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People Whose Lives Have Been Rocked By DNA Services Like 23andMe Reveal What Happened

There's often a dark side to having your DNA heritage tested - you might found out you're not who you think you are. But that's the risk, and maybe if everyone got their DNA tested, there would less racism in the world. Personally, I'm open-minded, and family isn't only defined by blood.

gonegirlss asked: People whose families have been destroyed by 23andme and other DNA sequencing services, what went down?

Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.

50. Dad got around.

I've been searching for my father my whole life and through 23andme I just found a half-brother, finally answering the question. Our father is unfortunately passed, but we're meeting in person in April.

A couple weeks after we found each other we were also contacted by another half-sister.


Damn good luck, but dad sure got around.


49. Aliens.

My brother got our whole family 23andMe kits for Christmas last year. Everyone did the swab and got their results back which showed how we're all related and yada yada yada, but my results came back inconclusive. 23andMe sent me a new kit to do it again and THAT one also came back inconclusive. So the company sent me an email basically saying I can never do it again probably because I'm using a bunch of resources with no results.

Anyway now my family says I don't have any human DNA and that I must be a lizard. They make lizard sounds when I'm around and I am ashamed.


Someone has gone to a lot of effort to block your DNA truth...

Whats ur mum been up to?


Emotionally, at this point in my life, I cannot deal with the idea that my mom cheated on my dad with a lizard.


48. What are the odds?

Kind of the opposite. I found out I have an older sister, apparently my dad was being a little promiscuous lol. RIP old man. And she also shares my birthday, what are the chances?!

Edit: for everyone sending me the probability, I get it lol. I just meant it's crazy that I found out I have an estranged older sister who just so happens to share my birthday as well. Pretty crazy to me anyway.




1/365.25 forgot to factor in leap year.


47. When your dad isn't your dad.

I just got off the phone with my newly found bio dad. My mom died in 1980, my dad in 2012. I logged Friday in to AncestryDNA to get my results from their Black Friday sale. It said that this person in NC was my father, no doubt. Turns out it was my moms boyfriend before my dad came along. I have no idea if anyone knew. My newly found father certainly didn't.


How was that conversation? You must be feeling a lot of feels!


I am indeed full of the feels. But I've had 24 hours to think about and cyber stalk the guy, I just sprung it on him at 6pm last night. I need to let him process.


46. This is pretty cool.

I discovered that I have some of the highest known Neanderthal DNA, more than 99% users and over 4% of my total DNA. 3 tests submitted and a flight provided to a university in Australia for a testing. Was cool at first, and then not.

It bothered my wife a bit at first thanks to watching a couple documentaries.


Not trying to sound rude, but are you different physically because of your higher than normal percentage of neanderthal DNA?


It's possible. A professor wouldn't talk to me directly, he talked to 20 other people about my x-rays and stuff. A lot was about my chest/torso, and arms and stuff.


45. This can't be easy to learn.

Not me, but one of my bar regulars did the test with her older sister. Turns out not only are they not related to each other, but both of them are adopted. And, their adoptive parents are both dead. And, their entire extended family knew the whole time but no one ever told them.


Bright side, two people chose very deliberately to adopt them as they were and raise them as their own and that's beautiful.


44. Malpractice much?

My 75-year-old grandmother just found out her dad was not her real dad. Turns out her mom had an affair with the family doctor and never told a single soul. Not only did she find out her family doctor was her real dad (the one who birthed not only her but also all of her own children) but turns out this family doctor was sleeping with a lot his patients. She now has a bunch of new half sisters and brothers, some of them knew who their real dad was and some of them didn't. My great grandmother was quite the secret keeper.


This just happened a lot in the past. Regardless if they are patients, it's an ethical violation even if the relationship was consensual. The power differential makes it an abuse of his position.


43. A common theme, it seems.

My dad turned out not to be my dad. So the basic 23andMe family surprise I guess? Also found out that my heritage can best be described as white mystery.


White mystery sounds like a bad chocolate truffle name.


42. Ouch.

When my birth mom was pregnant with me she was too ashamed to admit who my father was. She was too young to be a mom and so she gave me to my current parents when I was born. (they were 10 years older than her and already had a kid) I love my parents and couldn't care who my birth father was but I wanted to see what I was made of.

Everyone was pretty pissed when we found out my dad was my birth dad.


That's a hell of a twist.


Honey, we have to tell you something....

You're... not adopted.


41. Mama was busy.

Not destroyed, it just confirmed what we already knew that there was more than one Father between 5 siblings. At least three as it turned out.


Yup. Love my mom but my late grandmother told me she had doubts that my older brother was my dads kid. Also, there is doubts of 2 of my half siblings who my father fought legally to gain custody of when they were very young.

We've agreed we'd rather not know and just be our own little messed up family of 6 children who love each other and their nieces/nephews dearly.

My siblings and I choose to love each other regardless of who is biologically related to who.


40. When Catholic guilt has its revenge.

Spouse found out his dad wasn't his dad. His judgmental holier than thou Catholic mom had some explaining to do. He lost an immense amount of respect for her, especially when the bio dad tried to reach out to him. She is still in contact with the married man she had an affair with over 4 decades ago. He refuses to speak to him and has limited contact with her.


That's brutal. Did his non bio dad find out too? That's got to be terrible to find out after so many years. I hope they still have a good relationship.


Yep, he did and they still have a good relationship. My husband doesn't discuss it with him because he doesn't want his mothers lies to compromise the relationship he's had for 4 decades.


39. Alzheimer's is terrifying and devastating. Would you want to know if you have the gene?

My grandpa passed away from Alzheimer's, so my family uploaded our raw DNA to another site to see if any of us have the same genes that make it likely for any of the rest of us to have it as well. Luckily most of us didn't have the gene my grandpa had, but my uncles have it. So while my immediate family knows we've got average chances, my poor uncles are probably dreading the future.

Edit: I used Promethease.


Yeah I'm trying to decide if I would want that information about myself or not. On the one hand, I like having information and planning. On the other hand, knowing that would probably make me sick with anxiety.


That's the other thing, we figure if we know, then we can do whatever we can to look out for things and actively try to prevent them. I think it was good for me, because I saw high probabilities for stuff like diabetes and heart problems that I already knew ran in my family. Things like this, I can actively try to prevent. But for things like Alzheimer's, I think living with the anxiety would be tough. Also, people are still figuring out DNA, so obviously you have to take results with a grain of salt, and it's hard to decide if it's worth the anxiety in case the results aren't even accurate.


38. I want a new family in France.

Ours was backwards. A French lady messaged my mom and said she thought they shared a father. Very believable because Papa was a proven whore. Sure enough she did a 23andMe and sure enough yep. Rest in peace.


Ay a new family member.


Yeap. I haven't talked to her yet. Mostly because I barely have time to give my mom attention let alone an aunt who I'd have to use Google translate with. I do think my other full aunts are sort of upset but not my mom. My mom realizes it isn't half aunt's fault. She was adopted out and has 4 or 5 other siblings on her mom's side all of them were adopted out and one of them ended up near us in america. Her bio mom really liked to sleep American soldiers apparently.

Anyways, she looks exactly like my great grandma!


37. Money money money money... money.

Husband found cousin who informed him of the passing of his estranged father. Father had some money in bank, family fought over the money.


Who won?


They got the money even though they wanted nothing to do with him when alive. They still fought between themselves over it. So much more about this family they are piece of work. I have barely any contact with them.


36. When your DNA contains genetic fossils.

My family wasn't destroyed, but my Grandpa held the family record for Neanderthal DNA variants and I broke the family record by just a few. I have 1 more than my mom. I just thought I'd share.

Edit: Lots of people are asking. I have 318 variants, my mom has 317, and my grandpa has ~312.


Ever get the urge to paint a cave?


Every day.


Would you say that you relate to the Flintstones on a personal level?


Yes. sometimes I just Yabba Dabba do.


Ever feel like calling the ACLU on Geico for "so easy a caveman could do it?"


Definitely. My caveman blood starts to boil and I consider a civil lawsuit every time.


civil lawsuit

As is the caveman way.


35. No Danny Boy!


I found out I'm not Irish after taking one.... I have an Irish tattoo. My mom's family always bragged about how Irish we were. My life obviously wasn't destroyed but funny anyways.

It was over twenty years ago, I was 18 and stupid. The tattoo is a nautical compass with a Celtic knot in the middle on my shoulder. Josh__1980

34. Is this Sex Ed?

Can't speak for myself but one of my old high school teachers took an Ancestry DNA test and found out his dad wasn't actually his biological father. His mom had cheated on her husband. He joked around so much that when he told our class, I thought he was joking. Nope. fionalemon

33. Oh... by the way....

Family wasn't destroyed but my dad found out he has a 43 year old daughter he never knew about that was conceived when he was 16, (I was his oldest, I'm 23) and my mom found out her grandad had an illegitimate child there was no record of. Wild. bright-noise

32. Sounds like an episode of 'Dynasty.'


My mom's coworker (adopted) took the test and found a full sibling match (and then found out she had actually 4 full siblings). The coworker and sibling made contact but couldn't piece together the story so the sibling put her in touch with her bio parents. Both of them flat out denied that she was their daughter and freaked out.

After a few go-arounds with the parents, the dad admitted to this lady that she was their daughter but the mother had gotten pregnant super young and they weren't ready to start a family so they sent her to one of those homes where she gave birth and immediately put her up for adoption. Then the parents just decided it never happened and lived their lives (got married, had kids) like they didn't give their first born child up for adoption because of societal pressures. But the mother actually believes she never had this first daughter because of some psychotic break and cannot accept her own reality as truth. ToniLobotomy

31. The Unwanted....

My wife has a cousin that was adopted. He was finally able to find his bio parents and he had several full siblings. As an only child, he was so happy and reached out only to be told he wasn't one of them. He was dropped off for adoption because he was born after the parents divorce and no one wanted him, including his siblings. Really heartbreaking to hear about because he'd always wanted this big family and they wouldn't accept him. PhukYoo2

30. Leaving well enough alone.... 

It's not something that has happened but it's a fear I have. I don't have the same father as the rest of my siblings and it's not a secret but I'm the only one who knows my father was not a past boyfriend but just some psycho who kidnapped and assaulted my mother. My younger (half) sister is always carrying on about all of us getting those things done and has insinuated she's thinking of buying us all a kit. I'm really apprehensive about that because if my sperm donor has other family members who have done it, and that's not far fetched at all, I'll be linked to them and I DO NOT WANT THAT. I think I know who he was and I definitely don't want confirmation of that staring me in the face, or relatives of his trying to get in touch with me, or anything else like that at all. ChristopherRabbit

29. It's never too late....

My grandmother found out she was adopted and had two sisters with kids who also.... have kids. opened some new chapters and closed some too. She is 76 years old. beachmasterbogeynut

28. A Score! 

Actually wasn't destroyed, added an aunt that was older than my grandparent's relationship so it meant no cheating. I'm just sad that she was never given the opportunity to meet her dad. She is an extremely charitable person and I am excited to meet her at some point. papablessurprivilege

Meet her soon. We just found my Mom's family a couple years ago, we've been looking for 20ish years. The coolest person, my uncle, just passed away from a surprising illness. I meet him all of three times. It was meeting him that helped me realized I wasn't the only one in the family like me, introverted with a very strange humor. He was in his late 50's.... You don't know how long you have. rawrvenger

27. This Family is Closed.... 

My aunt's birth mom was married when she got pregnant by my granddad. Her mom's husband wasn't a fan of raising someone else's kid so they sent her to live with other family members.

This was before my granddad and grandmom were together but my grandmom was still pretty upset that he had a kid with someone else (even though he didn't know about her).

My aunt is a very charitable person and never got a chance to meet her dad either. Most of my family is pretty closed-minded and don't want to associate with her. They all seem to think she wants something from us (i.e. money) but all she wants is to get to know her dad's side of the family. Tanlyss

26. Infidelity Wars

Family wasn't destroyed... But we are still trying to figure out who cheated. It's narrowed down to between two or three generations. But not exactly sure who it was. ancientflowers

Same thing happened with us. My great-great grandfather cheated on his pregnant wife with the neighbor. My aunt found out when she had a match with a stranger and they found out they lived in the same town in the late 1800s. lillian0

25. Schoolmates. 

My mother got an extra half sister, about the same age as her younger sister, and turned out they were in the same class at school and there is one photo of them together in a school photo about age 15. No big dramas, grandfather who did the dirty has been dead over 30 years so he escaped it. Surviving siblings were a little miffed and my mother recalled a temporary split of her parents, but it caused no big drama. finackles

24. Fingers Crossed... 

I have just sent mine in, and I'm anxiously awaiting the results. I was adopted at birth, and met my biological parents 10 years ago (I found them after an exhaustive search). My bio father's mother (my bio grandmother) was adopted at birth, and my biological mother was adopted as well. I pretty much know about 25% of my background (bio grandpa), and my whole family is curious to see what comes out of it! mechanchic

23. Thank you God! 

I wouldn't say mine was destroyed but it was definitely a Godsend. When my grandma passed, my aunt went through her old journals and found out three of her five kids weren't fathered by my drunken, abusive grandfather. One of the non-biological children was my dad. I hated my relatives - my family is full of, I kid you not, drug kings (my uncle), thieves, and jailbirds. My dad confirmed through ancestry that not only is the a**hole who raised him not his father, but he's apparently of the swap-babies of the 60's, so his mother isn't even his mother. He cut ties with everyone since he's no longer got any obligation to talk to anyone. AstronomyWhore

22. Photo Proof


This is related but not from a DNA test. My father always told us stories about how his father was very hard on him and very generous to his sister. My grandmother divorced his father when he was young and married grandpa's best friend. He, grandma's second husband, died before I was born so I'd never met him. When I was in college I was looking through some old photos to get a picture of grandma and grandpa for some project I was doing.

I found a close up black and white old time looking picture of my father in his forties or so that I had never seen before. Strangely, he had blonde hair. My father had dark, almost black hair for most of his life. I turned the picture over, it was dated forty years ago and was labeled with the name of my grandmothers SECOND husband, my grandfathers BEST FRIEND. They were virtually identical. Being the stupid girl that I was, I pointed it out to my father who went ballistic! It seems I stumbled upon a family secret, a very painful family secret. Blameking27

21. Oh Brother..... 

I am in the process of finding out! I clearly have a half brother and no one knows who this person is! We share an insane amount of DNA cMs but not quite enough to be full siblings. It is weird and he won't answer my messages on It says he hasn't logged in since April though. pillow_pooter

20. A new Dad....

No destruction, but 23andme showed me the dad who I knew as a child (left early, so no real relationship) wasn't my bio dad. Then about a year later, my sister on my bio dad's side (I thought I was an only child and didn't know who bio dad was) reached out because 23andme told her about me. Now I have a bio dad, a brother, and a sister. They are all really nice and we are all trying to forge a new relationship.

They are all coming over in about 2 hours where my wife and daughter will meet the dad for the first time. They've already met the brother and sister. I have nothing but good things to say about what 23andme did for me. caudron

19. Lovers & Siblings


Throwaway for obvs reasons.

Lived next door to my best friend, and her family, all through my childhood and young adult life. Graduated from high school, friend and I had a weekend bender to celebrate, and hooked up, started dating. Fast forward a few years, to late November this year, we decide to try a test, just for craps and/or giggles.

Turns out she's my half sister on the paternal side. Apparently my dad and her mom had been having an affair, and she got pregnant. Both parents are getting divorced, and we haven't been able to look at each other since. Throwaway11992288336

18. Mystery Solved! 

I mean the East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer went undiscovered for almost 40 years for horrific crimes until one of his relatives spit into a tube for 23andme or one of the other genetics services, matching DNA on file and leading criminologists right to his door.

So that's a bad day for that guy and a great one for the rest of us. UncleGoldie

17. Just Vanilla....

Husband's grandmother was going on and on about how her grandmother was 100% Cherokee Indian. My MIL and I never believed her. The test results come back with zero percent Native American, so she starts saying the whole thing is a huge scam. Honey, no. You're white all the way. hejgurlhej

16. Lost Truth.

Family wasn't destroyed but my hopes for knowing my birth parents were.

Using the DNA testing I found my birth parents (confirmed by CPS documents) and reached out. They want nothing to do with me. I had always imagined some great meeting but now I just know it will never happen.

It hurts to know that they don't want to know me more than not knowing anything. Lalina13

15. Well that's Boring....

In my family there's a lot of tumultuous relationships and occasional infidelity. So after decades of speculation and rumors, a bunch of us decided to get tested through and settle any lingering questions. Frankly we just weren't mentally prepared for the results we received.

Turns out we're all related to each other after all. No mystery babies, new cousins, or missing dads. I'm still shocked and haven't come to terms with it, tbh. Ghost_In_The_Valero

I think this is my favorite. PANTSorGTFO

I like that this is the complete opposite of everything else in this thread. It must suck to know you're related to people you wish you weren't! Star_Statics

14. JERRY!!!!!!!!!!


Jerry Springer would make a great comeback if he partnered with 23andme! s4g4n

I remember when it was about other things aside from "You are (not) the father." episodes. sonicz3r0

13. Fake News

Late to the party but my dad just found out a couple of days before Christmas that none of his sisters are full blooded. My grandma told him that DNA testing is bull so he'll probably never find out who his real father is. spiralpath

12. Lifesavers....

I had a positive outcome. I have had multiple cancers. The latest and reoccurrence of breast cancer. My first visit to the mayo clinic they did a DNA pharmacology test on me. To find out what drugs actually work with my DNA type. They confirmed that the original drugs that I was taking where ineffective with my DNA type. Starting treatment with a new drug regime and hoping for a positive outcome. Techfromhell

11. An Overdrawn Account....

Obligatory also not destroyed, but we found out my dad donated sperm in the mid-late 80s and now I have at least 9 half siblings. They used it a lot. A few of them didn't know they were sperm donations and not their fathers blood relative. Met some of em and we got along great. Wasn't cheating but my mom isn't stoked about it. Haha. hackcomstock

10. More to Love....


AncestryDNA didn't destroy my family, but I was able to meet my biological father. My parents used IVF to have children and from the limited info we had before the testing, I assumed that part of my genetic makeup would remain a mystery. It was an eye opening experience and I am glad I did it. osc43s

9. Worldwide Family....

We thought there were 4 of us kids. Actually there are 13. Dad was a pig and a narcissist: there are 4 kids with his first name (2 of them female). Many are same age or younger or older than us so: cheating. He even had a daughter who is OLDER THAN MY MOM.

I made it my mission to meet them all and let me tell you: nature had way more influence than nurture. I wouldn't have believed this until I met my siblings who grew up in different countries speaking different languages and with all kinds of different upbringing yet we had: same laugh same taste in food/music/film/fashion same sense of humor same general level of success same mannerisms same intelligence same friggin' quirks and other things you'd think come about by experience. We are the same people. aiandi

8. Isn't that a movie?

Not destroyed, but we did find out that two family members have been sperm donors. One has 40+ children, is unmarried, and likely lost his last serious relationship after she found out. The other only has one donor kid that we know of, but he's married and has a family. Wife was not happy, but the donation was over 30 years ago. RealCoolShoes

7. Find the Connection.... 

Not me, but my wife. She got a match with someone that didn't make sense. She reached out to them, and it turns out she has a brother that she didn't know about. Turns out her scummy dad cheated on her mom when my wife was very young, and that produced a son. My wife's mom and dad divorced when she was 5 from another cheating incident, so while surprising, it wasn't at the same time.

Everyone has met and they are trying to get a relationship going, which I think is cool. It wasn't my wife's brother's fault he was illegitimately conceived, the parents have been long divorced on my wife's side, so the weirdness is largely minimized. pimptastical

6. Back in the Day....

My family wasn't destroyed, but we finally found out who my mom's long-lost first cousin was.. and funnily enough, she lives like 45 minutes away from us (and lived in several of the same cities we did when growing up). Her father was a prominent figure in the state she was born and so they sent my great aunt to one of those "unwed mothers" homes and forced her to give the baby up for adoption.

Now my mom and her kiddos (including myself) have a budding relationship with this woman and she basically gained a new family shortly after her adoptive parents passed away. The rest of my mom's siblings and first cousins have some coming around to do, but the nice thing is our new relative can choose whether or not she wants to engage with them. hermi0ninny

5. Thank you FacePlace.


My mom and I did ancestry last year for Christmas and found out her birth dad wasn't her actual dad and we were able to find out who her real dad was (both deceased) because one of her birth cousins found her on Facebook and contacted her and they put the puzzle together.

My grandma had an affair with her husband with someone he was serving in the military with and when we brought it up to her she denied it ever happening and then we were going through old photo albums and found a picture of the 3 of there where on the back she wrote the month and year with "had an affair with (his name)" And still denies it. itsNxte

4. Vanished....

I have an 86 year old friend that found out he has another son (has 6 kids by an ex wife). The guy is 61 and has been looking for his father all of his life. My friend only went out with the mother twice and then she disappeared. They met for the first time this month. I hope they have several more years to get to spend time together. SierraBravo22

3. Family History....

I'm adopted and did it to try and find some answers to a few basic questions. I looked at the relative's thing and a 4th-5th cousin contacted me. My family told me to stop talking to them and I disconnected from that part completely. Deep down I really feel the need to know who at least my great great grandmother is. I think I honestly deserver to know who that one person was. My family has a deep history I am sure of it knowing what country we are from. I'm watching everyone get to find people who are related.

I understand why I had to disconnect but it hurts me secretly. I know in 10+ years there may be less and less of a chance of some older family being alive. I want to know my family's WW2 history and experience. I want to know who died in the war and who got sent off and was never seen again and I want to know who came home. chainandscale

2. Numbers Never Lie....


Not destroyed but... it's odd. I learned my father was not my biological father. He died a few months before I took the test but apparently, he knew and didn't want me to know. I didn't get the chance to tell him it didn't matter. Also apparently my Mom doesn't know my bio-fathers name either it since it's been over 30 years.

Wasn't even an affair, she met dad like a month later. The math of the pregnancy had always been tight so it makes sense, but now I wonder what to do. 23andme has 3 close family connections supposedly and no one on moms side has used it. I wonder sometimes about opting in. surfingbored

Your mum's lying. 😬 you don't just forget the name of who knocked you up. That's just not how it works. Sure if you've had many sexual partners you might not be able to list them off in full but the ones you father your kids you remember. Unless she has dementia or something I guess. Good luck. Reddit

Yes, a woman may not know the name of the man who impregnated her if it was a one night stand, or he was using a nickname, or drugs involved. I knew a woman who hooked up with a guy at a rock concert and then never saw him again but yet had his son. This type of thing would exactly lead to a DNA match with unknown relatives like in this reddit thread. econobiker

1. Blood is Truth! 

I don't think it's been destroyed but recently my stepmom found out through Ancestry that she has an older brother from before her father met her mother.

Her entire family worshipped their alcoholic, dead beat, military school graduate, "veteran" father (in quotes because he was only in the military because he was a creepy little teenager and he was put in military school as punishment and he never actually saw action). From what she's told me he was abusive but she talks about it like he raised her up to be tough.

Anyway, her sister and oldest brother were really empathetic to this poor guy who has never known who his family was, he was adopted out as an infant, but her middle and youngest brothers are being crappy about it.

The half-brother's daughter did a lot of the digging and reached out to people she found on Facebook. Many in the family were not receptive to her reaching out.

My step-mom's middle brother said it's "creepy" and that they're "stalking the family" because they did their research. He sees it as an unwelcome intrusion because they've gone 60 years not knowing this guy existed. The youngest brother, anytime my stepmom says anything about their new brother he corrects her and says "half."

I'm glad some siblings are being welcoming in the family to this man but I find it appalling that grown adults would sit there and reject him as their brother like some of them are doing or say nasty things insinuating that he had no business looking them up all these years later. Many people in the family are trying to say it's a scam and that he's going to start asking for money or saying stuff like it's not real because they don't believe their father slept around like that. DNA doesn't lie, though.

I know second-rejection is a fear a lot of adopted people have when searching for their families so I feel sorry for him. bonezillion

The All-Time Worst Excuses People Have Ever Given For Cheating

Reddit user newlymoneyedrapper asked: 'What is the worst excuse you've heard from someone who cheated?'

When it comes to the dating scene, we all know there are going to be rough moments, from awkward dates to being ghosted to heart-shattering breakups. But the thing everyone hopes will never happen is to be cheated on.

After all, if someone has the intention or inclination to cheat, why would they choose to date at all?

Already cringing at the thought, Redditor newlymoneyedrapper asked:

"What is the worst excuse you've heard from someone who cheated?"

Not 'Meant' for Monogamy

"When they get caught, they try to play the 'humans aren't meant to be monogamous' card."

"I'm like, 'If you don't believe in monogamy, why did you even marry in the first place only to cheat later? You could join a free love hippies commune at any time. But that's not what you did...'"

- fepivo6620

Coming Out as Polyamorous

"I know a girl that cheated, and when she was inevitably caught, said she was 'coming out' as polyamorous."

"She was dead serious and fully expected our support and everything."

- fxckfxckgames

"The difference between polyamory and cheating is informed mutual consent among all parties."

"It's not a sexual orientation, you can't just 'come out' as polyamorous. It's something your partner(s) have to know about and (willingly, not coerced) agree to. Otherwise, you're cheating and making excuses for your s**tty behavior."

- spla_ar42

"Lmao (laughing my a** off), get out of here. Actual poly people would know how important communication is beforehand."

"I would have laughed in her stupid, cheating face."

- kosherkitties

So, Grief Is An Aphrodisiac Now?

"She said, 'It was the anniversary of my cousin's death and I wasn't in my right mind. You know how upset I was. Blaming me is classic victim blaming. You should be COMFORTING me!'"

"This was AFTER I offered to stay with her for the night but she said she wanted to be alone."

"I wish I could say I immediately left her, but it took two months and a second cheating incident. That time she said she was upset over a bad grade (seriously)."

"I walked away. And I blocked her. The bizarre part is how she kept trying to contact me for four years after that. She even confronted me in the parking lot on my first day of work, begging me to take her back. Why f**k around so indiscriminately if you want to be with someone?"

"Anyway, I stopped trying to figure her out long ago."

"It was my first relationship (age 15 to 18), and I was a naive fool."

"I'm not jaded now, but I know a h**l of a lot better."

- midnightsonofab***h

"I am sure her cousin would have been very proud of her using his death as an excuse to cheat and then call herself the victim."

- Acceptable-Stay-3166

Everyone Hates Mercury Retrograde

"My ex was very into astrology. She cheated and later blamed the great American eclipse of August 2017."

- henoney389


- Skwerilleee

"I think you mean the MOON is in GATORADE."

- Zmb7elwa

So Sweet of them

"'I didn’t even enjoy it, because I was thinking about you the whole time, and I felt terrible.”

- fepivo6620

Those Undeniable Needs

"He said, 'You were at the hospital for two weeks. A man has needs."

- Wichita_Falls_Texas

"My girlfriend had a contagious skin infection for several months, and the post-infection management was even longer. We put off sex for about a whole year, and not once did thoughts of cheating occur to me."

"I’m sorry you had to endure that. Not all men are like him."

- Expensive_Presence_4

Growing the Family, and the Relationship

"They said, 'My wife was pregnant, so I wasn't getting any.'"

- tefama5759

"If I remember correctly, pregnancy is the time or one of the times when women are cheated on the most."

- RBNrando

"This breaks my heart."

- LoreGeek

At Least It Didn't "Matter"

"They said, 'It’s not like it meant anything.' Oh good, glad we cleared that up."

- fepivo6620

"Yet you threw our relationship away over it. So what I'm hearing is I mean less than nothing to you."

- LeRuseRenard

Increased... Appreciation

"He really said, 'I’m just on Tinder to confirm that there’s nothing better out there. It helps me appreciate you more.'"

- tivige8195

Getting a Jump on Things

"My previous partner told me that he cheated because he insisted that he 'thought I was going to break up with him anyways,' so he started seeing other women."

"I believe this was just another one of his manipulation tactics to put the blame on ME for his actions. To this day, I cannot fathom the mental gymnastics he had to do to justify his decisions... Lol (laughing out loud)."

- cuteemogirlfriend

"I wonder if he's familiar with the term 'self-fulfilling prophecy'?"

- Browncoat85

"Well, he is now."

- cuteemogirlfriend

Cheat or Be Cheated On

"My last boyfriend said he cheated because he thought I had already cheated. But I did not cheat on him."

"He felt like an a**face when he realized I didn't... But he lowkey still thinks I did."

- _mel-issa

For the Sake of the Relationship

"My college roommate would cheat on his girlfriend a few times a semester, and then feel awful about it and realize how much he loved his girlfriend."

"He started to rationalize that 'you need to cheat to stay faithful.'"

- henoney389

​Opportunities to Cheat

"Oh, this thread reminds me of my ex, who was just a complete s**tbag."

"He didn't cheat, but he nearly did, and he told me about it and said 'Hey, I was really drunk and still didn't cheat, everyone around was so so proud of me and said I must really like you. They all thought I did amazing for not cheating on you even though I had a proper chance to do it, so I thought I'd tell you about it.'"

"I just raised my eyebrow at him. I remember that I did hang up on him a few times and told him that it wasn't massively impressive when he was being a d**k. He was very abusive so I couldn't safely leave him, though. If it was safe to do so, I would've dumped his a** right there and then."

"I know he's on Reddit so he'll likely see this, and good riddance because he's a complete t**t. If you see this, you know who you are, and I think you can go to h**l for what you did to me."

- Complete-Mess4054

All About the Rush

"The answer is because cheaters get off on cheating. It gives them a thrill that a 'normal' relationship can't give them."

"This is why I say cheaters will always cheat, because they crave the excitement of it."

"They don't give a s**t about monogamy or non-monogamy; they just find it fun to cheat. They also enjoy chasing after other people who are in relationships because it's more fun for them to chase after someone who's already taken rather than to find someone who's not."

"In other words, they're sociopaths who get off on causing misery to satisfy their own selfish desires."

- MissGrim66

It's clear why these Redditors thought these were the worst explanations for cheating.

Not only do some of them not make sense, but they're a total dismissal of the cheater's accountability in the relationship.

While realizing that a partner you loved was cheating is already bad enough, it seems that receiving a terrible, ingenuine reason for the act would only serve to make it worse.

Think about the last time you were sick; the ritual of checking WebMD, thinking you have a life-threatening illness, then finding out it was a harmless rash that was causing you all that stress. Regardless of the symptoms, we’ve all been there—but what of the unlucky few who actually did have some sort of ill-fated, isolated illness?

A Bad Bridge to Cross

red and white massage chairPhoto by Atikah Akhtar on Unsplash

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 years old or so.

I basically performed an emergency cleaning. She could speak so much better afterward. 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 heck of a lot better than never.


The Neighbors

An elderly lady came into my practice asking if there was anything she could be given to help her sleep, as the Irish terrorists in the flat below were keeping her awake at night. She was reassured that terrorists were not planning to blow her up, or Cannock (a small inconsequential town in the West Midlands) for that matter.

On the second visit, she insisted that they were going to blow something up soon and expressed paranoid thoughts. A full mental health review was conducted by the GP and the community psychiatrist. She came up clean. That's when we contacted the police, a couple of days later the flat below our patient was raided and found to be full of explosive equipment and real IRA members.

"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"


Just a Nibble

When I was on peds ID, we had a young girl come in with a rash on the bottom of her feet. She was also having headaches and joint pains. We spent close to an hour interviewing the girl and her mother. Her history was essentially negative. Finally, as a last-ditch effort, I pulled out the weird questions you ask in med school.

I asked if they had any unusual pets, as we had already ruled out normal pets. They said actually they did just return a pet rat for biting her. They thought that this wasn't really relevant. Bam! Rat bite fever.


Pill Problem

I'm not sure if this counts as a rare diagnosis but it was a neat one. This fellow was at dinner with his wife and some friends when "all of a sudden" he slumped forward into his entree and went unconscious. I saw him as a hospitalist in the IMCU. Despite being unconscious, his labs and vitals were all stable and he appears to be adequately protecting his airway.

The wife was initially understandably distraught and not able to offer the best of histories, but as the patient gradually began to wake up, I was able to put together a few facts. The patient had pancreatic insufficiency and thus needed to take six pills with pancreatic enzymes before each meal. He also had a prescription for Ambien. They were both white can figure out the rest. He recovered fully without any long-term effects.



I diagnosed a patient with acute intermittent porphyria. He had a history of psychiatric admissions with depressive symptoms associated with nausea (though not much in the way of pain). I saw him as a medicine consult for the psychiatry service and ordered urine porphyrins just for completeness as it apparently had never been tested before. Lo and behold, they come back positive.

There is this old adage in medical school, "When you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras." Which while perhaps relevant to a medical student, is actually the opposite for what is needed from a skilled practitioner. The common stuff is easy...practically reflexive. In our case, a better adage would be, "When you hear hoofbeats don't just assume it’s another horse." Too often physicians just hear the hoofbeats and ignore the black stripes.


A Staple Food Source

man in blue dress shirt sitting on yellow chairPhoto by Mark Williams on Unsplash

I worked as a mental health tech to get through undergrad. A 15-year-old female 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 take psych ward staples a week later. Never did figure out how they removed them all.


No Face

Baby born without a nose and with non-functioning eyes. Diagnosed with Bosma Syndrome. It was kind of crazy, I saw the baby a few months later and it was doing fine. Children with Bosma Syndrome grow up without any cognitive disabilities, it's very interesting.


Spinal Tap

I am an anesthesiologist now, but was a doctor in charge of a small rural hospital in India about 20 years ago. An elderly lady was brought to the hospital by an irate husband who felt she was faking an illness. She would lie in a room all day with doors and windows shut and complained of a headache. She refused to do housework or look after the kids. Other doctors who had seen her before me had treated her for pain with no improvement.

I examined the patient; who complained of severe headaches and just wanted to lie down and refused to open her eyes. I admitted her to the hospital and performed CSF tap (A needle into the lumbar spine to get a sample of fluid surrounding the spinal cord). As expected, it was tinged yellow (Cerebro-spinal fluid should be clear). These days we have CT scans to diagnose sub-arachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding around the brain); but it was a difficult diagnosis once upon a time.


One in a Million

The morning report was a good one today. We had a 59-year-old male come in with lower leg swelling. Within 3 days he becomes confused, febrile, and stiff. We put him in the ICU, thinking he had meningitis and got some CSF cultures and started antibiotics. Two days later, the cultures were still negative and he wasn't improving.

His wife then says this whole event seems similar to her husband’s (the patient’s) mom. She had Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease and passed from it. It's a 1 in a million (literally) diagnosis and our tests are still coming back for it. Really rare case most doctors will never see.


The Living Dead

I had a lady come into the ER listed as “Multiple Medical Problems”. This usually means diabetes and the issues stemming from it, or maybe bleeding issues from another disease or maybe odd blood tests results at a clinic. I hadn’t seen the patient yet, but the doctor came to the nurse’s station asking who had room 15. I jumped up and followed him into the room.

I walked in and saw what I thought was a corpse. Then the patient’s eye swiveled over to look at me. She truly looked like one of the people they found in a concentration camp. I could see every bone, and her body was twisted in a decorticate position with her jaw locked open. Then the smell hit me: rotting flesh and body fluids. I struggled to keep a neutral face and not gag.

I tried to place a blood pressure cuff on her arm and her skin just started flaking off in my hands. I gagged. The doctor started removing her clothes to examine her. Her feet were black to the ankles. Her hip bones were poking through her skin and were black. The skin around her ribs was worn away to oozing muscle fibers.

Her calves were incredibly swollen and the skin was splitting like ripped pants. I removed her Depends, and there was excrement coating her entire genital area. Then the doctor went to remove a large bandage on her lower back. Her entire sacrum was exposed and the bones were BLACK! The skin around it was a black liquified mass.

It smelled like nothing I’ve ever smelled. I can’t even describe it. The doctor told her family I would clean up her ulcers and wounds in preparation for surgery (liar, no surgeon would operate on her). I had no idea how to clean dead bone tissue and liquified skin (they don’t cover that in nursing school). When I went to clean her sacral area, all the liquified skin separated and oozed all over the bed. I really struggled to keep myself together.

Afterward, I needed a moment in the supply closet to cry it out for a second. I had no idea the human body could break down so much without dying. I still think about that woman sometimes, and what led to her living like that. It still breaks my heart. My guess is that she had some sort of traumatic brain issue or a stroke.

Family members were taking care of her, and I think they were treating her absolutely horribly. I think as her skin deteriorated, she developed terrible pressure ulcers that never healed. The swelling was probably due to starvation and a lack of protein in her diet. I’ve had nightmares about her face since then. Once, I dreamed she crawled into bed with me.

I freaked the heck out and ran into the hallway. My toddler walked out after me, rubbing his eyes, asking why I ran away.


Catching Zebras

zebra standing on wheat fieldPhoto by Jeff Griffith on Unsplash

My first rotation as a medical student was psychiatry. I was really nervous, and made a flashcard for each psych condition and a list of diagnoses to consider. One of the patients being discussed on rounds was psychotic (think: KGB is after me!) but was otherwise put together. He was really into doing art and was very, very religious.

I looked at my flashcard for psychosis and casually mentioned that we should consider temporal lobe epilepsy, which presents with religiosity and exaggerated artistic ability. An EEG showed that he had it. I've caught a few zebras since, but that was my favorite.


Cat Calling

A six-month-old baby was not getting bigger and dropping off the growth charts. The baby wouldn’t move and cried all day long. I couldn’t figure it out. I was making preparations to transfer the baby to the university hospital for admission. One of the clinic nurses commented that the baby's cry sounded like a cat. Ding, a bell went off in my head.

Cri du chat syndrome or cats cry syndrome. Very rare. I looked it up on UpToDate and the baby had a high probability of having it. I referred her to genetics and they confirmed it. The attending called me and marveled at my clinical skills. I chuckled and told him the nurse diagnosed it. Good news, the baby had a small deletion of the 5p chromosome and managed to stay somewhat healthy and functional.


Socrates’ Demise

We had a young fellow come in who worked as a landscaper. He showed up in the ER with severe GI distress. The diagnosis was almost entirely from history. Apparently, he forgot to bring lunch so decided to munch on some "wild carrots" he found while he was out working. I Google "wild carrot dosing" and quickly figured out the diagnosis (this was in the this was Northeast USA by the way). I will give you a hint...a certain Greek philosopher also had an affinity for the was hemlock. AKA: Not good for you.

He recovered fine, though he did get a night in the ICU for observation.


The Worse of Two Evils

We had a good case a few years ago. An otherwise healthy, 40-year-old migrant worker from Central America started coughing up blood intermittently. Everything suggested tuberculosis: History (they were from an area with lots of TB), chest x-ray looked like tuberculosis, illness script looked like tuberculosis...but his tests for it (sputum/quant gold) were all negative.

I decided to test his urine on a whim to rule out pulmonary-renal pathologies. Ding, ding, ding! Blood. Lots of blood. The patient never noticed it, and his kidney function was superb, so this was a tricky diagnosis. Turns out he had granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegner's). Kind of a sad story, because TB is largely curable, but with Wegner's he'll be on chemo for a very long time with this disease. I'm glad we caught it before irrevocable damage to his organs, though.


A Bad Prognosis

As a third-year medical student, I had a patient come in with four years of worsening balance issues and garbled speech. She had gotten a crazy work up at an outside hospital system with every sort of imaging possible, biopsies of random sites, and a number of very expensive tests. She was at our university hospital for the first time.

When I first entered the room, I reached out to shake her hand, and from her wheelchair she had to raise her head at me because she couldn't look up with her eyes. This was the first red flag. I also asked her if she had the sensation where one of her limbs would move without her controlling it, and she said yes, suggesting something called Alien Limb Phenomenon.

I diagnosed her with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy with features of Corticobasal Degeneration, a very rare disease on the spectrum of Parkinson's plus syndromes, and my supervisors agreed. Unfortunately, it was a bad prognosis, but the family was consoled by the fact that at least they had a name for what was happening.


Hard to Miss

person in blue denim jeans lying on bedPhoto by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

A woman came in with severe opiate withdrawal and some shortness of breath. Because she was so insistent about how miserable she was, everyone sort of wrote her off as drug-seeking. The morning I rounded on her, I decided to do a thorough physical exam. Lo and behold, she has a hard non-mobile clavicular lymph was so big that it was impossible to miss if you just did the exam.

Immediately we got a chest x-ray and then a CT scan. There was a perihilar mass. After a biopsy, we learned it was small cell carcinoma (lung cancer).


A Hard Revelation

I was visiting a friend’s house when I was introduced to his dad who had no medical issues. He was a hard-working farmer, but looked a bit too thin. Something told me there was something not quite right, and so I asked him if I could examine him. I promptly discovered hard lymph nodes in several areas. Further investigations revealed he had disseminated cancer. He kicked the bucket less than a year later.


The Meat of the Issue

A patient came in with an itchy rash that would not go away for weeks, and a new swelling of the mouth and tongue. She had "hives" all over her body and the only thing that had helped was repeated steroids. She was a mid 40s female who worked with dogs, so we assumed that she had a new allergy to pet dandruff, fragrance in a shampoo, flea medicine, or something along those lines. We discharged her home with an appointment for the dermatologist to do a biopsy of the lesions. But that wasn't the last we'd see of her.

Later that day, she turns back up in the Emergency Department with swollen lips, increased rash, and trouble breathing. She started having these problems 15 minutes after eating a roast beef sandwich. Someone on the team remembered that she works with dogs and asked if she'd had any recent tick bites. Sure enough, she had been bitten by a tick a few weeks ago and identified a picture of a Lone Star Tick.

Turns out she had developed an allergy to red meat after a bite from that tick. This allergy is called an alpha-galactosidase allergy, and is a reaction to a carbohydrate carried on the outside of cells (think like the carbohydrates on red blood cells for ABO blood type) by all other mammals except humans and monkeys.

The tick had bitten one of these and kept some of the protein in its digestive system, and then after biting her, her body developed antibodies to the carbohydrate, causing her to have a new allergy to meat.


Unexpected Guests

Ordered an abdominal ultrasound on a refugee from Iraq via Syria, expecting to find gallstones because she felt full easily after eating and was having pain in her right upper quadrant. Instead of gallstones, there were two, 7 cm cysts in her liver. Hydatid cysts from a tapeworm.


More Than Meets the Eye

As a fourth year during my rotations, I noticed my patient had a vertical subluxation of her crystalline lens during a dilated eye examination. The part of the eye that develops a cataract later on in life was shifted significantly up. She had severe myopia and astigmatism (-14.00 - 5.00 x 180 OU), and her 6'1" tall body along with disfigured teeth led me to believe she had Marfan's Syndrome.

She had never heard of it, never seen a cardiologist, etc. A few lab tests confirmed. She can live a normal life; she just needs some meds and education. She had very long fingers that jumped out at me and braces on her teeth. As an optometrist, I focus on glasses and contacts, but I see (no pun intended) and treat an unbelievable number of systemic diseases that manifest in the eye or retina.


My Old Mother

woman wearing eyeglassesPhoto by Todd Cravens on Unsplash

One of my favorites is when we had an 85-year-old man in for cellulitis or something, and everyone was documenting he was confused—in part because he kept talking about his mother; his mother was going to be so worried, he had to be discharged to take care of his mother etc. He became agitated and was actually getting ready to be dosed with Haldol because he was insistent he was going to leave to take care of his mother.

Note, the standard is to play along, tell the patient something like "Oh, we already called your mom, she knows you're here" that sort of thing, but he wasn't buying it. Finally, the nurse asks him if we can call his son to make sure the patient's mother is being taken care of (really, just to placate the patient), and the patient agrees. We call the son, the nurse explains the situation, and the son informs us that the patient's mother is indeed alive at the age of 101, but that he is staying in his father's house assisting in her care.

Poor patient was legitimately worried about his mom, and we all thought his infection (or just old age) was causing him to be confused!


On a Hunch

ED referred a guy to me who had a platelet count of 2. The guy looked bloody sick with abdominal pain, petechial rash, feverish, diaphoretic, and he was a bit confused and drowsy too. I talked to my boss who said to give him prednisolone and he'd see him tomorrow, but I was convinced this guy had a really rare condition called TTP (Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura) and so I called the major hospital in my area and sent him to their ICU for a procedure called plasma exchange.

I ordered a test called ADAMTS13 to prove the condition, and still have a paper copy of the result (he had none of this chemical) because it's the best diagnosis I've ever made, it helped save his life!


Growing White

Menkes kinky hair syndrome. I was called to see a 3-month-old boy with hard-to-control seizures. His most remarkable exam finding was his hair: he had been born with a full head of black hair (he was Hispanic), but at the time I saw him, the first 3-5 mm of each hair shaft was nearly white, with an abrupt color change, still black on the tips. The hair was a giveaway for this disorder, almost no need for confirmatory testing, but the admitting team had already ordered whole exome sequencing.

This was not a fun and exciting diagnosis to make, more a sinking feeling upon discovery of the hair (neurodegenerative disorder due to a defect in copper metabolism that is irreversible once symptoms appear), but it was interesting to see at that transitional stage. I had only seen older boys with Menkes before, once the hair was already pale and brittle all over. Usually the hair has changed long before the diagnosis is made.


Ignoring the Issue

I'm an anesthesiologist. This happened when I was a resident. It changed me for life. We had a 29-year-old male in for finger surgery. We had an uneventful induction maintained on Sevoflurane. Within 20 minutes we started to have rising ETco2. I called my attending after trying to hyperventilate the patient (She was a young Harvard trained peds anesthesiologist).

She comes in and asks me what I think is going on. I tell her things seem strange. She tells me to chill. Five minutes later, the ETco2 is over 100 and I'm freaking out! I call her and tell her this is MALIGNANT HYPERTHERMIA (easily fatal reaction to certain anesthetics caused by congenital aberrant sarcoplasmic reticulum receptors).

She says that I'm being ridiculous when I tell her I'm afraid this is the real deal. My pages get ignored by her. The patient’s temperature starts to rise. I'm bugging out and call the board runner (supervising Anesthesiologist for all the operating rooms). He's old. He knows me well and trusts me. Comes in, looks at the monitor—and his face went white.

Needless to say, we save the patient after many dozens of vials of Dantrolene. Six months later I'm made to do an M&M and the young Harvard attending insinuates I did something wrong in front of the department. Most of the rest of them come to my aide. She leaves the job shortly thereafter. I will soon be at her fellowship.



Flippant Flipping

I didn't diagnose it, but I have a patient with primary Ciliary Dyskinesia with Situs Inversus, aka Kartagener syndrome. The cilia in the body don't move well, and this mainly affects the respiratory cilia/lungs, although it also causes infertility, related to the cilia inside the fallopian tubes and the sperm tails not working well.

Situs Inversus is when the organs inside the thorax are mirror images of normal, the heart is on the right side instead of the left, etc. I was looking over this patient's old medical records and one of the radiology reads of a chest x-ray said, "There has been interval development of dextrocardia. Since this is physiologically impossible, the film has been flipped."

Probably the original film the radiologist had been comparing to had been incorrectly flipped to look "normal," maybe by someone who assumed there had been an error. Another chest x-ray report just read: "The film has been flipped" and then went onto the rest of the interpretation.


A Quick Diagnosis

person holding baby feetPhoto by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

I once saw a child with mosaic trisomy 8. It was a complete mystery why he had speech apraxia, and the geneticist I was working with took one look at his feet, saw that they had super deep creases lengthwise, and ordered a karyotype with mosaic trisomy 8 in mind. Sure enough, he was right. I was amazed how spot-on he was predicting that.


Caught in Her Throat

Primary doctor here. Had a two-year-old refugee child (whose parents couldn't communicate well) who swallowed a button battery and it was stuck in her throat. For clarity, I didn't know it was a button battery, but something just didn't feel right, so I sent her to the ED. If she had gone perhaps one more day, she might not have made it—it had already destroyed a good amount of tissue in her esophagus and was apparently somewhat close to perforating.

I feel like it would have been very easy to just say she had a sore throat from an illness, particularly with the language barrier. I'm glad that something felt weird to me—she didn't look that bad, but was just holding herself and breathing weirdly.


Rare and Terrible

Wolman Disease. A genetic disease that affects about 1/200,000 kids, terrible outcome. It leads to calcification of the adrenal glands, which is how I picked it up on a chest x-ray on-call (I'm a radiologist). The kid had failure to thrive and a big spleen so I brought it up. He got further testing which confirmed the diagnosis.

Bottom line, don't forget to look at the adrenals or ribs on peds x-rays!


Dr. Google

Probably Stiff Person Syndrome. Technically it was paraneoplastic antibodies causing a case of mild stiff person-like syndrome, but it was basically a lady who had glutamic acid decarboxylase antibodies which caused her to be really stiff. How'd I figure it out? Well, she was really stiff and it was very odd. I was out of ideas and literally googled "stiff person" and got the result of a disease I'd probably heard mentioned in passing in med school but is so rare you forget about it: Stiff Person Syndrome.

Yes, it's real. I thought it was a joke at first—but it's all too real. Ordered the test, it was positive. Later, after more research, I learned that you can have similar antibodies and symptoms with paraneoplastic syndromes, so I did a scan, and found a lung tumor. Boom. SPS is really rare. Paraneoplastic syndromes are less rare. She was somewhere in the middle.


Miracle Porridge

I made a clinical diagnosis of fairly early-stage necrotizing fasciitis (the infamous flesh-eating bacteria) in West Africa which was pretty cool... The patient was a young adult male who was writhing and screaming in agony as he was carried in. He spoke a tribal dialect and I spoke ugly French, so it was basically impossible to get any information out of him or the friends who brought him in.

I laid him on the table and did a rapid trauma assessment. When I stripped off his shirt, I saw a small patch (maybe 4" x 6") of blackened tissue below his left nipple along the side of his ribs. It looked like a chemical burn to me at first glance. I realized that some of the skin had torn off the area when I removed his shirt, and when I touched the lesion to examine it, I could feel the skin separating from the tissue below it.

The technical term is "desquamating." It had a horrible odor like spoiled meat/rotting garbage mixed with 100 degree west African heat and 100% humidity. Putrid. His temperature was over 40C (104+ F) and his O2 saturation was terrible. The rotting garbage smell indicated anaerobic bacteria, the skin peeling off indicated connective/soft tissue involvement, and the disproportionate pain (relative to the size of the lesion) is a hallmark of necrotizing fasciitis.

I ran back to my room and grabbed the Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicine (highly recommend if you work over there in medicine) to double-check because I had never seen a case of flesh-eating bacteria in person before and didn't want to screw up the diagnosis and move things in a different direction if I was wrong. Sure enough, everything matched up and the chief of medicine stopped by to confirm the diagnosis. He basically said, "Oh yeah we see these fairly frequently, people get a cut or a bug bite and then rub dung or dirt into it and the infection takes hold."

The craziest part was the outcome. In the United States, patients with necrotizing fasciitis in one limb frequently die or suffer amputations of both arms and both legs—even in the best ICUs. Here we were in the middle of West Africa at a remote bush hospital and this guy has it on his chest, which pretty much wrecks the standard aggressive surgical approach since you can't exactly amputate the chest.

We loaded him up with high dose IV ampicillin a few times a day and his wife forced him to eat multiple bowls of porridge...miraculously he made a full recovery and left smiling 10 days later. I'm convinced it was the porridge.


Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve

pruning topless babyPhoto by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

I diagnosed a little girl at birth who had Ectopia Cordis. It's a birth defect where the heart is located outside of the chest or thorax (yet it's still underneath the skin). It only happens to about 5-7 per one million live births. Warning, if you plan to search up "Ectopia Cordis," the images available may not be for the faint of heart.

Say No to Drugs

Today I took care of a man who believed he had been bitten on the abdomen by a baby rattlesnake that had fallen out of his ceiling vent, crawled up his abdomen under his skin, up his throat, and was currently coiled and rattling in his brain. Diagnosis: methamphetamines. Just say no.


Against All Odds

Five years ago, I spent six months working in a small rural Zambian hospital in the medical ward as part of a volunteer/outreach program. I have done mostly family medicine, and some surgery in my early days, but decided to mix life up a bit. The hospital was typical third world—a few basic medications, rudimentary clinical tools, a small lab on site which was usually broken.

No resuscitation tools whatsoever. HIV, TB and malaria were rife—it would not be uncommon to encounter a loss per day despite our best efforts. On one of my first days there an unconscious person was carried in by a mob of locals. I could smell him before I saw him. He had been in a house fire and his skin was cooked—completely black around his chest, face, and over his legs.

He was still breathing on his own and maintaining his airway but we had no doubt he had inhaled a lot of smoke. With no way to intubate or provide oxygen we merely had to hope that he didn’t swell up and close off and deal with the rest of the burns while he was unconscious. Two colleagues who worked in the hospital came over urgently.

We all kept our cool externally and got the nurses to translate to the man’s family that we were going to do everything we could to get him better. In reality, all three of us knew his chances at survival were in the single-digit percentages. We decided that due to the extent of his burns we were going to have to do an escharotomy (cutting the burned skin to prevent it contracting and stopping him from breathing).

Turns out I had the most surgical experience so despite having never done one before I gave it a go, hoping for the best. We got an IV into a neck vein and got fluids going. The local nurses dressed his burns. We gave him whatever pain relief we had. He was unconscious for a couple of days but eventually came to.

Each day we were expecting his kidneys to pack up but to our surprise, gradually he got better. He was with us for just over four months recovering. He came out severely scarred but he had beaten the odds and survived.


A Rare Talent

I've diagnosed anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis in a patient that was thought to be withdrawing from an unknown illicit substance. Then, not two months later I had another patient with the same disease. I was talking to a neurologist recently and he thought it was a condition that is far more common than we thought it was, but still a pretty good catch for an internist.

I've caught a few conditions that were rarer, but it's nice to talk about one that's treatable.


Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

I'm PhD, not MD. The weirdest to me was a bloodstream bacterial infection that looked sensitive to antibiotics in the clinical lab, but the patient could not be cured. We got samples of the bacteria and turns out it was "tolerant" to antibiotics in a biofilm (heart valves) but not sensitive in the clinical sense. Opened my mind as a microbiologist to how insanely adaptive bacteria can be, and how they're more a population than individual cells. The most interesting paper I ever published, and unexpected.


Subtle Symptoms

man reading papers in front of computerPhoto by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Not super rare but sort of diagnosed/missed Myasthenia gravis. I was an intern in the emergency department. A woman presents with the classic vague symptoms of fatigue and weakness. Notably, her father had very recently passed. Full blood panel was normal, her examination was almost completely normal but I did find she had proximal weakness (her upper arm strength and thigh strength were poor but her hand and feet and shins etc. were normal).

I presented to my superior and we decided to send her home because we couldn't diagnose her with anything and we can't admit someone to hospital for fatigue. She was upset that we couldn't help her. After she left, I couldn't shake this terrible feeling. I asked my superior, what about Myasthenia Gravis? Well, too late now, besides the testing takes weeks.

She represented a week later (I didn’t see her). She was admitted this time and seen by a physician. More tests were ordered and eventually she was diagnosed and treated for Myasthenia Gravis. I saw her 6 months later and she remembered me, she was doing much better and wasn't upset that we missed the diagnosis.

It can be very hard to diagnose some things because of how non-specific the symptoms are. In this case I had a feeling she had a real disease especially with her proximal weakness but there wasn't much we could do about it.


Jaw-Dropping News

I'm not sure if I count because I'm a veterinarian, but I saw trigeminal neuritis in a dog. Basically, the dog can't move his lower jaw, but it's not stiff or painful or anything, it just hangs slightly open. It looks like the dog has just received some unbelievable news, basically. It goes away on its own in 2-4 weeks, but the dog can't eat or drink very well, so you have to syringe feed them, do elevated food bowls, etc.


Benadryl to the Rescue

I had a patient transferred to our hospital for a STEMI (major heart attack). When they arrived, I noticed they looked a bit red and asked them, other than the chest pain, what symptoms they were having. The person said that they had been having a rash for a few days as well as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Those symptoms go along with a condition called scombroid poisoning which you get from eating old, dark meat fish (tuna, mackerel, etc.).

I asked the person if they had recently been eating fish and sure enough, they had been eating salmon for the past few days. Assuming they had it, I treated them with Benadryl which fixed the rash, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. They were taken by the cardiology service to get a cardiac catheterization (how you find clogged blood vessels in the heart) for the heart attack and the results came back normal (no vessel occlusion).

Best I could tell, the condition stressed their body and made them tachycardic/hypotensive which made their heart work harder. The increased demand on the heart + an already weak heart led to the heart attack. Also, was pretty awesome to see the EKG go from showing a clear heart attack to normal after being treated with Benadryl!


Face-palm Parenting

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. Her response made my blood run cold. Mom: "A roach crawled into her mouth so I sprayed a little Raid in there." She said it in a matter of fact tone, like it was no big deal.

Queue 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 completely ignorant.


Non-FDA Methods

We had a case a couple of years ago that still gives me chills whenever I think about it. A younger girl goes to her family doctor in a small town outside of the bigger city where I live. She had persistent headaches, which just started a few days prior. No past medical history of anything similar or really at all about her that stood out as relevant.

Unable to diagnose or treat her headaches (which were rapidly growing more severe), she was sent to our hospital (X state's Childrens' Hospital) for evaluation. We ran her through the typical gauntlet of testing for common causes, CBC/CMB/CT/MRI etc. still with no clue. Nothing came up on blood cultures either. At this point she was in the PICU rapidly deteriorating, with high fevers and periodic losses of consciousness.

After eliminating all the horses, we had to start looking for zebras...and quick. We collected a CSF sample for culture thinking it might be one of the rarer forms of bacterial meningitis. While this was cooking (cultures usually take at least a few days) we tried again to get any other possible info from her parents...that's when we learned the whole story.

For the first time, they mentioned that they had visited a local waterpark a week or two before the girl’s symptoms started...and this was in the middle of summer. For any Peds doctor, or especially ID doctors in the room, those words made their hearts sink. Sure enough, the cultures came back, positive for Naegleria Fowleri, the pathogen responsible for Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM). Which up until that point, I don't think there was a documented case of a patient being diagnosed with PAM who survived.

It’s the incurable brain-eating amoeba that lives in warm stagnant water and can enter through the cribriform plate at the top of the nose if the patient gets water up there...which happens all the time at waterparks. Anyway, long story short, we basically cook up a (very non-FDA-approved) drug cocktail as a sort of Hail-Mary attempt at fighting this infection, as nothing else in any other case had ever worked.

In addition to this, we basically stick her in a Mr. Freeze chamber, lowering her body temp to below what N. Fowleri can usually survive. Unfortunately, most people can't survive it either. But for some reason, (though in an induced coma the whole time) she steadily improved. When we took her out of the deep freeze and allowed her to wake up, it was incredible...

She was alive with no apparent neuro/cognitive deficits, and the new cultures showed no growth of N. Fowleri. It's not too hard to figure out where this occurred, as it may still be the only successfully treated case in the US.


Like Flipping a Switch

man in white dress shirt wearing black framed eyeglassesPhoto by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash

I can't remember all the details though so bare with me. I'm at a big tertiary hospital, and had an elderly veteran brought to us one day after being found unconscious in a park. He had alcohol in his system and a quick look at his records showed that this was an ongoing problem with him. He was a sweet old man who was very grateful for our help, up until day 3 of his hospitalization. That's when things took a dark turn.

He developed pneumonia-like symptoms and became somnolent for a few days. Then, out of nowhere, he became very inappropriate—he begins grabbing the nurses and repositioning them, touching himself, and constantly licking his lips in a disgusting manner when anyone even looked at him. He went from a sweet old man to a deviant almost overnight. We even had to wrap his hands up in bandages to stop him from touching himself and others. Oddly though, he hit on anyone and everyone (women and men) except for me. I guess I wasn't his type.

We ended up diagnosing him with Kluver-Bucy syndrome, caused by HSV encephalitis (herpes). Symptoms include hypersexuality and hyperorality. It's pretty rare and I haven't seen it since, but as you might imagine, it left a lasting impression on me. He improved with treatment though, and was incredibly embarrassed after finding out what he had done.


Factitious Disorder

When I was an intern, we had a 22-year-old man with persistent abdominal pain, all studies negative. His symptoms were unexplained. His mother was constantly at his bedside, and his medical history, which was extensive according to his mom, included multiple hospital stays with no definitive diagnosis. I noticed that he would frequently take ill after meals, which his mother brought from outside the hospital.

It eventually became clear that he was a victim of Munchausen by proxy. His mother was making him ill. I'd had a patient with Munchausen's when I was in medical school (she was injecting her own waste into her IV), so I was particularly tuned in. Both cases were very sad.


child being fed
Tanaphong Toochinda on Unsplash

We may have many fond memories of childhood that center around food.

A favorite meal, a special celebration dinner, simple comfort foods, baked goods enjoyed with grandparents or holiday feasts.

But not everyone is blessed with culinary talents. And some cooking impaired are responsible for feeding children.

For those kids, memories of meals might be more trauma than beloved tradition.

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