Medicine is a noble profession, but it is also hard. Ask any doctor and—once you get through the pablum about healing the sick and bettering humanity and a higher moral purpose and all that—they’ll tell you: Patients come in with some weird complaints, and you’re expected to have a fix for them.
You can chalk some of these stories up to good, old-fashioned ignorance. Others are verifiable medical abnormalities. Some are bad luck. But they’ll all make you think twice about applying to medical school. You were planning on applying to medical school, right?
Just read this stuff first.
Call this one “The Case of the Phantom Foot Wounds.”
Velimir Petkov, DPM, is an experienced, board-certified podiatrist with a New Jersey practice. Now, you wouldn’t think a foot doctor would see that many strange cases, but this one had the doc stumped.
“One time, we had a patient call us crying over the phone and saying that she had multiple large wounds all over her feet,” Petkov tells HealthyWay. “According to her, she got them practically overnight and had no idea how it had happened.”
“I asked her to text us a picture, which she did, and they looked really bad. So we scheduled her for an emergency visit. I was expecting to have to take her to the local wound care center. What stood out to me over the phone [is that] the patient stated that she felt no pain. Zero discomfort whatsoever.”
“Now that was odd. When you have multiple wounds all over your feet, and especially at your soles, you would typically be in a lot of pain (unless you are diabetic and have no sensation in your feet, which can be very dangerous).”
“Once the patient arrived in our office, I took one look at her feet and asked her: ‘Okay. Who did this?’”
“I thought that she was trying to pull some sort of prank on me. But she looked puzzled. It was evident to me that someone had drawn these really realistic-looking wounds all over her feet.”
Who would do such a thing? And why? As it turned out, Hollywood magic isn’t just for the movies. Apparently.
“After a short discussion, it turned out that the patient’s son was studying at NYU to be a film makeup artist,” Petkov continues. “He had access to high-end professional special effects kits and makeup.”
“Apparently, he had decided to apply some of it to his mom’s feet while she was sleeping. He had already taken a few classes and did a remarkable job. The woman had no idea and had woken up freaking out. The wounds looked that realistic.”
“The patient was not amused by her son’s decision to use her as a canvas. But it’s safe to say that he has a career in special effects makeup.”
So…happy ending, then?
Always read the directions on your medication packaging.
We’ll keep going with a shocking little tale from a Reddit user, who says they’re a pharmacist.
“A woman came in complaining her asthma reliever inhaler wasn’t working properly,” wrote Reddit user ILookLikeADeer. “I talked to this woman for a bit (usual questions like if she took other medicines, etc.), and I couldn’t understand why her inhaler had suddenly stopped working until she said, ‘It just hasn’t been helping me since we had work done on our house.’”
“My immediate thought was that the construction was causing her to inhale dust and make her asthma worse, but she said it wasn’t the dust, it was because her bathroom ‘is now built bigger, [and] there’s too much space.’”
“I was completely confused. She proceeds to tell me that now [that] her bathroom is bigger, she’s going through inhalers much faster because she has to use them more. Then I had a lightbulb moment.”
“I asked her to show me how she normally used her inhaler. She took it out of her bag, uncapped it, and sprayed it all around her like an air freshener.”
“Turns out she thought you had to spray it in your bathroom and stand in there inhaling it for a while. [The] lady was super embarrassed when I told her what was wrong. It took a lot of willpower to talk to her with a straight face.”
And that, folks, is why we ask for directions before taking our medications home.
Sometimes it actually is worth it to Google your “health problem.”
You can read the directions on your medication all you want, but one thing doesn’t come with instructions: The human body itself.
A Reddit user who self-describes as an “ER doc” reported an experience of treating a young man who didn’t seem to spend a lot of time looking in the mirror.
“I once had a 20 year old and his girlfriend come in at 2 a.m. freaking out because ‘something had torn his throat open,’” wrote Hathathn. “He seemed fine. No blood. Breathing fine. I had him open his mouth, [and I] saw nothing.”
“So [I] didn’t want him to lose confidence in me. Clearly something had happened, so I’m looking and looking. There is nothing wrong with this kid’s throat. Finally I say, ‘Look, it seems okay. What do you feel or see?’”
“‘I don’t feel it, but look, it’s right there!’”
“[I’m] looking [and] looking. It was his uvula. Somehow this kid had gotten to the age of 20 without ever noticing his uvula.”
“[His] girlfriend was also horrified. I told them it was normal. [They] did not believe me. So I told them I was about to blow their minds and showed him his girlfriend’s uvula. Minds blown. Another life saved in the ER.”
See? Doctors are heroes.
Speaking of heroes, this U.S. Marine was a bit too tough for his own good.
Is it safe to assume that a Reddit user who uses the handle “DocMichaels” is actually a medical professional? Probably not. On the other hand, who but a doctor—and a military doctor at that—would have a story like this to tell?
“Had a Marine once who came to me complaining of a rash to his right forearm for two weeks,” wrote DocMichaels. “This was his first visit for the issue, and [he] hadn’t had anything like this before and was worried, since he reported worsening symptoms since initial onset.”
“When asking about prior skin issues, he told me he had ringworm just prior to this rash. [When I looked] 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.”
“[When I asked] the young Lance Corporal how he got that, he replied, ‘Well that’s the burn I got from the bleach I poured on my arm.’ When I asked him why he poured bleach on his arm, [he said], ‘Well, how else was I going to kill the ringworm?’”
Ringworm can be removed with bleach—but not from your skin, silly, from your carpet. And even then, it should be diluted, according to the University of Illinois. Keep bleach away from your skin, soldiers.
Apologies for the nightmares.
We tried not to include this next story. We really did. We wanted to disqualify it on the grounds that it’s the Redditor’s mother who’s the medical professional. But it’s our responsibility to spread the word: Cockroaches sometimes do climb into human ears. Apparently this happens enough that it’s no surprise to the emergency room staff.
“My mom is a pediatric intensivist and she hears stories from the [emergency room] all the time,” wrote Reddit user pelicash. “Apparently it isn’t all that uncommon for people to come in with cockroaches in their ear. They typically describe it as an angry butterfly in their ear. To them it isn’t that weird, but I thought it was.”
We’re with you on this one, pelicash. Yes, we think that’s weird. Also, is it any less horrifying to imagine an “angry butterfly” in your ear than a cockroach?
Anyway, according to reporting by The Verge, our earwax actually smells really good to cockroaches. They also love warm, tight, moist places. And they’re active at night, when the rest of us are sleeping. All of this adds up to a perfect storm of ear invasion.
Still, the experts tell us not to lose any sleep over the phenomenon (yeah, right). Entomologist Joe Ballenger told The Verge that a roach in the ear is “one of those things that’s a little bit of a freak accident. It’s not common enough for people to worry about.”
If you say so.
We make sacrifices for beauty.
Here’s a lady who got so attached to her cosmetic life that she lost the line between self and object. Either that, or she’s just really, really forgetful.
“I worked at the ER during my internship and met a girl who had increasingly painful and red eyes since a couple of days back,” wrote Reddit user fracturedfigment. “The last 24 hours had been horrible [for her].”
“I asked about all the normal stuff, and she claimed to have no idea why she had this eye problem. She had never had anything wrong with her eyes. I proceed to drop some dye in her eyes to check them in a microscope, and when I do, I realize she’s wearing contacts.”
“She didn’t like her natural eye colour, so she had bought a set of blue colored lenses eight months earlier. [She] 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.”
“Needless to say, I gave her quite the harsh lecture and a referral to an ophthalmologist.”
A little broken bone doesn’t have to totally throw you off your game.
Ah, football season: That magical time of year when young players and emergency room staff get to know each other very, very well—according to this story, though, not well enough for one guy.
“Football season had just started, which meant we would be getting a lot of players into the ER for the next couple of months,” wrote Reddit user SophieTroph. “One night, an 18-year-old male comes in by ambulance with an open fracture in his tibia.”
“We only had him in the main ER for about 15 minutes before he went up, but he sure was a talker. I went in there to get some information from him so we could admit him, and this is where it got funny. He was on a lot of pain medication—the good stuff.”
“I walked in ([I’m a] 25-year-old female) and he immediately stopped talking and just stared at me. He then asked me what I was doing later after work. Meanwhile, his dad is laughing hysterically and his mother was yelling at him to be quiet.”
“Then he asked me if I would want to rent a Redbox movie and watch it later at his house because his parents go to bed early and we could have the couch all to ourselves. His dad could not stop laughing and his mom looked madder than heck. All in all, [the] guy has a broken bone sticking out of his leg, and he is still trying to hit on a girl.”
You can’t say he didn’t try. We’re guessing that he and SophieTroph never did get around to watching that Redbox movie, though.
Don’t forget to go to the doctor in the first place.
Reading all this, you might be less likely to report to the emergency room. What if your complaint isn’t worth the trip to the doc? Or what if you brought it on yourself somehow? You don’t want to end up in one of these online reports about wacky patients.
On the other hand, if something’s not right, it’s way better to get it checked out than to try to handle things on your own. That’s the lesson we learn from the following story, which we’ll leave you with in the hopes of undoing any influence against doctor visits from earlier tales:
“Surgical resident here,” wrote TheDoctorOfLove. “While I was on the cardiothoracic service, there 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 first floor window.”
“He proceeds to laugh, get back in his car with his buddies, and drive home, despite the rather profuse bleeding from his chest. He drives home for some period of time and then eventually decides he should go to the hospital.”
“[He] drives by himself to the hospital. [The] last thing he remembers was being on the way to the hospital. [The] lucky bastard was found in the parking lot, [where he] had passed out in his car. [He] eventually made it to the operating room and walked away just fine.”
Yep, sword wounds are definitely worth a visit to the emergency room.
So, about you going to medical school.