can be seen as a selfish act but my heart went out to this guy."
"The patient obviously had some stuff going on to push to the point of attempting to end his life and then for him to survive and have to listen to his family member say such harsh things... it was brutal to say the least. I often wonder what happened to him."
Diarrhea Blood FountainGiphy
"I was a 3rd year med student on my 3 month internal medicine rotation. For people who don't know, this is generally the time in your life where you feel the most stupid every minute of every day."
"I had arrived for work just barely on time (at 430 am) for my 573 hour shift. Of course I was dressed to the nines because medicine is stupid sometimes and you have to dress to impress. Tie, nice shoes, slacks, button up, that sort of thing. Might as well have had on tails and a top hat. Imagine a monocole for effect."
"I started rounding of course. I went in to see a patient I will call "Mr. Hipaa." I had seen him for several days at this point and he was usually pretty chipper. He had been in the ICU for a GI bleed, but had done great and now stepped down to the floor. This morning he wasn't talking very much. That's not unusual though, it was 442 AM and I was barely conscious myself. But something felt off and there was just an odor in the room."
"My spider sense was tingling so I checked the bathroom. They always say you only have to smell melena once to never forget. This was my once. The floor, the toilet, the walls, were covered in that inky black anal spray. I was assaulted by the pungent aroma of iron shavings and death. It was icky. So I went, "Oh. Mr. Hipaa I'll be right back!"
"I toddled off to find one of my residents. Those lazy bums didn't usually wander in until after 5. Managed to find my chief who seemed uninterested in what I had to say. I wasn't chicken little, I had never cried wolf before. I remember this seemed fairly important and him showing no interest whatsoever. Bad resident, no donut."
"So I went to the real power on the floor, the nurses station."
"They promptly did the wrong thing too."
"They check his BP and systolic is in the low 80s. Prior had always hovered in the 130/40s. My internal dialogue is screaming "that boy aint right!" but my third year medical student body is standing there, now surrounded by multiple nurses, just trying not to get in the way and trying not to look even more stupid or say the wrong thing."
"Well, they want to move him to the chair. I still all these years later have no idea why. I managed to squeak out a "Should we be standing him up right now given the crazy low BP and massive blood loss?" but an MS3 speaking is like a fart in the wind so I went unheard."
"So we stand him up. I'm holding on to his left arm, another nurse on his right. He had little strength to support himself. A half a gallon of blood-tinged feces (or feces tinged blood?) promptly falls out of him and on to the floor. I mean it literally fell. Imagine moving your china cabinet and it tilts a little bit and the dishes just FALL. It didn't squirt, or spray. It just fell as a mass, hitting the floor and splashing out."
"At that point Mr. Hipaa decides, "Enough with being conscious!" and promptly passes out. It could have been something to do with he now had a Hgb around 3 and went from laying to standing with a BP on the lower end of life compatibility. Now I'm a regular sized big guy, 6' 200 pounds. My nurse was 5'3 120. Mr. Hipaa was 6'3 250. There was no stopping this fall once it began. Timmmmbbbeeeeeerrrrrr He fell face forward and planted... right into his bed! Crisis averted! My moment of joy was instantly changed to terror as I looked down at his bare behind, jack-knifed into the air like a Whataburger A-Frame. Then it happened."
"Diarrhea blood fountain."
"The perfect symmetry of it as it exploded from him is something I'll never forget. It was like the Bellagio, or Buckingham fountain in Chicago. Just this perfect fluid dynamic cone that reached a foot and a half into the air then gently allowed gravity to pull it down making that gorgeous trumpet like flare."
"Except it was made of diarrhea and blood."
"I, in my tie and fancy clothes suddenly became Neo from the matrix. My concrete pillars were the various nurses. They took hit after hit, while I dodged like Christian Bale in Equilibrium. I danced, I juked, I spun like no one has ever spun before. I was the Fred Astaire of sh*t swerving."
"When it was all said and done, three nurses lost their lives that day (meaning were covered in feces and blood) while I, who had been staring down that fleshy barrel, had gotten away without one speck of red or brown or black on me."
"The outcome? Mr. Hipaa went back to the ICU, little bit of PRBC, another embolization and he was home happy and healthy two weeks later, I got in trouble for not letting my resident know what was going on (WHAT?!), And as far as I'm aware those nurses are still showering to this day."
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/
We thank all the medical professionals out there for their commitment to their patients.
Do you have any experiences to share? Let us know in the comments below.