With the availability of services like WebMD and "The Google," people, now more than ever, have the ability to self-diagnose themselves, even when they're totally off base. While these services can be used for good, most people who use them and go to the hospital end up making things worse for the nurses and doctors that treat them. At the end of the day, the random patient off the street does not have the medical expertise of those treating them.
A Reddit thread recently asked doctors and other medical professionals to share the dumbest patients they've ever treated. The responses included a good mixture of patients who thought they knew more than they did and those who were just too stupid for their own good. Take a look at some of the most insane patient stories. All posts have been edited for clarity.
"A father was told that his 3-year-old daughter couldn't 'eat or drink anything after midnight' before her surgery to remove her tonsils and adenoids the next morning.
While intubating his daughter the next morning, she vomited scrambled eggs, causing her to aspirate them into her lungs. Her heart stopped and I did chest compressions on her for 25 minutes. We got her back, aborted the surgery, and transferred her to the pediatric ICU on a ventilator. She gets a bronchoscope and we insert a bronchial suction catheter and suck it all out. We can also do bronchial lavage (which we did) and irrigate fluid in there, and rinse out as much as possible. She will be on very strong antibiotics to fight of the inevitable infection that will happen, and hope that sepsis does not set in. In the mean time, she will be brought back to the OR for future lavages, and left on a ventilator for a while to protect her airway.
Her father's response: 'She said she was hungry. I thought you were being too hard on her. It must have been something you did to her.' He was terrified...he knew he made a bad decision that may have irrevocably changed his daughter, and I happened to be standing there. He'd assured me that he hadn't given her anything since she went to bed the night before. Even after providing him with reasons for the no food/drink thing, he still chose to keep the truth to himself.
Another time, I had a patient Wednesday that was sipping on a drink when I came to check her in for surgery. It was a huge procedure she was getting, so strict NPO was being enforced. She says, 'I've done this many times before surgery, and nothing has happened.' I walked out of the room, called the Anesthesiologist, and told her what I witnessed. It was interesting watching her reaction when I told her her surgery would now be delayed for 6 hours due to non-compliance. We then placed her in observation so we could insure her NPO status further."
"Not me, but my friend's dad is a surgeon at my local hospital and deals mostly with trauma surgery and general emergencies.
This is my favorite story he's ever told me. Let's call him Don.
He was working on a really nice day in July and he was notified that an ambulance was coming in with a patient with severe lacerations on his left hand and a couple missing digits. They brought him into the OR and there wasn't much they could do to save the fingers, so he cleaned it out and sewed them shut. When the patient came to, Don started getting some information about what happened.
Apparently, the man was doing some yard work and thought he could use his lawn mower to cut the top of his hedge perfectly straight. So he hoisted his mower up and started cutting when the weight shifted and his fingers got caught up in the blade. Shocking, I know.
About three hours later, Don was notified that another ambulance was coming in. He had severe lacerations on the hand and a couple missing digits.
Don said it felt like deja vu and the injury was almost identical. Same fingers missing, completely mangled so they couldn't be saved. He stitched this patient up and yet again started asking about the incident.
The patient told him that he was driving home from work and saw someone cutting their hedges with a lawn mower. Apparently, he thought that was an excellent idea and decided to try it himself. And well, you know what happened next.
So moral of the story, don't cut your hedges with a lawn mower."
"When I was a paramedic, we were called to a school gym because one kid lost his grip while climbing a rope and had a badly twisted ankle. When we arrived, the gym teacher tried to get rid of us by saying, 'You guys can leave. He is just being a little crybaby, he can walk it off.'
It turned out that he had several torn ligaments and a broken leg. Also, one of the kids had to call 911 because the teacher didn't think it was necessary.
We met the parents at the hospital and once they had taken care of their son, we approached them and told them how we were greeted. The mother instantly went to the school. Let's put it this way: seeing her face when she left, I can imagine what happened when she arrived.
We filed our usual report with the fire department and that was the end of the official part. But since medics and cops get along great in my part of the world, we mentioned this to some cops we met at lunch later that day. They followed up on it, and according to my cousin, who was attending the same school, the teacher was fired the next morning."
"I'm a nurse who has worked in the Burn Trauma ICU and I am now a hospital supervisor during the night shift. The stuff that people come into the hospital with is mind blowing. Either their medical problem or their social problem, or both.
My most recent and favorite experience was a patient who called the hospital condition concern line wanting to know why 'we were not teaching her how to feed (her newborn).' The operator who passed the call to me thought it was a prank at first.
I went to the mother/baby floor to meet with these people and talk to their nurse. I came to find out that the mother had tested positive for smack in her urine (it also tested positive in her newborn) and she also had a history of substance abuse. Her last three children were all taken by CPS and her newborn will also be taken away here shortly.
I went to talk to this woman to explain why we couldn't teach her to feed due to the smack in her milk.
The stuff that came from this creature's toothless mouth was unbelievable. Her first statement was, 'Your job is to teach my kid how to suck my milk,' and 'I don't know why the hospital is doing this to me, I don't smoke that much, I'm cutting back,' and 'I always feel good on smack.'
I talked with her in circles for a little while and it finally ended with her saying, 'Ah, forget it, I'm having a smoke.' She got up and left, and that morning CPS came to take her kid away. The kid was in the nursery the entire time. I'm told she barely even looked at it since birth.
While I'm at it, I'll share another quick one from my days as a new nurse on the Burn unit. This person came in with full thickness 10% body arm/hand burn.
We take them back to the 'tub room' where we scrape off all the burn. While we are getting this person prepped, I asked the nurse training me about all this sticky stuff on the burn. She doesn't know, so we ask the patient.
He tells us it's honey! He put it on there to seal the wound. Nothing like a sugary substance on exposed muscle and fat to keep the infection out!
Honey does not help at all, If you get a burn put a cool, damp cloth over it and come to the hospital."
"There was a 24-year-old patient who was brought in from a jail in a rural county. He was working roadside cleanup when he found a bottle in a ditch that he thought contained some Jack Daniels and he quickly chugged it down. To be fair, it did look like Jack. It wasn’t.
It turns out it was a substance that contained sulfuric acid. Its pH was less than 2.5...it just ate up the litmus paper. So shortly after he got to the ICU, he was in excruciating pain and vomiting blood.
The gastroenterologist took him to do an EGD, and the pictures were horrendous. You could literally see his stomach and esophageal mucosa eroding away.
He had to be sent off to another hospital where they had an esophageal surgeon who could repair the mess. He, of course, needed multiple surgeries and had a very long hospital stay. I saw him a few months later when he was admitted for another issue. He was down to 90 pounds (from about 150) and was getting fed through a PEG tube.
He was very lucky to be young and otherwise healthy."
"I'm an x-ray tech. One Halloween, I got an order for an abdominal x-ray with the admitting diagnosis being rectal bleeding (foreign body) for a middle aged male. I walked up to the guy to bring him into the exam room and asked him what happened. He started to tell me he was fooling around with his girlfriend when she put something small in his poop chute. He said it happened quick and unexpectedly; under his breath, he was cursing his 'girlfriend' for doing that to him.
'I'm sure it'll come out, it wasn't that big. It's supposed to be able to handle this.'
I got him on the table with no trouble, no grimacing, and it didn't look like he was in any pain, just mild discomfort. I believed his story... until I took the first image.
The man had an aerosol can firmly planted in his butt. Silence crept over the room. He knew I knew and not another word was said. I wished him well and I pushed him back to his room.
Now here's the kicker. My mom works in pathology at the same hospital, so she received the man's hair product the next day when it was inevitably surgically removed from his rectum. She called me in and I got to see said can, which was covered on both ends with rubbers.
I then knew there probably wasn't a 'girlfriend.'"
"A woman came in to the emergency room with a 6-year-old girl. The mother was frantic and crying, 'My baby's tooth fell out! It's my fault.'
Me: 'How is it your fault? Did she fall down or something?'
Woman: 'No. It's my fault because I didn't give her the good juice with concentrate in it, and now all of her teeth are gonna fall out!'
Me, genuinely confused: 'Concentrate?'
Woman: 'If you don't give kids juice with concentrate in it...you know...the one with the big letter 'C' on it, all their teeth will fall out!'
Me: 'Ma'am, your child is 6 years old. She is going to lose all of her baby teeth now and get her adult teeth. She does not have scurvy.'
Another time, I had a 12-year-old girl with full blown AIDS in the ICU with a habit of biting herself on the cheek enough to get it to bleed and then spitting on the nurses and doctors in an attempt to inoculate them. When I confronted her grandmother about this, asking her to help us control her granddaughter, she said, 'Well, then why don't you just give her the cure? You white people made AIDS to kill all the black children, and you give the cure to the white girls but hide it from the black girls.'
We eventually had to put a hood on her, which is like a big plastic sack that goes over her head. It's made out of mesh so the patient can still breath well, but it makes it so they can't spit. We usually have to use them in the ER when wasted people are just spitting at everyone. She kept taking it off, and her grandmother often helped her take it off.
The patient with AIDS was often admitted for months at a time and had a lot of serious issues. She did manage to survive that hospital stay, but I had heard a few years later that she had died. This is really rather sad because, in this day and age, HIV should not be a death sentence. When the patient was a couple of years older, she was known to sneak into the rooms of other male teenage patients and try to sleep with them. They had to post a security guard at one point just to keep her in the room."
"My mom used to work in the ICU. An extremely sweet old lady had just gotten open heart surgery so she had all the tubes and what not attached to her. The day after the old lady got out of surgery, she had someone come in asking to see her. The lady was the daughter-in-law of the old lady.
The DIL brought her two little kids along. Those kids were climbing on chairs and what not. When the DIL was informed that her kids weren't allowed in because they might be sick and also the fact that the ICU is a terrifying place for kids, she said that her kids were perfectly healthy. Her oldest kid then vomited everywhere.
The DIL then said, 'You're not letting us in just because we don't use the poisonous vaccines. You are probably a cultist as well as a freaking idiot!'
They made her leave."
"I once had a patient say, 'Wait, secondhand smoke? Yeah right, that doesn't exist. Baby'll be fine.' And an hour later he said, 'No, my fiancée and I don't want our daughter to have any of the vaccines, vitamin K shot, antibiotic eye ointment, or PKU testing. It's poison. Poking her with the needle is worse than the "cold" she'd get without the "poison."'
He then drove his newborn daughter and fiancée home. At the hospital I worked at, when a couple left the mother/baby wing, a nurse or nursing student would follow them down to their car and make sure the car seat was firmly in place and/or answer any last minute questions. When we walked out with them to the car, it absolutely reeked of smoke."
"When I was working as an EMT, we got a call to an apartment complex for a 30-something female, seven-months pregnant, having contractions. Pretty standard, dispatch didn't have any further information.
We got there, got her into our ambulance, and because child-birth is actually a pretty simple process, I was the one who took it, not my paramedic partner. We asked her what hospital she wanted to go to and she said the local one, 'Community Hospital' is what I'll refer to it as.
I advised her that Children's Hospital would be her best choice, even though it was a longer ride, but she insisted on Community and I informed the paramedic that was where she wanted to go. While on our way to Community, I asked her all the information I needed. Medication, Past Medical History, Allergies. She didn't indicate she was on anything other than Tylenol and prenatal supplements.
She had been pregnant before, and it miscarried at seven months. After learning this, I advised her again that Children's would be the best choice for her and the baby, but she insisted on Community. For anybody wondering, we couldn't take her elsewhere, even if it was in her best interest, because that would be considered kidnapping.
We were five minutes away from the hospital by now and I radioed to them all the information that I had. After I listed her current medications though, she said, 'Oh wait, I'm also on methadone.' At this point, I STRONGLY advised that because of her history and her current medication, Community would just send her to Children's after admitting her. Again, she refused saying that Community didn't judge her for being a methadone patient. So, essentially, what I was hearing is that despite being a methadone patient who was seven-months pregnant, had a previous pregnancy miscarry at seven months and experiencing contractions, what was more important to her was not the life of her unborn child, but how people treat her.
The hospital wasn't happy about it either, and they even tried talking her into going to Children's over the radio, but no chance. She got the DIRTIEST looks from the nursing staff when we pulled in, and we went straight through the ER and into the elevator to go to the Maternity Ward. In the elevator, she looked at me and said, 'If I knew it would hurt this much, I wouldn't have gotten pregnant again.'"
"This may come off as haughty, and I promise I'm not trying to be, but a lot of people don't know much about magnets other than 'they stick to each other.' I didn't know anything about magnets before I became an MRI tech.
Just to give you an idea of how strong the magnet I work with is, here is a little explanation. We measure magnets in units called Tesla as well as units called Gauss. Our magnet is a 1.5 Tesla. 1 Tesla = 10,000 Gauss. Now, for reference, a refrigerator magnet is about 25 Gauss, so my magnet is 600 times stronger than that. It's pretty strong.
I had some 60-year-old obese woman in a wheelchair come in to get a brain scan. I did my little history and safety interview and found that, oh... she had a pacemaker. An electronic device with electrodes directly implanted in her heart tissue. If she were to be put into a large magnetic field and have a bit of electromagnetic conduction, well...she would have a bad time.
I just put my papers on the desk beside me and told her calmly that she could never have an MRI and that she needed to contact her doctor to schedule a different test. She FREAKED out on me and told me that it was her head that I was scanning and not her chest, so I needed to shut up and do her test. She was downright hostile about it!
I explained that if I would were to do that, I could potentially kill her. She didn't believe me. So I had a formal complaint written about me because I saved her stupid life. I love my job. Nothing really happened. My boss told me about the complaint and just laughed at the situation. It still irks me though."
"My sister went to a Tibetan healer who told her she had diabetes, but everything would be okay because her boyfriend could cure her with his spirit.
She called my aunt, who was the head of the radiology department at a hospital and gave her this information. My aunt asked what kind of diabetes she had and when my sister gave some ridiculous response, my aunt didn't elaborate on what it was, but she was furious. She told my sister that she either had 'Type 1' or 'Type 2' diabetes.
Then my sister responded with, 'Those are just your opinions on what diabetes is.'
My aunt said, 'No, those are the actual medical definitions.'
And then my sister made the dumbest statement: 'Western medicine has you fooled.'
So yeah, my sister is an idiot. She was also an illegal alien in Canada for some time, so she had that going for her as well. Why did she move to Canada? Her spirit guide (our dead great-grandma) told her to do so. She refuses to go to a real hospital or doctor because it's 'too expensive.'"
"I used to teach urinary exams.
A med student asked this hillbilly guy to lift his junk out of the way so she could examine his balls.
'Your junk,' she said, pointing down there.
At this point, I intervened. I pointed to his crotch. 'What do you call that thing there?'
'Well, get Thomas out of the way, would ya?'
This is not the only time I've asked someone what they called their junk because they did not recognize the proper names. Most people are only taught euphemisms for their parts growing up. Once upon a time, it was not discussed in school for reasons of propriety. It remains an anatomical grey zone for a lot of people - they know their thumb is their thumb because their momma called it a thumb, but their momma never told 'em what to call the thing between their legs.
Teach your children the proper names for their junk early on and make sure they are comfortable discussing it frankly. This might sound weird, but when their crotch stays a gray zone, associated with embarrassment, then they are less likely to examine it for irregularities, less likely to tell someone in a timely manner if they find irregularities, less able to communicate exactly what's wrong, and less likely/able to communicate it if an adult touches them inappropriately."
"I had an old coot who was sweet but had clearly spent his adult years drinking away whatever brain cells he started with. He presented with a chief complaint of 'I can't drink any more. Every time I drink, I just throw it back up a few minutes later.'
Well, turns out Cooter hadn't been able to eat actual food in months, was subsisting on pretty much just Bud Light, and hadn't pooped in over two weeks. But that didn't bother him a bit... until he couldn't drink. Then it was an emergency!
He had a big tumor blocking the distal part of his left colon, and everything gradually got backed up all the way to his stomach. That's why he couldn't keep a drink down--there was just no more room at the inn.
I fixed him with a colostomy, and he got better and left. He refused chemo and I figured he'd just go home and die of cancer. But then, almost exactly one year later, he came back to me with just about the same complaint... obstructed to the point of not being able to drink.
Except this time, it was that his butt had essentially retracted into his abdomen and the skin had nearly grown shut over it. He was pooping out of a teeny-tiny hole in his skin. Even my oldest partners had never seen anything like it, but once again Cooter wasn't remotely fazed. He just wanted us to fix it so he could go home and keep drinking.
I fixed it, but haven't seen Cooter since. I kind of hope he's still out there, treating his cancer with Bud Light and just blissfully ignoring the Grim Reaper."
"I had a patient once with family members who were some of the most frustrating people I've ever dealt with. The patient was morbidly obese and had open sores and wounds in all her skin folds. Cleaning her when she was first admitted was like some sort of disgusting clown car. We found a floral pillowcase shoved under one fold and what we think was a smashed bread crust in a fold near her groin.
Anyway, because of her weight, she wasn't a candidate for surgery and therefore there was nothing our team could do for her. I think about five or six different meetings were held with her family to discuss her prognosis. Her daughter told the attending physician he didn't know what he was talking about and that she had been this sick before and pulled through. Her pH was so low it just read as '<6.8' and her blood pressure was a solid 60/25 despite every vasopressor under the sun running at three times the max doses. When the charge nurse pointed out her blood pressure on the monitor, the daughter said, 'Psh, I've seen lower.'
When she finally died, her family was livid that we didn't save her. We coded her for 20 minutes and they told us we should have continued for 'at least an hour.' I felt terrible that her last days were spent in such torture all because her family was in such denial about her condition."
"A woman with cancer came into my hospital for treatment. She was in the medical field, too, so I am unsure why she said the things she did...perhaps she was still in denial?
I was the intern when she came in for a chest tube insertion to drain her pleural effusion (it was obviously suspected to be malignant).
After the procedure, I went home, and the resident on-call had to deal with multiple calls from the distraught staff in her ward. The next morning, I was told by said resident -sporting a haggard appearance and blood-shot eyes from a busy shift - that she was my problem now. With that, the poor man left for home.
I went in to see her and first get accosted by ward staff, who told me she legit refused all pain meds. Right after procedure which entailed a tube scratching against her parietal pleura. Ow.
So I went in and was told, by this woman, who, let me remind you, was employed in the healthcare sector, that the tube had been 'pushed in far too much' and was 'stabbing' her and that I need to undo the stitch and pull it out a few centimeters. Um no, lady, I'm not authorized to do that.
The x-ray was fine, no intervention was necessary.
I told her she needed to take her meds if she wanted the pain to get better, and she said, no joke, that 'pain meds will further spread the cancer' and that I 'should know that, being a student of medicine.' And she further said, 'Look, no need to tell anybody, you're a doctor, use your own judgement and pull the tube out.'
Sigh. She was adamant. My professor was going to be late that day, and I obviously wasn't going to do anything without his permission. I documented her refusal and went on my way. She left by the afternoon, against medical advice.
I feel bad for her, but she wasn't letting me help, so yeah."