Doctors know that not everyone knows everything about medical science. That's why they're the professional. It's their job to educate and help those in need. Patience is a must for this kind of work. But sometimes a doctor will meet a patient so mind-numbingly stupid that it makes them wonder how natural selection hasn't gotten to this person earlier.
Content has been edited for clarity.
Tyler Olson / Shutterstock
"I worked in a private WASP hospital in a very affluent community. This meant I missed out on injuries from gang violence but got to see some of the dumbest attempts at home improvements ever. I will list my favorite.
So, two guys are attempting to lay hardwood flooring. They have no clue what they are doing, but what the heck. They rip up the old flooring, lay down some plywood and start to lay down their nice antique hardwood boards. At this point, they have an issue. How does one find the studs in the floor when they are covered by the larger plywood panels?
Well, being geniuses, they decide to send one guy to the floor below and have him call out under the beam and have the guy fire his nail compressor over the sound.
There are so many issues at this stage that it is amazing. I have no clue why they thought this plan was a good idea. So tempting to start smacking them around at this point... but had to be professional and just let them keep going.
Sure enough, the guy on the top floor missed a beam, fires the way over-powered tool into plywood, it goes through the weaker first layer of flooring, shoots the guy on the bottom floor in the head. They know the nail missed the beam (there is a hole to prove it) but can not locate the nail.
Oddly enough, the patient was fine. The nail grazed his skull and entered the skin, then settled behind his ear. It was a very sore bump. He assumed the nail had hit him on the way by and initially, didn't want to come in, but the friend insisted on it since they could not find the missing nail.
Great x rays, couldn't keep them."
"A young man came to the ER several years ago with a large bandage wrapped around his forearm, angry red skin visible past the edges up to his elbow and down to his wrist. He wore a ragged baseball cap, T-shirt with the arms cut off, faded jeans, and heavy work boots. There was probably half a can of Copenhagen stuffed into a protruding lower lip, and he periodically spit into a stained Solo cup that looked old enough to have been passed down from a grandfather. He had been drinking to ease the pain in his arm, so that made his aim into the cup a little unsteady, but he did a pretty good job with it overall. There’s a classic line that starts the dumb stories fairly often, and that’s what he started out with: 'Well, what happened was…..'
He’d developed an abscess on his forearm several days prior and decided to treat it himself. We suspected he’d been issued a Double Dog Dare by a friend to do so, but we couldn’t prove it. (Just so any non-Texan readers are clear on the matter, declining a Double Dog Dare is not an option in rural Texas towns if issued while both parties are drinking. It’s mandatory, so be careful who you drink with when you visit us.) He’d cut the abscess open with a heated pocketknife blade (as one does under these circumstances) and 'sucked the poison out with a turkey baster.' He told the tale in a very matter-of-fact way, as though all the actions leading up to his ER visit had been quite reasonable and understandable. With eyebrows raised in a look of mild surprise, he finished with, '…but it got worse!' Inexplicable, to be sure.
He had to be admitted for IV antibiotics and surgical consultation. I don’t know what happened in the end, but I wish him well. He was very polite and likable, and thanked us all for our help. Maybe if he’d had access to a sterile turkey baster….."
"In the wee hours of the morning, my friend got called to see a trauma consult. It was a guy who reportedly wandered into the ER stating he'd just come from a bus stop across the street from the hospital. He had just woken up there and realized that he was missing his wallet, as well as all of his clothing from the waist down. What, you ask, would prompt an indecently-clothed man to march barefoot across a busy downtown road, in a big city, by the dawn's early light to seek assistance in the ER?
It turns out his butt really, really hurt.
My friend did an... appropriate work-up, and discovered a large chunk of broken-off concrete lodged in this gentleman's rectum. It required an operation to retrieve it. However, before they whisked him off to the OR, the patient confessed the rest of the story:
He'd hooked up with two strange men off of Craigslist, and they'd gone out in one guy's awesome sports car, used copious amounts of illicits and EtOH, and done... well, at that point, he wasn't too sure just what they'd done. All he remembered was waking up at the bus station with no pants and a rock up his butt.
And then... while my friend was still in the ER with the guy getting consent for the operation... the patient's very worried wife walked in."
"I am an ER doctor and recently had a young male patient, who came in for about the fifth time complaining of abdominal pain and vomiting. Looking over his records from past visits, I could see that his symptoms had previously been attributed to either acid reflux and gastritis, or cyclic vomiting syndrome secondary to daily heavy smoking (Google it: it's a real thing). Anyway, he'd been told to take Nexium twice a day and cut back on the pot, as well as follow up with a GI doctor. But he had done none of those things. Instead, he tells me, 'Doc, I Googled my symptoms and I'm sure I have stomach cancer. My mom has cancer too, so she gave me some of her chemo-therapy pills and I started taking those.'
So, yeah, this guy ignores the medical diagnoses and recommendations he's been given, instead decides he has stomach cancer, and treats himself by taking his mother's chemotherapy pills. He wasn't sure what kind of cancer his mom had, but I tried to explain that different cancers require different medications, that chemotherapies are the most toxic substances we make and might kill him. I tell him that he is very unlikely at his age to have stomach cancer and much more likely to have over-production of stomach acid, for which he should take the medicines he was prescribed the last several times he came to the ER..."
Lolostock / Shutterstock
"I'm a general practitioner, and the most outrageous thing I've heard was from a boy who was something like 20-22 years old. He was from an impoverished, illiterate family. The boy had a bad case of tonsillitis and refused to take any medication because all he needed to do was 'bite the sun.' Basically, at noon, he had to look up to the sun, open his mouth as wide as possible and 'bite' the sun several times so it would 'burn' his tonsils and cure him over the course of a couple of weeks. When that wouldn't work, plan B was to do the same at night but only under a full moon."
khz / Shutterstock
"Had an old coot (best possible description of the man) who was sweet but had spent his adult years drinking away whatever brain cells he had when he started. He presented with the chief complaint, 'I can't drink brewskies anymore. Every time I drink one, I just throw it back up a few minutes later.'
Well, it turns out he hadn't been able to eat actual food in months, was subsisting on pretty much just liquid, and hadn't gone number 2 in over two weeks. That didn't bother him a bit - until he couldn't drink. Then it was an emergency!
He had a big ol' tumor blocking the distal part of his left colon (so near the end of the road, intestinally speaking), and everything gradually got backed up all the way to his stomach. That's why he couldn't keep a drink down - there was just no more room at the inn.
I fixed him with a colostomy, and he got better and left. He refused chemo, and I figured he'd just go home and die of cancer. However, almost exactly one year later, he came back to me with just about the same complaint - obstructed to the point of not being able to drink.
Except for this time, it was that his ostomy had essentially retracted into his abdomen and the skin had nearly grown shut over it. He was pooping out of a teeny-tiny hole in his skin. WHAT?
Even my oldest partners had never seen anything like it, but once again Cooter wasn't remotely fazed. He just wanted us to fix it so he could go home and keep drinking.
I did. Haven't seen Cooter since. I kind of hope he's still out there, treating his cancer with suds and just blissfully ignoring the Grim Reaper."
As the dumb general surgeon, I did the standard-of-care thing and sent him to an Oncologist, who talked to him about the likely curable cancer he had and that chemo would help keep it from coming back again. After the discussion, Cooter told him to stuff the chemo up his butt.
And I don't necessarily disagree with him. Chemo sucks and isn't without complications. But with it, Cooter might've gone on another 20 years to die of liver failure from his drinking instead.
Maybe the cancer will/has come back to kill him, but whatever. Cooter made the call for himself, and that's totally fine by me.
"I had a 34-year-old who popped a pimple on his privates with a needle after cleaning it by putting it in his mouth. Yeah, he ended up losing everything.
A 72-year-old recently had a heart stent placement and started having similar chest pain at night around 10 p.m. He decided to stay in all night and try to sleep through it. He popped ten aspirin overnight and came to an urgent care instead of a hospital. He was not doing so hot when he left our care.
Another guy, a mid-20s male shot his junk off. Now he lives with a hole in it.
This other time a young female jumped off the balcony just so that she can get some pain meds. I loaded her up and intubated her.
A guy had a room freshener spray stuck in his butt. They had to take him to the operating room. I don't know what he was thinking. It's a vacuum when you shove stuff up there!
Another good one was when this dude pulled out his catheter just because he was angry at medical staff. Yeah, that didn't help with the situation. He realized later what mistake he made and how painful it's going to be for him for a while."
"There was a patient who was upset to find out that she was pregnant again because she'd used her diaphragm EXACTLY as she'd been told. She carefully inspected it for holes, applied the spermicide, placed it, wore it at night, then took it out, cleaned it and put it away each morning... and then her husband arrived home from his night-shift."
conejota / Shutterstock
"We responded in the ambulance to a place that is... well, it's different. We go hot for a 13-year-old girl with abdominal pain.
We get there, and she's lying on the couch, surrounded by family. She's uncomfortable but able to laugh and joke that her stomach hurts. It feels 'crampy' for the last two days and she has had blood trickling out from her privates.
This happened last month too, then about a month before that. She has had to go home from school each time. She is surrounded by women. Her mother (late-20s), her grandmother (40s), great-grandmother (early 60s) and great-great-grandmother (mid-70s). Every one of them is flabbergasted as to what this could be.
So, here I am, a 30-year-old dude of a very different ethnic and cultural background, asking all sorts of uncomfortable questions. 'Have any of you explained to her about periods?' No. Clearly not. No one here has been NOT pregnant for a long enough time to understand that they come more or less regularly, roughly once a month.
We took her in any way. Better safe than sorry. At least us and the nurses could explain some things to her. Clearly, no one else could."
puhhha / Shutterstock
"I worked in the ER during my internship and met a girl who had increasingly painful and red eyes since a couple of days back. The last 24 hours had been horrible. I asked about all the normal stuff, and she claimed to have no idea why she had an eye problem - she had never had anything wrong with her eyes. I proceeded to drop some dye in her eyes to check them under a microscope, and when I did, I realized she was wearing contacts.
She didn't like her natural eye color, so she had bought a set of blue colored lenses eight months earlier. Never removed them, not even during night time. She didn't even think to mention this to me, claimed to have no 'foreign materials' in her eyes.
I gave her quite the harsh lecture and a referral to an ophthalmologist. "
sebadelval / Pixabay
"I was an intern in the ER. I have seen a lot of stupid people; it was a small town and all. The worst I think was when I walked in, and the floor smelled like... I don't even know. It was by far the worst thing I had ever smelled. I asked a passing nurse what the smell was, and he just shrugged his shoulders and told me, someone, probably poop everywhere.
Well, the doctor is preparing to go into this room, but I did not expect what would happen next. He opened the door, and I almost barfed. It was extremely hard to keep my professional composure.
The guy had his leg wrapped up. The doctor asked him to unwrap it, and it was gangrene. From his foot up to the middle of his thigh. The smell I had been smelling was rotting flesh. The cause? 'The four-wheeler I was riding caught fire six months ago.'"
Tyler Olson / Shutterstock
"As an Army medic, I have had some dumb patients. One of the first guys I treated got nasty road rash from a motorcycle crash and decided to treat it himself by pouring Jack Daniels on it. By the time he came to the medics, it was pretty bad, and I had to do debridement with a scrub brush: scrubbing the bad parts off with plastic bristles. He was in a lot of pain, and I was trying not to laugh at him.
We once had a guy who had the tip of his finger amputated. His first question was, 'will this grow back?'
One guy had a sore back, and while I was doing the physical exam, he said, 'Doc, my spine is curved (it wasn't). That's why my nose is crooked.'
Medics all have lots of fun stories."
Alex James Bramwell / Shutterstock
"I grew up in Upstate New York, where my dad had his practice (he's an OB/GYN). Genesee Brewery was nearby, so it was a fairly popular adult beverage brand with the locals.
A patient came into the office for a prenatal checkup. As part of his follow up, he asked if they were drinking anything they shouldn't so that he could tell them to avoid it.
The woman reassured him that her drinking habit was fine. 'Oh, don't worry Doctah! I drink da good stuff. I drink Genny Cream!'
My dad then had to explain that even if she's drinking the 'good stuff,' she still can't have it when pregnant. She honestly thought that if she had 'good' stuff, it'd be fine for the baby. Yikes. Plus, I think Genesse Cream is pretty awful to begin with, which makes the story funnier."
Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley / Shutterstock
"I'm a surgical resident, and one that comes to mind while I was on the cardiothoracic service was a gentleman that came in through the trauma bay with a stab wound to the chest. He reported (after we fixed the rather large hole in his right ventricle) that he was just visiting a friend and while on the stoop of the building, a random stranger stabbed him with a sword from a 1st-floor window. He proceeded to laugh, get back in his car with his buddies and drive home, despite the rather profuse bleeding from his chest. He drove home and then eventually decided he should go to the hospital. He drove BY HIMSELF to the hospital. The last thing he remembered was being on the way to the hospital. Lucky idiot was found in the parking lot. He had passed out in his car. He eventually made it to the OR and walked away just fine."
"I’m an ER RN.
A young woman came in, her 5 week old baby in tow, for PID (pelvic inflammatory disease). It takes a few days to fully culture the swabs to figure out what kind of STD you have, so we treat based on symptoms with antibiotics.
Now, you’re not supposed to sleep with anyone for 6 weeks after delivery to give your lady bits time to heal. She wasn't using protection, and when asked if she was on any form of birth control she said no. She was just being reckless. And she was talking about how this guy was someone she just met, too. So she’d just had a baby with one guy, started hooking up with strangers right away without any sort of protection against pregnancy or STDs, and was there for PID…women don’t often show symptoms of STDs until they’re pretty advanced.
And I’m explaining all of this to her and answering questions someone who just had a baby ought to know…like do you understand that rubbers are the only thing that prevents STDs? Do you understand not using protection leads to more babies? …and it honestly seemed like it was news to her.
I went in to discharge her and give her the antibiotics, and she asks me 'But let’s say I don’t have STDs (and I clarified that based on her symptoms, it was pretty much certain she did)…if I take the antibiotics anyway, will it give me the STD?'
No dear. Going back to the same guy that gave you the STD and continuing to not use protection with him is going to keep giving you the STD."
Dave Clark Digital Photo/ Shutterstock
"There are several close calls. There was the patient who fixed an appointment for a pedicure the day after open heart surgery. He said that he'd just sneak out of the ICU and that nobody would notice.
Then there was the patient who had an amputation of half of his foot and decided that it would be a good idea to walk to the toilet after returning to his room, covering the floor in bloody footsteps because the suture ripped open again.
Then the patient who said that he didn't have any previous operations, but was covered in scars. When asked about each of them, he suddenly remembered having about 15 surgeries for various accidents.
The patient who forgot that he had his kidney, spleen, and part of the colon removed (because of a tumor).
There was one patient who decided that he'd never take more than three pills a day (because obviously taking more than three pills a day is going to kill you). He was on four or five different meds at that time, and just chose at random which meds he was going to take which day."
cheapbooks / Shutterstock
"I still remember a guy coming to the hospital with his girlfriend and asking for the morning after pill. I asked them when did the deed happened and he says, 'Well, I wouldn't call it exactly it 'the deed,' but my girlfriend would feel much more relaxed if she took the pill.'
I asked, 'Could you define the nature of your contact?'
He says, 'Well... uh... my girlfriend is pure, so we don't 'do it,' but last night we were in our underwear, and we were cuddling, and my wet underwear was touching her thigh. So maybe something found its way into her?"
Zynatis / Shutterstock
"I had a marine once who came to me complaining of a rash to his right forearm for two weeks. This was his first visit for the issue and hadn't had anything like this before. He was worried since he reported worsening symptoms since initial onset.
When asking about prior skin issues, he told me he had ringworm just before THIS rash.
I look at his arm, it looked like a mild second-degree chemical burn in a rather circular shape, with blisters on the edges. What got me was the exact definition in the burn edge. Asking the young LCPL how he got that he replied, 'Well that's the burn I got from the bleach I poured on my arm.'
When I ask him WHY he poured bleach on his arm he says, 'Well, how else was I going to kill the ringworm?'"
Photographee.eu / Shutterstock
"I have the grandma, the mom, and the teen in the room. The teen is pregnant, but this apparently is a good thing. There are no fathers/grandfathers/boyfriends/jobs in the picture, but everyone decided it was about time a new generation was added to the family lineage. Apparently, the teen did not appreciate the fatigue, full bladder, back pain, etc., that go along with being pregnant and is also experiencing some cramping pains. She demands that we do a C-section because she's tired of being pregnant (even though she's still not far enough along) because then we can just hook up the premie in an incubator to finish growing and the government can just pay for the (incredibly expensive) ICU stay. My jaw just dropped.
Then there was the lady wearing short shorts and no underwear who raised her leg and showed me the puss-filled wound on her labia ... while in the middle of the waiting room.
I don't miss rural OB/Gyn experiences."
"Girl come into our office and says that her IUD is stabbing her husband in his privates and needs us to remove it. This is something I have never heard of, but decided I would do some research and find out what was going on before taking this one to the PA I worked for.
I found out that yes, the IUD may have shifted and need to be moved….or a couple of other minor problems, no need for removal.
She agrees to this and I send her back to the OB/GYN doctor to take care of this.
Couple weeks later she comes back with the same complaint. I look up the report from the doctor, which states that everything is perfect, they double and triple checked…but they also did a STI check, found she was positive for chlamydia.
I ask her if she knew and she said no, I ask her to bring her husband.
He states that he just had a check, he has nothing (no records of this). I explain to them both that they both need to be treated. He claims adamantly that he is being stabbed by the IUD, gets mad and leaves. Convinces the wife that we are liars, and trying to cause problems.
14 Medics, 5 PAs, and 2 doctors later. She divorces him for cheating on her."
"I'm actually a veterinarian so technically I am a doctor but it's the patients' owners that always make the stupid comments….
I was working at a veterinary hospital in East London and my next appointment was to check if a female cat was pregnant.
After thoroughly palpating the cat's abdomen but not finding an obvious pregnancy, I told the owner that she should not be letting an entire female cat outside.
The owner seemed shocked and said, oh but she never goes outside.
Oh, do you have a male cat then?
Well why do you think she's pregnant?!
I've got a male dog. (Said very seriously).
Oh. I see. (Pause). Cats and dogs don't do that together. (Was a bit flabbergasted and unsure how to explain). It's not possible.
But how sure are you?
Very sure. 200% sure.
Hmmm (client seemed unconvinced).
But you should still get her neutered!!
Not sure if she did get the cat neutered. Hopefully she did. I guess to me and most people it's pretty obvious dogs and cats don't mate or produce offspring but this occurrence taught me you can never assume what people do and don't know!"
"Many stories, but one that sticks out was a patient who 'fired' me. Patient was hospitalized for poorly-controlled blood sugar (>400) and CHF exacerbation. Patient was considered 'independent' meaning they could get up and walk around unrestricted.
I caught the patient raiding the patient snack fridge carrying 6 cans of juice and 4 popsicles. The patient didn't like when I explained how all that sugar and excess fluid was causing their symptoms to linger and get worse. They said they had been doing it all day and no one had said anything (because they kept throwing away all the cans/wrappers before staff could see them) and how dare I tell them what they can and can't have. They spoke with my manager in the morning and luckily for me I wasn't assigned to that patient again.
Don't think we ever got their sugar below 300 though."
"I work at a hospital that gives out pain pills like candy. I mean, if you have a 3 on the pain scale, roll your sleeve up. You're getting IV of morphine. But I suppose this particular man did not know this.
So this guy walks in and he is just screaming, 'OWWW OWWW OWWW DON'T TOUCH MY LEG!'
So he was admitted, and they ran some tests. We told him that because of his leg pain, he will not be able to walk without assistance from one of the nurses. Our goal is to prevent falls. He does not like that. Not one bit. He demands dignity, privacy and respect. So we ask him how he'll get to the bathroom without any help when his leg hurts so bad. He says he will not have to make a bowel movement, and that he will just pee in the urinal that the hospital provides to every patient (don't ask me why).
Then I go in to clean him up. I wash up one leg, the leg that is supposed to hurt and he's so caught up in his story about his farm that he plumb forgot that his leg hurt! I know, I'm a miracle worker. I gave him a funny look, then washed the other leg. And wouldn't you know it, the other leg began to hurt! The leg that was 100% fine, now suddenly giving him worlds of pain.
I figured I should tell the doctor about this new symptom of his magic leg-switching pain, while wondering if I should contact the media.
Imagine my shock when I find out that he was faking the leg pain the whole time!!!"
'This happened in a rural area, and this was at the indigent hospital. A man came in who had been chopping wood. The ax slipped, hitting his leg. He poured gasoline over it to try to 'disinfect' it, and stop the bleeding. Then he lit a cig. We were treating him for a very badly infected leg, which was also severely burned.
Also - there is a saying in rural areas, that 'it hurt so bad I could have shot it off.' A woman came in who had sprained her ankle. She couldn't take the pain, so we ended up treating her for a self inflicted wound to the foot.
"I had a horrifying situation where a little kid was taking a lot of medication because his mother had an intellectual disability. She believed 'more is better' and he was a child and thought she was right.
The mother hadn't had custody of him since he was born, but had recently gotten custody. At the same time, he got a virus (I think rotavirus) and wasn't keeping any food down.
The mother kept giving him more food and more medication. She had come up with a logic process: if the appropriate dose is 1 tbsp every 4 hours, and he vomited after one hour, then he probably only got 1/4 of the medication into his system! So she gave him more and kept doing the math. She kept logs about it for days.
When he was in the hospital, they discovered she'd been handling food similarly - basically telling him to eat as much as he possibly could, because she was trying to make up for the fact that he'd eventually vomit some up again. Even though he'd been with her a short time, it was stuck in his head, and he would try to sneak food because mom had told him to always eat as much as he could.
They think that for her it was a complication of mental illness and a bad childhood where there wasn't always food, so you eat when you can. But they believed that under proper parentage, he would have been a happy, healthy boy. It was very sad. I hope that he's happy and healthy these days."