Doctors have a lot to deal with on any given day. Saving lives can be a challenge in and of itself, but when those lives happen to not be in their right minds, things can be even more difficult. From the mentally ill to the delirious from their conditions to those that are just plain dumb, doctors definitely have their hands full. Sometimes the hardest part of the job is just dealing with the patient, as the following doctors know all too well. Content has been edited for clarity.
"My father was a dermatologist. He had a patient who accused him of prescribing a non-existent experimental medication for a supposed condition that he was never diagnosed with. If I remember right, it was something simple and common like an eczema cream. The patient tried to take him to court and lost. Then he sent a threatening letter after, which was reported to police. After the police confronted him about it, he dropped a homemade fruit basket with a single bullet on top of the fruit at the front step of the office addressed (but not postmarked) to my father with a creepy unsigned apology note. The basket was immediately shown to police.
About a month later, my father received a letter from the guy stating he had seen my name in the paper sports section (local golf tournament results) and that he knew I would be playing at an upcoming tournament where the start times were published. There was a police presence at the tournament, something that never happens, because my father reported it. The police found the guy in the parking lot unarmed and he was arrested, then eventually committed to a psych hospital for some time.
There’s still a restraining order against him to this day but this was over 15 years ago and the guy seems to have disappeared. I didn’t know any of this until about 5 years ago, but I remember my dad having a single bullet in his bedside table even though he never owned any weapons. When I asked him about it all he would say was 'someone gave it to me.'
I was both angry and thankful towards my dad when he finally told me. Angry that he didn’t inform me of the danger but also thankful that he did what he thought was right to insulate me from something that could really shatter innocence. At the time he made up a long story about why the detective was accompanying us during my round which only made sense a decade later when he told me the full story."
"I was working in a clinic when a man a man came in with his blind wife. She is diabetic and during my questioning, I found out she had had a few episodes of low blood sugar in the past few months. And I mean low as in unable to ingest food to raise her blood sugar. The husband told me he had to inject his wife to bring her around. Usually, in these cases you would inject glucagon, which is basically the opposite of insulin (it raises blood sugar). He proceeds to tell me that the glucagon is too expensive, so he has been dissolving sugar in water, drawing it up, and injecting it into her thigh. I tried to hide my shock, but it must have been obvious. He just looked at me and said, 'Well, it worked, didn't it!?'
I tried telling him all of the reasons he should use glucagon and not sugar water but he wouldn't have it. I even told him that the pain of the injection is probably what woke his wife up, not any increase in blood sugar. He said again the glucagon was too expensive. I called around to a bunch of pharmacies and found it for $20 for two injections, but he still refused to buy it. We ended up calling adult protective services."
"I used to go to a nursing home to visit with people.
I had an elderly lady call me her grandchild. That wasn't uncommon, even for those who were completely lucid. I had many 'grandmas' and 'grandpas' and she was my favorite. She was very sweet and funny. She seemed to only have the occasional lapse of memory, at least that's what I thought.
One day I was in her room watering her flowers she asked me how I REALLY was? I said fine but she then whispered, 'I don't think they can hear us, unless there's some device in the flowers you brought.'
I was confused but said, 'Nope I'm fine.'
She loudly said my real name and that she was happy to see me. Then she grabbed my arm and pulled me in and called me Anna (not my name) and said she could get me safe. Then went on this whole thing about 'them' capturing me and bleaching my skin. Now she was black, I'm white. She asked if my skin was burning and not to worry because I wasn't patchy, so I could pass for a white woman and that I could still get a husband. She was worried about my children, of which I didn't have any. She gave me crackers because she was worried that I didn't have food. I don't know if she had been stockpiling them for a reason but they were the kind they occasionally got with dinner.
I honestly didn't know how to respond, I was 15 and very confused. I think I smiled and tried to tell her I was safe. It was a very weird and sad at the same time. I'm not sure what she went through in life, so it could have been some kind of memory. I definitely think something bad happened, because she was so distressed that first time. She lived in Alabama from the 20s to the 50s, so it's not a stretch to think that she, as a black woman, faced some pretty horrible crap.
Anyway, after that day, she would occasionally call me Anna, give me crackers, and ask if I was safe. Most of the time she would call me by my real name, until about 6 months before she passed and then she really didn't recognize me at all."
"RN here, I see some crazy stuff, but one thing that stands out was the time I was admitting a guy to the hospital. I can't really remember what for but he was about 400lbs, diabetic, heart disease, you name it. Anyhow I'm at the computer going over some admission questions with him and his 10 family members who are crowded in the room with him. A few minutes in, he starts complaining that he's thirsty. He needs something to drink RIGHT NOW. So I get on my phone and call the nurse assistant and ask her to bring in some ice water. As soon as the words are out of my mouth, the whole family screams, 'NOOOO! NO WATER! HE'S ALLERGIC TO WATER!'
Well, this is gonna be a problem. Turns out the guy had been drinking nothing but Sprite and sweet tea for years because of his 'water allergy.'
The next question the wife had was, 'Where are we all supposed to sleep?' The whole family, 10 people, were planning to stay at he hospital with him.
You can't make this stuff up."
"I work with elderly people prone to delirium. We once had an 80-year-old academic at our institute; I think he was some sort of professor and obviously well-spoken. He mostly appeared to be very lucid at first glance. For months, he'd harbored the idea that he was at the center of an elaborate ritual conducted by a medieval sort of witch.
Because of her 'spells,' he would constantly phase in and out of consciousness, imagining that he was smoking a pipe and talking to people that weren't there at all, etc. He further claimed that he had found that there were pentagrams drawn in lemon juice and goat urine all over his apartment. His mouth was constantly 'deathly dry' because she would fill it with the ashes of cursed scrolls and parchment. The witch planned to extract something from his body to create a 'flying ointment' or something, for her broomstick. Anyways, it was absolutely wild and nonsensical.
The crazy thing was, his delusions turned out to be warranted. It was later found that his granddaughter, for months, had actually tried to poison him with incrementally increasing doses of belladonna-extract."
"I took psych like pretty much every college freshman. My professor was an amazing guy who looked like Jerry Springer. Anyway, he taught part-time because his real job was working with inmates at the state prison that housed the crazies.
He told us the story of when he did his internship at Chattahoochee State Hospital. In Ward A, there was this guy who thought he was Jesus. He’d walk around wearing sandals and would bless people. His justification for believing that he was Jesus was that Jesus was a carpenter and he was a construction worker... so close enough.
In Ward B, there was this guy who thought he was Satan. Satan would curse you and tell you that you were going to burn in your bed, that sort of thing. He was an all around unpleasant patient.
Jesus and Satan found out about each other. Then they kept hanging around the doors to their wards, trying to get to the other so that they could have their own little Armageddon right there in the vestibule.
The hospital ended up instituting a policy preventing Ward A and Ward B doors from being open at the same time."
"A lady in her mid-60s comes in with a terrible burn on her hairline and scalp. I ask what happened and she said she was coloring her hair with the leftover dye from a month or so ago. Needless to say, she had a 3rd degree chemical burn all over her scalp. Ok, that's problem 1.
We ask her if she has any allergies because we want to give her antibiotics. She says no. We ask about her daily meds, she rattles off a bunch including 1000mg of amoxicillin (an antibiotic). we ask how long she's been taking the amoxicillin, she replies, 'Two years.' Every day, for 2 years, she'd been taking massive doses of antibiotics. Her reasoning? 'To keep myself from getting sick.'
We went hunting for side effects and found thrush in her mouth and nether regions, a massive yeast infection in her colon, malnutrition, stomach ulcers, and multiple open sores on her feet and knees.
Plus, she got a superinfection on the burn site a few days later. No fun."
"I was rotating in the ER seeing a 20 year old female patient who came in for a few days of terrible vomiting. First step was to get a urine pregnancy test, which came back positive. I went in and gave her the result and she got this very panicked look on her face that quickly turned to confusion. She looked at me with the most serious face and says, 'I just don't know how this happened...I have only let him finish in my mouth a few times, but I have NEVER, EVER swallowed it...that would just be stupid.' The next half hour was spent discussing the fact that she had been putting herself at risk every time she didn't use protection for about 3 years because neither she nor her partner understood how pregnancy occurred. Best part was they apparently 'usually always' used protection...for when they went down on each other, but not that actual deed. Much education was given on that day...
Second, I was seeing a patient in a preoperative clinic and reviewing her history and allergies. She claims - and firmly sticks to it - that she is deathly allergic to all salt water (bad, red, painful rash all over her body while at the beach). She was also claiming to be allergic to snow, where she apparently her face got all red and hot after being out in the snow. She was dead serious and had no psychiatry problems. Good news...she got saline and didn't die!"
"One of my close family members is a doctor and they told me this story. A lady came in with her infant, indicating that the government was going to take her baby away if said infant didn't get the heart surgery the baby needed, because they would think she was neglecting it. She had visible signs of self-inflicted injury and had the disorder where people rip out clumps of their own hair and eat it. My family member 'treated' the baby. When I say treated, I mean, they did the rundown on the baby and verified that it was in good health. Social workers were called with respect to whether there were any orders out or issues regarding the welfare of the kid, and...nothing. The kid wasn't on anyone's radar for social services.
Then things get interesting. The police show up. The lady's husband had called the police and said his wife was acting erratically on the phone, but when he got home, she and the baby were not there (I gather police protocol normally involves checking hospital admissions so people get found quickly). Wife subsequently failed, with both officers and physicians present, to correctly identify the day of the week and her current location.
Just that a couple months later, husband, baby, and wife/mother are all happy/healthy. Luckily the woman got the care she needed."
"This middle-aged lady had a pituitary (brain) mass that had gotten large enough to push on her optic chiasm (the place where your optic nerves cross over each other between your brain and your eyes). She was totally blind because of this before she decided to seek care.
She had her brain mass resected and was on a bunch of steroids to replace her pituitary function. The steroids, plus the ICU environment/lack of good sleep, plus the recent brain-poking led her to become absolutely psychotically delirious. She was extremely paranoid, to the point of mistrusting everyone who came into her room. This included her family, who, since she couldn’t see them, she accused of being impostors who were working for the hospital to try and trick her.
One day, my whole team was at a conference and got a frantic page from her nurse. We rushed back to the ICU to find the patient, fully naked, perched on the side of her bed about to do some sort of WWE type jump attack in the nurse’s general direction. We managed to subdue her with some haldol, and after a few more days, she started to clear up, but I’ll never forget that image of that big nude Pacific Islander lady teetering on the edge of the bed."
"We had a mom in the NICU who would constantly kiss her premature baby on the mouth. Several nurses educated her around why that’s not safe for the baby, and thankfully documented their teachings. This was during cold and flu season, and became even more concerning when the mother was coming in with cold-like symptoms (coughing, sneezing and obvious congestion). She still continued to kiss the baby right on the mouth. The baby was almost ready to go home by this time, but got extremely sick. The baby ended up on a ventilator and had quite the extended stay with many, many close calls."
"Resident physician here:
I've had numerous patients who've rejected medical treatment for a small, localized, and easily treatable cancer in favor of naturopathic/homeopathic remedies. Inevitably, they re-present years later with diffusely metastatic cancer in their brains, liver, bones...it's everywhere. By that point, the conversation shifts from how I can cure them to how I can make them comfortable before they die.
For example: Woman has progesterone-receptor positive cancer. This means that the hormone progesterone will make her cancer grow faster. She goes to her naturopath, who prescribes her tubs of progesterone cream for years, which most certainly made her cancer worse.
But it's okay, she tells me, it was years of 'natural' progesterone."
"I worked in a care home as a cleaner for a while and, basically, ground floor was for the 'regular' and 'manageable' old folks, and the second floor was for the more difficult residents.
So me and the other cleaner on shifts would swap floors daily. One day she would do floor 2 while I did ground, and the next I would do 2 and she would do ground.
There was one resident - Maggie, and I'll never forget Maggie. On our first day, we were warned that Maggie was suffering from Dementia but she had a tendency to be mean, nasty, and sometimes very aggressive and would attempt to get physical. If we felt uncomfortable, we could clean her room while the carers attended to her. Now Maggie was fine with me, which was apparently a rarity. She had her favorites in the home and only allowed certain carers to do their jobs, and me the cleaner.
The cafeteria was on floor 2, which was where staff could go to get a drink. So on this day, I'm on ground and the other cleaner was on 2. I finished doing what I was doing and made my way upstairs to get a drink for my break. As I pass Maggie's room, I hear a commotion, so I do the knock and walk in to make sure everything was okay.
BAM! A fresh cup of hot tea smashed two inches away from my head and Maggie shouted, 'GET HER OUT! SHE IS SATAN IN DISGUISE! SHE'S TRYING TO SUCK MY SOUL UP AND I'M NOT READY!' The other cleaner was cowering by Maggie's bed with a vacuum in hand and an arm covering her head from the onslaught of boiled sweets and whatever else Maggie could get her hands on. I took over and finished vacuuming the room and Maggie expressing how I was clearly Gabriel in female form because I saved her from the grasp of the Devil. She even asked if she could touch my wings so she 'would be blessed and absolved of sin' before she died. From then on, me and the other cleaner swapped a room each.
The room I decided to swap was a guy with a penchant for younger girls (I was 18 at the time and the other cleaner was in her 50's so it made sense) who would always try and grab my butt. Not that he ever succeeded, but the attempts always made me feel uncomfortable.
There was another guy on floor 2 who used to smear his poop everywhere to 'protect from the evils of women.'"
"A patient came to see me having a stroke due to a blocked brain artery. I’d activated the Code Stroke team - everyone was ready in the theatre to get the clot out of her artery: nurses, anesthetist, technician - but she (42) insisted on updating her Facebook status and 'checking in' before allowing me to treat her. Wasted 3-5 minutes and 6-10 million brain cells (if she had that many to start with)."
"I’m in Dermatology. There are A LOT of people who think they have bugs in their skin- a lot of them aren’t crazy, but there are also no bugs. Often it will start with a splinter or a bug bite and and they get this idea of bugs in their skin that they can’t shake. Once we explain it to them and give them something to calm their peripheral nervous system, they usually do well.
That said, there are also very crazy people who think they have bugs in their skin. They will bring us bags of scabs or jars of pee so we can examine them for bugs.
One guy thought he had glass in his skin and brought in a whole duffel bag of Gatorade bottles filled with urine. He suffered from a paranoid disorder. We actually had to lock up early and wait for him to leave because he wanted one of our chairs to examine for glass. He also demanded to be able to comb through our billing department to see how many people we’d infested with glass. He left his pee bottles outside our door.
Those cases are really sad because even though we try to refer them for the help they need, they usually just yell at us/post a bad review and never come back. One lady used to beg us to cut open her fingers to look for them.
Usually these patients will look like they're bad addicts because they’ve just picked at themselves obsessively- most of them are not, but it’s a sad thing to see either way."
"We had a college student come into the ER with a wonderful case of appendicitis. He needed to get surgery ASAP as surgery is way easier and safer if done before it ruptures. He called his parents to let them know and they told him to refuse because he had a test upcoming in the week and they didn't want him to miss it. He left the ER Against Medical Advice while we were all telling him that if your appendicitis gets worse and ruptures, it can definitely lead to death. The kid luckily comes back about 10 hours later after it ruptured, he gets the emergency surgery and the amount of time he got to spend in the hospital probably doubled."
"While in the nursing home, my great grandmother was convinced that the nurses were sneaking into the room at night and stealing her organs. She crocheted a lot, and she would crochet crosses and then put googly eyes on them and hang them around her room so that god could watch the nurses and stop them from stealing her organs while she slept.
Dementia can be wild."
"Surgical nurse here. I had a patient return to the OR who had some hardware (plates and bolts) put in their elbow for a fracture. The hardware was causing them discomfort so instead of talking to her surgeon, she decided to try and remove one of the bolts(!) with a knife and screwdriver(!!).
I got the case for the wound clean up and replacement of said exposed bolt. One of the strangest ones I've had yet."
"Many, many moons ago, when I was a student nurse, I was caring for a man over Easter. He had been hallucinating wildly, thrashing around and seeing rabbits all over the ward (an old fashioned, open ward). He had delirium tremens from withdrawal. We were administering large amounts of intravenous sedation (hemineverin) to keep him calm and things were going well.
Until the night a nurse came bouncing in at 3 am dressed as the Easter bunny, ears and all! His face was a picture. We couldn't get her out fast enough."
"Last year, I was interning at this hospital and one of the doctors asked me to change the IV of one of the patients. For some reason, the IV bag had a bright red tag with a caution sign on it (it was just glucose and vitamins). Anyways, as I was putting the bag up, the patient started screaming that I wanted to poison her and that she knew what I was doing. She kept telling everyone I was trying to kill her and screaming until she woke almost the entire floor. I felt so embarrassed while having to explain what happened to the doctors that came rushing in. They thought she was having a heart attack. After it all blew over, the patient refused to let me do anything to her and whenever I came for other patients, she was glaring at me. Her poor husband bought me a big bouquet of roses the next day."