I don’t think I have the stomach or the nerves of steel to be a healthcare worker. There’s just no way I’d be able to see that kind of misery and tragedy on a daily basis and not be constantly torn up about it.
That’s why our healthcare workers are such special people. I’m not saying they aren’t moved by the disturbing things they see, but they obviously know how to handle it.
Here are some very unique stories from healthcare workers who were shocked by patients who definitely should have died due to their circumstances, but somehow survived.
Let’s take a look at some wild tales from AskReddit users.
“Airlifted pregnant female with a gunshot wound to the head. Arrived intubated and nonresponsive with the bullet lodged in her right occipal lobe.
Self-extubated the next day and left the hospital against medical advice 2 days after that with only minor visual deficits. Unbelievable.”
2. Should have been dead.
“ER doctor. Oh my goodness, so many patients. Too many to tell.
One good one: I once took care of a guy in the rural South who came to the hospital because people said he was growing salt. And he was— totally covered in what looked like snow. Uremic frost! I said, since I was fresh out of residency.
Guy had been in renal (kidney) failure for 3 months and had been vomiting every day which kept his potassium low enough that he didn’t die! But it was still 9.7 and his ecg was a sine wave and he definitely should have been dead.
Google uremic frost. It’s a good one.”
3. A dangerous job.
“I work in an ER in Lebanon where the construction safety regulations are a bit “lax”. A few years back I remember that construction workers were falling off buildings like dominos.
One guy came in having fallen from a few stories up and got impaled by an iron bar that went through the back of his neck and out of his left eye socket. Guy was alive and talkative when he got to our ER. Rushed down to surgery.
Apparently it had missed every vital structure somehow and the guy didnt even lose vision in his eye.”
4. Some people…
“My mother. We use to live in East Texas and my mom had this lady come in and had a huge infected wound in her leg, like massive to the point they might have to amputate and she had asked her why she waited so long before coming in when it was obviously festering.
Well turns out this woman was letting her dogs “lick it clean because their mouths are clean” and she was soaking it in doctor pepper because “Dr.” had her thinking it would help… Needless to say my mother looked at her like a deer in the headlights when she said that.”
5. One tough cookie.
“My sister was the patient, but every doctor who’s gone thru her whole file has had this reaction. When when was 9 she fell around 35ft off a bluff and landed head first on bedrock. Shattered every bone in her skull.
A very well known neuro surgeon took a look at her when she was brought in, said “sorry there is absolutely nothing I can do for her, I’d say she had a 10% chance of surviving the night, say your goodbyes now”. 3 weeks in a coma, three months in an ICU, 6 months as an in-patient, she’s still alive today.
She has permanent damage of course, but holy cow can kids’ bodies recover from a lot.”
6. So disgusting.
“My friend in nursing school was in charge of checking in and out a habitual patient that also was seen by a full nurse and doctor. On check out she noticed a bandage on the guy,”Oh that’s for my hole!”
The guy had an open sore that kept getting bigger and bigger and he had stuffed three t-shirt in it. He had been having repeated health problems and they just listened to his lungs, would give him an antibiotic and streeting him.”
7. Two stories.
“Two patients that give me faith in what medicine can do when I think about it, both quite young to be so sick.
1st was a woman who was very pregnant and some genius doc agreed to put her under twilight anesthesia for an elective procedure that definitely could have waited. Went into labor while she was under and from there had everything go wrong ended up in cardiac arrest.
Was transported to my hospital and put on VA ECMO. She was in rough shape when I saw her first. Most people in her condition don’t make it. I ended up seeing her a month later walk into my OP clinic and I got the creepiest feeling. It was like seeing a ghost. She was fine. Not like most people who come out of the ICU after that kind of stay.
The 2nd was a young guy who bled out in the ICU of a sudden hemorrhage. He was pulseless for ~an hour. Without going into a bunch of details, he required several procedures after that which were risky on their own. It took weeks for him to “reboot” but eventually he was responding to stimuli. After a couple months he walked out of the hospital. He wasn’t dying; he was dead for an hour.
That these two survived is a testament to modern medical science. That they walked out of the hospital on their own, needing little to no assistance, and with their cognition completely intact, that is a miracle.”
8. Walked away.
“I had a patient in the emergency room who had been involved in an awful car accident where firefighters and paramedics spent an hour trying to get him out of his car. Reportedly, he attempted to walk to the ambulance and when he arrived he was awake and talking.
Confused speech, but still. Then paramedics signalled the back of his head to me. His skull was POPPED OPEN on the back so much that I could see inside. We paged the brain surgeon immediately and the patient was taken directly to the operation theatre.
Months later I heard from my colleague that he was still alive and had no damages other than some occasional balance problems.”
9. Barely a scratch…
“I met a patient who fell from a 5 story building, landed on his upper back, woke up in the hospital the next morning and got up walking around like nothing ever happened. Barely a scratch on him.
Think about it every time I’m in a building with at least five stories, just looking down like how in the world did this guy walk away from that like he fell off his bike and took a nap. Actually, I’ve seen worse injuries from someone falling off a bike lol.”
10. He looked dead.
“First day of my emergency medicine clerkship, saw them wheel in a motorcycle accident guy who had dozens of broken bones (arms, legs, skull, etc) amongst significant soft tissue injuries. GCS was in the single digits. Had a decent pulse when they brought him in but it was fading fast. FAST scan showed he was pretty much bleeding into every space in his abdomen and pelvis.
The guy looked dead. His co-rider had already been pronounced dead in the field. Hands and feet were the same color as the white sheets on the gurney, pulse was barely palpable, lips were blue etc.
Anyway the trauma surgeon apparently sees something or has a flash of inspiration (I stepped away for like 5 minutes while they were putting in chest tubes to go check on one of my other patients in a different room) because as I head back over to the trauma bay, they’re whisking this guy off to the OR.
I hear from a nurse the next day that they cracked his chest, called in vascular and CT surgery in conjunction with the trauma surgeon to stop all the bleeding, and then closed him up once he was hemodynamically stable (but obviously in grave critical condition).
There was no telling in the short term what kind of neurologic deficits he’d have from the fact that at one point, 80% of his blood was chilling in his abdomen rather than his vessels. Hell, I didn’t even know if the guy’s spine was intact or if he’d be paralyzed just from the physical trauma.”
11. Alive, but a sad story.
“Not a doctor but a registered nurse, last summer between the months of June to September we had a young male, 19 years old who crashed his motorcycle and was sent flying through a van’s windshield. By the time he came on to my unit he had gone through so many operations and I heard he needed to have over a hundred blood transfusions within the first month to keep him alive.
He also ended up losing all movement and sensation from the belly button down as well as losing his left arm. His right arm was intact but barely functioning. Neurologically he was with it…knew his name and that he was at the hospital but I honestly don’t think he knew what happened to him.
His family members were very nice and I could only imagine how they were feeling. I honestly have no idea how he was still alive. He couldn’t sit up straight anymore because he would be in terrible pain 24/7 but if we laid him flat he couldn’t really clear his secretions…… I’m surprised he didn’t get pneumonia or aspirated or something else.
We discharged him to a long-term acute care facility and that’s the last I heard of him but it’s just such a sad story considering he’s only 19.”
12. Stories from a medic.
“I’m a hospital medic and my first serious trauma was a guy that got shot in the neck. Somehow it missed everything important and went right through. Minimal bleeding, no C-Spine damage. Just a hole through his neck that didn’t piece his esophagus, trachea, or any major vein or artery. Dude was just chilling in the room.
And then two weeks ago we had a gunshot that would NOT have made it to the local trauma center. Hit is femoral vein but was still GUSHING blood. One nurse stuck her finger in the hole and it stopped the bleeding, and I found a second wound in his chest.
No bleeding at all (it just looked like a weird indentation, we couldn’t even tell it was a gunshot at first) and I stuck an IV adhesive sticker over it to vent it and prevent a collapsed lung. The guy’s blood pressure was in the toilet and wasnt even able to read on the machine, we needed a manual check.
By the time we got him sort of stable and with decent vitals, and got a surgery team in early, we were drenched in this guy’s blood. Pretty sure most of what was flowing through him was saline and other people’s blood. He survived though.
We also had one woman whose entire abdomen was fully open under her belly, and everything in her was horribly infected. We basically told her we can’t stop that much infection and she opted for hospice care. She was in so much pain I don’t know how her family even got her to the ER.
I lifted up her gut to look underneath since I was the first in the room to assess, and I was hit one of the most rancid smells I’ve ever experienced. Literally everything from the waist up was infected. There were some unnatural fluids draining right out of the completely open bottom of her stomach. I mean it when I say you could just lift it up and look right inside.”
13. He’s a fighter.
“My Dad is 87, He had prostate, liver, bowel, colon and skin cancer. For the skin cancer he had lots of reconstructive surgeries. (His whole tibia region and the back of his hands. ) Every year he has to have at least one skin lesion removed.
He had a couple of heart attacks and then a sextuple bypass surgery. He also had a big pneumonia, a huge abscess and a small stroke.
His Doctor wants to see him every 6 months. I think just to be amazed that he’s still walking around.”
14. This is insane.
“I had a patient who was literally cut in half at the pelvis after a car hit him and pinned him to a telephone pole. Paramedics carried his legs in separately. He was wide awake and talking to me as we quickly put in a central line and he got all the bleeders ligated by like 5 different surgeons. He declined pain meds repeatedly, what a legend.
He was in the OR 5 minutes later. Luckily this was at a major academic center with an exceptional trauma surgery team. Apparently the guy lived, not sure what his quality of life was after, but pretty crazy.”
It’s hard to believe these folks are still with us!
The human body sure is fascinating!
If you have any stories like this, please share them in the comments with us. We’d love to hear from you!