Emergency Room Professionals Share Their Best "How The Hell Did That Happen?" Moments


The medical profession puts you in a unique position to almost always see people at their worst. And sometimes, the things that happen completely blow your mind.

u/FatherOf3MasterOf0 asked:

ER doctors/nurses/professionals of Reddit, what is something you saw in the ER that made you say, "how the hell did that happen"?

Here were some of the answers.


I got called to our local limited-capability ER to transport a patient and a critical care team to a trauma center. I get into the ER and head over the to patient. The patient's room is a *horrible* mess. Dressings everywhere, blood on the ceiling and on the floor. Imagine any scene from any over-acted movie where a medical professional yells "don't you die on me!" Like that.

On the bed is lying an older woman with her leg exposed and the doctor is doing some stitches on her shin. No biggie - the kind of thing you'd expect the doctor to spend 5 minutes on deciding if a band-aid was good enough or if it actually needed surgery. It completely failed to line up with the scene around them, like the housekeeping department was on strike or something.

Anyways, it turns out that the woman had banged her shin into the steps of a shuttle bus. Her husband then drove her to the ER closest to their house (45 minutes away), bypassing 6+ different hospitals, including the one we ended up taking her to. Apparently, when she walked into the ER she said to the registration nurse "I think I'm going to die" and the nurse responded "I think you're right!"

Turns out she was on aspirin, and warfarin, and some form of chemo. She had virtually no clotting factors, and the ones she had left were inhibited. So what for most people would have been an annoying bleed which would have easily been controlled with pressure after a few minutes was a very small, uncontrolled arterial bleed which sprayed *everywhere*. We got her down to the trauma center without any additional complications, but I have no follow-up from there.


Ze Poop

Had a toddler come in for noisy breathing. Wasn't in distress and his numbers were fine but it was a noise none of us had heard before.

X-ray was clear. When doing a throat swab, the other nurse with me saw something shiny way in the back and we pulled out a long clear straw wrapper.

Had another kid come in with a tree branch stuck in his abdomen. The tree branch was so big it had smaller branches still coming out.

Had a teenage girl come in, big round belly. Mom said she's pregnant, kid insists she's not. 2 negative pregnancy tests later she confesses she hasn't pooped in 2 months. She required 2 surgeries to clear out all of her stool. How she never ruptured her intestines and gone septic is beyond me.


Eyes On The Prize

I saw a man being carted out of the ambulance and into the emergency room with both of his eyeballs popped out of his head and resting gently in each of his hands. He was not panicking or sedated—just sitting there patiently holding his eyeballs.


Can I Axe How That Happened?

First day in my med school ER rotation... self inflicted axe in the chest. Apparently he was chopping wood and it "bounced" back from a mis-strike and lodged in his sternum. It wasn't deep but it stuck.


Backwards Steps

I got an order to do an xray on an ankle at 2am. I roll into the room and the mans foot is on backwards but nothing was broken. All the Dr had to do was pull super hard straight down and it snapped back onto place like a rubber band. The story was he touched a stripper and the bouncer showed him who was boss. I'm still confused on the mechanics of any of this.


Battle Scars

Nurse here! I once took care of a man with multiple gunshot wounds and required major surgical operation. It was odd because the man was not the person you would expect for that kind of wound. He was in his 90's and I was expecting a younger man thinking it may have been gang violence but nope. He was shot in ww2 with a bullet that splintered in his abdomen. He had bullets stuck in him from the war but never had them fully removed. Which explained the heavy duty lead levels. Absolute miracle he lived as long as he did with all that. Probably the coolest patient I ever had.



Guy cheated on his girlfriend. She got him drunk and he passed out. She wrapped him in "duct tape tightey whiteys" real tight. He tried for 24 hours to get them off. Finally came to the ED. Skin was necrotic from lack of blood supply and ended up with multiple debridements in the OR. Won't ever be able to cheat again.


Honorable Discharge

Not me, my brother while in med school. Guy walks into emergency room with the handle of a butcher knife sticking out from under one eye. They x-ray him and find that yes, the whole knife is there, sticking into his skull. X-ray and neurological tests indicate that he was really lucky, knife didn't do any serious nerve or brain damage. After some debate, they decided to pull the knife out, but it's really stuck. Eventually they lay the guy on his back, ER doc takes off his shoe, climbs up on the gurney, puts his foot on the patient's forehead and heaves the knife out. They put the guy on the ward and the next morning the cops show up to ask him about it. Guy says, "Never mind, I'll take care of it." Next day while no one is looking, guy gets up and walks out.

For people who didn't show up for their yearbook photo, they substituted the x-ray of the guy with the knife in his head.



A friend was doing med school placement in rural India when an old lady came in with abdominal and genital pain. When they examined her vagina they found tentacles going all over the shop and when they imaged her belly they found the same tentacles. Turned out she had prolapsed her uterus and had shoved a potato in as a makeshift pessary... it seems vaginas are the perfect place for potatoes to grow a root system. The roots had grown out of her vagina, as well as through her uterus into her abdominal wall.


Near Miss

Radiologist here.

Had a head CT that showed a chopstick shoved in a ladies ear 1-2 mm away from all her inner ear structures, which would've definitely made her deaf and probably caused chronic infections as well.

She was in prison and tried killing herself.


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