Surgeons Share Their Wildest 'Oh Sh*t' Moments With A Patient

When your life hangs in the balance on the operating table, the last thing you want to hear – if you're conscious – from a surgeon is, "Oh, sh*t!"

At that moment, many scenarios may flash before your eyes.

Did the surgeon inadvertently nick a major artery?

Or did they discover you were incubating an alien egg along the gastrointestinal wall?

Whatever it is, all anyone in the OR can hope for is a smooth surgery without any surprises.

But that isn't always the case.

With many close calls that likely happen in the OR, those who are in the medical field – along with patients – responded to Redditor Potential_ganache_40's inquiry of:

"Surgeons of reddit, what was your 'oh sh*t' moment ?"
Spoiler alert: there's a lot of hemorrhaging going on.

Never Come To Surgery On A Full Stomach

"I was doing a corneal transplant when I had the 'oh sh*t' moment. During surgery, I cut off the patient's own cornea and replace it with a new donor cornea. During that moment when the host cornea was off but before I could get the new one on, there's literally nothing on the front of the eye except a tear film and aqueous humor. Anyway, the patient takes that moment to start vomiting."

"The reason we tell everyone to skip food and drink is so they don't aspirate in case they throw up. This patient lied about eating breakfast and started throwing up everything. The eye is still 'open sky' at this time. Everything inside of the eye can now become outside of the eye. And she's bucking and vomiting."

"Those not in the know will say this is not good. Those really in the know will say 'oh sh*t.'"

"Anyway, I had to grab the new cornea and start stitching as fast as I could on a patient actively throwing up. I use 10-0 nylon sutures which are thinner than an eyelash. It turned out okay but not great."

"Don't lie about eating breakfast before surgery, folks."


Baby Like A Cannonball

"Doing a C-Section for this poor Mum who'd been in labour for hours. Baby wouldn't come out of the hole we'd made, so more pressure was applied to the fundus (top of the uterus) and suddenly whoooooosh, baby zooms out like a torpedo, covered in lubricating vernix, zips over the surgical sheeting which has the texture of a slip n slide and almost rockets straight off the table. The baby's foot was caught by the Reg who whipped her up in the air upside down like in old cartoons, but almost dropped her again due to gloves + vernix. Thankfully the midwife was ready with the towel and caught the baby to wrap her up. Mum and Dad seemed to think this was normal practice and didn't notice but me and my colleague just stared at each other with a look of absolute horror. It still makes me shudder to think how close the baby was to hitting the floor head first. Never happened before or since."


Catheter Removal

"When I was a new RN working the ICU in a large teaching hospital, I came into work one morning to a patient that was admitted that night, intubated (breathing tube in), sedated, Foley catheter (tube in pee pee hole) and all. Long story short, he was extubated (breathing tube out) that same shift and was completely alert and oriented."

"He was an end stage renal patient meaning his kidneys didn't work and he needed dialysis, and was only in his late 30s. Said he neve made urine anymore and didn't need the Foley catheter so he wanted it out because it was hurting."

"Now the catheter bag had been empty my whole shift which is normal seeing as how he didn't make urine anymore, and this hospital had a nurse driven Foley removal policy, meaning while we needed a doctor's order to insert one, we could remove one at our discretion, unless a Dr specifically put in orders not to. This patient had no such dr order, so I went to remove the catheter. They are held in the bladder by a balloon on the end that is inflated with 10ml of saline. I deinflated the balloon removing 10ml of saline, and pulled it out."

"As soon as the cather left his penis, blood started pouring out in a heavy stream. Turns out the nurse who placed it on admission hadn't advanced it far enough since there was no urine production to indicate correct placement and had inflated the balloon while still in his urethra causing trauma."

"It would not stop bleeding. I had to hold this man's penis "shut" to put pressure on it while my coworker paged the resident who came and looked at me with pitty as he told me to just keep holding this 30 something year old man's penis In my hands to staunch the blood flow until urology could get there to assess. It just kept gushing blood everytime I eased up to check. For over an hour total I held this mans penis and tried to make polite conversation until the urologist arrived."


"Can I Still Have Anal Sex?"

"Surgeon here. I've dealt with loads of morbid stuff but one thing that made me stop and go 'oh sh*t' was a conversation with a young patient who had a perforated colon from diverticular disease, which is a common wear and tear of the colon. He was one of youngest patients I had seen with this condition and certainly the youngest with a perforation so bad as to require an operation. When I was counselling him on the operation, which involves removing the perforated part of the colon and giving him a colostomy, he told me his biggest concern was how he was going to have anal sex with his same-sex partner. He would only have a small stump of rectum left inside, which would be at risk of perforation with any force applied to it. It made me really think about the implications of the surgery we do. The operation is the easy part!"


Liver Transplant Accident

"I was the patient."

"I had a liver transplant and was having an ercp done to place a new bile duct stent. Well apparently my anatomy is different than normal, and my lungs go more down my sides. So he accidentally caused a nick, which caused a hemothorax. So when I woke up I couldn't breathe, they did an xray and had to do a chest tube. Eventually I was so exhausted I asked to be vented so he vented me. Apparently he cried he felt so bad about it all."

"But it wasn't him being malicious or negligent, it was simply an accident."


Ruptured Uterus

"Heard an 'oh sh*t' moment as a patient on the operating table. A couple of years ago I was in labor for 28 hours, pushing for six, when my child started showing signs of distress. He had slightly elevated heart rate and I had the makings of a fever. My midwife at the hospital told me the doctor was coming in to check to see if a vacuum assist could help. She checks me and immediately stands up with blood on her hand and says we're going to the OR now. At that time, I started feeling that zoomed out tunnel vision I know for me is shock. I had anxiety, but figured she knew what was best. She did. We got in the OR 8 minutes later and when they opened me up, I heard the surgeon say, "oh sh*t. Look at this.'"

"They say blood in my catheter bag and upon fully opening me up found my son was actually trying to come through my uterus. He had ruptured it. They got my son out. Those moments where he was stunned and not crying were an eternity. He cried and he was born a completely healthy baby. After I woke up and was back in my room the doctor came in and told me what happened. I knew a ruptured uterus sounded bad, but oh damn I googled and started having a massive anxiety attack. A ruptured uterus is extremely rare and so very dangerous and often fatal. I read from the time it happens you have about 15 minutes before you bleed out and baby is dead. When I went back for my post csection follow up my midwife let me know as a practice that's been around 35 years with over 30 midwives and doctors they had never once encountered that and it was such a big deal for them a few days after my birth they all got together to discuss my case. I was so incredibly fortunate I chose to labor in hospital, that the doctor just knew from my vitals and baby's that something was off. They just didn't know until they got me open. I can't even tell you how grateful I am for Dr. S. You saved my life and my son's life and our family with forever be grateful."


Polyp Removal

"Gastroenterologist here. Was removing a large polyp during a colonoscopy. I put the snare around then polyp (kinda of like a cowboy throwing a lasso) - it took an unusually long time to severe the base of the polyp - until, all of a sudden, blood started squirting from where the polyp was removed. The screen quickly turned red with blood. I couldn't see shit. The patients blood pressure started to drop. The patient, who was a dark skinned middle eastern man, turned pale white on the stretcher in front of me. Thats when I felt like i was gonna faint and empty my own bowels... the only thing i could think was 'Oh Sh*t.'"


It's Not A Toomah

"Not me but my uncle - he's a respirologist and was supervising/sitting in on lung surgery to remove a tumor. Turns out the tumor was a rootball - some type of seed had gotten into the patient's lungs and started to grow."


"Yeah imagine telling someone 'we found a tree inside you' and that being a much better outcome!"


Bone Drop

"Not a surgeon, but I was observing a hand surgery about a year ago at a teaching hospital. The surgeon was removing one of the carpals (the bones near the base of the hand) to be used later. A nurse was given the carpal to hold until it needed to be used. She ended up dropping the patient's bone on the ground."


When You Refuse Medical Attention

"Just an RN here. I was working in the ER and had a patient brought in by her husband. Apparently the woman had a fall a week prior and injured her face but refused medical care. Her husband finally forced her to come in. As soon as I see the wound on her face (from across the room) I think, 'that does not look like any wound Ive seen.' I approached her and realized maggots had infested the wound and were eating the rotting skin. A really simple and quick fix but I cant imagine her living conditions."


"Dozen Hammers To The Jaw"

"As the patient, I hope if the oral surgeon is on Reddit they posted this story."

"Wisdom teeth removal, all 4 impacted, gotta break out the heavy hardware. I'm knocked out, don't even know the dentist entered the room. I wake up, but not able to move, just eyes open awake but my limbs won't react to my brain. I can feel the dentist hammering a chisel into my tooth to break it for extraction. My jaw is just coming undone on every hit. My eyes are wide open, jaw even wider with some evil metal contraption. I'm staring at the assistant begging for her to see me, and after about a dozen hammers to my jaw she glances over and drops the suction, jumps up and shrieks. The dentist stops to look at her, then looks at me and I see him say "oh sh*t".

"Next thing I know I'm waking up post surgery. Sh*t that nightmares are made of."

"Edit: lot of replies, so this was a military dentist, yes they put me under and no insurance involved, not sure what they used for anesthesia. Yes I could feel pain from the impact but not nerve pains in the actual tooth."


The Fainting Nurse

"My grandfather told a story about a clamp coming off an artery while he was pulling a kidney in rural Wyoming in the early 50's."

"The abdominal cavity was quickly filling with blood and the nurse fainted. He was able to push down with his elbow on the descending aorta and got the clamp back on. Patient lived, but I think he chose his surgical assistants little more carefully after that."


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