In the modern age, information on any subject is always just a few taps away. This new development has implications for many fields, but perhaps the field most rocked by this new shift in information accessibility is the world of health. Everyone checks their symptoms on WebMD every once in a while, right? Read on below to find out doctors' worst "I saw on the internet," stories!
Where’s The Grape Juice?
“I’m not a doctor, but I did take my very elderly Nana to the hospital after I showed up to her house and found her slurring her words and behaving very strange overall. Now, my Nana is a major hypochondriac and when she was admitted, the first thing she told the doctor is that she believed she was experiencing the beginning signs of Parkinson’s.
It turned out that she had mixed up a bottle of sparkling grape juice with a bottle of regular vino, had drank the entire bottle, and was completely hammered.”
Have You Heard About This Cleanse?
“I did home health care and took care of a lovely lady in her nineties. Now, in my experience, when there is a daughter who has looked things up online, you had better look out. This woman had very bad diabetes and even though she was constantly monitored and checking in with her doc multiple times a week, it still was not unusual for her to run between 250-300 after dinner, a carefully measured and balanced dinner. It freaked me out every time I saw it.
Anyway, her daughter kept telling my about this juice cleanse she heard about. I kept telling her that it was a really, really bad idea, but she kept bringing it up because her chiropractor talked about it all the time.
I went on vacation for a week, came back and my lady is gone. Hospitalized. You guessed it, as soon as I was out the door, her daughter started the juice cleanse. She was going to prove me wrong. Amazingly, this little tiny 97 year old lady managed to do well enough for 3 days. 3 days until the evening nurse clocked her blood sugar at over 700!!!
The EMTs couldn’t believe it. She was groggy and nauseated, but still conscious and her sweet self.
She was in the hospital for over 2 weeks because they just couldn’t get her sugars to balance.
She came home, but had even more problems than before. Her daughter wouldn’t even look at me. She nearly killed her mom to prove herself right.”
Yeah Doc, I’ve Been Gaining Weight Somehow
All Natural Birth
How’s My Prostate, Doc?
“I had a woman come to see me because of abdominal pain. I spent a good 10-15 minutes of asking her questions to get a better understanding of what could be happening. I ended up ordering an ultrasound to assess for an ovarian cysts and some blood work. As she’s leaving she goes, ‘Are you doing lab work for my prostate?’
I had to bite my tongue so as not to laugh and said, ‘No, because you’re not a male and you don’t have one.’
She just said, ‘Oh,’ and left. Spoiler alert – she had an ovarian cyst.”
Get Me Some Yogurt Doc!
“Ex-girlfriend told me the story of her friend’s boyfriend. These people were in a polyamorous relationship, and this woman’s boyfriend apparently contracted chlamydia. Went to the doctor, they prescribed antibiotics, but, being into alternative lifestyles and solutions, he did his own research via the school of google. Read about how live bacteria cultures in yogurt out-reproduce and replace less symbiotic gut bacteria in the stomach and realizes he’s found the one true path. He proceeds to dipping his member in yogurt to make the burning stop. It did not, in fact, make the burning stop.
I met the woman in this saga once, and after one encounter, totally believe she would date someone like that, but never had the pleasure of meeting the Jonas Salk of the Yoplait School of Medicine.”
Danger On The Roads
“My dad (optician) had a patient who was developing cataracts, normal for someone of his age perhaps a little early. He’d recently been flashed by a speed camera and insisted that that bright light had caused the cataracts. My dad, gently, tried to explain that it wasn’t the cause, and that while UV exposure can cause cataracts, it’s an accumulated lifetime risk which is mostly caused by exposure to the sun without eye protection.
Still, this guy insisted that he’d be able to sue the council/government. They were chatting a bit more and it came out that before this guy had retired, he was some kind of inspector for nuclear power stations. He had a story about how they swapped radiation bags with one another so they could inspect more facilities. The bags measure radiation exposure and are checked to make sure you don’t exceed something called the maximum permitted exposure. He was swapping bags so he could exceed this, apparently by quite a lot.
Anyway, ionisation radiation can cause cataracts, among with all number of other things as you can imagine. But this guy was still sure it was the speed camera which gave him cataracts. Clearly the most obvious answer.”
Are You Sure Those Are Heart Attacks?
“One time while I was in med school, I was taking the history of a guy in clinic and I asked about his past medical problems, including if he had had any heart attacks.
He responded, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve had about 20 of those.’
‘…You’ve had 20 heart attacks?!’
‘Which doctor(s) did you see about them? Do you have a cardiologist?’
‘Nah, I never went to a doctor. My wife is a massage therapist and whenever a heart attack hits, she starts to massage some pressure points and it stops.’
‘…Uhhhhh, ok…What does it feel like when you have a heart attack?”
‘I don’t ever remember them. My wife tells me that I fall onto the floor and my arms and legs start jerking. She says it takes about a minute of her massaging before it stops. I then get really confused and tired afterwards, and I can’t remember much of anything that happens to me until I take a nice long nap.’
The dude was having seizures and thought that they were heart attacks. They normally stop on their own after a few minutes (at the most), and his wife thought that her massages were curing him.”
“I’m a pharmacist and one of my patients had a cold, but was convinced it was ‘severe sinusitis’ (she was a bit of a known hypochondriac). So she went and saw the doctor and got script for antibiotic. Then she became convinced she was allergic to every antibiotic tried until all that was left was antibiotics which aren’t usually used at a sub-therapeutic dose (because she’s ‘very sensitive to medications’). The infection wasn’t going away so she took antibiotics for longer and longer. She somehow got her hands on a blood glucose machine and must have had a reading that was slightly low one day because all of a sudden, she started buying bags and bags of jelly beans because ‘the infection is making my blood sugar go dangerously low.’ So she is taking more and more glucose (moved onto the straight glucose powder now) to control the ‘dumping syndrome’ (I don’t think she even read the Wiki on that one…) that the infection caused. Symptom of her ‘dumping syndrome:’ blood glucose dropping rapidly (because she is on a diet consisting of pretty much solely pure glucose) to ‘dangerous levels.’ She is testing her blood glucose on average 20 times a day and taking about 250gm of pure glucose at least (from us) plus supplementing with lollies from the supermarket for some variety.
We’ve consulted with the doctor. Nobody can convince her otherwise, we’ve all tried. She’s put on ~15kg in the last month or so and will definitely end up with diabetes soon.
Her doctor made a mistake the other day. In exasperation she said to her (in her 3rd appointment that month): ‘You should count yourself lucky, there are people far worse than you that can’t even get out of bed.’ She now gets deliveries because she is so sick she can’t get out of bed…
So this lady, who had a cold, is now giving herself diabetes by living on pretty much just simple sugars.”
Two Brokens Equals A Fixed
“My sister is a paramedic. One day she and a team are sent to a house. A man had called about a broken arm. I don’t know how he broke his arm the first time, but had read somewhere on the internet that if he just kept breaking his arm then the pain would go away. He had tried around three times by jumping up and smashing down his weight on his arm, and it shocked everyone that he proceeded after the first time. In the end the guy had to get four surgeries on his arm, but my sister isn’t sure if it wasn’t eventually amputated or not, since she was pretty sure by the look of it and the x-rays that it would have to be.”
Brush Your Teeth
“I’m a dentist and I once had a patient come into my office, absolutely certain he only had gingivitis and needed a normal cleaning. All because he had googled his symptoms and believed he could get a normal clean and go back home and do oil pulling after, which would somehow miraculously heal his gums. He would not allow me to take x-rays or deep clean his teeth, which he needed because plaque was formed well below his gums. He even told me his gums were bleeding from just smiling, moving his mouth etc. He insisted on just a regular clean and then accused me of trying to make money off him when I basically put my foot down and said I wouldn’t be working on his mouth unless he allowed me to do my job properly. I was glad when he decided to walk out and never come back!
A lot of people that I see with advanced mouth-related health issues have a phobia of seeing dentists – some are afraid of the pain, some are afraid of being humiliated and some are just not able to afford treatment. That’s why most people let it go so long before they seek help. Of course, some may just not believe in traditional dentistry, but I don’t really encounter them because they tend to ‘self-treat’ or go to holistic dentists.”
It’s My Life
“I’m a cardiothoracic surgeon so lots of my work involves overweight smokers, and they’re generally quite contrite about any bad habits they had that resulted in problems.
Plenty of non-compliance, of course, but I remember one specific patient since I draw a distinction between people who are at least intellectually aware that the sort of medical problem that brings them to my attention should result in lifestyle changes and that sort of completely unrepentant (and in my experience thus far unique) willful ignorance.
Followup on a recovering triple bypass patient. Was giving the general, ‘You should try to eat more healthily, watch your weight, take moderate exercise, avoid smoking,’ sort of thing.
Resulted in a five minute harangue about ‘Nanny State Doctors telling us what to do and denying us simple pleasures. Healthy at any size, internet says so, just bad luck, stop interfering.’
I appreciate that there is a time and a place for (unsolicited) lifestyle advice relating to cardiac health, but an appointment with your physician to discuss your recovery from a coronary artery bypass IS that time and that place.
Some people are beyond help.”
“I Was Raised On Kool-Aid”
“Lady came to the clinic with her 8 month old baby and she was pretty pretty freaked out. Her baby had diarrhea for the last few weeks and wasn’t going away. She initially wasn’t concerned but then her friend told her that diarrhea is the first sign of AIDS and now she was convinced her baby contracted AIDS.
We quickly ruled that out through their med records and assured her that her baby didn’t contract AIDS randomly. As we finished examining the baby, it started to cry so we handed it to her mother. Lo and behold, she pulls out a baby bottle to get the baby to stop crying….only this baby bottle is red and is filled with Kool-Aid.
We had to explain to her that babies can’t handle sugar at that age and that was the cause of the diarrhea. She refused to believe what we said. ‘I was raised on Kool-Aid and look at me, I’m fine.’
Man, the south side of Chicago is a completely different world.
The reason this case comes to mind is because I was shocked by the lack of common knowledge. These people aren’t dumb, they just didn’t know what they were doing was wrong. It’s a symptom of poverty and a lack of education. The patient took the proper steps to correcting their misunderstandings and were admittedly embarrassed.
I now work in a rural, majority white, part of the midwestern U.S with similar levels of poverty/education as the South Side of Chicago and these patients have the same issues. They just don’t know.”
It Can’t Be Mono
“Had a 19-year-old girl come in asking for antifungal medication because she was convinced she had thrush. Now, if a patient volunteers that they were looking up their symptoms online, I’ll always ask them what they think they have and why. This can sometimes give insight to symptoms or concerns they may not have let on about that help me to make a correct diagnosis. Besides, taking an active role in your health is certainly not a bad thing. As long as you’re not being a know-it-all and acting as if I’m some moron, I welcome that kind of discussion.
This girl and her boyfriend, though, had Googled her symptoms, and at 19 you’re never wrong. When I suggested that perhaps we check an EBV antibody to rule out mono, she looked at me like I was actively drooling on myself and refused, because there was, ‘No way I can have mono.’ Eventually I convinced her to have some diagnostic testing done, and sure enough she had mono. I tried to explain that having thrush as a 19 year old could possibly be much more concerning than mononucleosis, but she didn’t seem to get it.”
My Mother’s An Anti-Vaxer
“My mom is really bad about thinking that her internet research is right and the doctors don’t know anything.
She’s an anti-vaxer. She’s also slightly mentally ill. I’m so lucky I grew up with both my parents, even divorced, because my dad was sane.
My mom has had a live long paranoia of doctors stemming from her childhood and when she caught wind of the theory that vaccines cause autism, she started blaming every health issue ever on them and justified her own paranoia.
Her poor dog, my childhood dog, got a nasty tumor last year. She had a lady she worked with who was a vet biopsy it but refused treatment when it came back as cancerous. The dog is still alive and seems to be doing fine almost 6 months later so I guess it might be ok because she doesn’t seem to be in any pain but the poor pup hasn’t gone to a vet in the 11 years we’ve had her. I’m surprised she’s still okay.
There’s so much to unpack with my mom but I’m pretty scared that one day someone will find her dead because she had some untreated illness. I love her and don’t want to lose her because of this.”
Water Is Good For The Lungs
“I’m a registered nurse, and my favorite case was when a patient’s family member rudely insisted we give her mother, who had a major stroke (resulting in nearly zero swallowing capability) as much water as she could drink because ‘I read a study online that said you can’t aspirate on water because your lungs just absorb it back into your bloodstream.’ I looked her dead in the eyes and said ‘Ok, then explain drowning to me.’
The patient had a history of stroke which left her with major deficits already, was receiving IV hydration, had a feeding tube in place and was receiving bolus nutritional supplements throughout the day, as well as free water with each feeding (all of this puts her at risk for aspiration already, even without intake through the mouth). She was also a home hospice patient with this daughter being her home care giver. She was well versed in the feeding tube use, feedings, and water. These were all orders we continued from her home orders. The daughter had been insisting on use giving her fluids by mouth from the get-go, and the physician and I had both explained the situation to her multiple times. This was purely a case of a family member not getting her way, and looking up any source she could find to contradict the medical professionals. Over a months time, we were able to make some progress with the patient (not much with the swallowing), so we sent her home.
The icing on the cake, a week after she went home, she gets admitted to the ICU for…you guessed it…aspiration pneumonia caused by the daughter trying to feed her solid foods.”
Modern Medicine Doesn’t Know
“There was a recent couple who had a malnourished 7 month old. They had decided that their kid was gluten intolerant and so never gave him anything besides stuff like quinoa milk. They owned a health food store and were health nuts, also. Anyone who came in and saw the sickly child commented, but the parents brushed it off and didn’t seek help. In the end, they drove to a homeopathic doctor across the country who told them to got to a hospital but they apparently decided to drive back home first. The baby died before they got to the hospital. An autopsy revealed the child was severely dehydrated and his stomach had been empty for days. He weighed about 9 lbs at the time of death, which is just slightly higher than a newborn.
The judge gave them 6 months suspended sentence after determining that they didn’t ‘willfully’ neglect their child and you can’t charge them for murder just because they’re stupid (I beg to differ). The parents say they tried unsuccessfully to feed their child but it fussed with the bottle and the mother’s milk and so they concluded their baby must be lactose intolerant and gluten intolerant. Instead of getting actual doctors involved, they felt confident enough in their self-diagnosis that their baby had an ‘eating disorder’ and continued giving the baby quinoa milk and the like. They didn’t ‘notice’ anything wrong with their baby after that except, y’know, the child causally having severe trouble breathing. After visiting the homeopathic doctor, they ‘didn’t make it fast enough’ to a real hospital. They live in Belgium. Which isn’t exactly huge but I’m trying (unsuccessfully) to leave my opinion out of it. Interesting to note, a prayer card was tucked into his diaper. Prayer and quinoa, folks, that’s all you need (if your baby was fine, why do you need a prayer card I’m so furious).
They knew so much more than a doctor that they decided not to go to a doctor.”
“Diabetic patients have the worst cases of ‘I know better than you’ and their denial phase lasts forever.
Currently I have a 65 year old woman, disabled, morbidly obese, can’t walk, has diabetes along with multiple heart and kidney issues. She is notorious for her non-compliance.
Last visit, I was trying to convince her to take her morning meds and get all these imaging studies done that she refused because ‘she didn’t feel like it.’ During the conversation, she asks the nurse for some milk. The nurse says your sugar was 450. I can’t give you any milk. She FREAKS OUT and starts wheeling herself out.
She’s notorious for wheeling across the street to get some Dr. Pepper round the clock. So I yell out, hey you gotta stop drinking Dr. Pepper! Her response? ‘My sugar is high regardless of what I eat.’
Guaranteed she will die from diabetic complications within the next three years.”