ER staff sees a lot of crazy stuff. So, it takes a lot to really surprise them. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen though. Sometimes, someone comes through the door with an injury even the most experienced doctors and nurses just can't believe. That's what happened to the medical professionals in these stories!
We've rounded up all of the best stories about times ER staff just could not believe what they were seeing. Content has been edit for clarity.
"My stepfather was a nurse in an emergency room. One day a man came in who had chopped off a few of his fingers while working on his car. He was working on something towards the front of the engine. While the motor was running, he reached in for something and the fan blade cut his fingers right off. So they were able to re-attach his digits and send him back to his normal life. So far nothing too strange, you might say, but wait.
A few weeks later, the same man walks into the ER again. This time with a fan blade sticking out of his shoulder. Apparently, it got bent when it chopped off his fingers. That was causing it to hit other parts of the engine make a noise. He attempted to straighten it out. He took the blade off and bent it back into shape as best as he could. Then he reattached it and started up the engine to see if it was spinning correctly. After the third adjustment, he did not properly secure the fan blade. When he was checking to see if it wobbled, it flew off and struck him in the shoulder."
"I worked for several years as a patient transporter at a large county hospital with a level 1 trauma center. It's basically, a trauma center that can handle everything.
Once, we had a wasted guy arrive at the unit on Cinco de Mayo. He had a fence post stuck up his butt. According to him, he had been walking along the fence, while hammered, as you do. He said he slipped. Resulting in the post lodging up there. The attending surgeon, who was black, decided to question the logistics of the patient's injury. The patient responded to this by unleashing several ethnic slurs toward the surgeon. So, the guy got the fence post removed...without any anesthetic. The surgeon in question was definitely an enormous jerk and could be a downright belligerent at times. This is definitely one of those times. I never did hear how that fence post actually got up there."
"When my brother was in med school, a guy walked into the emergency room with the handle of a butcher knife sticking out from under one eye. They X-rayed him and found out that yes, the whole knife was there. It was sticking into his skull. The X-ray and neurological tests indicate that he was really lucky. The knife didn't do any serious nerve or brain damage. After some debate, they decided to pull the knife out, but it was really stuck.
Eventually, they lay the guy on his back, the ER doc took off his shoes and climbed up on the gurney. He puts his foot on the patient's forehead and heaved the knife out. They put the guy on the ward and the next morning the cops showed up to ask him about it. The guy said, 'Never mind, I'll take care of it.' The next day, while no one was looking, the guy got up and walked out."
"A young gal on her 21st birthday jumped out of her boyfriend's car going 45 mph because 'she wasn't done partying.' Exactly one year, four rods, eight plates, and a whole lot of hardware later, a level one trauma is paged and who is it? Lil miss 'I'm gonna jump out of a moving car' again. She had to go to the operating room for the second time.
A year later, the plot thickened. She came back the day after St. Patrick's Day because she 'danced so hard the hardware came out.' That isn't what happened according to her boyfriend. According to him, she jumped out of their car going 15 mph and that is why her ankle's hardware was broken. She is really a class act."
"I'm a nurse. I once took care of a man with multiple shot wounds. He required a major surgical operation. It was odd because the man was not the person you would expect for that kind of wound. He was in his 90s. I was expecting a younger man, thinking it may have been gang violence but nope. He was shot in World War II with a bullet that splintered in his abdomen.
He had bullets stuck in him from the war but never had them fully removed. That explained the heavy duty lead levels. It was an absolute miracle he lived as long as he did with all that. He was probably the coolest patient I ever had."
"Once, while working on night shift, I got a standby case of infant drowning and mother entering hypovolemic shock, which is what happens when you lose too much blood at once. Initially, I thought it was a mother trying to do a water birth thing but it went wrong.
Turned out the girl was underaged. Her family didn't know she was pregnant. She gave birth to the baby in the toilet over the toilet bowl. The reason the baby 'drowned' was because she let her baby sit in the water for some time before calling her family for help. By the time the paramedics reached them, the baby was no longer breathing and the heartbeat was fading away.
Luckily they reached us in time to stabilize both of them. They were sent them out to a women's/children hospital for closer monitoring. That whole story still baffles me to no end."
"I'm a surgeon. My favorite trauma I saw in residency was a guy who came in with a golf club through his bicep muscle of his left arm. How did it get there?
Well, he was playing at a friendly adult soccer match when things got a little heated. He said he felt threatened and retreated to grab a handy golf club from his car for protection. He then returned to the soccer pitch and confronted the other player who threatened him. Things got more heated and he took a swing at the dude with the club. This only broke the head of the club off on the other guy's body. The other dude grabbed the club and then stabbed him with his own golf club.
So, he showed up to the emergency department with a golf club through and through his biceps.
It actually didn't bleed that much when we took it out."
"My sister is a doctor. She was doing her neurosurgery rotation when a hospital personnel tells her of a shooting victim. Doing the math, shot, neurosurgery, she was thinking this was going to be bad. My sister rushed to the room, where she found a female patient seated on the bed. There was a bullet stuck between her eyebrows. She nonchalantly greets my sister with, 'Hi Doc.'
It turned out that her abusive husband pointed a homemade weapon square to her forehead and fired. The bullet probably misfired, resulting in it not penetrating the skull completely. A few rotations later, my sister bumped into the same woman in the psych ward."
"We had a guy come in stating he was involved in a carjacking and was attacked. His head was bleeding and his heart rate was high. With him saying he was attacked, the attending doctor decided we were going to take him to the resuscitation room which is protocol. As we are taking him to the resuscitation room, a pregnant woman arrived via ambulance. As soon as they see each other, the man yells something like, 'That's her, that's the lady who took my car!'
Like nothing I've ever seen before, the pregnant lady jumped off the stretcher and bolted out of the hospital. Security went after her but she was gone. I don't know if she was found later on or not."
"Years ago, I was working as an emergency room doctor. I had a dad bring in his 3-year-old daughter. They had been eating pizza and she started choking. He opened her mouth and saw a red lump in the back of her throat. So he stuck his finger in and took it out. This was followed by some fairly brisk bleeding, which had stopped by the time they came in.
He brought this 3-centimeter diameter piece of meat with him in a handkerchief. But it didn't appear to be from the pizza they were eating. I had a look in this happy little girls throat without a problem. Yep, only one tonsil to be seen. The other was in the handkerchief."
"I worked as a respiratory therapist at an inner-city hospital that was kinda the red-headed stepchild of hospitals in the area, but that's another story. We were a community hospital that did primarily cardiac care but we also had a small ER. We were in the middle of the Trauma Triangle, meaning we were surrounded by three large level 1 trauma centers. So, we rarely saw much of anything in our ER, usually glorified primary care and cardiac patients diverted from the other level 1 centers. This was in 2002 or so, and the facility is now closed.
While working the night shift, we got a call from the fire department saying they were responding to a self-inflicted shot. This was an unusual patient for us to get with the nearby trauma centers but they were all on divert and we were the closest facility. Being a pretty boring ER for the most part, all the staff there got a bit excited to finally have a real ER patient.
The fire department rolled in with the patient a bit later. The story was that this guy called his friend from a fleabag hotel downtown. He said he was going to shoot himself and hung up. The friend called 911, who responded to the hotel. The patient arrived intubated with CPR in progress, but no visible wound anywhere. I was on the chest doing CPR and my supervisor was bagging the tube. The supervisor told the doctor that something wasn't right with the bagging, he didn't think the tube was in. The supervisor pulled out the tube and doc went to intubate the patient. While trying to insert the tube, the doc yelled loudly, 'What the?' Then, he asked for the McGills, a type of forceps used occasionally for intubation procedures, usually with nasal intubation. The doc proceeded to yank out a 12 gauge shell from the patient's trachea. The patient was then reintubated, the code proceeded but was called a bit later after standard interventions yield no change.
After the code was called, upon closer examination, we noticed the guy's two front teeth were chipped. The coroner concluded that the guy didn't have a weapon but had the shell. He put the shell in his mouth thinking he could set off the primer with a hard bite. The guy bite, chipped his teeth, winced in pain, and inhaled the shell into his trachea. The fire department didn't notice the obstruction and put the tube in the esophagus and hauled him to the ER to let us handle it. I've seen some crazy stuff in my 20 years, but this was by far the strangest."
"I had a young adult male come to see me about some generic stuff. At the end of the consult, he says, 'Oh, by the way, can you remove the stitches from my back while I'm here.' I'm like 'Okaaay.'
So, while I'm removing the 10 or so stitches from this 5cm wound, I'm asking him what happened. He says that he and his girlfriend fight a lot and she ended up stabbing him with a pair of scissors. He states that he suffered a punctured lung with a haemothorax and lost one liter of blood into his pleural space. It also turns out that he was arrested at some point either before or after going to the hospital. I ask him what is happening now with his girlfriend. He says he still lives with her and it's kinda bad because she owns the house. He is unemployed, so he has nowhere else to go. I sympathize with his situation as I know there isn't much I can do. There is really no option for him except a homeless shelter.
As he is leaving, he becomes really teary and starts thanking me for listening to him. He says that everyone else he had interacted with including the police and hospital staff had all said the exact same thing to him when he told them his girlfriend stabbed him: 'What did you do to deserve that?'"
"We had a 16-year-old kid come in with a swallowed foreign body. He didn't want to tell us what it was because he was embarrassed. We obviously assumed the worse and got an X-ray. It actually ended up being one of those small screwdrivers used for small electronics.
When he was told that he was going to have to go for emergency surgery, he became a little more vocal. He said that he was carrying a bunch of boxes and had the screwdriver resting between his lips. Someone called his name, he jerked his head around and sucked it right down the gullet. It was removed before tearing his insides up."
"A guy cheated on his girlfriend. She got him wasted and he passed out. She wrapped him in 'duct tape tightey whiteys' real tight. He tried for 24 hours to get them off. Finally came to the ED. The skin was dead from lack of blood supply and ended up having to get a lot of it removed in the OR.
He won't ever be able to cheat again. I last saw him in the ER for help with a dressing change. It was a few weeks after the initial event. At that point, they were planning on skin grafts. Most of the tissue loss was skin. At that point, he wasn't pressing charges."
"My dad was a medical lab technologist. When he was an intern, the lab techs got a page to down to the ER to draw blood from a patient. Since my dad was a young guy and fresh out of college, he raised his hand to go down. The more senior techs warned him not to go. He goes down anyway. They had IVs EVERYWHERE. The patient tried to kill himself with an electric knife, like the one that gets used to carve turkeys. He tore everything in his neck. The only thing keeping his head to his body was his spine.
My dad had to draw blood from this patient's ankle since everything else has been taken up by units of blood just hanging there. When he came back to see his co-workers in the lab, he was as white as a ghost! They warned him not to go, but him being young, he went."
"EMT here. I got called to our local limited-capability ER to transport a patient and a critical care team to a trauma center. I got into the ER and headed over the to the patient. The patient's room was a horrible mess. There were dressings everywhere. There was blood on the ceiling and on the floor. Imagine any scene from any over-acted movie where a medical professional yells, 'Don't you die on me!' It looked like that.
Lying on the bed was an older woman with her leg exposed and the doctor was doing some stitches on her shin. No biggie, the kind of thing you'd expect the doctor to spend five minutes on deciding if a band-aid was good enough or if it actually needed stitches. It completely failed to line up with the scene around them. It was as if the housekeeping department was on strike or something.
Anyway, it turned out that the woman had banged her shin into the steps of a shuttle bus. Her husband then drove her to the ER closest to their house which was 45 minutes away. He bypassed 6+ different hospitals, including the one we ended up taking her to. Apparently, when she walked into the ER, she said to the registration nurse, 'I think I'm going to die.'
The nurse responded, 'I think you're right!'
She was on aspirin, and warfarin, and some form of chemo. She had virtually no clotting factors, and the ones she had left were inhibited. The wound for most people would have been an annoying bleed which would have easily been controlled with pressure after a few minutes. For her, it was a very small, uncontrolled arterial bleed which sprayed everywhere. Luckily, we got her down to the trauma center without any additional complications."
"We had a guy rush in saying his brother had been 'blown up.' He opted to drive him in because he foolishly assumed that would be quicker and safer than calling an ambulance. We go out and get the guy out of the car. He looked like those Looney Toons characters when an explosion backfires. We ended up having to put his medical armband on his foot because his hands were literally melting off his arms, just a few bones here and there.
Surprisingly, he was relatively calm and lucid, endorphins are crazy. When we asked what happened, he said his 'oil tank in the truck exploded.' I don't like to generalize, but our demographic tends to dabble in the illegal substance scene, so we assumed it was a crack house casualty."