Even in the best of times, a trip to the doctor's office or the hospital is scary. But what happens when someone get misdiagnosed with a fatal disease? Or have a quack of a doctor not believe them when they tell her their symptoms? And then there is the nightmare of insurance and billing to deal with after they have to deal with uninterested staffs and incompetent people. The whole thing can leave people angry and annoyed. For these folks, it was much worse that you can image. All posts have been edited for clarity.
The Wrong Diagnosis Changed Everything
“I had a bone marrow biopsy done. The doctor called me and my wife into his office a week later and told me I had multiple myeloma. I didn’t know what that was so I googled it. It basically meant I had about 3 months to live. I was in my 40s. I was devastated. I called my dad and boss at work and told them I was dying.
The doctor called me a few hours later. He mis-read the diagnosis. It actually read that I did NOT have MM.
That one word (NOT) changed my life, but that was one horrible trip to the doctor.”
When You Wish It Was Syphilis
“When I was 19, I was having some strange ‘rash.’ The soles of my feet and the palms of my hands were covered in red, painful blisters that were sometimes itchy. I was feverish, in pain, couldn’t hold things because of them, and couldn’t really walk either.
I had some blood work done at the doctor, waited a week, and then was told to come in again. The doctor leans back in hair chair super casually and says, ‘so it’s either leukemia or syphilis.’ He tells me I have to get blood work done once a week for the next 6 to 8 weeks or so to monitor my platelets and white blood cell count.
After all of this – absolutely terrified I had leukemia and was going to be undergoing the worst trial of my life, the doctor calls me back in and goes, ‘I really wish it was syphilis.’ My stomach DROPPED.
In the end, it turned out it wasn’t leukemia at ALL, it was just an infection that had started in my lungs and spread to my bloodstream. When I asked him why he told me he wished it was syphilis, he said ‘because it’s so easy to cure! I just wished you had syphilis.’
That doctor had a terrible sense of humor.”
“I was in need of reconstructive augmentation when I was around 16. It takes a surprising amount of shopping around for a doctor and one that we visited (my mom and I) had a little office and an even smaller room.
I was sitting on the edge of the examination table, up above the doctor, my shirt off. So far so good, he needed to look at my chest. But he did so by scooting himself in so close on his little stool that his knee was between my legs. He then spent the entirety of the appointment sketching a crummy 1×1 diagram of my chest on the back of my chart.
His nurse was leaning against the counter with an exasperated look with him and almost pitying toward me. My mom stood in the corner waiting and watching while I was left sitting there, frozen and completely uncomfortable. I was too young and too shy to say anything. This wasn’t my first rodeo for a consultation but it was the only one that made me feel uncomfortable. It was a super fast appointment and as we were leaving I told my mom how odd I felt and how uncomfortable it was. She said, ‘Yeah, I got that vibe too. A few more minutes and I would have gotten you out of there.’
Right, thanks for that! I can still picture the office to this day and the sensation of hopeless disbelief that nobody else in the room said or did anything.”
Everyone’s Dental Nightmare!
I woke up halfway through a dental surgery where they were removing my wisdom teeth. I opened my eyes and though I couldn’t feel anything, I could see the gigantic contraption they were using to prop my mouth open to work on my jaw. There was blood all over the little apron thing. The surgeon and nurse were just aimlessly chatting away. I couldn’t move, but I could see them. I couldn’t make any noise.
After what felt like minutes but was probably only seconds, the nurse’s arm was close to my hand so I just barely managed to brush my fingers against her hand – which was gloved and covered in my blood. She looks at me – I assume, my head was angled in such a way that I couldn’t see her face – and says something to the surgeon. I remember hearing the surgeon saying, ‘Anesthesia’s light,’ and then everything went dark again.
I ended up having horrific jaw muscle spasms after that surgery and still suffer with TMJ on occasion. I have to wear one of those mouth pieces to prop your teeth apart when I get dental work done or I get bad muscle spasms again. I apparently have a very small mouth, so they had to open my jaw very wide to see what they were doing.
The last time I went to the dentist prior to the surgery, I’d had a cavity drilled for 20 minutes without being numbed because they didn’t believe me when I said I could still feel it. It is still the worst pain I can remember experiencing, and I still have nightmares about it. I was 12 at the time.
I hate dentists.”
The Nurse Made Things Hard
“This happened when I was in grad school.
I was hooking up with my boyfriend when the rubber broke. I can’t remember why I wasn’t on the pill at the time. It was a Sunday, so I went to the only place open, and it was associated with the local Catholic hospital. I didn’t even put 2 and 2 together that it would be problem. This was prior to plan B being available over the counter.
The nurse asked why I was there and so I told her. She told me they were a Catholic hospital and their wouldn’t allow me to murder my baby. Mind you, I was there within hours of the ‘accident.’ I was bawling when the doctor came in. She asked what happened and I told her. She told me because of doctor-patient confidentiality, the nurse had no right to know anything that was between me and her, she wrote me a prescription for pills, and told me how to take them as emergency contraception.
That doctor was amazing and made a terrible situation better.”
The Billing Is Worse Than The Treatment!
“A few years ago, I had several thousand dollars worth of medical treatments. As someone who is generally unhealthy, I am very aware of how medical insurance works, so I knew how much was going to be out of pocket heading into it.
Well, the clinic billed insurance and insurance messed it up. It was paid as if it was out of network, and when I got the bill for almost the entire amount, I knew it was wrong. I called the insurance company and they admitted that it was their fault. They said all I needed to do was get the clinic to refile the claims and they would pay it correctly. If only it was that simple. I honestly don’t know what the problem was, but the guy in charge of patient billing at this clinic acted like he was recovering from a recent lobotomy.
I called and told him about the situation, and he said he’d call the insurance company and confirm. Well, he allegedly called and they told him it was paid correctly and I owned every cent of the $8,000 total. He put a note in my file that said this and refused to do anything from there on out. I knew that wasn’t correct, so I called the insurance company back and had them draft a letter detailing exactly what needed to be refiled. I faxed it to the clinic, and he claimed he had it in his hand and was getting ready to refile the claims ‘right now.’ I breathed a sigh of relief.
About a week later, I called the insurance company to check on the status of the claim and they said they never got it. I called the clinic and it was like pulling teeth to get him on the phone. After maybe 30 messages left for him, he finally called me back and had no idea who I was and no idea what I was talking about, doesn’t remember a fax…oh, but there was this note in my file that says it was paid correctly and I owe this money. I faxed the freaking letter to him again and he was like ‘Oh, okay. I’ll file it right now.’ But he didn’t.
This cycle went on for MONTHS. It was well over a year before this was fixed. I’d fax the paperwork, he’d confirm he got it, claim he was ‘getting ready to file it’ (At one point he even claimed he’d already refiled it) and then it’s like his memory reset and the letter got sucked into the ether. At no point did he ever have a memory of getting a fax or talking to me previously or getting literally hundreds of phone message sticky notes on his desk. And every single time, he’d point out that there was this note in my file that says I owe this money. Several times it got sold into collections! I got turned down for a car loan and I had no idea why. Turns out it was because I had so much medical debt in collections.
At some point, months into this and literally hundreds of calls later, I went in for an appointment and the secretary (who was pretty new) told me I needed to make a payment before they’d even let me into the office. Evidently, the billing guy told her I had this huge outstanding bill I wasn’t paying. I’m not an emotional person and I’m not a ‘make a scene’ type of person, but I couldn’t take it anymore. I started bawling my eyes out in the waiting room, screaming for her to just let me talk to him. Maybe if he can see my face he will form some sort of memory and this will be all over. He refused to come out of his office but he did admit to remembering some fax, but ‘it didn’t say anything relevant.’ I LOST it.
I finally made a payment. It was against my better judgment, but I needed to see the doctor. As soon as I got back to the room, I started telling the nurses what I’d been through and I’m basically screaming at this point because I was so angry! Basically the entire nursing staff was crowding around the room and I’m railing on this guy. I told the doctor that I couldn’t do any more treatments until this billing situation was fixed. I ended up not going back to that doctor. I didn’t do anything wrong and neither did he, but I just felt so embarrassed about my outburst.
About a month later, I received another collections notice. I called the clinic and asked for the billing guy and was told he no longer worked there. She didn’t say as much, but I assume I got him fired. The woman I spoke to took the bill out of collections immediately and sent the now year-old medical claims to the insurance company within the week. It was that easy, and for some reason, the guy couldn’t take two minutes to do his stupid job.”
The Medication Almost Killed Him And The Medical Staff Didn’t Help
“I was in the ER, throwing up and shuddering with uncontrollable tremors that looked like a slow-motion seizure. My arms jerking like I was doing the ‘Funky Chicken.’ I was unable to sit upright in a chair without passing out, had experienced months of worsening weakness, fainting, and confused cognitive abilities. I told the triage nurse that I suspected it was from a medication I’d been prescribed off-label that I didn’t actually need.
She scoffed – literally freaking scoffed, like a snobby Victorian aristocrat in some low-quality historical fiction – and announced that it was anxiety. I could barely stutter out a basic phrase, and my arms were flapping away while I tried to keep myself from sliding down a wall.
‘This?’ she reiterated, condescendingly, ‘This is anxiety,’ as she pointed at me. I nearly self-immolated from fury.
Five hours later, I finally saw an ER doctor, who ALSO tried to insist it was anxiety, and didn’t want to do any blood tests. I badgered her into it, with desperate tears and astounded, helpless laughter, and repeated fierce descriptions of horrific things I’d gone through that hadn’t caused such a reaction, with clenched-teeth snarls of, ‘if THAT anxiety didn’t cause symptoms like this, stuff going on in my life right now sure wouldn’t.’
Finally, the doctor agreed to do a test, still huffing and telling me it was pointless.
I went home. I got a call from the ER doctor first thing in the morning. ‘Hi,’ she began. ‘So… you were right.’
The medication I’d told them about had messed up my system, it had been building for months, getting worse and worse (meanwhile, I had visited four different doctors during that time, and each had insisted it was probably anxiety and sent me away). And if I had left it much longer, I could have died.
It’s been three months since that ER visit, since they finally did a test, and since they finally told me to stop taking that medication, and I’m still only starting to recover. “
A Terrifying Headache
“I’ll never forget the one and only time I had a migraine so severe that I had to go to the hospital.
It was a Sunday, around ten o’clock, and with my girlfriend still sleeping, I noticed that there’s a tiny bean-shaped blurry spot in my vision. I’d never had those before, but I knew that it was migraine-related. I woke up my girlfriend and told her that I might be getting a bad migraine because I got that spot. In 30 minutes, the spot grew larger, and by 11 the next morning, it already covered the whole left side of my vision.
At this point, my girlfriend told me to go to the doctor. She drove me to the closest urgent care center. We went in and I cut the line to the receptionist’s desk. I was probably a bit disoriented and can’t even remember this very well, but my girlfriend told me later that the receptionist had asked which substances I had taken. Apparently, I was acting like an addict or something. Luckily, my girlfriend was able to describe the situation, and the nurse took me to a small room where I lay on a table. A doctor came in, asked me questions, waved a finger in my field of vision, and finally told us to go to the hospital, a few blocks down the road.
We walked out and right as I was approaching the car, I felt really nauseous. I leaned against a tree and opened my mouth to tell my girlfriend that I wasn’t feeling very well. It’s just that my speech got really blurry like I was hammered. I laughed and got worried and laughed again because my voice was so unresponsive. It was frightening and hilarious, both at the same time.
She drove me to the hospital, we reported at the reception and they told us to go to the neurology section, which was at the end of an endless corridor. After we reached the end of the endless corridor, I just sat down on the waiting room benches, holding my head for about two hours before a male nurse came to me, asking how I was feeling. At this point, my vision was coming back and my speech wasn’t impaired anymore, but my head hurt horribly.
I told him how I felt, asked if I could have something to help with the headache, he nodded and wandered away. About 20 minutes later, he came with the thing that looks like a coatrack with wheels on it, and it had a bag of liquid medical nectar hanging on it. The male nurse took a needle and stuck it into my arm. I asked what the prescription was, and he told me it was paracetamol with some anti-nausea medication mixed in.
I was already worried at this point because paracetamol never, ever worked with migraine headaches for me. I tried to tell him this, but he said that they couldn’t give me anything else at this point. Ugh, fine, I’ll just sip this thing into my veins.
But then, after just a moment, I got really nauseous. Dragging the coatrack thing with me to the toilet, I barely made it in before I hurled. And then came another one. And another. After the third puke, I was able to return to my seat, only to immediately get back up and go vomit yet again.
Luckily, I didn’t vomit anymore after that one. I just sat there for hours on end without anyone caring for me except my girlfriend. I hadn’t had anything to eat since my breakfast, not that I could hold anything in anyway. At this point, the clock was probably 5 PM. Finally, a nurse took me in to the doctor’s office.
The doctor was this foreign lady, and I couldn’t really understand a word she uttered. I was still in pain, could barely tolerate any light or sound, and there was this immigrant doctor saying words to me that I didn’t understand. I was a bit frightened and didn’t even think straight, but I somehow didn’t notice that my headache was starting to get a bit better. I somehow agreed to some treatment that required me to stay overnight, they gave me a gown to put on, and after I put that on and was left to wait in the corridor, with my girlfriend saying goodbye to me, did I realized what was happening. My head was still hurting, but all my other symptoms were gone. I asked the male nurse if I could still change my mind because I was feeling a lot better already. He gave me a funny look, sighed, and said he’ll ask the doctor to see me again.
Back into the doctor’s office I went. I explained that I was merely in agony now and I thought I could sleep it off at home. She sighed and released me. I sheepishly gave the shirt back and walked back to the car.
We got home at around 7 pm, my girlfriend made dinner, and I went to sleep for about 14 hours straight. The next three days my vision was a bit blurred (mainly couldn’t read signs far away), and my head was still sore for about a week.”
Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes
“When I was in the seventh grade, I got a pencil eraser stuck in my ear. I was itching my ear with the eraser end and it came off. Already dumb, I know.
I was sent home from school to my grandmother visiting, and she tried to remove it with tweezers. No luck, and she actually sliced my ear canal open on accident.
We went to the doctor’s and he also had to use tweezers. The problem: I had an open and bleeding wound in my ear now, and the eraser was against my eardrum. Every time the tweezers or the eraser so much as brushed the wound, I felt what was, and is to this day, the most excruciating pain in my life, and this doctor wasn’t gentle.
I laid sobbing on his table for two hours before he gave up. Eventually had it surgically removed, and the surgeon’s told me the doctor was an idiot for thinking he could get to it in the first place.”
A Dismissive Nurse
“When I was pregnant, I was on home contradiction monitoring.
I was on a terbutaline pump and they thought it wasn’t working anymore, so they gave me magnesium sulfate to flush that out of my system. I was hospitalized from a Wednesday until the following Saturday and then I was sent home.
We were home less than an hour and I knew something was wrong so we went back to the hospital. The nurse told me I was overreacting and it was just round ligament pain, and she passed this info on to the doctor on call at my ob’s practice. My ob came the next morning and knew something was wrong. He wheeled me to his office (which was a different wing in the hospital) and performed an ultrasound. I was in liver and kidney failure.
I ended up getting transported to another hospital 3 hours from my house with a level III NICU. My twins are fine now, but I ended up filling a complaint against the nurse.”
A Terrifying Moment For A Child
“I was 6 years old when a teenage neighbor threw a roofing shingle at me, which cut my forehead really badly.
My dad raced me to the ER because it was quite obvious I needed stitches – head wounds bleed A LOT.
Because of my age, the doctor wouldn’t give me any anesthetic to numb my head and I ended up getting 14 stitches, completely without any pain meds at all. Each push of the needle through my skin, I felt it completely, and it was so excruciating so I kept scooting down the gurney. The doctor was getting annoyed at me because of it.
Nearly 30 needle pokes for this little 6-year-old girl and the doctor is getting annoyed, all because he wouldn’t give me anything to numb the pain.”
The Untrusting Doctor
“When my boys were 16 months old, I had my first rheumatoid arthritis flare up. I didn’t test positive for quite awhile though.
I ended up moving to another city where my symptoms continued to get worse. Another doctor pretty much forced my rheumatologist to take me, but for 4 years, he basically said it was in my head and I was overreacting because he didn’t believe someone could have RA if they didn’t test positive (about 25% of people with it will not test positive).
In 2011, I got so bad and it finally showed up in my blood work. I cried out of relief and validation. He told me, ‘oh, so you really do have something.’ I looked at him and told him, ‘That’s what I’ve been telling you for 4 years.’ Luckily even though he didn’t believe me prior to that, I was on quite a few meds that helped slow the progression of the disease because I advocated for myself along with another doctor who basically forced the rheumatologist to take me as a patient.”
Two Sticks To The Brain
“I have a shunt in my brain to prevent swelling. One day, I was having migraine headaches and fatigue, which are both symptoms of a shunt malfunction, which can be fatal if not remedied. An MRI was ordered at one point but never scheduled. A lumbar puncture was scheduled at another appointment, but the day of the test, the performing doctor took one look at the data and said, ‘Nope, we can’t do this,’ because the data he had been showed something he was concerned about.
Ten months later, my neurosurgeon ordered a pair of tests that could only be performed at the hospital. They kept me over night because one test was missing something, so I had to wait until the next day. He never gave me a good reason why I couldn’t go home.
The next morning, they wanted to check my spinal fluid for an infection, so they stuck a needle into the shunt to draw fluid out of it. Essentially, they stuck a needle into my skull and pulled out some spinal fluid. It was…unpleasant to say the least!
I’m an anxious dude on a normal day. I was nervous as anything and it hurt quite a bit, plus they missed the first time, so they had to do it twice. It would have been nice to have my girlfriend hold my hand, not to mention she nerds out on medical stuff so she might have actually been interested in watching despite being concerned for me, but they wouldn’t let her.
I got out of the hospital at 7pm, drove home and packed a bag to go on vacation with my two roommates. I decided to go to the airport at 11pm instead of sleeping for 2-3 hours and then driving over to be at the airport at 4am for a 6am flight.
I was up for like 24 hours and brought an eye mask, so as soon as I settled in my seat I put my mask, and was out in minutes- slept the entire flight. Best flight ever, worst procedure ever.”