Doctors usually have the highest level of professionalism, but it's a tough job. Sometimes the right words just don't come out. These are the times when that exact situation has happened. Content has been edited for clarity.
I Am Definitely Not Lucky
“The morning after delivering my severely deformed stillborn first baby at 8 months, the doctor came into my hospital room on rounds. My baby girl, with a perfectly formed little body, had no head at all — just a button on the top of her spine. The doctor announced, ‘Well, the delivery went just about how we expected—except I nearly lost a couple of nurses in the delivery room. They had never seen anything like this. And after your baby quit developing, you filled up with water. I filled up a bucket and got my feet wet too.’
I was sitting there feeling like the biggest freak of nature ever produced. As he was leaving my room, the doctor turned to me to say, ‘Oh, by the way, we weren’t able to study the baby like we were going to. You had a yeast infection that got all over the baby in the birth canal and it grew an inch or two thick.’
To this day, 50 years later, I still can hardly believe he said those things to me, giving me an indelible picture of the most horrific experience of my young life. I think his words went beyond unprofessional to cruelty. My dreams that recurred for a very long time were of my holding my baby girl wrapped in a pink blanket and pulling back the covers to proudly introduce my little girl without a head to those around me.
As soon as I arrived home, a brusque little church lady capped it all off. While carrying two baked chickens on a cookie sheet to the dining room table, she informed me, ‘Well honey, you are just lucky the poor little thing didn’t live.’
I wasn’t feeling very lucky.”
A Series Of Bad Doctors
“A doctor’s statement nearly cost me my life.
When I was 15 years old, I was a scuba diver together with my father. He had been diving for a few years, but I had had to wait until I was 14 before I was allowed to make my first real dive outside due to the guidelines of our national diving association. We could have circumvented them off course, but I wanted to do everything right. We were member of a diving club in a different country and we had a lot of fun there. Me diving in the swimming pool and studying all there is to know about scuba diving and snorkeling, while he was getting his instruction degree.
On my 25th dive, my club was in Spain for the summer holidays. I excited to dive in warmer waters, clear waters, and actually see all the life I hadn’t seen before. The first dive there was great! Absolutely amazing.
The second…not so amazing.
It was my first time to cross the 20m threshold and I saw my first octopus. It was great. We were a group of 6 divers, and when we started going back up to the surface, we stuck to all the schedules and tables to ensure safety and health. Then, I reached the 5-meter threshold. For some reason, my arms didn’t work anymore so I couldn’t control my ascending speed. Once I reached the surface, I couldn’t pump up my jacket to keep me afloat. My body was not working properly.
I screamed for help and they took me back to the boat as I couldn’t even swim myself anymore. Throwing me over the railing was a challenge with the 6 of them and the 4 people still on the boat since I couldn’t help whatsoever, but they managed. At some point, I blacked out. I woke up on the bed of the boat, sore all over but my body seemed to function again…until we reached the shore. I took 3 steps and collapsed. My body no longer under my control. Partially cramping up, partially floppy like a wet cloth. Hyperventilating. My heart beating out of control.
The chair of our diving club was a doctor and since it was his house, they called for his help before rushing me off to the hospital.
‘Don’t worry,’ he said. ‘She has passive panic. She’s exaggerating. Women aren’t meant to be diving, they can’t handle it.’
Then he force-fed me muscle relaxers. Remember, I was 15 years old.
Because of him, no one rushed me to the nearest hospital. They just thought I was a dramatic teen. I received the right treatment after 48 hours, but that was far too late. The nerves in my spine were dead. Had I received this treatment within two hours, my body would have been healthy again almost instantly. I spent six months in a wheelchair, I had to use a rolling walker thing for another year and another six months I used crutches. And I got off the hook easily since when I had my first hospital visit in my own country my doctor there said (when I proudly showed him I could take 3 ridiculous looking steps):
‘I don’t think it will ever get any better than this. You will stay in a wheelchair for the rest of your life.’
He also blocked my every effort to be a part of an experimental treatment in a different hospital or physical therapy since he felt it was no use. That place was better suited for someone where there is still hope. So, I asked my parents to go out and rent me anything they could find to I could try to do physical therapy myself.”
How Dare They Assume That
“Though I was celibate, my doctor convinced me that I was assaulted due to my own carelessness and had gotten pregnant because of it.
I was 19 and in my second year of college, though I was home for the summer. Since I had moved to another city for school, I had no regular doctor to go to for checkups.
Now, I believe the reason I had to go this time had to do with a constant feeling of weakness. There was a hunch it had to do with a deficiency of some sort in my blood, most likely low levels of iron. This is what my mom and I thought, but of course, the doctor would know better. My mother got a recommendation from a family friend, so we set up our appointment with her and waited till the day arrived.
When it finally came, we headed to the new doctor and when I was called in, we did the routine pre-checkup with the nurse until we got to the main purpose of the visit.
She was about 40 years old with a serious demeanor.
Honestly, I should have taken the hint with her tone when she began questioning me on my personal life. At the time, I just assumed I didn’t know her very well. She asked me about my love life. I told her it had yet to start and that I was pure. To that she nodded and gave words of praise. She asked me about my social life. I told her about being in a sorority, though I was still being responsible.
Right away the praise disappeared. She became patronizing, telling me how her children were about my age but never left the library, how my mother should be more on top of me. I was insulted, but this was still just a foreshadowing of what was to come.
She ordered I take a blood test at the lab and that she would phone me with the results when they came in. At this point, it’s important to note that the sample would also be used for a blood pregnancy test. I did as she ordered.
The day the results came in, is one I will never forget. I got a call. It was the doctor’s office, and my doctor was put on the line. She told me that the pregnancy test had come in positive.
‘Positive?! That can’t be. I’m celibate, just as I said!’
‘These results are never wrong.’
‘Isn’t there a chance?’
I hung up and the next thing I knew, I was in HYSTERICS. I drove straight to the office and demanded to see her. With the state I was visibly in, they let me in.
I don’t remember anything that was said leading up to this point. The one thing that will forever stay engrained in my head was when they said, ‘It probably happened when you were blacked out at one of your sorority parties and don’t remember. Or you were assaulted when you were passed out. Either way, this is why you don’t drink and why you should have been studying.’
She dropped abortion and adoption brochures on my lap. I continued, through tears, trying to tell her that it wasn’t possible, and that there MUST be some sort of mistake.
Again, she disregarded my cries, obviously feeling no sympathy, truly convinced I had put myself in this situation. To convince me that she was right and that the tests don’t lie, she suggested I get one more blood test done. I did so right away.
The rest of that day and the next were pure torture. I texted any male I could remember even having a conversation with at a social gathering, asking them if anything had happened between us at any point, if I had truly been an idiot as my doctor had convinced me that I was.
‘What would my parents think? Why had I been so stupid? Am I about to be a college dropout?’
And when everyone I had contacted denied anything ever happening, I wondered, ‘was I seriously assaulted without my knowledge?’
I had never had relations, and I always thought that when I did, I would feel differently the next day. In other words, I would know. But suddenly, I was second guessing myself. I was second guessing everything I knew. My life, my future, my parents, my body, my own mind.
My phone rang two days later. Seeing the doctor office’s number, I quickly answered. The phone call was less than two minutes long. I never even spoke to the doctor. It was the nurse.
‘Your results for the second blood test came in. They were negative. It turns out, there was a mistake with the first test – we’d like to apologize, as this never happens. We’re so sorry. You’ll be reimbursed for the first test.’
I want to say that I demanded for the doctor to be put on the line. I want to say that when she was, I screamed at her, not even knowing where to begin or end explaining the insane roller coaster of anxiety and self-hatred I had undergone. How I had questioned everything I knew to be true. How she should have never received her license. How she was the failure, not me. Heck, I want to say that I demanded to be reimbursed for all the tests and visits.
But I never did.
I just said thank you and hung up.
I had been gaslighted and then been told that I had been right all along. I felt as though I had lost my mind and then been given it back. I simply felt thankful. Thankful for never having gone through what I was forced to believe I had. Thankful I still had my planned future. Thankful I never had to use either pamphlet that was dropped in my lap.
The whole ordeal spanned over just a couple of days, less than a week. Today, the feelings of thankfulness are still there, but in hindsight I should not have had to go through those thoughts and feelings.
A doctor knows more about health than the patient. But that should never be confused with knowing the patient more than the patient. With just about any profession, it’s one thing to be a master of knowledge. It’s a completely different thing to be knowledgeable and be able to effectively communicate with those who know less.
I’m so grateful, but I also really wish I would have laid it on her.”
Not A Good Time To Take A Call
“‘Your wife is going to die…hold on I have to take a call.’
Approximately 14 years ago, my wife felt a small lump on her chest. After a series of ‘It’s probably nothing but…’ from her doctor, she was eventually diagnosed with cancer.
We met with the doctor who would be doing the surgery (a lumpectomy), he explained the process and was confident it would go well. She had the surgery on a Wednesday, removing a growth in her chest, as well as several lymph nodes under her arm.
While my wife lay sleeping in recovery, the doctor told me that things went well and a sense of relief washed over me.
We were supposed to have a meeting with him two days later on Friday after he had time to look at follow-up X-rays, test results, etc., but tragically, his son was killed in a car crash a few hours after the surgery and he had to immediately go out of state to take care of arrangements.
Fortunately, his office was able to reschedule our meeting with an associate doctor on the same day (Friday).
We were waiting in a room when the substitute doctor came in to discus the results. We were cautiously optimistic based on what had been previously discussed. The doctor looked over the charts, gave a few ‘hmms and haws.’ He finally said, ‘Well, this doesn’t look good at all’ in a matter-of-fact way.
Obviously we were devastated, and I sheepishly asked, ‘Will she need more surgery?’
He immediately answered with a blunt response. ‘It’s not a question of whether or not she will need more surgery, but whether she will live or die.’
It’s hard to explain, but at that moment, time just kind of stood still and we sat there motionless and numb. Sadly, what he obviously didn’t understand or comprehend then, or ever, was that if she had cancer, then I had cancer. If she died, then the best part of me would die. Love ensured that, and based on the impersonal way that he was delivering the prognosis, he had no knowledge of this most beautiful thing in life called love.
Ironically, just as he delivered that statement, a nurse (or receptionist) knocked on the door, stuck her head in and said, ‘Doctor, I have your wife on the phone. She is calling about lunch.’
His response? ‘OK, I’ll take the call in my office.’
And with that, he left us both sitting there stunned, with our jaws still open.
For the second time, but for a different reason, we were in shock and doing our best to console each other. Our life, our happy little life together that was supposed to last forever, was crashing down all around us. And the person delivering the crushing news had left us, alone, to try and answer our own questions.
After about five minutes he came back in the room WITHOUT APOLOGIZING and said, ‘The next meeting you will have will be with the oncologist next week. Sorry but I need to go.’
And he was gone. Gone to lunch. Gone to lunch with his wife I assume.
Fortunately, the following Monday (after the longest weekend of our lives), the oncologist calmed our fears, telling us he had read the file wrong and called him ‘a cowboy,’ whatever that meant. She did what a doctor was supposed to do and gave us a dose of optimism that we were so desperately searching for.
As we were leaving her office, I noticed a Boston Marathon medal hanging on her wall. My father had run the same race when I was 7 years old and it warmed my heart. Out of the bad came good, and that day a seed was planted that eventually changed my life. ‘Some day I’ll run that marathon too,’ I thought to myself as we left, both with a renewed sense of hope.
It took two more surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and enough tears, pain and sickness to last a lifetime, but eventually she got a clean bill of health with all cancer removed from her body.
And slowly her strength and hair grew and we were able to put back together a life that had taken a difficult turn, exacerbated by a doctor who never had a clue.
That was 14 years ago and she remains cancer free. Each year, she goes to the same oncologist that gave us the hope that we so desperately needed after our encounter with the other doctor. We could dwell on the past, but choose to look to the future, cherishing every day.
And every day, my wife smiles. So do I.”
Let’s Get This Show On The Road?
“In May 2008, I was 9-months pregnant. It was a gloomy Saturday afternoon, and all of a sudden my water had broken. I ran to the restroom (as this was my first child) thinking I had urinated on myself. Nope this was it, this was my water breaking! I had never been more excited in my life. I was 19 years old and on top of the world. Or so I thought…
I went to the hospital and after explaining my situation, was asked ‘You went to the restroom?’ I explained that I had as I had stated previously wasn’t sure what had happened. The doctor (without physically checking) said that I had in fact urinated on myself, to go home it was not time yet. This was doctor number 1.
The next day was Mother’s Day, I was out to dinner with my family and had eaten quite a bit. I wanted to indulge before the baby came. This was Sunday.
Monday morning came and went, I started thinking with how busy the weekend was that I had not had the chance to do my kick counts. It struck me as odd that I hadn’t really remembered feeling my son move. I sat and contemplated for a while and realized I hadn’t felt him move since Saturday night (that I could remember) so in a panic I headed back to the hospital.
Monday night. I was all set up on the machines to monitor the activity, all smiles and excitement thinking, ‘This is it, today is the day I meet my gorgeous son.’ Next thing I know the nurse comes in and listens. She can not find a heart beat, she says nothing. The doctor rushes in the room, and looks at the monitor and pulls an ultrasound machine out. He looks at me and I knew. He then follows with ‘The baby is dead, he has no heartbeat.’ He then claps his hands together and says, ‘Let’s get this show on the road and get that baby out of there.’
I stared at him blankly. I didn’t even remember how to breathe. I look over and the father of my child has passed out from the news and nurses were rushing in to put salt under his nose.
You know in movies how everything is in slow motion, and they have that out-of-body experience? That is completely true. Everything was rushing by me and I literally heard nothing, except the sound of my own heartbreaking. I apparently was screaming and crying, but heard nothing. It’s almost as if I had gone deaf for the time being. It was a state of shock, but far different from any kind of shock I had ever experienced. I got up and walked out of the hospital. I stood outside and smoked a dart that I bummed off of someone. There I was seemingly a 9-month pregnant woman crying and smoking. Oh, the glares that I got.
Three hours later I decided for myself it was time. I decided I had to deliver this baby or I could end up seriously sick. I walk back upstairs and the same doctor gave me the evilest look you could imagine. I said to him after careful consideration, ‘Can I have this child cesarean instead of natural? I don’t think I can bring myself to go through labor.’
His pure disgust with my question was painted all over his face. ‘Absolutely not,’ he said. ‘You will have a natural labor,’ and stormed out.
Next thing, I know I’m being induced. Everyone failed to mention to me that by inducing labor it would give me contractions. Remember this was my first child. Those contractions forced my son to move. I lost my mind. I was determined that this was some kind of conspiracy and my child was actually still alive. I ripped my IVs out and was headed out the door. Then here comes Dr. Narcissist. ‘Your child is gone; you are going to have to accept it.’ I was again in shock. The nurses brought me back to the bed, and per the doctors orders, knocked me out. The next 13 hours are a blur, in and out of consciousness. I was woken up the next morning, by the doctor on call. A magnificent kind man, delivered my son. I never held him, and was booted about two hours after labor.
Obviously, this was the worst day of my life, but I think back and wonder, ‘Could this have been any different with doctors who showed empathy and compassion? Would the results have been the same?’
All I know is they made the darkest day of my 29 years on this earth, even darker.”
Grab Yourself By The Bootstraps
“In high school I was never one to get sick, and rarely ever had even a common cold. I was a multi-sport athlete in top physical condition, and had a very high threshold for pain – even once giving myself stitches when I nearly cut off a finger tip. Yet in my senior year I spent a couple weeks with a sore throat that wouldn’t go away. Every time I swallowed, even normal saliva, it felt like I was trying to swallow a porcupine holding an open umbrella… backwards.
We went to our regular family ENT doctor after a week or so. He ran the normal cultures for strep and other things, and nothing showed up. Granted, this was Alabama in the 90s, and despite (or in support of) what stereotypes exist, medical science was a little lacking. But it culminated a few days later when I could barely swallow without writhing in visible pain, so we went back to the family ENT doc. Our regular guy was on vacation, so we saw his…I don’t know, maybe his intern, but regardless it was his substitute for the week. After looking into my throat quickly, he told me (and I remember this to the day), ‘Boy, you need to grab yourself by your bootstraps and toughen up!’
He then sent me away like I was a wuss with a sore throat.
Fast forward about 10 hours later: I wake up in the middle of the night, unable to swallow and barely able to breathe, with my throat swollen shut. We rush to the ER, where I get an emergency tonsillectomy due to a severe tonsil infection that had nearly swollen my throat shut and nearly killed me. Not only was it bad enough tonsillitis that it required emergency surgery, but they were so bad that they couldn’t use traditional surgery methods, instead having to dislocate my jaw and cut by hand, and then stitching up the huge wounds. The tonsils they removed were so large that they couldn’t use the standard specimen jars they used for tonsils, instead going for what looked like small Mason jars to bring them out to show me.
The same substitute doctor was there, and said that everything would be fine and that I could eat solid food again whenever my body told me it was the right time again. Why we listened to him? I have no idea. That was a Thursday.
Saturday morning, I felt fine, and was super hungry. Again, high school football player with a nitro-fueled metabolism, I wanted solid food. So, after mowing the lawn and doing some chores, I went out for a McDonald’s breakfast biscuit. I felt something loose and tickling in my throat, and plucked at it a bit but gave up soon after. Later that night, I woke up in what I thought was a cold sweat, but it turned out to be a bed covered in blood. Apparently that tickle in my throat was opening stitches, and a clot that I apparently dislodged, and nearly bled out through the Saturday and in my bed during the night.
I was rushed back to the ER, where they pumped my stomach out from being full of blood I’d been swallowing all day, and I got a transfusion for the few pints I was missing internally. Re-dislocate my jaw, staple my flingy throat thing to the top of my throat, then re-stitch everything. Thanks guys. 7 days later, I was finally able to eat solid food again, having lost nearly 25% of my body weight and much of my natural blood. Wish I had just toughened up some more…
Maybe more of a malpractice issue or bad southern diagnosis issue, but I still think it was the most unprofessional medical thing I’d ever experienced.”
“I ended up slapping the doctor! My brother-in-law met with a near-fatal car accident and suffered major brain trauma. He was on a trekking trip in the remote Himalayas, where his car slipped and fell into a ditch. After 8 hours of rescue efforts, we had lifted him from the ditch and drove him in the middle of the night for almost 6 hours to reach the hospital. He was in a coma when we arrived at the hospital. The junior doctors called the senior doctor, who arrived at his leisure without understanding the emergency.
The senior doctor came, looked at the scans and other reports, chatted briefly with his interns, and said, ‘He won’t survive, so you better save your money and agony trying to revive him and take him home. He will pass away peacefully in another few hours.’
I got so agitated hearing that, I slapped him real hard in front of all his staff. I grabbed his collar and yelled at him to do his job: which is to save my brother’s life. He was so stunned and frozen by this sudden reaction, while all the other docs and staff started working on him. They connected the life saving equipment back and treating him as if he is alive.
The doctor called for a full closure/strike of the ICU, but by that time the HOD had been called. The doctor got suspended, and I had to give a written apology to the hospital for my behavior.
Today after 4 years… he has recovered well and living his life quite independently.
I am not proud of what I did, nor I would ever suggest anyone to do that. In my case, the doctor acted simply insensitive about a man’s life being at stake, who has a wife and 2 small kids. He expected us to kill a living person by simply overlooking the case and had the heart to tell us to do that. I have doctors in my family, and they share same views that private doctors are simply about making more money, and the government doctors are too lazy and unprofessional to really care about the lives of the people who come for treatment.”
“Go Home And Die”
“I suffer from bleeding ulcers. I don’t really know why, but from time to time after using the bathroom, I will look into a toilet bowl that looks like it is filled with Cabernet. When I see that, I have to go to the hospital. Unfortunately, the hospital in my area, Norwood Hospital, is something out of a third world nightmare.
After driving to the hospital and explaining that I was pooping heavy blood, they put me on a gurney on top of a filthy, uncovered mattress. I didn’t know then that I would be on that same mattress, without even a cover sheet, for five whole days.
They brought me to a semi-private room that I was sharing with an end stage addict, who was spending his last hours in agony. He screamed and moaned all night long. From time to time, a nurse would come in and tell him to shut up. Sometimes other nurses would come in and show him compassion and comfort that made me want to weep. My nurse came in and told me to defecate into a bucket in the small bathroom, so they could see if I was truly bleeding. It took a couple of hours of sitting on that bucket but the nurse took one look and said, ‘Yep, you’ve got real troubles.’
The next morning, they wheeled me into the OR and pumped me full of medicine (thank God), and the doctor went up my butt and down my throat with cameras and lasers to find and repair the damage. When I awoke, I was back in my room with my moaning roommate and his seedy friends who had come to visit, I was still on the same dirty mattress. I had a bunch of hoses in me and they pumped me with medicine and fluids and who knows what else. At one point, they determined my potassium was low and hung a bag. Then the nurse disappeared. Within a half hour, I thought my arm was going to explode. The potassium was burning me very badly. I pushed the call button. ‘What is it?’ the nurse FINALLY asked over the intercom.
‘You have to take this IV out. It’s really burning me,’ I pleaded.
‘Okay,’ she said and was gone. I waited in agony. No one came. I hit the button again.
‘What is it?’ the nurse asked.
‘Please,’ I begged, ‘Please take this IV out. I’m in serious distress here.’
She said, ‘Okay.’
I laid there in my own sweat, writhing in agony. No one came. I pressed the button again. ‘I am going to take this IV out myself,’ I said, ‘I can’t stand it anymore.’
‘Hang on,’ she said. I started to take the tape off. I was almost in tears from the pain. She came into the room and asked me what I was doing. ‘This potassium is burning me badly,’ I said, ‘You have to take this out.’
She looked at the bag. ‘It needs to stay in another half an hour,’ she said.
I said, ‘If you don’t take it out right now, this minute, I am going to do it.’
She took it out. Later she brought me a giant potassium pill. Why couldn’t she have done that earlier? My roommate called out to God and died.
During the night, the nurses came in to change his bed. I was trying to sleep. They made more noise than a construction crew. The entire time they talked about how much the hospital management sucked, how the Union was letting them down, and how the pay situation really needed to be addressed. There was no attempt at any kind of consideration for the guy trying to sleep in the bed four feet away. I was forced to stay awake and listen to their griping about how much they hated Norwood Hospital. So did I.
I wanted to go home the next day. The doctor said I had to stay. They had found the lesion in my esophagus. They believed an aspirin that I had eaten lodged in my esophagus and burned a hole right through causing the bleed. I had lost a great deal of blood. They didn’t want me to leave for a couple of days.
Time passes slowly in a hospital. I asked for Xanax and spent a lot of time in an exhausting, half-sleeping netherworld of boredom and exasperation. During the entire time, no one came to help me wash. A sheet was never put on the bed. To drag myself and all my hoses and bags to the bathroom was a major effort that left me exhausted and discouraged. I had no toiletries. There was nothing in the bathroom but a couple of rusty razor blades, which the attendants for some reason always left behind when they cleaned the room. I don’t know why.
By day five I had enough. I told the nurse I was leaving. I was going home. ‘If you leave, the insurance won’t pay,’ she warned me. ‘You need your doctor to sign off.’
I told her to get him. He showed up the next morning. It was the first time I had seen any doctor since the day after the operation. I said to him, ‘This hospital is a disgrace. I want to go home.” He looked up at me over his bifocals and flipped his chart closed. ‘Oh, you can go home,’ he said to me, ‘This is isn’t a prison. You can go home any time you like. Go home and die.’ And then he signed a piece of paper, dropped the chart on the bed, and left.
A few minutes later the nurse came in. She was the only person who ever showed me any compassion the entire time I was there. She gave me some instructions and a bunch of papers to sign and some notes about how to speed my recovery. She was embarrassed for the doctor. I put my clothes on. It had been five days since I washed, brushed my teeth, shaved, changed my underwear. I felt like a bum. I could barely stand my own stink. I walked out into the sunshine to my car, now covered with five days worth of dust and grime. The attendant tried to charge me $150 for the parking. I showed him my sign-out doc and he let me leave. I didn’t have to pay.
I never, ever want to go back to that hole again.”