Doctors have seen it all. They have their stories to tell about wild nights in the ER, nutty and overbearing families, and perhaps best of all, the infamous cases of people faking ailments.
These people have found a way to make it seem like they're sicker than they are, but very rarely do they get away with it.
Medical professionals from Reddit shared the bizarre stories of when patients thought they were doing a good job of faking it, but definitely weren't.
"My cousin got glasses. Her 7 year old little sister also wanted glasses because she thought it was cool to wear them, so she started telling her teachers she couldn't read what was on the chalkboard. She'd squint at home, and go incredibly close to the TV to watch things because she said she couldn't see things clearly. Her parents got worried and took her to the doctor.
She read everything wrong on the vision test. Everyone seemed convinced that she needed glasses. But the doctor was a little concerned because the tests indicated she needed really thick glasses, and usually that wasn't the case unless there was a family history of vision issues. Her parents both had 20/20 vision and her sister only had astigmatism. They all realized she was faking it.
So the doctor told her parents in front of her that she'd need some pretty intense eye surgery so she'd be able to see without glasses. They even wheeled in a machine to make it convincing to say they could do the surgery right then and there.
She freaked out, confessed to faking it all and started to cry. She got grounded for a while."
"I was working at a pharmacy when we saw a guy come in to try and get a refill on some pain meds that had no refill.
After pleading that his ear really hurt, we told him again we couldn’t refill it. One of the other employees saw him step into a side hallway and take a pencil and JAM it forcefully into his ear repeatedly, drawing blood.
He calmly left and went to the ER. He came back a few hours later with a prescription for pain meds."
"I once had a geriatric patient taking advantage of the call bell because she was an attention seeker. She always needed really basic things to get done for her because she thought the place was a hotel (it was a rehabilitation ward, and we should try to motivate patients to do as much for themselves as possible).
She would ring the bell for reasons like 'please lift the blanket up for me' or 'please pass me my phone' or 'please feed me' and claimed that her hands didn't work. I caught her several times lifting herself off the bed with her hands, grabbing her phone when it rang, you get the gist.
After days of saying no and that she needs to start doing things for herself, she grew more and more frustrated. Eventually she snapped, grabbed me by my collar, shook me aggressively and yelled, 'What don't you understand about the fact that my hands don't work?!?!'
I didn't know what to tell her... I just looked at her and blinked as she slowly released her death grip off me.
I guess I healed her hands."
"I was on my ER rotation and I got a call about a women that the had been arrested. During the drive the patient 'banged' her head 4 times against the window of the police car and then went unresponsive.
She came to us with a bruise over her forehead and unresponsive. We doubted her from the very beginning but the patient was a great actor and didn’t even flinch during the digital rectal exam (which is standard for all patients that come in through the trauma bay). Though some of the nurses said that they caught her peeking at us when would leave the room.
We ended up getting a CT scan (which was normal) and was even considering intubating her to secure her airway when our boss finally walked over to her, opened her eyelids and held them open while telling her to wake up. Finally she started fighting to close her eyes and the jig was up.
The doctor called her out and she proceeded to start screaming at us.
She was much more pleasant when she was pretending to have a brain injury."
"I work in acute rehab, so patients come to us to do physical therapy and recover from surgeries, illnesses, etc.
This dude was ready to go home and medically stable but very, very anxious. He would always ask for me to recheck his vitals and blood sugar, always come up with new concerns like his hand is twitching, or he feels dizzy, or he’s having blurry vision. I thought I was pretty good at ruling out his concerns and calming him down.
Then one day I check his vitals and his pulse is quite low, like 48. Everything else is good so I’m not concerned, I tell him I’ll recheck in a few minutes. I come back and he’s not looking so good. Pulse still low, oxygen quite low, and he’s just woozy and slow to respond. I get my charge nurse in and we’re worried about an opiate overdose. We discuss this and the patient’s breathing gets slower and shallower. Call the MD, give him some Narcan, call EMS.
They arrive and now he’s nearly unresponsive, barely reacts to the sternal rub. They give him more Narcan with no effect so now we’re thinking rule out stroke. He has the slightest droop on one side of his mouth. Was that always there? Darn, did I miss it? I give them report and they rush him to the hospital, where they do a very thorough work up because he’s high risk for a lot of issues.
We followed up the next day, and nothing was wrong with him! He must’ve heard me mention his pulse and said 'this is my chance!' I think he held his breath when I took his O2 sat and started dropping his mouth once we mentioned stroke. Probably skipped lunch since his blood sugar was low too. All because he didn’t want to go home. Now he’s banned from our facility."
He played us good."
"I had a 21 year old new patient claiming to be completely blind from a sudden and severe glaucoma diagnosis from a previous unknown doctor.
He would feel around while walking and he tried to keep his eyes rolled back into his head. The whole 9 yards. He said he was a famous YouTube rapper that is now unable to make videos or earn a living.
I exclaimed to have heard of him before and very excitedly asked him to search and show me his YouTube channel on my phone so that I could subscribe. He took my phone out of my hand and effortlessly found the YouTube app and typed away in the search bar.
Oh, and of course his eyes were back to normal and focused."
"I worked in health care for nearly 20 years. While taking a break from the ICU (due to it being emotionally draining) I worked in home health for a bit. I had a patient who clearly had Munchausen Syndrome. On a daily basis she would call her insurance to see what things would be covered if she was diagnosed with this or that. She called her doctor's office an average of 5x during my shift with her, she would report all kinds of non real symptoms. She pestered the doctors into do exploitive laparoscopic surgery, of course nothing was found. One day I walked in and she was rubbing her incisions with rotten cabbage trying to get it infected. She wasn't seeking pain meds (except to sell) really she was just as happy with antibiotics or stool softeners, anything, as long as they wrote her a prescription and she got to go to the pharmacy where she did a whole song and dance for them too, claiming allergies and reactions.
She always exaggerated her story, too. One time she fluttered her eyes (after making sure I was looking) and said she lost consciousness in that half a second. She called the doctor and claimed she lost consciousness for 5 minutes, she called the insurance and claimed it was 10 minutes, she called the pharmacy and claimed it was 30 minutes, then she called 911 and told them she woke up on the floor after losing consciousness for 4 hours.
The worst thing about her was she was a mom. Her son was 28 at the time and by all the stories of his childhood illnesses and all her saying how he is severely disabled, I knew she basically ruined his childhood with Munchausen by proxy. She portrayed him as being severely disabled and that's why he would never find a wife... I met him, he was healthy and of average intelligence. He wasn't looking for a wife, he was gay, but she refused to accept that.
Working with her was so miserable that I took a couple years off from any and all healthcare after that."
"A guy came to ER (I was a nurse at the time) for a stomach ache. When asking him about his medical history, he randomly mentions a fight with his girlfriend where she left in a tizzy and he fell asleep on the couch.
Two minutes later when we see the CT, he has a satellite cable remote wrapped in a rubber lodged in his rectum. I suppose he intended to frame his girlfriend. I unfortunately didn’t get to hear the conversation he had with the doctor but I was curious how he was going to explain why she was nice enough to wrap it in the rubber."
"This patient comes in for back pain with 'weakness of the legs.' Gets a full workup with MRI, standard blood work, and then some immunological things to look for stuff like myasthenia gravis. No neurological or immunological explanation for the 'weakness.' Patient is seen by physical therapy and they are of the opinion that the patient is holding back intentionally.
Go to see the patient at the end of the day and prep them for discharge. Patient is infuriated that they're being discharged. Yelling and screaming about how they aren't better, how they're disappointed in the institution, blah blah blah. They said one particular thing that still clearly stands out 3-4 years later.
'I can't believe you're sending me home already. I haven't even told my family I'm here, and now you're going to send me home before they even have the chance to see me?'
My attending and I leave the room to arrange things with the nurses. We go back in and the patient is out of bed and standing up in the middle of the room. Miraculously the patient is able to walk with zero assistance when they had so much difficulty with any assistance over the previous two days. At that point, they were enraged we went in to the room without knocking.
They were discharged home after a conversation regarding abuse of medical services."
"I'm a dermatologist. A patient was convinced she had a melanoma and needed a biopsy and would need to be on workers compensation.
I told her it looked like ink from a marker but she demanded a biopsy. I wiped the area off with an cleansing swab and showed her the ink and that there was no spot on her skin anymore.
She stormed out threatening to sue me.
I'm just glad I cured her melanoma."
"I had a patient when I worked in a ICU that was sedated and on a vent. A family member showed up out of nowhere and was staying day and night. I got pretty suspicious of them because they were clearly lying about knowing this person.
I decided to confront the situation by talking to the fake family member about how it must have been sad since the patient just celebrated their birthday a week or so before getting ill. This person said it was a wonderful party and such, to which I replied their birthday hadn't occurred yet and wouldn't for months.
Turned out when security came it was a homeless person who snuck in and found a room with a sedated patient and decided to make it a place to stay.
Needless to say having security enter the ICU was a disaster."
"I work in occupational health. I once had a guy come in complaining of back pain. He hobbled into my office walking one inch at a time and groaning in pain. I knew he was faking it when I hardly touched 10 different areas on his back and he howled in pain. I looked out the window to my office and saw about a dozen baby turtles crossing, I called out for him to come look. He jumped off the massage table and sprinted over in awe of the baby turtles. I told him to get back to work."
"I'm an audiologist (hearing specialist). Now, as a professional, for me the hearing test starts when I call the person's name from the waiting room. In a normal voice I call them, if they answer I already know that they're normal/no worse than mild loss. This was the case with this guy. He answered and came in, we had a normal conversation. So, case history over, time to test, I give the instructions over the headphones at a reasonable 50 decibels (dB).
'Raise you hand when you hear the tone.'
50dB tone, should be easy and clear, but he doesn't raise his hand. I go up. And up, and up.
Finally, I'm putting a 100dB tone in his ear, he's flinching from pain it's so loud, but he doesn't raise his hand to indicate he's heard the tone, even with re-instruction. I immediately know what I'm dealing with. I have taught entire classes on how to spot and try to get estimated true results from people trying to fake it.
Long story short, I wrote a scathing report outlining all his inconsistencies and faking behaviors. The thing that made this one so memorable is that we had such a pleasant conversation before.
He was a fire chief, I have firefighters in my family, it was one of those where you think 'If it wasn't for professional/patient appropriate distance, we could hang and be friends.' But then, this guy was determined to get a disability rating, and it just made me mad."
"I got a referral for more or less consolidation care. Patient was 13, wheelchair bound, required therapeutic oxygen, seizures, arthritis, musculoskeletal problems, suspected autism, completely nonverbal, severe behavior challenges, the list goes on. He was being followed by at least 8 different specialties, clearly none of whom were communicating with each other, and med list was ~18 prescriptions long including some incredibly heavy duty stuff (opioids, antipsychotics, antiepileptics, that sorta stuff). Got kicked to me after his umpteenth ER trip because the ER doctor felt something was off and he needed someone to look at the whole picture.
It was clearly factitious disorder by caregiver, or Munchausen by proxy. All of the original symptoms were parent reported, going back to about a year old. It had possibly started with a febrile seizure (fever induced seizure) in infancy, but this was never witnessed by anyone but his mom and she had been telling docs different things. She was convinced her son had all these disorders, told him he was going to die any day. He got a Make-A-Wish trip, donations, etc.
He was removed from her custody and taken off most of his meds. Within a few weeks he was out of the wheelchair playing basketball, no oxygen, super talkative and friendly, no behavior problems. He did have a pretty significant intellectual disability, but there's no way to say if that was organic or the result of the prescription mixture he had been fed all his life.
Hopefully with some good therapy and a stable home, he can continue to make progress."
"I worked at a detox center with a bunch of people who liked to exaggerate their symptoms for more meds. Now some were actually withdrawing really bad, but some wanted a bed and free medicine.
There was this girl who was trying to raise her blood pressure so she could get some anti-anxiety meds. We do vitals every 4 hours, so when she saw us with the cart, she immediately went to the bathroom for an unknown reason. When the bathroom blinds are open you can see into them from the stairs by the entrance. The patient was doing lots of jumping jacks in her bathroom. So when it was time to take her vitals, she came out sweating. Of course we told her if she had high blood pressure, she couldn’t smoke, so she promptly freaked out because she wanted the meds AND to smoke.
She came back a few months later actually wanting to be sober. I mentioned the jumping jacks and we laughed about it. She’s doing much better now.
"I was X-raying a guy in his 30s who claimed that he has fallen down a hill and broken his leg. He crawled to his father's garage (which was apparently by said hill), and laid on the floor for 3 days until his father found him.
This was in the heat of summer, 85°F plus, and yet somehow this guy smelt fresh as a daisy. No body odor, no urine, no feces. He moaned and groaned the whole way through the exam, except when he thought we couldn't hear him.
He somehow managed to get a 2 day hospital stay out of it. Nothing wrong was found."
"I had a patient complain of toothache which required extraction. Did extraction and patient left in good health. Patient called within 20 minutes of leaving saying they were in the worst pain of their life. 11/10 pain and requested a script for oxycodone.
Patient came back the next day in tears. Shambles. I start to feel bad because it looked like they were in genuine pain. I took a look a look in their mouth and everything is fine. Healing is normal. And once again, they request oxycodone.
I say no, we need to think of something else. And that is where it changed. When I declined giving a strong narcotic they flipped a switch and became violent. Yelling. Throwing instruments. Had to be walked out. This is where I learned substances seekers will do anything to obtain what they want."
"I had a young male patient who was compelled to give a urine sample. He said he 'couldn't go' which is fine though somewhat unusual for a young guy, whatever, here's some water, have a seat, we've got all day. He had some iced tea in a bottle that he was slowwwly drinking. Whatever, input=output.
After about 45 minutes he goes to give a sample. Great, cups are in the washroom, please wash your hands, etc. He comes back out with a sample that looks like absolutely normal clear yellow urine.
So I take it from him to bundle with it and send it off. That's when I noticed it's cold. He'd cheeked some of the iced tea and spit it into the sample container and diluted it to urine color with cold water. Here's a fun health care tip from me to you: freezing cold urine is a sign of about one thing and it ain't good.
I don't remember what it was we were looking for, but it wasn't substance abuse. Probably just protein/glucose for a truck driving license.
I don't think we dipped it just for giggles but I'm sure it would have had a massive glucose reading, thus eradicating the whole point of trying to fake it anyway."
"A young woman went running into small rural hospital ER pretending to have abdominal pain. A police officer had tagged her going 40+km over the speed limit which was ‘stunt driving’ as per the new law in Ontario (impound and licence suspension automatic). The cop followed her into ER and apparently said he’d be waiting for her when she left.
The staff such as myself were housed at a small B&B about 15 mins away, and the ER had pre-printed order sets to be done before we arrived.
When I arrived she flat out admitted that she just came in because she freaked out and didn’t stop. I told her we’d give her 45 minutes to call her parents/family before I booted her.
Except one of the preliminary tests came back positive, and subsequent ultrasound came back showing an extremely early ectopic pregnancy.
She was completely asymptomatic and just worked out that she dodged both charges and a life threatening issue by accident.
It was definitely a 'what the heck' moment."
"Years ago I had a patient who had been rear-ended in an auto accident a few weeks before I saw her. She had a history of lupus.
She was decked out in the usual 'I'm injured' paraphernalia (crutches, neck brace, elbow braces, wrist braces, knee braces) and could barely walk. I saw her a couple of times and she showed no improvement. One Saturday I was on call but had to take a back street to the hospital because of an event taking place on the main thoroughfare.
I apparently drove through her neighborhood, because, wonders behold, there she was wearing old-lady spandex power walking down the sidewalk holding weights in both hands. I did not call out to her.
Next week, she was back in clinic, with her 'I'm injured' getup on again. A few weeks later I got the subpoena for the deposition, and it all became clear."
"When I was a kid, I would plan my 'sick' days way ahead of time.
I had an old thermos that I would pour leftover milk, meat, whatever into. I'd leave it on the windowsill in my bedroom just letting it fester for a month. (Of course the thermos was closed so no smells escaped).
I set an alarm for the middle of the night, dumped the contents of the thermos on my rug and ran in to tell my dad I was throwing up and 'so sick.'
However, the monstrous smell of the thermos filled the entire condo up with horrible smells and both my dad and I ended up puking into the tub when we tried to clean up the rug. He had to take the day off work, too. Needless to say, I never pulled that again."