I know that I’d never be able to be a doctor, nurse, or surgeon because I’m not smart enough (duh!) and I don’t think I’d be able to handle the pressure of making snap judgments where peoples’ lives were on the line.
Hey, some folks are just wired in a way that allows them to handle those kinds of situations and I’m not one of them.
However, even these highly-trained caregivers sometimes run into situations that get a little hairy, to say the least.
Here’s what health care professionals had to say on AskReddit about times when things did not go well.
1. OH MY!
“I was doing a corneal transplant when I had the “oh sh*t” moment. During surgery, I cut off the patient’s own cornea and replace it with a new donor cornea.
During that moment when the host cornea was off but before I could get the new one on, there’s literally nothing on the front of the eye except a tear film and aqueous humor. Anyway, the patient takes that moment to start vomiting.
The reason we tell everyone to skip food and drink is so they don’t aspirate in case they throw up. This patient lied about eating breakfast and started throwing up everything. The eye is still “open sky” at this time. Everything inside of the eye can now become outside of the eye. And she’s bucking and vomiting.
Those not in the know will say this is not good. Those really in the know will say “oh sh*t.”
Anyway, I had to grab the new cornea and start stitching as fast as I could on a patient actively throwing up. I use 10-0 nylon sutures which are thinner than an eyelash. It turned out okay but not great.
Don’t lie about eating breakfast before surgery, folks.”
2. Only happened once.
“Doing a C-Section for this poor Mum who’d been in labor for hours.
Baby wouldn’t come out of the hole we’d made, so more pressure was applied to the fundus (top of the uterus) and suddenly whoooooosh, baby zooms out like a torpedo, covered in lubricating vernix, zips over the surgical sheeting which has the texture of a slip n slide and almost rockets straight off the table.
The baby’s foot was caught by the Reg who whipped her up in the air upside down like in old cartoons, but almost dropped her again due to gloves + vernix. Thankfully the midwife was ready with the towel and caught the baby to wrap her up.
Mum and Dad seemed to think this was normal practice and didn’t notice but me and my colleague just stared at each other with a look of absolute horror.
It still makes me shudder to think how close the baby was to hitting the floor head first. Never happened before or since.”
3. What a story.
“Was working in obstetric theatre in UK mid heatwave last year.
This is important as maternity wards are kept quite warm as newborn babies aren’t good at regulating their temperatures. Combine this with a heatwave and the fact that in Britain we’re not exactly used to high temperatures and we have the perfect storm.
Mid emergency casarean the scrub nurse assisting the op starts feeling faint. This is unusual as this scrub nurse worked in these theatres full time so this was her bread and butter, so I can only conclude it was the heat. She has to step out so the SHO takes her place assisting the obs registrar with the section.
This SHO looked extremely junior, as in first section ever. And they were trying to assist with the instruments in the uterus when they fainted. I had to jump in and grab the back of their theatre gown to stop them faceplanting the open uterus, and then sort of gently tug backwards to let them fall into me when someone else has taken over assisting.
This SHO was not exactly small. Thank God the baby was already out.”
4. In the operating room.
“First day on the job, the surgeon was doing a lap sleeve gastrectomy.
During this procedure a medical device is used to cut and staple the stomach simultaneously. However in this case the medical device failed. The stomach was cut open but the staples never engaged, which left the patient with an enormous gash in the stomach.
The surgeon ended up finishing this part by hand.”
“I was observing a hand surgery about a year ago at a teaching hospital.
The surgeon was removing one of the carpals (the bones near the base of the hand) to be used later.
A nurse was given the carpal to hold until it needed to be used. She ended up dropping the patient’s bone on the ground.”
“When I was in pharmacy school I was doing my internal medicine rotation in my final year.
My preceptor and I were doing med reviews in the ICU when one of the pulmonary docs was basically like “hey you wanna see something cool?” They were trying to extract a foreign object from a guy’s lung in one of the rooms.
So we go in and watch for a bit. About 6 people in the room. Tube down the guy’s throat. Little grippers at the end. Two doctors watching a monitor and trying to control the grabbers and get it like a claw game.
I watched for a bit then after a while I lost interest and went back out to what I was doing. A few minutes later I hear:
Cheers from the room
“Oh it’s a tooth!”
Dude aspirated his own molar. Doctor walks out with his trophy in a jar and it’s a completely intact tooth root and all.”
7. NO WAY.
“I was working in the ER and had a patient brought in by her husband.
Apparently the woman had a fall a week prior and injured her face but refused medical care. Her husband finally forced her to come in. As soon as I see the wound on her face (from across the room) I think, “that does not look like any wound Ive seen.”
I approached her and realized maggots had infested the wound and were eating the rotting skin. A really simple and quick fix but I can’t imagine her living conditions.”
8. Not yet!
“When I was in med school there was a scary moment for everyone involved.
They were prepping a patient for surgery and put him under. The nurse said “ok, he’s out” before they were about to start slicing him open.
The patient just had enough strength to move his head from side to side and said, “no, I’m not out yet.”
Everyone laughed it off but if the patient didn’t do that it could have ended badly.”
9. Close call.
“I was a 4th year resident and I was on call that day, around 5pm I went to do rounds and as I got to the first room I came in to find the 1st year resident on top of the very recently neck operated patient (that morning he had a tumor removed from his parapharyngeal space).
The resident was kneeling next to the guy’s head with his hands and clothes completely covered in blood, there was blood on the roof on the sheets, on the bed, dripping onto the floor, you name it.
I was instantly petrified, I went to OMFG I have never ever repaired someones carothid artery I am completely unqualified to help this guy! Someone please HELP US! I
was the senior resident so I was the only one on call at the time and besides none could get there in time to help this guy, he was bleeding out so it was up to me alone to help him.
So I took the guy to the OR as fast as we could and I opened him up, all of the time praying and telling myself Its OK I can do this, I can do this! I was sh*tting my pants while everyone was looking at me to fix him, I open him up and I see the freaking facial artery loose, spraying blood all over so I clamped it, put a knot around it and that was it.
We closed him up, bandage and transfuse the poor guy and I went to collapse on a stool.”
10. That’s intense.
“When I was a nursing student, I was on theatre prac.
We had a guy in who needed humerus and elbow repair. I was pretty useless in everything but emotional support (as I wasn’t qualified), so was chatting to him before he went under. He admitted to having an (un)healthy meth habit.
I informed the surgeon who shrugged it off. Apparently I should have told the anesthetist, because this dude woke up mid surgery and was trying to reach for his open arm that the surgeon was working on.
Super “Oh sh*t” moment as we scramble to contain this guy’s arm and stop it from touching anything sterile.”
“We operated on the carotids of a patient, like gaping hole in his neck, when the patient woke up.
Easy fix was shouting at the anesthesiologist…who wasn’t there.
Had to hold down the head with my elbow so he wouldn’t move too much an hurt/kill himself.”
12. Heart surgery.
“During open heart surgery surgeon nicked the ductus arteriosus of a young patient.
Immediate concerns for bleeding and the long term concern for the possibility of causing damage to the recurrent laryngeal nerve which wraps around the artery and if damaged can cause life long hoarseness while speaking.”
Now we want to hear from you.
If you’re a health care professional, share your scary stories with us in the comments.
Please and thank you!