Going to the hospital can be an emotional ride. Some people are overdramatic while others are stoic in the face of pain. Regardless of experiences though, these doctors and patients share their most underdramatic hospital stories.
This Time The Docs Were Freaking Out More Than The Patient!
“Funny story, I walked into the ER on my own once (my dad drove me, was in my early 30’s) because he couldn’t find a close parking spot, so he just dropped me off about a block away.
I was having an allergic reaction to an antibiotic. I was at work when it happened, took a bit to get off the phone with customers, but I popped a few Benadryl while I was finishing up my phone calls.
When I walked in and told them what was happening, they took me to triage to get vitals and…whisked me DIRECTLY back. Didn’t even finish getting my paperwork.
This whole time I didn’t feel great, but certainly not like I was dying. When the doctor got back there he just kept repeating, ‘You’re just SO RED!!! Are you sure you’re feeling okay?!?’
Apparently it was a bad anaphylactic reaction and they had never seen someone in my condition conscious and in such good spirits.
Recovered just fine. I’ll never forget that doctor, though. I was like ‘Yeah, I feel okay. A little under the weather, I suppose. Why, SHOULD I be worried?!? Because it seems like you are!'”
Ah! Thank Heavens! Only A Machete!
“I think we have all seen our share of overdramatic patients or heard the tales, so I’ll go with the less common underdramatic patient.
The patient presented to the Trauma ER with an 18-inch Machete blade firmly implanted across the top of his skull. He was driven to the hospital by a friend (possible assailant/owner of said Machete), ambulated on his own into the ER, had totally normal vital signs in triage, a slight steady trickle of blood from the wound, denied pain, and was in no apparent distress.
Due to a mass trauma event, the ER was insanely busy, so it took us a while to get him a bed. In the meantime, he calmly sat in the waiting area, (nearest to the Triage station so we could keep an eye on him) and watched TV, as the staff was running around like crazy, phones ringing nonstop, patients complaining about the wait time to be seen and exhibiting other types of tomfoolery. Machete man just sat there tranquilly exhibiting his true Zen mastery of machete head wounds.
All these years later, I can still see him with that machete lodged in his skull. He had an uncomplicated treatment course and suffered no impairment from the injury. He was cooperative and nice to all his care givers.
He also profusely thanked us for caring for him. Probably one of the few that did that night!”
“So we’re in this small treatment center in a small island in Greece, night shift, and this guy comes in through the ER door.
Now I want you to imagine the most typical bulky Russian guy. Two meters tall, wide as a bull and just straight up menacing, this is the guy you see in movies bouncing at a mob club.
So he’s walking slowly towards us, and in broken Greek he says ‘tummy hurt’ with the most thick Russian accent. He’s holding his abdomen and has a sour face, looking like he has some GI issues, so we point him to the internal medicine room after he does the paperwork.
He takes his time, reaches the bed and just sits there, chilling. We ask what’s wrong, again, same answer, just a small ‘tummy hurt’.
Yeah, he was shot three times.
And I’m pretty sure he walked it off, came here on his own and the only thing he figured he should say is a chill “tummy hurt” like it’s a Tuesday and he had some indigestion.”
Man Burns Himself Severely Then Casually Checks Into The Hospital
“Okay…not a doctor but my lack of showing pain got me more than a few funky looks. I set myself on fire after trying to throw a pan of grease that had caught fire on my stove out the back door. The wind hit at just the right (very, very wrong) moment and threw the flaming grease back on me.
My polyester pants melted onto my skin on the outside of my right thigh. My arm was flame. I got it out. And pulled myself together to drive to the ER. Parked my car and walked calmly in.
I DID hurt. I hurt so bad that I feared I’d lose my cool if I even dropped a single tear. The triage nurse was looking down at his computer and without looking up, asked what I was there for. -M, me N, nurse
Nurse: ‘And how can we help you tonight?’
Me: ‘I got a burn that probably needs to be seen.’
Nurse: ‘There is a clipboard and pen right here. Fill it out and bring it to me. (Still has not looked up)’
Me: (now I have what I refer to as the great southern guilt, I’d die if you thought I was a bother to anyone, even in this state I assumed he was just super busy and maybe someone needed his attention more than I did) I took the clipboard and walked to the side to fill it out. I couldn’t take the pain of sitting. A few people walk past me with absolute horror on their faces. I try to sink back against the wall, finish my paperwork and make my way back to the desk. Before I can the ER door swings open and a doctor is standing there walking someone out. He takes a look at me, smiles. I smile back, he looks again and goes ghost white.
I tell him, ‘I’m sorry, don’t mean to be in the way just taking this back’ waves clipboard
He tells me we will worry about that later, screams at the nurse to get my name and get me into a room RIGHT NOW. The nurse takes one look at me and I start to apologize. I tell him I’m sorry I didn’t mean to get him in any trouble. He gets red-faced and looks like he’s about to cry.
Nurse: ‘YOU ARE AN EMERGENCY, YOU ARE NOT A PROBLEM. DID YOU DRIVE?!?’
Me: ‘I did.’
Nurse: looks me over
My guy takes me to a room… I think it was a trauma room. It only felt like a minute tops, but by the time I got there, at least three nurses and a doctor were in there in gloves and a gown. One of those nurses asked my name and what happened, then asked my pain level, I hurt so badly I couldn’t even think at that point. I just stared at her. I distinctly remember her saying ‘Honey, how bad is the pain?’
‘Bad’ is all I could say.
Someone, the first nurse, the doctor, I don’t know who said ‘He drove here, like THAT.’
I promptly passed out in a slow, echoing darkness of throbbing pain. I apparently did scream once as they were scraping my melted pants out of my thigh. I never stopped to look at myself but apparently, I look pretty freaking bad. I have since found my ‘testicular fortitude’ and rarely suffer from the great southern guilt. That was 15 years ago. Thankfully I only have 1 hardly noticeable scar.”
This Is One Tough Guy
“I once cared for a repeat self-harmer that put a knife into their neck, regretted it, taped it in place … and BICYCLED TO THE HOSPITAL. A few miles, past carfuls of normal people. Parked the bike, walked in to triage to check in. Through a waiting room of grannies and kids and men with chest pain. With a kitchen paring knife duct taped in place sticking straight out.
CT scan later showed that the tip of the blade was 2mm from the carotid artery.
The truly insane part is, I pulled the knife out at bedside. Without Surgery nearby. Never had I ever before done such a thing and I hope to never do so. Rule #1 in penetrating trauma is to leave the object in place, as it may be the cork holding back the flood. Get imaging, assemble the team that will be needed for the repair, and then remove the object.
But we were at a little community hospital, and this particular individual had a deep history of shenanigans, and there was a large chance that if I sent them to CT they would deepen the wound or use the knife to hurt my staff. Presently, they were talking and breathing normally and it seemed entirely possible the wound was superficial … I decided that if it had indeed penetrated the carotid it could only be a puncture and I could hold pressure on it more safely than leaving a knife blade with this particular patient – so with police flanking me and my pulse throbbing in my ears, I yanked it out and passed it blindly to a tech behind me, every part of me focused on that neck.
This was years ago. I’ve dug razor blades out of many parts of this person, admitted them to ICU for overdose a few times, handled blunt trauma and ligature injuries. They’ve spent well in excess of two years in locked wards, had all the meds, electroconvulsive and transcranial magnetic therapy. And they remain a troubled person. I’ve shifted to thinking of it like an end stage cancer patient, I truly believe they will eventually complete their suicide because they have already had lots of every kind of treatment that I know of for their illness and they remain sick. So it’s palliative care. I focus on dignity and safety each day as it comes, instead of being invested in a cure.”
This One Might Make You Queasy
“A fellow ER worker told me this one.
She (Nurse) was sitting in the triage (=Prioritizing people) when a man walks up, looking slightly uncomfortable sitting down.
Nurse – ‘So how can I help you?’
Man – ‘My lady parts are bleeding.’
The nurse suspects this is either a male that has transitioned to female or female gone male, but the only reply she can muster up is ‘Lady parts?’
Man – ‘Yes, they have been bleeding for some time now and won’t stop.’
Then he goes into story-telling mode and explains that (He is a man) and for years he’s been using disposable plastic cutlery to carve a slit between his male members. By scraping just a little bit every day and then stuffing the wound with paper/cotton/something, to keep it from sealing up. By this point, his ‘lady parts’ are several inches deep, but after his last carving session, it started bleeding and won’t stop.
The man is taken to surgery where they discover he’s actually reached his urethra and cut into it. So his urethra is bleeding into his homemade snatch. They fix the urethra and he recovers. And everybody lived happily ever after.”
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
“Most underdramatic was the gentleman that we were taking from an ER to a specialty trauma center. He had been in a bar and witnessed a bar fight. He tried to break it up. One of the guys smashed a bottle over his head.
Spoiler, it is not like on TV.
The bottle was hard enough to break his skull, but it also broke the bottle itself. The way the impact hit it partially popped his eyeball out of the socket. Then the broken bottle traveled down his face and sliced the eyeball in half.
Very few injuries bothered me that I saw as an EMT but the second I saw his face my eyes just started watering.
But he was the calmest, most polite Mexican gentleman. Only spoke a little English but everything was ‘Si, senor’ or something of equal politeness. Didn’t utter a single complaint.”
Good Thing He Took The Ambulance
“Not a doc but while doing a ride along in an ambulance we picked up a guy that fell off a skateboard ramp. He’d landed on his forehead, can’t remember if he had a helmet or not, probably not. He was in good spirits when we arrived, never lost consciousness and could walk, looking a little bruised, talking, pretty with it. This was before concussions were as well understood and we figured he probably had a moderate concussion and a black eye and that was it. He almost turned down the ride to the ER but we convinced him not to mess around with possible head/neck injuries and get checked out just in case. Good thing he didn’t because on the way he started losing consiousness, blood pressure, vomiting huge amounts of blood, unconscious and very low vitals by the time we got there. It was crazy how quickly he went downhill, this was only like a 10 min drive.
Turned out that whole quadrant of his face/skull was crushed but instead of bleeding outside, the blood was draining down the back of his throat into his stomach so it didn’t seem that bad at first glance. We made a crucial mistake by deliberately not touching his obviously banged up forehead to not cause him more pain (normally you would do this as part of an assessment), had we done that his forehead and eyebrow ridge would have felt soft and spongy, a very clear indicator he needed to get to the ER pronto with sirens/lights and have the ER surgery ready. He ended up with massive brain swelling and emergency brain surgery, the silver lining is they found a previously unknown brain tumor that was removed and he made a full recovery.”
A Sad Sight In The ER
“This happened a couple of days ago.
A woman walks into the ER walking very bow-legged. She seems calm and explains that she has some swelling in the right side of her external genitals. She thought she may have had an infected cyst and she drove herself hoping for help draining it and antibiotics.
We didn’t think much of it, it clearly wasn’t a rush to the front of the line emergency. So an hour or so later they bring her into a room. She has a fever and high blood pressure but still calm and stoic.
So the NP gets her story and has her remove her pants and underwear and cover with a sheet. She is apologizing profusely about not being able to clean herself very well before coming in.
When Np pulls up the sheet her labia is swollen to the size of a coconut. She had an abscess that was starting to cause sepsis.
She was embarrassed about not being able to clean herself because of the pain and a single tear down her face when they wheeled her to the ER.”
Thinking About Those Patients Still Scares Them
“The most underdramatic was about once a month we would have an elderly person walk-in (not the same one every month) and ask to be seen for cardiac symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, arm pain, back pain, etc. These folks would drive themselves down a treacherous canyon from their little podunk town to us, as the hospital I worked at specialized in heart treatments, even though they had a small hospital up in their little mountain town area. It’s an hour or better drive down a winding highway, a single narrow lane in each direction, surrounded by steep rocky cliffs on one side and a dizzying fall into a notorious killer river on the other. Upon triage, the patient would be found to be having an active cardiac event and would be asked why they didn’t call 911. The answer was always the same – they couldn’t afford the ambulance ride because Medicare didn’t cover it all and they were living off social security. Thinking about those patients still scares me after more than a decade since I worked there.”
Amateur Dentistry Gone Wrong
“The atient tried extracting his own tooth and inadvertently pushed it up through the abscess and into his right maxillary sinus. To my surprise, he adamantly declined even local anesthesia no matter how much my staff was pleading with him. Patient autonomy is a grey area here in the US (given how insanely litigious everything is) so after receiving clearance/written consent to proceed with the treatment I figured he’d just have to learn the hard way. Instead of performing a lateral window root tip retrieval I took a surgical suction tip/curette and removed all three fragments through the alveolar ridge warning him several times beforehand that it would hurt like heck. The guy never even flinched. I was able to complete the procedure, debride the infection, and graft the floor of the sinus with membrane/sutures without incident. Go figure.”
Two Hours Later And It Would’ve Killed Her
“I think I was the underdramatic patient. I was 12, and had cramps and was throwing up because of the pain, but I didn’t feel like it was very concerning because I was on my period so it was normal to me.
My mom, however, didn’t trust it and made an appointment with our GP, who immediately sent me to our local hospital, because she was concerned.
We didn’t have a car, so my mom and I cycled for half an hour to get there. The GP had called ahead, so they were waiting for me with a wheelchair, which I tried to refuse. The pain was in my stomach, there was nothing wrong with my legs and I could walk perfectly fine, thank you. Doctors didn’t buy it and I had to sit in the wheelchair though.
During and after tests, I talked to the doctor to help me. He didn’t believe I cycled to the hospital until my mom confirmed it. He said he’d seen grown men twice my size come in with infection levels half of mine and be unable to move because of the pain.
Tests come back. Acute appendicitis. Got emergency surgery to remove the offending organ pretty much immediately. The same evening I’m asking whether I could go home yet, as I was very bored. Was let go the next day 2 hours earlier than officially allowed because I kept asking.
The next day I was back at school, and two days later I was back to running and jumping without a care in the world.
A couple of weeks later I had to come back for a final inspection/checkup and was told that, if I’d been as little as 2 hours later, the infection likely would’ve killed me. Doctor called me I was the toughest patient he’d had (though that might’ve been an exaggeration bc, you know, tiny 12-year-old girl)”
He Broke A Bone While Napping And Didn’t Even Notice!
” I had rolled off of the couch whilst napping. Had some issues getting up from the floor, attributed it to being VERY tired, but I wasn’t able to get any leverage off of my right shoulder, it was very awkward. Finally got some help getting back on to the couch and fell back asleep. Woke up a couple of hours later, while washing up I noticed that my collarbone wasn’t protruding on my right side, like, at all. Asked my hubby to take me to the ER, thought my collarbone was broken. ‘Sure honey, sure’ and he drove me to the ER. The triage nurse rolled her eyes at me when I explained what I thought was wrong. ‘We’ll get to you when we can.’ At the time this hospital had a separate waiting area/clinic for non-urgent cases. I get sent down there. The attending nurse says the doctor is super busy and it will be a few hours, but could she get me anything. I ask for an ice pack, and she offers me Advil but I tell her it won’t touch the pain (no point in complaining about it though).
About an hour later, I’m in a significant amount of pain. I ask if there’s a place I could lie down to take some of the pressure off my shoulder/collarbone. I get an exasperated sigh, no, there’s not, and no I can’t give you painkillers. Finally, after two hours, I get brought back to X-ray. The technician was so funny – ‘I’m not supposed to tell you, but it’s broken. Can I touch it? I’ve never felt a break like that before.’ Knock yourself out! Meanwhile, back to the waiting room. 20 minutes later, the attending nurse had an opportunity to check for my XRays. She apologizes to me profusely. Apparently, collarbone injuries are quite painful and uncomfortable and no one thought it was broken because I wasn’t putting up a fuss. She hooked me up with some IV painkillers. An emergency surgery, plate and 7 pins later I have a heck of a scar and a funny story to tell.”