Doctors Share the Worst Diagnosis They Had to Fix

People like to put doctors up on a pedestal, as if they’re more than human or too smart to totally flub their job, but the truth is that they’re humans. Humans make mistakes, and that’s why we have backup systems, even in the medical field.

If a doctor gives you a diagnosis, and you feel as if it’s not right or not complete, you can go to a different doctor and ask for their opinion.

Those second doctors are the ones on this thread, confession the worst mistakes they caught their colleagues making when they double checked.

17. It was his lucky day.

This is the opposite answer, but the BEST request for a second opinion came from a CVS minute clinic.

Young healthy law student goes to minute clinic. Has the flu (this was a few years ago—no ‘rona). Feels awful. They check him out, yup he has a fever, aches, sore throat, it’s the flu. Flu swab positive. His clinic vitals were notable for a heart rate of 140—a bit high but not CRAZY high. Reassuring numbers <100. The guy otherwise walked in to the CVS, and is a young healthy guy. Would have been pretty easy to dismiss. Anyway the minute clinic says go to the ER, you need an EKG. So the guy follows orders.

ER chief complaint is “i have the flu and CVS told me to come here.” ER gets an EKG and he’s in SLOW VT which is a life threatening arrhythmia that you have to be shocked out of. They take a look as his heart and it was giant and barely moving. He had an insane myocarditis. Dude ended up getting cannulated for ECMO within hours (cardiac bypass machines as life support).

I can’t say all minute clinics are the same but holy sh%t that was a great save.

16. Sometimes it’s a good catch.

I was one of those instances where the urgent care clinic was right. Went in for pain in my lungs. I had a co-worker who had been diagnosed with bronchitis so I just wanted to be sure.

As the pain got worse the clinic ruled out bronchitis and everything else they could test for and recommended calling an ambulance take me to the ER. I felt bad but not that bad so I drove myself. After five minutes in the ER waiting room, the pain became unbearable and I could not breath.

t turned out I had my first pulmonary embolism before I got to the clinic and a second shower of clots in the ER waiting room. Both lungs were affected and my lung function is permanently impaired – but I feel lucky to be alive.

15. She’s lucky to be alive.

Well when I first started feeling sick the October of one year at college I had:

A non-productive cough.
Night sweats and trouble sleeping. and
I had lost some weight.

The school nurse gave me Claritin.

All of those symptoms got worse, plus I was incredibly fatigued, my lymph nodes swelled up, and I had pretty bad back aches.

My GP took a chest X-ray and prescribed antibiotics for pneumonia. At this point I had almost failed out of school because I was only managing an hour or two of sleep per night.

It took until Spring break for me to go see a pulmonary specialist. He could instantly tell that it wasn’t pneumonia.

I had Stage 4b Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My first PET scan showed cancerous cells in lymph nodes in all 4 quadrants of my body. At this point I had lost about a third of my body weight. The cough, weight loss, and back pain were my swollen lymph nodes pressing on my lungs, stomach, and my back.

They gave me my first round of chemo and I genuinely felt incredible. I felt like such shit that an IV mixture of (carefully measured) toxins was an improvement. I went home and ate a whole pizza.

Chemo got sh%ttier but it worked, so I guess I can’t complain too much.

14. That’s a bad few hours.

Something similar-ish happened to my wife. She got some routine blood check done and the nurse called her to come in right away.

Basically it showed she was incredibly anaemic and had a very off the charts level of white blood cells and probably had some advanced cancer and will die. The doctor suggested a bone marrow biopsy but since she seemed otherwise fine decided to check her blood again.

This time it came back normal – someone it the lab either mixed it up or f*cked up the test.

13. Unlikely and impossible aren’t the same thing.

I’m a gynecologist. The number of times I’ve seen patients pregnant and upset (or happy) because some other doctor told them they can’t get pregnant – so they didn’t use birth control – is appalling.

Usually it’s family med. Not ragging on all FM docs, just how it goes. I then have to explain that even if the patient has whatever condition that makes it unlikely for them to get pregnant, the odds are almost never 0%.

Maybe <1%, but still not zero, so of course it can happen.

12. Dismissing college kids, ugh.

When I was in college I went to the doctor because I was pissing razors. It progressed pretty rapidly and by the end of the week I couldn’t walk or sleep. The doc asked me about my sex life and I told him the truth that my girlfriend and I had only been with each other and together for many years. He sorta scoffed at that and told me it was likely chlamydia. Had a long condescending speech about safe sex with me and sent me home.

A week later my piss tests were back. Turns out I had the worst bladder infection they’d ever seen. I had to have a camera shoved up my pee hole, multiple rounds of antibiotics, and to this day I struggle to pee due to irreversible damage the infection caused.

11. This made me see red.

Not me but my mom.

She was always exhausted, the type of exhaustion that she’d have a bath, be so tired from it, she’d sleep on the bath mat when she got out.

Went to her doctor told her, “oh, you’re just depressed, go get a hair cut!”

She did. Still exhausted. Went back to the doctor.

Continued to tell her she’s “just” depressed, get a hobby, it’s all in her head etc. Never sent her for blood work, never referred her to any specialist.

Months later she goes back. Her doctor is on vacation. Physician reliving her doctor takes one look at her eyes and says, “it’s your liver. Get these blood tests now”.

Abnormal blood work and a liver biopsy later, she was told she had autoimmune hepatitis and was 3 months from death.

After she improved with medications, she went back to the original doctor and said, “I didn’t need a haircut.”

27 years later she still suffers from lingering effects.

10. I would be furious, too.

My cousin is 21 but severely disabled, and he was telling his mum it hurt to pee. He was feverish as well so my aunt took him to two different doctors within a week and both completely dismissed it.

He spent the next week in Intensive Care due to sepsis from his undiagnosed UTI. My aunt was so furious. Especially since it was in the middle of the height of the pandemic so if my aunt left the hospital she wasn’t allowed to go back in, and my cousin is mentally about 4 and has major behavioral issues.

So my aunt couldn’t leave and she couldn’t get any breaks which is definitely needed with my cuz. She is now super vigilant about that stuff.

9. In a perfect world.

An MD not noticing yellow eyes should surely be grounds for a malpractice suit.

8. Women get the short end, man.

I saw a young Aboriginal girl with Sydenham’s Chorea, a condition that guarantees you’ve had acute rheumatic fever.

ARF is really common in Australian Indigenous peoples, and in the long run it causes cardiac valve dysfunction and death. It’s also really easily treatable by a specific antibiotic regime (although you do have to stay on it for years).

The first doctor had told her it was anxiety and she just needed to sit still.

7. Just terrifying.

I have one that happened to me. I did college gymnastics, my senior year I had an accident in practice landing in my neck. Went to the hospital got x-rays, was told I was perfectly fine.

Walked around in pain for awhile, Weeks later went to another doc got a new set of images, my neck was broken in 3 places and had a dislocation, had a multi level fusion surgery days later. Found out my x days got swapped with someone else’s in the ER and I was originally diagnosed based on someone else’s images.

This was found out when I went to get my records long after my surgery for insurance purposes and my files had someone else’s medical records and images in it.

Because of the time I spent walking around with it I had to have a posterior surgery instead of anterior which is way more invasive and gives me major issues to this day

6. Why don’t they listen?

This happened to my mom like 20 years ago… I believe she was close to 36 at the time (and had 6 kids) My mom was having severe abdominal pain (and if my mom admits to being in pain then you know it’s bad)

Her family doctor was on vacation and so my dad took her to emerg… Emerg doc told her she was constipated and sent her home. The pain got worse and so she went back to emerg a couple days later.

She specifically asked the doctor (the same one from the previous time) if it could be an ectopic pregnancy. He laughed at her and sent her home. She ended up in emerg a third time and got that same stupid doctor who accused her of lying to get drugs.

She had to wait a week until her family doctor came back. Just over the phone the family doctor could tell something was wrong and told my mom that she wanted to see her first thing in the morning for tests – mom didn’t make that appointment because during the night her Fallopian tube ruptured and my dad found her unconscious on the floor downstairs.

He rushed her to the hospital and they found out that she was something like 10 weeks along with an ectopic pregnancy. Our family doctor apparently was screaming at the other doctor in the hallway because of his incompetence.

5. You hate to hear this.

My sister was about two weeks away from giving birth when she suddenly started feeling excruciating pain and vomiting. I called her midwife who refused to speak with me despite my sister clearly not capable of speaking as she sat on the floor next to the toilet, crying and puking. Finally she just took the phone and was told by her midwife that it was probably just a virus and to eat a popsicle

Eventually I was able to convince her to go to the ER. She was immediately rushed in the OR for an emergency c-section. Her placenta had abrupted and my niece was born not breathing, suffered several seizures and even died and then was resuscitated. She is now 15 and has cerebral palsy due to going so long without the oxygen she needed.

4. That sounds like a terrible plan.

I just left a practice partly because a woman brought her 8 month old in for a second opinion. The practice owner had seen the rapidly enlarging sacral soft tissue mass which the mother first noticed about six weeks prior. He told her not to worry about it. I checked his notes, which read, “Plan: ignore”.

I was shocked. There was a new onset rapidly enlarging blue/purple cystic mass on a baby’s sacrum (it looked like a small plum under the skin at the top of her bum crack) and without any investigation my colleague dismissed it. I was appalled. The mother was relieved. This wasn’t the first not great judgement I’d seen but it was one of the worst.

I realized I couldn’t work in a clinic where I’d be stepping on other doctors’ toes and couldn’t trust their judgement. The baby’s had a imaging and a referral to a paediatric surgeon but unfortunately I don’t know the outcome because I’m working elsewhere now.

3. Never considered that.

I’m a surgeon.

I’ve been called to see more than one patient for appendicitis….who has already had an appendectomy.

I’ve also been called in multiple cases for patients who very obviously have previously undiscovered, very advanced cancer. It always too far advanced for me to be of help, so I have to wonder….am I being called so I can be the bad guy and explain everything? Yes. The answer is yes.

2. Life is short – but maybe it didn’t have to be that short.

Not a doctor, but my mom went into a walk in clinic and told the doc she had really bad headaches all the time. She was a stay at home mom to me (10) and my sister (6) so it was written off as stress and got a prescription for pain pills.

Two weeks later the headaches were migraines. Stronger prescription and try to reduce stress.

A few weeks go by and she can no longer get out of bed, throws everything up including the meds, is completely disoriented and barely alive. My dad was a truck driver so he was never home. I was taking care of me, my sister, and my mom all by myself. We go back to the doctor and this lady had the audacity to say this is the weirdest migraine case she’s ever seen. Tells her to take warm baths and just keep taking the meds when she throws them up.

Two months go by and my dad came home, saw the condition of my mother (who was so sick she would urinate herself), the house (which was being kept up by a 10 year old), and said he wanted a divorce.

That night we found out she had stage 4 lung and brain cancer with a tumor the size of an egg pressing on her brain as well as many others scattered throughout.

I still haven’t forgiven that doctor for not taking my mom seriously

As far as my mom goes, she fought hard for two years eventually passing in November 2010. I was 13 and my sister was 9. My dad fell out of a tree about a month after her diagnosis and shattered his heel. He became disabled because of the surgeries it required and his back.

He was a monster while I was home. All I remember from my younger years was walking on eggshells, constantly being accused of things I didn’t do, and being watched like a hawk 24/7. I suspect he is bipolar and has severe PTSD, but you know how older people feel about treating mental illnesses.

As for us, it sucked not having our mom growing up. She talked every day about how she couldn’t wait to beat cancer and leave my dad so we could all have the life we deserved. I think we turned out fairly well. I’m 23, have a family, moved far away from all of those memories, and have committed to breaking cycles and loving my children the way I wish I would have been loved.

I do wish I knew the drs name now. Even though I know that it wouldn’t bring back my mom, make her diagnosis better, or even prevented anything, I still want to ask her if she started believing her patients. I think being a stay at home mom, previously poverty, woman has a lot to deal with how things went down. I wish no harm on the doctor, but I haven’t forgiven her for not saying something about going to the ER.

Life is short. I learned that by watching my mom give up on every dream she had because she knew she’d die. Go do scary stuff because who knows what’ll happen tomorrow. 🙂

1. I cannot even imagine.

I’m a lawyer, but…. had a client given a devastating diagnosis of an extremely rare heart condition. Doctor told him he had six weeks to live. He contacted me to make his will and set his affairs in order.

Thankfully, he sought a second opinion with an extremely well-known cardiologist (I guess the cardiologist was intrigued due to the rare nature of this heart condition).

THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH HIM. HE WAS FINE. This poor guy, and his family, were tortured over this, so devastated and terrified, FOR NOTHING. He actually called me to tell me all of this, he seemed to be still in the joyous, “I’m not going to die” stage, but I imagine anger comes at some point, when you take stock of what you went through.

I don’t know how a doctor f*cks up that massively, or if somehow my client’s results were mixed up with someone else’s, and some poor bastard’s number is almost up and they don’t even know it.

It gives you faith in the medical community and makes you question it all at the same time.

If you’ve got an interesting missed diagnosis story, share it with us in the comments!