15 Doctors Recall That One Patient They Couldn’t Believe Actually Survived

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Who doesn’t love interesting, shocking, possibly gory stories from the doctor files? No one, that’s who, so below are 15 tales of patients who definitely shouldn’t have survived but somehow managed to anyway.

#15. The very next day.

“I was a resident at the time, it was the end of my shift, and I walked past a guy walking to the front desk with a goddamn harpoon in his head. It came in from below the chin, and got out through the top of the skull.

Dude wanted to go harpoon fishing, there was an accident in the boat, and he shot himself, so he turned the boat around, sailed to shore, got into his car and drove to the nearest hospital, where he parked, and walked into the reception. He was completely conscious, and couldn’t speak for obvious reasons, but he wrote down eloquently.

I heard he was sent home the very next day, with no complications.”

#14. Damn.

“I know a gentleman who has both of his carotid arteries completely blocked off. He obviously gets enough blood flow from other vessels to keep going, and I’m sure these other routes have developed over the years, but still. I remember reading the scan results and having to go over them more than once, like,”100% blockage, ok that’s bad. Wait, on the left AND the right?? Damn.””

#13. Basically back to normal.

“A year ago, I was involved with treating a 65 year old lady, walking across the street to get lunch one day, she got hit by a semi truck doing 45. Broke all the bones on the left side of her body, some of them in multiple places. She also had a Morell-Lavalee (skin separates off the underlying tissue) that involved about 70 percent of her left leg, from hip to ankle. Had a pelvic fracture that was open into her rectum with a large perineal wound. Took multiple surgeries over several weeks, but at her most recent follow up (accident happened a year ago), she was walking and basically back to normal.”

#12. Weird.

“Not a medical professional, but I used to hang around with one. They had a young woman brought in one night who had been stabbed 77 times and laid in a ditch for hours before someone saw her and called 911. She made a full recovery. My buddy was so shocked that she was alive and conscious that he called me from work to tell me about it.​

And then there was a guy who fell off the third rung of a ladder, hit his head just right, and died instantly. Life is weird. Or..in this case, death is weird.”

#11. He had no deficits.

“Recently coded a patient for 40+ minutes, everybody wanted to stop but he was young (50s), so I persisted. People don’t come back from codes that long. Then, all of a sudden he gets a pulse back.

So we think this is temporary, and wonder about anoxic brain injury. I leave service, come back days later and dab smack on day one discharge him home in stable condition. He had a full blown conversation and was so thankful, tearful and kept saying ” Thank you for not giving up on me” He had no deficits. Mind blown.”

#10. It baffles me.

“Nurse here.

Man in his 50s has brain tumour, has surgery to remove the tumour and hemicraneotomy to relieve intracranial pressure (bone taken from the skull and left out).

Man walks out of this and has normal life.

Man is walking around minding his own business.

Building explodes. Shrapnel flies.

Shrapnel hits man, exactly where the burr hole was, travels through his brain and gets lodged behind his eye.

Man still alive.

It baffles me that of all the people who could have been hit by shrapnel it happened to a guy with a missing skull part and it hit him exactly where it was missing. It baffles me even more that he survived all of this.”

#9. That’s all I know about that.

“When my dad was in residency, he was helping deliver babies. One came out stillborn. It was a rough time for everyone. Dad had to carry the baby away, and the entire time he carried the body away he did chest compressions. The baby started to breathe again. Dad had to bring the baby back. By all accounts, the likelihood of that working was EXTREMELY low, as they had already done everything they were supposed to for longer than they were supposed to do it.

The parents had to go through some trauma therapy after that. That’s all I know about that story.

Edit: My first ever gold! Thanks stranger!”

#8. Literally the only reason.

“Our friend blacked out driving home, the last thing he remembers is pulling into the other lane to pass someone.

The car flipped twice and they had to cut him out from the top. He was unresponsive and the emts were ready to call him DOA. He broke a vertebrae in his neck and shattered his hand. They were floored when they realized he was still alive.

If it had been one vertebrae higher, he would have been paralyzed. As it was, he walked out of the hospital less than a week later.

He had been wearing his seatbelt which is literally the only reason he is alive today.”

#7. We were still waiting.

“It was my first day rounding with the surgery team, and as we approached a patient’s room, one of the surgeons turned to me and said “check this out, this man has had more than 70 abdominal surgeries”. We walked into the room and the first thing I noticed was that it was really homey, which is unusual for a hospital. He had some aromatherapy going on, and pictures taped to the wall, a guest cot was set up with several pillows from home and a nice knit blanket in the corner. It was clear that he had been there a while. The patient was a somewhat overweight, probably obese, man who had indeed had more than 70 abdominal surgeries. Unfortunately, at some point the skin and fatty tissue on his abdomen had become infected and been removed. The result was a square cut out on his belly, from the nipple line to his belly button, extending across his entire stomach. It was perfectly square, with perfectly normal skin and fat around the cut out, and when he breathed, his abdominal muscles and intestines would just sort of come in and out of the abdominal cavity which each breath. He looked like something out of a zombie movie, but was apparently doing alright and living with it. He was attached to a machine called a wound vac that kept the wound clean and provided suction to remove any fluid (or in his case, feces) that developed in the wound. We were waiting for the day when he stopped leaking stool into the square to get him a skin graft. We were still waiting when I left the surgery service a month later.”

#6. I have no idea how he didn’t get septic.

“In nursing school I had an elderly patient who had a Whipple surgery (very extensive abdominal surgery to resect pancreatic cancer) and must have perforated. It took three days of worsening redness before the order came to remove the staples. I was helping out as the stench of blood, pus and poop filled the room. The next month of clinicals included seven times per day dressing changes, pulling yards and yards of blood and feces soaked packing out of the wound. Somehow this guy actually made it through. I have no idea how he didn’t get septic.”

#5. My heart sank.

“I’m an ER doc and went to see a hall patient with a complaint of “toe pain”. Sat down to really talk with the guy since it was a lull in my shift. Said his toe hurt because he dropped a knife on it. Asked him, “were you cooking, or what?” He looks up from his foot and I notice a thin red line on his neck, below his Thyroid cartilage (Adams apple). My heart sank, then started pounding. It’s really hard to slit your own throat without bleeding to death, but not impossible if you hit the trachea just right and it lines back up when you look down…which is what this guy had done. He had cut nearly all the way through his trachea (windpipe), and just the muscle in the back was preventing it from falling into his chest causing him to die by suffocation. Once that happened, I wouldn’t be able to help him, not with intubation (breathing tube) or cricothyroidotomy (cutting into neck) since his trachea would be retracted into his chest.

VERY CALMY I call cadiothoracic surgery and ENT and got the guy to the OR (still looking at his toe to maintain the seal) for a tracheal repair. He was discharged to the psych floor 3 days later, since this was a suicide attempt, but did well. I knew he had already decided to live, since we had about a half hour to calmly talk to each other waiting for the OR to be ready. If he wanted to finish himself off, he would have just need to look at the ceiling!

Like many patients in the ER, his story was poignant, his acuity wasn’t immediately obvious, and there is morbid humor associated with the case. When we tell our trainees about this case we refer to him as “the Canadian”.”

#4. A crater through his brain.

“Had a patient who was out having drinks and fishing at night. Well a wave hit and he stumbled right onto his pole, somehow impaling it through his eye and touching the back of his skull. Amazing that he survived it given the fishing pole sized crater through his brain on the mri.”

#3. Highly unlikely.

“A twenty something boy got shot in the head, straight on mind you. Dude came to the hospital awake and talking. I personally saw the CT scan with the bullet still in his skull. My favorite part was he claimed it was a drive by shooting; I have never seen anything more centered on someone’s forehead, dead center no joke, seems highly unlikely that it was random.”

#2. That stubborn little pup.

“I had a dog brought in that had eaten a bunch of anticoagulant rat poison about a week prior. They didn’t think anything of it at the time because the dog was “fine” immediately after. If a dog gets into anticoagulant poison, and you catch it right away, you can decontaminate them, and give vitamin K, and they’ll usually be fine. By the time they decided their dog should see the vet, it was dripping blood from every orifice, in shock, and had a packed cell count of 6%. For some reason, they’d let me hospitalize, and start vitamin K, but they would not let me transfuse that dog. It was bleeding from its freaking tear ducts, too weak to lift its head, and I was so convinced it was going to bleed out in front of me if I couldn’t buy it some time with some donor blood. That stubborn little pup pulled through, and was going strong when I saw her a year later for her regular checkup.”

#1. She’s still alive like 20 years later.

“The story of Mary Vincent is insane. She was a teenager and hitchhiking on the west coast of the US, got picked up by a mad man who raped her repeatedly over the course of a couple hours, eventually she fought back and grabbed onto his arms.

When she wouldn’t let go, he chopped her arms off with a hatchet and threw her body into a ravine. For hours she climbed 30 ft up the side of the ravine sans arms and eventually made it to the side of the highway, naked, muddy, bloody with still bleeding stumps where her arms would be.

Apparently she scared the first car off when they pulled over for her, but the second car brought her to the hospital after her 2 (?) day long nightmare. She’s still alive like 20 years later and has two kids, she’s a fucking badass.”

Against all odds!