A doctor's job isn't easy. They do the best they can to keep the people in their communities as healthy as possible. Sometimes, though, if their patients don't even know the most basic facts about human biology, it can make everything worse. Apparently, even some basic things, like drinking water, seem to be a challenge to some people.
Everyone knows there are some really nutty people out there, but these folks take the cake! We found a collection of hilarious and ridiculous stories from doctors that made us wonder how some of these people remember to breathe. Content has been edited for clarity.
"A mom comes in with her baby, plus two older kids. She complains that the baby hasn't pooped in a while and won't stop crying. As I'm settling them in with one of the nurses, the baby is bawling, like opera singer lungs bawling.
Suddenly, the mom whips out a white plastic shopping bag and sticks an end in the kid's mouth, saying, 'This is the only way she stops crying.'
The nurse and I share a look and immediately order an emergency x-ray on the kid's stomach. Turns out, she had ingested a good amount of these bags and it was blocking up in her stomach. It's a big deal; potentially life-threatening.
When we confront the mom about her baby feeding habits her only words of defense were, 'Well I checked all over the bag and I couldn't find anything that said non-edible.'"
"I had a patient who recently been diagnosed with diabetes– we needed to adjust her blood sugar levels but she kept eating sweets. So we had a talk for like 30 minutes with her about not eating sweets and so on, she seemed to understand. 5 minutes after the conversation she went around drinking a soda.
Another guy who had a benign arrhythmia (the heart beats irregularly). He knew that he could get the arrhythmia from time to time, but as long as he didn't faint or got any pain in the chest, he could just take a beta-blocker and let it pass. He went to the ER like 6-7 times before he understood that we couldn't do anything.
One patient came in for something (can't remember what) and when we ran test we found that he had a pH of 6.97! That is on the border of what the body can have and still have any function at all (read, he should be dead). But he was awake and clear. We wanted to admit him to the ICU. But he needed to go home...to eat a shrimp sandwich. Yes, a shrimp sandwich. We sat down and talked to him and his mother for 30 minutes that no shrimp-sandwich in the world is worth your life, and if there is something else you need to get help, with we can help him. But nope, he left. He came back a couple of hours later and we cured his acidosis. That must have been a mean shrimp-sandwich."
"A patient comes to the ER, 19-year-old male and I'm getting his history. I ask the usual question: 'Why are you here today?'
'Every morning when I wake up, my stomach hurts.'
How long has it been hurting?
'All my life.'
'Well, what is different today that's made you come here?'
'My girlfriend doesn't think that is normal.'
More questions, exam by ER physician, lab tests. The abdominal pain always goes away after he eats. Always. He wakes up hungry. He thought it was pain."
"We had a diabetic patient who kept coming back with extremely high blood sugar. We asked him if he was following the regiment we taught him: testing his blood sugar, using the sliding scale, measuring the correct dose of insulin in the syringe, etc. He went through all the steps and it sounded like he was doing everything right.
We asked him to demonstrate the steps he took so we could observe and correct any mistakes he may have been making. He did everything right...until the very last step. He drew up the insulin in his syringe, pulled an orange out if his bag, injected the insulin into the orange, then ate it.
It turns out when he was taught to practice how to give himself subcutaneous injections with oranges, he didn't realize he actually needed to inject himself for the insulin to do its job."
"I had severe asthma as a kid. I was intubated for a severe attack a few times. My parents were instructed to take better precautions in our home and went through instructions, more dusting, washing bed sheets and the big one: NO SMOKING inside the house. So my parents agreed to all of this.
A few weeks later, I'm back in the hospital. A doctor recognized me and came over to talk. Then he bent over and smelled my head (I'll never forget that, I thought it was so weird). He told a nurse to sit there and not let me leave with my parents. When my parents showed up, he asked point blank, 'Did you not understand what I told you last time? Do you understand these attacks could be fatal?'
'But we open windows and have stopped smoking in her room when we put her to bed!'
I don't think the doctors called CPS, but if they did, nothing was done about it. This ranks surprisingly low in terms of bad parenting decisions on their part. My family was and still is garbage salad."
"My mom was the head nurse at a clinic in Houston in the '80s. She worked for an old WWII doctor who had gone into private practice when he returned back to the States. Well, one afternoon they had a patient come in who was running a high fever and complaining of pain in her pelvic area. There was a stench coming from the woman's lap that could only be described as, 'enough to gag a maggot off a meat wagon.'
She began to interview the patient, who told her that she and her boyfriend had been intimate and that she has been in pain ever since. She thought the woman may have contracted an STD and asked her to undress and wait for the doctor to examine her. The doctor arrived and closed the door, only to re-open it a few seconds later, mentioning the need for fresh air.
The doctor noticed there was discharge from her privates and began to question the patient, did they use protection, etc. According to mom, the patient said, 'No doc, we always use a rubber.' The doctor looked down then noticed that there was a small rubber band coming from the woman's privates. The doctor reached in with his gloved hand and pulled it out.
What came next can only be described as a magician pulling the magic cloth out of someone's mouth...one rubber band after another came out over the course of the next 10 minutes. Finally, once they were all removed, the doctor had 'the talk' with the woman and made sure she knew that rubber bands were not a successful contraceptive and not what they meant by 'wearing a rubber.' Then he wrote her a prescription for Abx."
"Dentist here. Things I've had to explain to parents:
-Milk CAN cause cavities.
-Don't put your kids to bed with a bottle with Coke in it. They then switched to Diet Coke...
-Don't wiggle out your permanent teeth just because the tooth fairy will give you money. There was a little guy, probably 8 years old or so, who had wiggled out his four lower PERMANENT incisors (front teeth) after wiggling out his four baby teeth in the corresponding spots because his family made such a big deal about giving him money from the Tooth Fairy. They were in my office asking when the new teeth would be coming in...
You can't brush cavities away with toothpaste or any of these new Internet fads (oil pulling, honey, chocolate). Once your cavity is deep enough, it needs to be fixed by a dentist.
Fluoride isn't poison any more than table salt is poison. Small quantities are good for you. Anyone who tells you otherwise has been lied to and believed it."
"I had a mom and grandma bring their 12-year-old daughter/granddaughter to the emergency room because she was bleeding.
Not from trauma or a wound mind you, the poor girl had started menstruating and the mom didn't want to explain what was happening or started to happen, nor that it would continue to happen (as mom and grandma well knew).
On the upside, it was a very quick ER visit once they were actually seen."
"When I was an Internal Medicine resident I came across a very nice 50-year-old Dominican lady, she was well mannered but one could tell she was not the sharpest tool in the shed. As I was prepping her chart for our first visit, I noticed that she'd been seen by every single digestive disease MD in our hospital system.
Not only that, she'd had EVERY SINGLE PROCEDURE IN THE BOOK. Ranging from endoscopies up both holes and culminating in an exploratory laparotomy (you're opened up to basically look inside you when we have no clue what's going on). All of this because for years she had one single complaint, she reported severe gnawing pain in her stomach.
At this point, I should mention that she only spoke Spanish. Not only that, she had a very heavy Dominican accent, and I was the first Hispanic doctor to ever see her. My first language is Spanish and even I had difficulty understanding her.
So she comes in and after exchanging some first-time pleasantries I politely ask her how she's doing. Sure enough, although she was smiling and said she felt well she pointed at her belly and said 'it' was biting again, and asked for the cream to kill 'it.' At this point, I got intrigued. Her medication list only mentioned a cream used for herpes breakouts. The previous doctor only mentioned in his note that in every single visit she only asked for the cream and nothing else.
When I asked what she meant by the biting and what she intended to do with the cream, she very calmly tells me she intended to stick the cream up her bottom in order to kill the bird living inside her. After delving more deeply into her story, it turns out she didn't have a medical condition. Ever since she was a little girl, she believed that after eating a whole quail egg, the bird had spawned inside her and gnawed away her insides whenever it was very hungry.
After a short visit to psych, she was diagnosed with a somatic-type delusional disorder. No amount of medication or psychotherapy will cure her, but she was still a fully functional mother of 2 who paid her taxes and had two part-time jobs. I reached out to every digestive disease doctor in our hospital system once more, to make sure she never receives an inappropriate invasive intervention. I've been following her now for three years and she's happy as one can be, considering she has a bird living inside her."
"I got placed doing a rotation in the orthopedic floor of a big hospital in a rural area of Southern California.
I was doing my rounds and saw a patient out of bed and walking around the floor following a knee replacement. She had a cane in her hand which she was carrying like a soldier would carry a weapon. I asked what she was doing and what she thought the cane was for. She replied she thought the cane was for pushing people out of her way since she's now 'handicapped,' not that it was to help her walk on her post-operative knee."
"My dad is a pediatrician. He told me the story of a teenage boy (around 13 years old) who was referred to him. When he asked him if he was on medications, the boy's mom pulled out some birth control pills. Apparently, his family physician suggested birth control as a way to treat his acne.
Yes, you read that correctly. A licensed doctor told a teenage BOY that was just going through puberty to take female hormones as acne treatment. I think he had been taking them regularly for the past year."
"My S.O. is a med student. He helped to diagnose a 40-year-old woman who finally sought out a doctor after having open, festering wounds on her entire torso for over a year. These open wounds only appeared after more than a year of painful, visible lumps on her chest. She had never sought treatment prior to this.
S.O. had to inform her that her entire body was riddled with cancer, that there was no treatment to help her, and that she would be dead very soon.
Her sister, who was there the entire time, began loudly proclaiming what a shame it was that nothing could ever have been done and that hopefully someday we would be able to detect cancer sooner. S.O. watched the doctor explain that pretty much any other woman in the country would have gotten effective treatment at the first sign of the lumps."
"When I worked as a nurse in urgent care, we had a guy with a bad abrasion on his leg stemming from a fall down a flight of steps. He was prescribed a topical cream, among other things. Directions on the tube: apply to the affected area. Sounds simple enough, right?
At the follow-up, we noticed the wound was gross and not healing at all. He insisted he put the cream on the affected area and it just wasn't working for him!
The doctor suspected something, so he had the patient demonstrate how he applied the cream so we can maybe offer some further help. The patient says he can't because we're not at his house.
And that's where the stairs are.
This man was rubbing the cream on the stairs he fell down because the instructions said to 'rub on affected area.'"
"A woman came to her OBGYN for an exam as she had an infection of some sort.
The doctor did the exam and asked the usual questions, 'Are you active with your partner,' etc, and nothing seemed to obviously be the case. At some point though, the woman lets slip that she's sick and tired of dealing with this infection that she's had her whole life.
That perks up the doctor's antennae and so the doctor tentatively asked her which direction she wiped when she used the toilet. This 30-something-year-old woman had been wiping back to front her whole life and didn't have any idea of the problems that could, and was, leading to."
"Not a doctor, but dental nurse.
My favorite was a 30-something year old woman who came in for a check up at the emergency low cost clinic I worked at. Teeth were broken and almost black and gums are angry swollen, bright red and bleeding by just moving her tongue against them, needed multiple scaling/hygienist appointments and a debridement (honestly YouTube has some amazingly disgusting videos of this treatment but maybe keep the sound off if you don’t like the scraping sound).
X-ray showed she had all but her wisdom teeth and 10 fillings. We did root canals to try and save some teeth and extractions for I think 3 but more if the root canals didn’t work. I explained everything and did the usual explanation of proper hygiene. I asked her if she had any questions to which she says...'it’s okay if I lose this set of teeth, my others will come through.'
The dentist and I just looked at each other probably a lot longer than we should have. No words. I couldn’t think of anything to reply to that comment.
I had a lot of weird and disgusting things happen at that clinic. I actually miss working there."
"A person came in with conjunctivitis. They proceeded to ask questions on how it was transmitted. With the most serious look on their face, they asked if it was contagious and can be passed on by glare.
While this is hilarious, take a minute to think, WHAT IF ANYTHING WAS CONTAGIOUS BY GLARE. That would be so frightening!"
"I'm a paramedic. Once I was driving with my partner and the patient in the back. The patient was going to be just fine. Her skeezy boyfriend was riding in the front with me and apparently saw a golden opportunity to ask a question that had obviously been on his mind for some time.
Him: 'So when cats and dogs eat grass, that means they have cancer, right?'
Me:' Ummm. No. No, it does not.'
Made for an awkwardly silent ride the rest of the way."
"I had a patient come in for an STD check. She was very upset and continued to tell me that she only had one partner. Progressing through my assessment, she further divulged that even if he was sleeping with other people, it shouldn't matter 'because he uses protection every time and he makes sure to wash it thoroughly after every use.' I asked what she meant when she said he washes it after every use. She explained that he washed the protection with hot water and soap before he used said protection again..."
"I did my residency in a clinic. A very pleasant 50 something lady came in for a physical.
Everything was going fine when she casually asked if there are any new vaccines out. She was up to date with everything, so I asked if she had any specific concerns. She was asking to see if she could vaccinate her gay, adult son against homosexuality.
Very nice, always had a smile on her face, even when I broke the 'bad' news to her."
"I work in mental health.
The amount of times parents will leave out super important information when we ask them a question is shocking. For example: 'Has little Timmy had any significant life events in the last few years that might have had an effect on his mental health?' 'No.' An hour later they tell us they've been abused, bullied, lost close family members and a whole bunch of really life-changing traumatic stuff recently. They didn't tell us that when we asked the question because they didn't think it was important.
Honestly, the amount of times you have to explain to a grown adult why really obviously terrible/abusive behavior on their part might be the reason their child is acutely unwell is staggering. The amount of people who are really not fit to be parents is shocking, holy smokes. Parenting and healthy relationships need to be taught in schools for real."
"I had a patient tell me: 'I don't want my baby to get a vaccine because Jenny McCarthy's book says her son got Autism from the Thimerosal in his MMR vaccine.'
For starters, Jenny McCarthy is a one time Playboy model who wants to sell you her books. Moreover, MMR is a live vaccine and does not contain Thimerosal. Thimerosal contains Ethylmercury, which clears from your body in about 10 days, unlike methylmercury which stays for months and actually causes damage. Oh, and measles killed 135,000 people in the world LAST YEAR. Plus, autism has a strong genetic component. If one identical twin has it, there is a 75% chance the other will as well. Not to mention Andrew Wakefield faked the research linking autism to MMR vaccine, lost his license to practice medicine and made millions helping lawyers sue and selling books. He lives in a mansion in England.
I went to school for 11 years, spent 10,000 hours studying and just want to make sure your child stays healthy. Quit thinking your five minutes of internet research means anything, get over yourself, and vaccinate your baby."
"I saw a patient for a follow up after three ER visits in as many days for asthma. He was from another country, so this was the first time I ever met him.
His lungs sounded absolutely terrible, but he swore he was taking the inhaler every 2-4 hours with no relief. This raised suspicion to me, as the same medicines are working in the ER. I asked him to show me how he used it. He held it about a foot away from his mouth and did two puffs into the air and swallows.
I felt really bad, he had never received any education about his illness or medications."
"Here in Mexico, we have something called social service. Our college education is free in some institutions, so we have to pay for it with one year of free work in a rural area.
So my first month working in a rural area, a woman in her 30s came in to get a consult because she was feeling weird in the mornings and this had been happening her whole life. I asked what her symptoms were and she told me that every day she wakes up with her mouth dry, though the feeling disappears in about one or two hours. 'Well, how much water do you drink?'
'Hmm, one or maybe two glasses, one at breakfast, and one midday.'
'Do you know what thirst is?'
'Yeah, when you drink water so you can pee.'
So I had a conversation that took one hour long about what thirst is and how it feels."
"I had a patient come in stating that he couldn’t bend his knee. I asked him to remove his trousers so I could examine his leg. After he removed his trousers, the reason that he couldn’t bend his knee was that he had a plaster cast around his knee.
Checking his notes, he had been sent numerous letters asking him to come in for removal of this plaster cast and since he hadn’t attended any of the outpatient clinics, the hospital had assumed that he had removed the cast himself."