When you work in healthcare, you witness the best and the worst life has to offer.

One of the worst parts of the job has to be delivering horrible news.

I always wondered if doctors think about holding back on bad news delivery in hopes of a better result in the end.

You have to tell the truth, but there are shades of truth.

Or maybe you deliver in stages as long as it's medically safe and ethical.

Does anyone agree?

Redditor common_currency asked the medical community:

"When did you have to tell a patient 'I've seen it all before' to comfort them, but really you had never seen something so bad, or of that nature?"

Just for any future docs reading, I like my bad news in stages.

The Rebuild

"I had to have my leg rebuilt after a car accident and was eventually sent to Duke university for my surgery. My surgeon was supposed to be like the best orthopedic surgeon in the country, I think he used to work for the Baltimore ravens. Anyway all the doctors from my hospital at home were very unsure if I would even have a functioning leg let alone walk normal again."

"The first appointment at Duke that dude told me it was really not a big deal and he would have me fixed almost good as new. I honestly thought he was just trying to be nice and optimistic but he was very serious. 5 months later I was walking and learning how to run again. He said I was one of the most complicated surgeries he has had to do and a group of surgeons flew in to observe him do it."


Get your teeth cleaned...

"In dental school, I had an emergency patient come in, complaining of sore gums. Upon examination, I found a massive calculus bridge (google it for pictures) behind her lower front teeth. She only had about 3 remaining lower teeth, but they were all connected with a whitish brown mineral deposit that was about the size of a golf ball. She had never had her teeth cleaned and she was probably 55 or so."

"I basically performed an emergency cleaning. She could speak so much better afterwords. Of course I had to play it off like it was normal, but in my years of practice I still haven’t seen a case that bad again. Get your teeth cleaned people. Even if you can’t afford every 6 months, once a year, or every other year is a hell of a lot better than never."



"I'm a nurse and I work in a pediatric ER. A young woman brought her baby in to be seen for vomiting. I ask her to put the baby on the scale. While on the scale I notice a strong odor of bug spray so I asked about it.

"Mom: 'A roach crawled into her mouth so I sprayed a little Raid in there.' She said it matter of factually like it was no big deal."

"Que up calls to the police, CPS and a 1:1 sitter for the child and the mom. When all was said and done the baby was fine and turned over to her grandmother so no worries there. I have no idea what happened to the mother. I don't believe she was intending to hurt the child. I think she was just butt-a** ignorant."



"I worked as a mental health tech to get through undergrad."

"15F in the adolescent ward claims to have swallowed a staple. Eh, but whatever, as I’m taking her down to x-ray I tell her about the dime I swallowed when I was a kid. It happens."

"Well, turns out she underestimated the number of staples by around a hundred. Every printout given by the therapists had been a swallowed staple."

"She had gotten staples from the other kids. The x-ray of her abdomen looked as if it were a weird staple-y snow globe."

"And yet, somehow, she was back to trying to steal psych ward staples a week later. Never did figure out how they removed them all."


Oh Auntie...

"My aunt started her nursing career in a county hospital, which means you get all the homeless folks. A guy came in with the whole of the back of his leg and butt utterly and very deeply infested with maggots. He just 'hadn't gotten around to' coming in earlier, he said."

"The depressing thing is that while it was a first for my aunt, it was by no means the last. Apparently it's more common than you'd think."


I've fainted three times already.

Like the Exorcist

"A little late to the party—"

"Not the worst, but I had a patient once with a stomach bleed and a small bowel obstruction. We had to put in an NG tube (tube that goes in your nose and down to your stomach) to drain/decompress his stomach, which was pretty distended and hard."

"I’m inserting the tube and has soon as it hits this guy’s gag reflex he projectile vomits and SPRAYS very dark, half digested blood all over himself, the bed, the wall, and the floor. It’s basically a scene from the exorcist. I had to dive out of the way and somehow was unscathed. He couldn’t stop for almost ten minutes as we’re trying to get this thing down to where it needs to go."

"Finally finish placement and it immediately suctions out ~3 liters of this black sludge that is old, digested blood. Pt was mortified and we had to play it off like 'oh no no it’s fine, it’s really common to vomit during the procedure. We’ll just go get some towels and clean you up!' My coworker and I left the room and just stared at each other in silent shock."


the left side is gone...

"Not medical professionals, but we were the patients. My daughter, who was 3 at the time, had to have a cavity filled. As we were leaving, the dentist told me just to watch my daughter because sometimes kids chew their gums because it's numb and feels weird."

"So the drive home took 30 minutes and I had been talking to my daughter the entire time to keep her busy. I park my car in my drive way, opened the passenger seat to get my daughter out, and her entire lower lip on the left side is gone. She had chewed it off down to her chin."

"She ended up in emergency surgery, but the surgeon kept telling us it would be fine and he sees this stuff all the time. She ended up having multiple surgeries, and when she was finally healed, the surgeon told us that it was the worst injury like that he had ever seen. He wasn't sure how she would heal, but you can hardly tell it happened now."


A gentle push...

"Not a medical professional, but a story about my father."

"After years of a blood disease, his spleen had to be removed as it had swollen to a size that made breathing difficult. Apparently the surgeon had a photo taken, post extraction, where he is cradling my dad's ~22.0 lb spleen."

"To top it off, one day into recovery, when doing on of those 'gentle push on the abdomen' type exams on him, my dad's sutures catastrophically failed and he let loose a spray that coated the doctor, his nurse, and a good portion of the ceiling. Luckily for dad, the hospital staff was on point that day and kept him alive despite his body's best effort."

"I heard all of this from the doctor while he was removing the line of staples (that went from crotch to sternum) some weeks later."

"Dad didn't like to share, apparently."



Elaine Benes Fainting GIF by HULUGiphy

"A patient with rectal cancer with an exposed colon and rectum. I could see her tailbone and and the head of the femur. And whenever she would poop, it could collect inside this open cavity and had to be flushed out."


Too Late

"I’m a pediatric nurse, and triaged a young girl with a rash, mom had been to several doctors and they didn’t know what it was. I recognized it right away called Stevens-Johnson syndrome, I remained calm, patient was flown to a burn center, but died. I had only seen it once before and it was fatal for that patient too."


I don't know medical personnel do it. Bless...