Not even the doctors on Grey's Anatomy would be prepared for these worst-case scenarios. These nurses found themselves caught in the most horrifying, repugnant encounters of their entire careers. These heroic people helped those who were beyond saving, dealing with some disgustingly tragic body parts (or lack thereof) that no one could stomach. This outrageous content was edited for clarity.
Talk About A Hole In One
“This guy convinced a friend to drill a hole in the back of his head because he read somewhere that it alters the flow of cerebrospinal fluid to give a permanent high without any illicit substances. This somehow worked out with no bad effects, except that he and the friend just left the hole open for like 2 weeks, and the cut edges of his scalp started ROTTING.
I could literally see into the inside of this dude’s brain through the dime-size hole he had drilled (not sure if penetrating the brain itself was intentional or not). But the most shocking thing is that, except for the infection in his scalp, the guy was otherwise completely fine. He told me all about what he did in a totally coherent manner and then extolled the virtues of drilling into your skull over taking illicit substances.”
“Looked Like He Swallowed A Basketball”
“One of my patients sneezed out his intestines. He had a hernia so severe, the skin had stretched to the breaking point, so all it took was a sudden increase in abdominal pressure and BAM!
He had had multiple surgeries to repair the hernia in the past that all failed. He came into the hospital looking like he had swallowed a basketball, the skin around his belly was very thin and damaged, so all it took was a sneeze to rip the skin and all of his bowels came shooting out. Not a single loop of bowel, basically all of it since he had little support in there at all to keep them in place. He survived the initial trauma since evisceration is not as immediately fatal as it may look, but I think he had a very poor long term prognosis.”
“Trying To Eat Her Own Waste”
“My cousin is an RN and works on the Psych floor, so she sees some really messed up stuff. One day they get this massively obese woman in. I’m talking 700-800-ish pounds. Now, I can’t remember what exactly the woman was there for, but I do know she had smeared poop on herself and the EMT as she was transported to the hospital. This woman needed a bath, but was very uncooperative. The shower seats were not strong enough to hold her, and she refused to help them in any way at all. Luckily, the psych floor is right beside where the labor and delivery was located before they built the Women & Children’s wing, so they had access to a couple of rooms for water births with those inflatable hot tub looking things, so several nurses and CNAs got permission to take her there and bathe her. This woman just smelled so absolutely awful that people started to gag when they got within feet of her. Aside from the poop issue, she just smelled almost like rotten food and death with her family admitting that it had been at least 2 weeks since she had any form of a bath at home.
So, they have this woman sitting in the tub, and they are filling it up as she sits there and rambles incoherently. One of the nurses tap out pretty quickly because the smell seemed to be getting worse with the water, so my cousin had to take her place. They ask this lady to shift, so they can start to scrub underneath, but her fat rolls and things start to float to the surface of the water. It was some food wrappers, some fast food napkins and random trash, and then the hot dogs start popping up. By the time all was said and done, they had fished about 2-3 packs (8 count) of weenies out of this woman’s bath water. The water had to be drained and refilled multiple times before they made much progress with the smell at all. I believe they also found some small bones under one particularly large roll that they think was a dead kitten. I’m not sure if they ever found out for sure. It was a really sad situation. They eventually had to restrain her arms and hands to her bed to keep her from playing in or trying to eat her own waste.”
“I used to work at a naval hospital. Apparently one of the leadership was charged with gross negligence. This was a mechanical malfunction that should have been checked and was not, resulting in the mishap. Essentially, the M777 howitzer artillery weapons (like any weapon) have a massive recoil, and this good-looking, 19 year old soldier was way too close. The weapon recoiled and smacked him in the face. He transferred to our hospital one day after the incident, and it was the worst injury I have ever seen to this day.
He somehow survived being hit in the face by the recoil of a round capable of traveling 25 miles. This thing weighs like 9,000 pounds and hit him in the face with literal cannon force. He makes it to hospital and I couldn’t believe my eyes. He essentially had lost his entire face. No eyes, mouth, nose, chin. Nothing. A gaping hole with tubes and surgical dressings. I was part of a team responsible for stabilizing him and never heard the outcome, but I know he survived for quite some time. He may have made it back home. I hope he is still around. He had a great family around him and the hardest part was seeing his mother holding pictures of her son before the incident happened. Heartbreaking.”
“Fortunately For Him, He Died”
“I once had a patient who was suffering from an addiction to drinking and illegal substances. He had snorted so much blow that his entire nose was gone. The amount of nose you see on a skull was the same amount what he had left. Also, because he smoked 2 packs a day for over 30 years, his pharynx (throat) wasn’t functioning properly, therefore he had to be tube-fed. Now usually when patients are tube-fed, this is done with a probe through the nose and into his stomach. Now the probe was just loosely hanging out of his nose socket, if you would pull it a bit you could see stuff moving in the back of his head.
Because of the substance abuse, this patient had significant liver failure and could not qualify for a liver transplant. Now there is a certain enzyme your liver produces which is responsible for keeping the pressure and the amount of fluids in your cells at a normal amount. Due to his liver damage, this enzyme could not be produced anymore. Over the course of a couple of days, he began to swell up, his legs, his belly, his arms, basically everything was full of fluid. During his stay in the hospital, he gained almost 40 lbs. of excess fluids, which just accumulated in his body. Because of this, his skin was stretching a lot, which caused excruciating pains for the man. Even the strongest morphine could hardly ease the pain.
Fortunately for him, he died after a couple of days, that was no way to live.”
“She Was Never The Same”
“I was a CNA and had been working at a nursing home for about a month. This nursing home was extremely understaffed all the time. On this particular night, I had 60 patients. Yes you read that right, 60. The closest nurse was on the next section. Very frequently, I would be the only staff member on the unit. At around 4 am, I was making my last rounds. I was trying to do my work when a confused woman came up to me, insistent that it was 8am, and she would need coffee and toast. I couldn’t fetch that for her because the kitchen was closed. I tried to convince her to go to bed, but that didn’t work. After 20 minutes of this, I heard the voice of a nurse scream for me. I couldn’t leave the confused lady, so I put her in a wheelchair and rolled her down to where I can help my nurse and keep an eye on her. The nurse told me she was trying to pass meds when she heard a woman scream. She went running into her room to find one of my patients in a pool of her own blood. This woman was trying to get herself to the bathroom when she slipped. She broke her hip and smacked the back of her head. One thing I should have mentioned was that bed alarms was recently cut from the budget. Management said they aren’t important. They’re also a restraint free facility. Nobody knew she was out of bed. This woman was my patient but I couldn’t get to her in time.
I put on gloves, grabbed a wash cloth, and applied pressure to her head. Meanwhile, the nurse put her hip on a pillow and got vitals. Another CNA called 911. I gave a report to the paramedics, and they took her to the nearest hospital. She came back soon to the nursing home, and she was never the same. I believe she got a traumatic brain injury. I don’t think much could be done for her because she was 98 when this happened. Before, she was mildly confused. When she came back, she would just lie in her bed and scream.
After that shift, I told people what happened (the mass amount of blood was hard to miss), I gave my report and clocked out. I went out to my car and just cried and cried. To this day, I still haven’t cried that hard over a patient. The early morning before that event, I stayed late after my night shift. She and I were talking for about 45 minutes about how much we love San Francisco and seafood. She told me about growing up on the coast and about the cute sailor boys. Once I realized management didn’t care about this happening due to short staffing, I put in my two weeks notice but refused to actually work those two weeks. I’ve worked at a hospital for the last two years, and I am hoping to transfer to ICU.
I just looked, my former work place has been reported 3 times. Glad I left when I did.”
Real Unsung Hero
“I had a faculty member of the college I work for have a heart attack on the stairs. He slid down an entire flight of about 30 steps, on his face, with each step breaking his nose slightly more than the last. His nose was basically flat, and he was pouring blood everywhere. He lost a few teet,h too.
I used the defibrillator that was thankfully right there beside the stairwell, before I had to do CPR on him, while trying not to get his blood in my mouth. I was there for a whole 14 minutes before EMS got on scene. Each chest compression sent blood flying in every direction, I was covered with it. An officer showed up, and he just stood beside me and watched. He didn’t attempt to provide any kind of first aid or CPR relief. (After about 2 minutes of CPR your efficiency drops significantly, I was doing it over 6 times as long.) EMS finally arrived and rushed him to the emergency room and thankfully the guy survived. By far, not the worst thing someone has dealt with in this line of work before, but, it was traumatizing none-the-less. I ended up being honored with the first ‘Life-Saving Award’ The college has ever issued. I should also point out, I am only a Security Guard, and I was only on the job for 2 months before this happened.
I was just doing my job (such a cliche thing to say but it’s true). Someone needed my help, and that’s why I got into this line of work in the first place. I have such an overwhelming urge to help people in need and look out for the weak and weary, it only makes sense for me to work where I do while I go through police applications.”
But What Did Snoop Dogg Have To Say About It?
“I was an EMT/paramedic for 6 years. The second or third time I was ever on call, I was on standby for a Snoop Dogg concert. People were getting crushed against the front and that, combined with dancing and being wasted and/or high, made them pass out. Security was just lifting them over the railing and carrying them to our triage room. I had various patients tell me it was the 1980s (it wasn’t), that we were in ‘America’ (technically true, but when asked to be more specific, apparently we had hopped across the pond and were now in ‘England’), and another patient could only manage to reply ‘drinking’ when asked how much and what they had to drink. The night ended with a patient groping one of the other EMTs on call and then running from security, falling, and flailing around in the slush in the road they now found themselves lying in (it looked like they were maybe trying to swim through it).”
He So Desperately Needed Her
“This is my mother’s story. She was a nurse in the 70s, at the end of an already very long shift. As she was about to go home, a man was brought into the hospital with the worst possible type of burns after a motorcycle accident. He’d been caught in a fuel fire and he had full body burns. There were no helmets or protective gear in those days, so his face was unrecognizable, pretty much charcoal, but he was somehow still alive. The doctors took one look at him, declared the injuries ‘un-survivable,’ and instructed the nurses to fill him full of painkillers by whatever means they could find until he passed. The emergency department was extremely busy, so they had to move onto other patients anyway. There was simply nothing they could do for this guy.
Seeing that the nurses wouldn’t have time to do anything but give painkillers and move on, my mother stayed with him because she didn’t want him to die alone. All his ID had been burnt by the fire, and looking up license information would take a long time in those days, so they couldn’t contact family or friends. So despite being exhausted after her shift, she sat and held what was left of his hand. Despite him having no eyes or ears or even skin to be able to tell that she was there. Despite just wanting to go home, she sat there for hours until he finally died. When she got home, she found out it had been her neighbor.”
Her Own Family Doomed Her To An Unspeakably Painful End
“I was a CNA when I was in college. There was this little old lady, very sweet but mostly not there. She didn’t talk a lot, and she had pretty severe muscle contraction. She was basically in a permanent sitting position with her ankles crossed.
Somehow she got a small cut on her foot. The CNAs brought it up to the nurses over and over to treat, but it still got steadily worse. Eventually, the toe developed gangrene, which started to spread.
She was finally sent to the local hospital for an amputation of her foot, or possibly her leg below the knee. I worked mostly night shift, so I missed why this was allowed to get so bad over several months. Her family was completely uninvolved, and day shift reported that no one ever visited her. Ever.
So she was sent to the hospital for the amputation and her family finally surfaced. They did not want her to be ‘mutilated’ and would not approve the amputation. She was sent back to the nursing home.
This poor little old lady had to be moved to the end of the hallway in a room by herself. The smell in the entire hallway was absolutely awful. Extra curtains were hung up to keep out the sunlight and additional curtains were hung to keep the lights and noise from the hallway out and the smell in. Mostly to keep the noise/light out so that she wasn’t disturbed. The nurses kept her as dosed up on morphine as they were allowed, but she would scream when the pain medication wore off or whenever she had to be moved (changing diaper or a sponge bath, so we tried to move her as little as possible).
She didn’t survive very long after being sent back from the hospital, it was only a few weeks, if I recall correctly. Her family never came to visit her and didn’t even come to collect her belongings after she died. Her clothes were mostly hand-made and the family donated them to the nursing home.”
Such Horrifying Parents
“I was there and saw the whole thing unfold. 17 year-old was brought in for a very feeble attempt to kill herself. Took a few too many Advil or barely scratched her wrists, something along those lines. She seems like a good kid, just depressed. Obviously in need of some help. Then her parents come in. They look fairly affluent. They start telling her how everyone gets sad, and she just needs to deal with it. Doctor and mental health professional decide she needs an in-patient stay. The girl agrees she that needs this. Her parents refused, however. They don’t need their daughter sent away with the ‘crazies,’ etc. Her doctor has to get an emergency custody order to have her in-patient. The parents leave while throwing a fit and threatening to sue all of us. Once they’re gone and the girl realizes she will be getting actual help, the look of relief on her face was amazing. A mental health worker comes in and talks with her about how she’ll be 18 and graduating soon and to just hang in there for a few months. This was probably 3-4 years ago and I really hope she’s doing well.”
Pigeon Power Activate!
“Mental health nurse here. I work in a psychiatric intensive care unit where the garden is opened every two hours for patients to get ‘fresh air’ (in other words, smoke). One time out we had a gentleman dive onto the grass shortly after opening the door outside, followed by another patient moments later. A colleague and I then realized that it wasn’t just smoked butts that we’re up for grabs, it was in fact a pigeon carcass that they were chowing down on. We quickly intervened and took both individuals back into the ward. The initial ‘taster’ stated that they did so to ‘gain power,’ whereas the copycat did so to ‘prove’ themself. Cue a full week of taking daily vital sign recordings from them both just to make sure they hadn’t caught some horrendous disease.”
Her Worst Fears Came True
“My grandfather was a doctor, who was briefly employed for a few years at the state hospital at some point in the late 1960s or early 1970s. My mom and I visited the hospital recently when she was showing me around her home town, and she was telling me stories about that time of her life and about some patients that she had met there, when she was a young girl at the time.
She told me a story about how one day, her dad was at work and a mental patient was brought in. This patient was hysterical, and she fully believed that someone was going to kill her. She didn’t know who, she just thought someone was going to kill her, like an existential dread sort of deal I suppose. The hospital was at or near capacity, and the lady was for some reason a threat to herself and others, so my grandfather had her placed in a straight jacket in a padded room alone.
Later the same day, another doctor had another patient who was carrying on about whatever ailed them, and that doctor put that patient, without any restraints, in the same room as my grandfather’s patient who was in a straight jacket. The new patient allegedly became angry about something and killed my grandfather’s patient in the room. The same patient who was in that room in the first place because she thought someone was trying to kill her.
I’d love to find the newspaper report about it.”
“Grabs The Poop And Starts Smearing It On Her”
“The most horrific things I see and will continue to see is the horror of Alzheimer’s, frontal temporal dementia, and body dementia.
These people come in, and they are polite and confused, able to fake it sometimes. Maybe their families have cared for them at home for a long time. Within hours, often they realize they aren’t leaving and the family is gone. The facade is over. They become mean and nasty often. There’s the traumatic weight loss, the refusing to eat, the empty look In their eyes. Begging to be released from their shell of a body in their own personal nightmare. Unable to verbalize the pain or confusion or anything they feel.
But what I was reminded of was when some of these folks do get sick, or break a hip, or poop themselves. The amount of people it often takes to help them and clean them up, they literally have to try to hold their hands down because they do NOT understand what’s going on no matter WHAT!!
So yes, imagine 4’10” little old lady who is 90 some years old. In the shower, with 2 or 3 staff because she’s swinging and upset, but hasn’t had a shower in over a week, and starts with diarrhea. One girl gets sick, so the old lady grabs the poop and starts smearing it on her, ends up standing on wet floor with other two gals in there trying to hold on to her, keep her off the floor, and get her clean. She is throwing handfuls of poo at the girls, the doorway, and the wall. And here I come, knocking on the door in my dress clothes as the assistant director of nursing, trying to help people, but getting poo landed at feet.”
The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword
“During one of my clinicals, I was called to the scene of a man with ‘genital problems.’ When I got there, the man was holding his now flayed member, and on the ground was a bloody pen. The man in question had some mental health issues, but took pleasure in sticking things up his urethra. On this day, he decided to go big or go home, thinking a pen could fit. Unfortunately for him, the pen fought back.
Another guy came into the clinic area with a bandaged finger, asking if we could rewrap it. Sure, we thought, it wouldn’t be a big deal. The gentleman in question was quite the a-hole, and usually those patients fell to me, being a 6’ man myself, so they tended to be nicer. So I approach the gentleman and begin to take off the wraps with my nurse for the day. The man begins to WAIL in pain, as if we had just taken a screwdriver to his hand. When we finally got the wrapping off, we saw why. The man’s finger was so necrotic it looked mummified. Completely black from base to hilt, and dry as a bone. The smell teamed of rotten flesh (which if you don’t know what that smells like, you don’t want to know). The first thing the man asks is, ‘You can save it, right?’
Insert panicked look from the nurse and immediate hand-off to the doctor.
To end both stories, the flayed member was repaired through plastic surgery. And yes, he lost about an inch in length at least according to him. We couldn’t save the finger, and it was amputated the next week.”