Ouch! Unexpected accidents that involve a trip to the emergency room are never fun. There are mountains of paperwork, and of course, the long waits in the waiting area that feel like an eternity. Something remarkable always seems to happen while waiting to be seen. People have come forward to talk about their most interesting experiences while waiting at the ER.
All stories have been edited for clarity.
Fake It Till You Make It
“I had to take my six-year-old to the emergency room for a deep knife cut on his finger.
I got the bleeding to stop before we got to the ER but I knew he still needed stitches. We had been waiting for four hours when this random dude came in. I don’t know why he was there but there were a lot of people waiting ahead of him. He was obviously agitated.
After twenty minutes, the guy started complaining about the wait time. It was what he said next that made everyone go on high alert.
He said out loud, ‘If I fake a seizure, I’ll get back there sooner.’
Without warning, he started flopping on the floor like an unattended fire hose. Nurses rushed over and immediately brought him to the back. This outraged everyone in the waiting room because the nurses failed to hear his comment beforehand. Everyone who heard him started protesting but none of the nurses paid attention until after the man was brought behind the main doors.
A lot of people actually got loud over it because so many had heard him. After I was called up with my kid, one of the nurses noticed the open cut that desperately needed stitches. At that point, we had been waiting for over four hours but in her own words, they ‘couldn’t do anything about the guy’ because they didn’t know who to believe.
I couldn’t hold my frustration in any longer. I amped my voice, ‘You’ve been watching us this whole time and had everyone tell you the same thing but you still don’t know who to believe?’
One of the doctors heard me snap, came out, checked my son’s finger, and said he should have been seen before some of the people who were already in the back. Then he disappeared, came back and chewed out the nurses for believing such a fake act.
But because of the guy’s act, everyone’s wait time got pushed back even more. In total, we waited for six hours in an er waiting room to get 3 stitches.
Oh, and the kicker: It took longer to get my son seen because I got the bleeding to stop. Never mind there’s an open gash into the muscle. It wasn’t bleeding so was not a priority.
This happened back in May of 2022. Even though the scar is faded, my son can’t put his finger all the way down in a fist.”
Under New Management
“When my daughter was seven, she and her sisters had a brilliant idea develop in their heads that bushes were green fluffy clouds and they should jump in them. Well, two of the girls were fine afterward, but my third daughter got a branch stuck in her leg.
In the ER, we were in line behind a man who looked like he was having a heart attack. They made him take a number and have a seat. My daughter was bleeding quite badly. Suddenly, a nurse approached and complained about my daughter getting too much blood on the floor. ‘Can’t you do something about that?’ the nurse snapped at me.
The same nurse walked past the guy clutching his chest and called the next number. About ten minutes later, the man flopped on the floor, unmoving. He literally died on the spot.
We waited over an hour after that and no one came for him. I complained but was told to go wait for my number to be called and not to bother the desk. It was horrible. When we finally went back, I again complained about the man on the floor but to the head nurse this time. They finally sent somebody out to the waiting room to check on him. By then it was far too late.
The nurse that complained about my daughter’s bleeding in the waiting room complained that she was dripping blood all over the hall and into the examination room. Finally, I said, ‘I know she’s bleeding a lot. That’s why we’re here!’
After some time passed, the hospital was brought under new management. It is definitely a much nicer place. I heard the guy’s family sued the hospital.”
Better Out Than In
“I was at the ER for a visibly broken arm. I was patiently waiting even though I was soaked in sweat from pain.
There was a couple there. I’d say they were in their mid thirties. The husband was moaning and groaning about his chest and stomach hurting. His wife kept yelling her head off about how he was dying, and having a heart attack, and demanded he be helped immediately.
They had been waiting a little over twenty-five minutes, while the guy kept groaning and acting like he was in serious pain. The wife kept saying, ‘I’m gonna sue! I’m going to call the cops! Someone help my husband!’
I sat there concerned. The guy had been triaged but he was waiting for a bed to open up and admittedly, for someone having a heart attack, time was of the essence.
Suddenly, the guy threw up all over the floor of the waiting room.
Then he let out the biggest belch I’ve ever heard. After that, he said he felt fine and wanted to leave.
However, a bed had just opened up, so they were called to the back. I was also called to the back at the same time. We ended up sharing a double exam room.
The doctor explained to the man that the EKG was fine, and all his blood work was normal. They wanted to keep him overnight anyway, to monitor his condition. The husband, however, refused, saying he knew it was not his heart, but wouldn’t say why.
His wife wasn’t having it and shouted at them both down and got him admitted.
Then she went home because they had little ones that she had to pick up from the neighbors. When she left, that’s when the husband confessed to the doctor what he did. On a dare with his friends, he swallowed a bunch of seltzer tablets and chugged a two-liter bottle of cola.
His problem was he had extreme gas. The doctor, of course, recommended he didn’t do that anymore. Once the doctor was done, he closed the curtains and came to my side of the room with a look of disgust on his face he couldn’t hide.
I, on the other hand, arm broken in four places, was bandaged up and sent home thirty minutes later.”
A Night of Fright
“It was Halloween,
Some of the staff got permission to wear silly costumes, as long as certain regulations held up. The rules were understandable since no one wanted a doctor dressed up as a killer clown to treat them.
I was checking on patients waiting in the ER. My rounds included making sure they had their insurance cards, water, and some medicine if they needed it.
There were many people wearing costumes as well. Some were funny, and others were a little provocative. All around it was a crazy Halloween for sure.
Then I noticed a man sitting alone by himself. I figured he probably came in with a friend and was waiting for updates. So, I went to visit him. He had on your average butcher accident costume. White apron with fake blood sprayed all over, hair plastered with fake blood, and the obligatory big plastic butcher knife in the head.
I asked who he was with or what he was waiting on, and he replied, ‘I’m waiting for this to be removed.’
The fake butcher was pointing to the prop sitting on top of his head. Some of my associates overheard what he said and giggled.
I smiled and said. ‘Yeah, we will get that removed.’
I went over to ‘examine’ his skull. Up close, I became quite impressed with how he went all out on his costume. He even applied fake blood where the butcher’s knife curved along his skull so it sat perfectly on his head.
Then it slowly dawned on me.
The knife was not plastic. It was made of pure metal. The blood I saw was real. It dripped all down the side of his head and the knife was indeed lodged in the top of his skull.
I immediately called the head nurse over. She came with a metal detector wand and sure enough, it was real. He was pushed up next in line and was treated.
The blade cut into his skull but not fully, still a millimeter and it would have been in the cranium.”
An Unlikely Patient
” It was a very quiet day in our ER.
We got a call that a police car was headed our way with a crushing injury. Dispatch gave us an ETA of about ten minutes. We called our thoracic surgeon, and all of us remained on standby.
Sure enough, a cop car pulled in. The crew that handles the patient retrieval wheeled out the gurney.
Once the gurney came back in, we noticed the blanket wrapped over the patient was smaller than the average person.
My heart sank in my stomach. I thought, ‘Oh, no, a child?’
Under the blanket, on the gurney, was a police dog with a badly crushed back left leg.
We didn’t normally run animal care, but this dog had been to our ER many times with her handler. However, this was the first time ‘Snoops’ was a patient.
As I said, it was a slow, rainy day. Therefore, we had plenty of time to take care of her. The surgeon stopped the bleeding while a nurse brought over a pediatric breathing tube. The dog was anesthetized while the crew continued to work over the dog.
Unfortunately, the leg was so badly damaged that it couldn’t be saved, so the surgeon amputated the leg. About an hour later the dog woke up and started looking for her partner. Once he came into the room, the cop hugged Snoops, then started bawling.
Ever seen a 6′5″, two-hundred thirty-pound man with a badge and a gun cry his eyes out?
It ain’t pretty.
Another cop called a vet and Snoops was transferred over to the nearest veterinarian hospital.
Two months later, the cop and Snoops came back to the hospital. Snoops was given a retirement ceremony and is now living full-time with her partner and his family.
They come by frequently to brighten our day.”
An Act of Kindness
“When my oldest was a baby, he had a seizure and had to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.
When we got to the hospital emergency room, the staff was wonderful and caring.
However, I did hear a lady in the next room arguing with her nurse. The nurse had asked her if the baby she brought in had been given any Tylenol. The mom said ‘no.’ Then after they gave the baby a dose, the mom claimed she had told the nurse that she DID give her baby Tylenol.
When the nurse confronted the mother, she tried to assault him. The mother kept screaming, ‘Are you calling me a liar?’ I was sitting next to my baby thinking, ‘Wow, lady. The important thing here is your baby’s health not if anyone called you a liar or not.’ I couldn’t believe the nurse’s patience around the nut job!
Well, the next day, my son and I baked cookies and took them back to the nurses’ station to say ‘thank you.’
I walked up to the nurse’s station with my baby on one hip and a plate of cookies on the other hand. When I walked up to the head nurse and explained why I had come, it was like a movie moment with the scratch record sound. EVERYONE stopped and stared at me. I thought perhaps I was breaking a rule by bringing in food or something.
That’s when the nurse told me she had been working there for over twenty years and it was THE FIRST TIME anyone had thanked them! She said that often after they got folks under control and shifted them to the hospital upstairs and it was those wings that often got ‘thank yous.’ In all her time in the ER, they had never been thanked- not even once!
So please be kind to doctors but especially nurses. They work so hard and are NOT celebrated nearly enough.”
You Need This More Than I Do!
“I took a spill and broke my arm. It wasn’t a bad break. I didn’t even realize how badly I had injured it until the next morning when I went to the ER of what was supposed to be the best hospital in our area.
As I was sitting, awaiting my turn, the other people in the waiting room were with children with sniffles. From observing the kids playing with their toys and looking at books, I’m sure they didn’t have severe fevers of any kind.
Then a REAL emergency came in.
It was a boy that looked to be about ten years old. He had scrapes on his arms and legs, had obviously broken an arm, and looked as if his ribs were likely broken as well. The front wheel had come off his bicycle as he was coasting down a steep hill in his neighborhood.
The boy’s mother got a wheelchair from the ER to bring him in because he could barely stand.
A few minutes later, an elderly lady walked in. One of the ER nurses rushed over and did the most despicable thing imaginable.
The ER nurse kicked the boy out of the chair and declared, ‘This lady needs it more than you do!’ The boy’s mother was dumbfounded.
At that point, I was called to the admissions desk for my turn; I asked why they were not checking out the boy who was obviously seriously injured.
The reason: It wasn’t his turn!
I gave him my space over the objections of the ER nurse, and I spoke to the hospital administrator about their nonexistent triage team.”
“I Was Next!”
“One time, I was waiting in the ER.
I broke my right hand. I was at a trauma hospital, so you immediately know if a more serious case comes in, they are treated first.
Well, there was one person in front of me. It was a guy with just a cut on his finger. When he got called back for his vitals he had a towel on his cut. We he came back out, he had a Band-Aid on it.
As we all continued waiting, the sound of a helicopter landing took over the silence in the waiting room. Someone called out, ‘Multiple gunshots! It’s a seventeen year old male.’
The crew got him and wheeled him on the back. The guy with the cut on his finger immediately started complaining because he was next.
‘What’s the point of being in line when you take people off the street first?’ the guy demanded.
Most of the time I ignore people, but this guy really got under my skin. I asked him, ‘Were you born an idiot, or did you grow into one?’ Then I yelled at him. ‘That’s someone’s child, and you want your papercut looked at first? Just shut the hell up or you will need them to look at more than your finger!’
The guy immediately shut up and left. He never got his finger looked at.”
You’ll Be Fine!
“I took my dad to out to eat a year ago when suddenly he said he was feeling funny. My mom and I rushed him to the ER and we took a seat in the waiting area.
It was fairly quiet in the room. We were all minding our own business. It was a Saturday mid-afternoon and a lot of the incomers were in sports clothing and football boots, on crutches or holding compresses to their heads, etc.
Suddenly, a woman marched into the waiting area and proceeded to approach the reception desk. As she made her way up there, the woman was chatting quite loudly. The silence of the room was broken by her dropping a pocketful of coins all over the floor.
Her reaction to it was a little over the top. She covered her mouth to hide a laugh before she turned toward the receptionist and shouted, ‘Oospie, my bad!’
Then the woman got on her hands and knees and started scooping them all up with her sleeves. She spent a good amount of time on the floor putting the coins back in her pocket and loudly telling passers-by that she dropped her change.
Once she was told to go sit down to be seen, everything seemed to go back to normal. That quickly dissipated when the woman started loudly asking one of the football players in the room what happened and began to loudly sympathize about how painful his injury looked.
Then the woman came straight out with, ‘See, you look like you should be here, but what about the rest of you? There’s nothing wrong with you lot, just put a plaster on it!’
Instantly the air went ice cold as everybody started giving each other awkward glances with their heads down with expressions that screamed, ‘Did she just say that?’
The woman sitting next to us was with her mum and had a minor back injury. On the surface she looked physically fine but she was in pain the moment she moved. My mother and I weren’t even patients, but this woman wasn’t to know, was she?
We caught the gaze of the back injury woman and her mom who said to us hushed, ‘Is she serious?’
The woman then decided to start verbally attacking our end of the waiting room, ‘You lot down there, you don’t look ill, take a paracetamol and go home!’
The woman with a back injury woman scoffed, ‘Oh she’s starting on us now, isn’t she? I’d like to see her deal with this pain on just paracetamol.’
We couldn’t help but chuckle to ourselves as the woman continued berating us ‘not-so-obviously-physically-in-pain-or-injured’ time wasters. We kept thinking about how she was hilariously hypocritical.
The tension in the room was tight, and everybody was giving everybody awkward glances as this woman just carried on.
It died down after a few minutes. After a short conversation with the women next to us, we were called in to see my dad before anything more kicked off.
We reckon she could have been there for something psychological, but we’ll never know.”
The More You Know
“I once had a patient explain the benefits of smoking – while he smoked inside the ER waiting room.
He was having a psychotic episode and I brought him to the ER to be admitted for inpatient treatment.
This took place back in the 80s when you could still smoke in many areas of hospitals. Since he was a psychiatric patient, they had us wait in a private room until he could be evaluated by a staff psychiatrist.
He was chain-smoking, and after about the fourth cigarette in the tiny enclosed room, I said, ‘Chuck, how come you smoke so much? Don’t you know it’s bad for you?’
Chuck then told me on the contrary, smoking is ‘beneficial for your health.’ Then he explained his theory about how cigarettes help purify the air.
‘You see, when you light a cigarette and inhale through it, all the impurities in the air are instantly incinerated on point of contact with the flame,’ Chuck explained.
I told him I was skeptical and he said, ‘Believe me, it’s true. Look, I’ll show you.’
Then he put out the cigarette and tore open the filter.
Sure enough, the used filter was this gross brown color with tiny little particles in it. Those were all the contaminants captured in this air purification system, which we commonly refer to as a cigarette!
He was finishing up the last of the pack when the doctor arrived to do the psych eval. I had no trouble getting Chuck admitted to their inpatient unit after he explained his theory about the health benefits of tobacco smoking to the staff psychiatrist.”
“I went with my son to the ER for one of my grandsons who was suffering from a pretty severe case of pneumonia. In the waiting room was a woman who obviously neglected her personal hygiene for a while, as she had a very foul odor about her.
She aggressively approached the nurse’s station where the medical staff was triaging my grandson. Even though I was retired, I told her I was a Deputy Sheriff, and if she didn’t calm down, she could be arrested for disorderly conduct.
Shortly after, two armed security officers from the hospital came into the waiting area. They repeated the same warning. The woman finally crossed the line by threatening one of the nurses. The only person standing between that woman and the nurse triaging my grandson was me.
Security finally told her she had to leave. The woman responded with how they were legally required to treat her. I stepped in and advised her that was only true as long as she did not pose a threat to the staff or other patients, and as of that moment, she was illegally trespassing, because she had been asked to leave.
The security staff physically pushed her out the door. I stepped out with them, and told her if she came back onto hospital grounds, she’d go straight to jail. It was no bluff. She had committed assault by threatening the staff in the presence of my grandson, which meant she endangered the welfare of a child, a felony.
Eventually, she walked away just as the local police arrived. Hospital security declined to press charges, as did my son, at my suggestion.
I never found out the woman’s name, but the staff told me she was only there for a minor earache. She was pissed off that she was being forced to wait, even though she was thoroughly explained the way triage worked, and that higher priority patients would be treated before a minor earache.”