Doctors really be seeing it. On the daily, doctors face numerous problems and crazy injuries. Sometimes they aren't sure how people even survive. In this piece, doctors share their "How the heck are they alive" stories. Keep in mind, content is edited for clarity.
“I worked in a trauma center as a scribe before starting med school. Basically, I was attached at the hip with a doctor to do their documentation.
One guy wrecked his car into a wooden fence, and a wooden fence post went in his mouth and came out the back of his neck. It was the kind of fence post that was double the size of his mouth. It had basically pushed all of the important anatomy to the side as it impaled him. There were consulting doctors for like 10 different specialties working on this guy in the hospital. Several weeks later, after he fully recovered, he walked back in the emergency department to thank everyone.”
“This Story Always Gives Me Goosebumps”
“This happened during2nd year during my neurosurgery residency. A woman got shot execution style (kneeled down on both knees; shot in the back of the head—think Boondocks Saints style) by her husband, who then shot himself.
In the ER, the patient was barely breathing and had a hemoglobin of 5.0. There was so much scatter from the metal artifact on the CT of her head that we didn’t know what we were getting into, but we brought her immediately to the OR to do an exploratory craniotomy.
We made incision and took off a flap of this thick, mangled skull where she was shot in the back of her head. Her shards of skull tore a massive hole in her superior sagittal sinus (big brain vein) that we had to repair. We found some small fragments of bullet but no big slug.
When I went back to repair the portion of skull we cut out to access her brain, I found the bullet embedded in her skull. As we get older, our skull thickens but this girl was young. She had an abnormally thick portion of her skull in the area where she was shot. After the case was over, I looked back at her CT and it was a miraculous abnormality.
The patient ended up surviving with no neurological deficits. She is a completely normal and high functioning individual in society at this time. This strange thickened portion of her skull saved her life. If she would have been shot anywhere else in her head at point blank, she would have undoubtedly lost her life.
I’m not one for fate or higher power but this story always gives me goose bumps.”
A Close Call
“First year of my core surgical training, I was on call in a very small rural hospital. This hospital only had 2 doctors on at night, me and a medical trainee, and no emergency doctors.
It’s about 11pm and this guy, 26, comes in after being in a fight. Blood pumping from his nose which was clearly fractured. I suspected he probably had other facial fractures underneath but he was awake and talking to me, otherwise seemed fine. I spent about 45 minutes trying to stop the blood, using all sorts of nose packs, pressure, even tried a catheter balloon to try to tamponade it. Nothing was working, and he was starting to go into shock, and I was basically pooping myself at this stage. Based on his vitals, I’d estimated he’d lost almost 1.5 liters of blood so far. The nearest proper surgical hospital was 45 minutes away, and my consultant was at home, 25 minutes from the hospital.
Eventually I got four bags of O neg from the lab (the lab tech happened to be in, which was very lucky), put this guy in the back of an ambulance, still bleeding, and sent him blue light to the surgical center in the city. Got a phone call about 3 hours later from a surgeon at the other hospital, saying he had brought the patient to theater and been able to control the situation. He was probably 15 minutes from dead.
If you come into that kind of small hospital with that much bleeding, all stats say you’re in trouble. The guy was very lucky his friends got him in so quickly.”
Kids These Days
“I was working in the emergency department when a toddler came in after falling out of a 3 story window completely unharmed. The sad thing was they were from a rough neighbourhood and the Mum hadn’t noticed for about half an hour. Apparently the friendly apartment pot smokers found found him, checked him over and sat with him for half an hour, but Mum didn’t show up, so they went to find her. The child was admitted overnight mostly for social reasons but it’s just amazing how well kids bounce.”
The Lab Was Furious Once They Got The Blood Test
“My friend had been feeling like trash for a long time, went to the doctor. Doctor ordered a bunch of blood tests, and ordered them on a ‘rush’ basis.
The lab calls the doctor to cuss him out. ‘Why the eff did you make us rush these tests?’ Doctor is confused. Lab is like, ‘The guy is clearly dead, so what’s the effing rush?’
Doctor calls him, tells him to NOT DRIVE but to get himself to emergency ASAP.
Guy was a type 1 diabetic, hadn’t realized it until way later in life, and apparently his bloodwork suggested he was a corpse rather than a living person. He’s still doing fine.”
Beware Of Motorcycles
“Happened about 7 months ago, after a heated discussion with my ex girlfriend, I went to blow off some steam on my new motorcycle. I suited up with my nice leathers and a helmet and was on my way. It was a rather warm night so after cruising for a bit I decide to pull over and take off my jacket. Conveniently get a text from my ex saying all this toxic stuff and before I know it I’m pushing 130+ on the highway….without my jacket or gloves on.
Needless to say – play stupid games, win stupid prizes… I go down on the highway at around 120 mph and the road chews my elbows, knuckles, and left knee down to the fat and bone. In midair I remember thinking this is a dream, you’re going to wake up, this isn’t real. Well after laying in the road for however long, I realized it was in fact real life, picked myself up and hopped along with a broken ankle about 400 feet to my bike. My phone was M.I.A and so my adrenaline filled mind, not recognizing the extent of my injuries told me to ride the bike home and fix myself up.
Fighting consciousness on the ride back I eventually realize I can see multiple bones in my hand, my shoes and pants are filled with my own blood, can’t feel my right foot, and my previously white shirt is now completely red and flapping in the wind. I realized I needed professional help with this one, so I make it to my truck, hop in, and drive myself to the E.R, get the hospital, limp up to the front desk leaving a literal trail of blood behind me…no one’s there. I ring the buzzer and a nurse responds ‘someone will be out shortly’ I remember saying something to the extent of, ‘I don’t have too much time here, please hurry.’ She buzzes me in and as I’m limping towards the main desk looking like an extra in The Walking Dead, some poor nurse turns the corner, goes sheet white, and rushes over to the main desk.
Within seconds, I had a 7 person team treating me. They knew it was a motorcycle accident but when I told them the speedometer was dancing around 120 right before I hit the deck, from there on out every nurse and doctor told me how lucky I was to be alive. They inform me that I’m being transferred to the big league hospital, as they don’t have the staff or specialists to treat me. I remember just being so cold even covered with blankets and warm towels.
In the ambulance the shock wore off and I remember really fighting to stay conscious before a being swept away by a warm cozy wave. Abruptly woken up by what felt like a thousand cold needles hitting me all at once, and the previously super chill EMT guy yelling updates to the driver. I later found out that I flat lined and those cold needles were a defibrillator bringing me back. I think about that warmth too often…and how cold and harsh coming back felt. Moving on, I am admitted to Rhode Island Hospital and they start treating my 28 abrasions (18 Stage2, 10 Stage3), my absolutely mutilated hand, compound fracture’d ankle, 5 broken ribs, completely torn MCL and partially torn ACL, and a partially collapsed lung to top it off. They asked me how fast I was going and after telling them, I became hospital famous due to how many random doctors nurses and even patients came to look at me and tell me how lucky I was. It all felt so weird until a nurse tells me they have had 7 other motorcycle accidents that night, all ending in fatality, with none of them exceeding 100mph when they crashed.
I was the lucky one and everyone wanted to remind me. They gave me morphine which helped for a few minutes at a time, but nothing could numb the pain of ‘washing’ my scrapes, literally scraping out debris with a hard rough sponge. Single handily the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. Doctor and nurses told me that feeling is what’s going to stay with me, and they were spot on. I will never put myself in that situation again, due to above all else, that excruciating pain. I had a lot of time to reflect in the following days, weeks, and months. Couldn’t sleep more than 2-3 hours for the first 2 weeks, woke up screaming in agony more often than not, and spent 8+ hours a day changing my dressings.
My main messages through all this: Your actions always have reaction.s Play stupid games-Win stupid prizes. Doctors, nurses, and EMT are real life superheros and deserve endless recognition and respect. When life gives you a second chance, don’t blow it, because many good people only get one.”
Every Single Bone
“A fellow worker took a 35 lbs steel plate being propelled by 3770 psi (equivalent to 188.5 car tires) to the face. Sent him 15 feet in the air, and 40 feet back. Broke every bone in his face. Lived and back to work 8 months later.”
A Week Without Fluids
“An elderly lady had a massive brain hemorrhage, was transferred to terminal care to the health center in-patient ward I was working at as the doctor. Her prognosis was that she would die at any moment. There was no treatment, she was comatose, but breathing spontaneously through a tracheotomy tube.
A week passed, with no medications, no food, no fluids, still alive. Then she began to stir, came conscious. Delirious, but conscious. So we started i.v. fluids, appropriate medications, and eventually physiotherapy. After a few months she moved into the local nursing home, lived for a few years. She had profound dementia, but was able to move.
I wonder if the air-moisturising device in the room (because of the tracheotomy) kept her hydrated, because a healthy person would generally not survive a week without fluids.”
“Very overweight lady is having twins. She’s got very high blood pressure and starts complaining of difficulty breathing and abdominal pain. Turns out her lungs are filling with fluid. At the same time a bright red blood clot falls out of her genitals (bright red is bad because it means fresh, oxygenated blood). Ultrasound of the babies shows that one twin’s heart is beating very slow. Lady starts having a panic attack and screaming.
They decide to do an emergency c-section (where they cut the babies out through the stomach instead of a regular birth). As soon as she’s on the table she starts having a seizure and they put a breathing tube into her lungs. Patient then has a heart attack.
Whilst one doctor is giving her cpr, another one is putting an IV line in her neck and a team is getting ready to use a defibrillator on her. At the same time, another doctor is cutting the first baby out of her in what is pretty much a superhuman time.
CPR is still going on.
They take the second baby out to find that the placenta has detached itself from the uterus wall too early – it shouldn’t happen until birth has happened, it means the baby has been starved of oxygen and nutrients – and that the baby’s lungs are filled with blood.
The natal intensive care unit takes the babies – they both eventually are fine and healthy. The mother’s heart starts beating by itself, but she’s still losing a lot of blood. She ends up getting ridiculous amounts of blood and other stuff transfused into her. After regular measures don’t work to stop the bleeding, they end up having to cut out her uterus. Patient is unconscious with a breathing tube for another two days, before being healed up enough to leave the hospital a week later.
ER and surgical doctors (and nurses and everyone else that works in ERs) are heroes and for their troubles have to see the worst things in the world. Never forget that.”
Seeing The Light
“I’m a paramedic. I was dispatched to a patient complaining shortness of breath and considering that a SOB dispatch is typically not true, I wasn’t all that ramped up when we came on-scene. The fire department beat us there and when we pull into the parking lot, the junior firefighter is running out to the ambulance to get us and says, ‘We gotta get him outta here.’ No biggie. Let’s see how the other firefighters are acting. At the door, the Engine Captain is looking stressed and says, fittingly, ‘We gotta get him outta here.’
Not good, but he’s not a medic. What does the medic think? Brian, the medic, is an absolute rock star whose judgement I’d trust under any circumstance. Brian says, ‘We gotta get him outta here.’
The patient is a 19 year old male. Pale, cool, and sweaty skin, massive air hunger, and confused. Oxygen saturation is less than 70%. We are 8 minutes from the hospital.
If I have learned one thing in the last 12 years, it’s this: If your patient tells you they’re going to die — believe them. En route, his HR tanked, his pulses faded, and his breathing slowed dramatically, which as I am sure you know, is bad.
Start CPR? Yes, but, when we compress, this kid opens his eyes and pushes us away. Doing CPR on a patient who’s watching you do CPR on them is an interesting experience.
Eventually, he quit pushing us away, so our job got easier. We worked him all the way to the hospital. The ED worked him for an hour and a half — the epinephrine, fluid, nor-epi, etc. briefly producing pulses before they’d again fade away. There was a period of v-fib in there too. Ugh. Eventually, they managed to stabilize him but it didn’t look good for our friend. He began to seize, and it looked like he was going to come out with considerable neurological deficit.
As you can probably guess, he lived. It was a big ol’ saddle embolus… or, in layman’s terms, a huge clot blocking blood flow between his heart and his lungs. Kid had a known coagulopathy that he didn’t manage. They told us on scene that he would joke that someday, he’d just drop dead. Well, not this time.
Walked out of the hospital a week or so later without any deficit. How, I have no idea.”
Wake Up Call
“I’m a paramedic. Once went to a car wreck where an inebriated man drove head first into the corner of a brick bridge at 100mph. Took a huge wedge out of the bottom of the bridge and left the car about 1/4 of its normal length. All the impact was on the driver’s side. We turned up only 2 minutes after the crash and fully expected it to be a fatality. Walked around to the driver’s side and somehow he was fully conscious but squeezed into the only space left in the car. Took almost 3 hours to get him out and on extracting him out, he had absolutely nothing wrong with him other than being an inebriated prick. I still think how the eff did he survive that.”
Talk About A Face-plant
“I’m a firefighter, so I see my fair share of trauma. About a year ago, we responded to a call that went out as an ‘individual who had a car fall on his face.’ He was hot boxing in his garage while working underneath his car that was supported by scissor jacks. Something to note, the car didn’t have any tires on the front end where he was working. One of the scissor jacks had slipped out from underneath the car, and the whole weight of the car landed directly onto the side of his head with no tires to stop the fall. We got our rubber airbags out, lifted the car, pulled him out, and got him onto a stretcher. After taking 2,500 lbs of weight to the head, he somehow got out of it with a fractured orbital and a cut on his cheek.”
Now Living Her Best Life
“I had a rare type of ovarian cancer called terratoma. They were bilateral and massive which is even more rare. When I was diagnosed, all they could see on the imaging was masses with various densities, lots of inflammation and adhesions everywhere. Everyone was trying to be optimistic to my face but I could tell it was terrible. They told me they couldn’t give me a realistic scenario until after the surgery. They said they needed to go in and take out anything and everything the tumors were involved in. I was 35 at the time and said if it’s that bad just sew me up and that’s it. I didn’t want chemo and radiation and no kidneys, bladder or intestines. When I was put under there was a team of about 20 people there. Every type of specialist oncologist surgeons you could imagine. Pathologists to do all the slides in the OR even. Everyone looked at me like I was already dead. I asked for strong meds and went under.
When I woke up, I hurt really bad but felt better. It was so odd. Like I had the flu and it was just gone all of a sudden. I looked around and all the nurses and doctors were there. Some of them had obviously been crying, but they looked happy. I was doped obviously and was struggling to put 2 and 2 together. Then I really opened my eyes and someone started clapping, and they all wanted to hold my hand. I was like, ‘Ok. I’m actually dead?’ The main surgeon was choking tears back and said to me that it was all going to be okay. She explained to me I had massive terratomas, and we had caught them still in the benign stage, but they had been adhered to stuff which is why the scans looked like my abdomen was riddled with cancer. She started crying really hard and laughing at the same time and said you’re going to be totally okay pending the final pathology on all the lymphnodes. The nurse told me later when they opened me up and figured out what it was, a cheer went up in the OR. I had a radical hysterectomy and was supposed to be in the hospital for 4 days. Five hours after surgery, I told them to pull the urinary catheter and had them help me up. I refused to use the bathroom in my room and insisted I walk myself to the toilet at the end of the hall every time I had to go. I was discharged the very next afternoon and never looked back. That is about as close as I ever want to come to dying until I actually die.
I’m living the very best life I can now. Sold everything I owned and moved the horses and my truck to Scotland. I’m getting my doctorate and dealing with all the demons in my life. The amount of power I have now is incredible and the world seems more vibrant. Hard to explain, but a lot of the fears I had are gone now. It seems a lot like what the astronauts get, when your perspective becomes vast and you realize the world is a small speck in the universe and you get a profound sense of the world’s humanity. The only downside is that sometimes it makes normal stuff seem totally trivial. A price I will gladly pay to see the forest instead of just the trees.
I was very vocal about what happened to me after and encouraged people to go get their yearly exams. As a result, 2 people I know went to their exams and the docs caught cervical cancer early. They are both doing great now.”
Dead Or Alive
“Paramedic here. I was dispatched to a ‘person who fell.’ Another update said ‘unconscious.’ Last update about a minute or two before we got there was ‘unconscious, not breathing, CPR in progress.’
Lady in her forties is dead. Like for real. She’s cold, has rigor mortis, pupils are fixed and dilated, monitor shows asystole. Not only is she dead, she’s been dead for a while. Fire department is doing CPR, but it seems futile at this point. I call the hospital to talk to a doctor.
‘Hey, can we get orders to terminate resuscitation efforts on this patient?’ I ask the physician on the other end.
‘Nah, she seems kind of young, and I know it’s probably futile, but go ahead and keep working and bring her on in,’ was his reply.
That’s cool, no problem, we will keep going. We get the IV, I intubate her, give her some epinephrine, put the thumper on her, give some more epi, some bicarb, and no way she has a pulse now. A week later she gets discharged from the hospital to rehab with ‘only mild cognitive impairment.’ Basically, she had to learn to use a spoon and fork again, and she lost a week or two of her memory.
And that’s the short story of how I tried to kill a lady but wound up getting an award for it.”
They Thought They’d Need To Amputate
“I was a surgical resident in a small town hospital. We got paged to see a patient for a speared piece of driftwood through the leg. We were thinking it was a nicked femoral artery and discussing if this poor kid needed amputation when we saw him he was standing on the skewered leg taking a tinkle. Turns out the wood missed every single one of the vital vessels and no fracture – just muscular damage.”
He Swallowed A WHAT?!
“This guy comes in for intentional foreign body ingestion. He swallowed a knife, about a 3 inch blade, and it was now lodged in his stomach. The gastroenterology team got photos of it and prepped him and somehow removed it. While he’s on 24 hour watch to make sure he doesn’t do it again, he manages to get his hands on a pen someone from the GI team left in his room and swallows that too. After it was taken out, we had to basically leave all sharps, pointy things, and swallowables with the security guard before we could go into the room.”
Hang Gliding Is A Dangerous Activity
“It was my surgical intern year. Guy came in from a hang gliding accident where he fell when a strong gust of wind blew him out of the sky. Luckily (maybe unluckily?) he fell into a grove of trees. He presented to the trauma bay with a stick coming out of eye, saying he couldn’t see out of that eye but had vision in the other. Initially we were impressed that he survived a 100 foot fall from the sky, but then we got the CT scan. Turned out the stick actually went through his eye, across his skull, and almost to the other side (about 7.5 inches inside his head). He amazingly was still conscious and talking before he underwent a 15 hour long surgery involving ENT, neurosurgery, and ophthalmology. Aside from losing the one eye, he made a full recovery.”