Lifehack #1: never self-diagnose. But in the case that you've been diagnosed or are in need of a home remedy, take it from the authors of the following stories...don't do-it-yourself!
(Content has been edited for clarity).
‘Not For Internal Use’
“When I was in medical school on my family medicine rotation I was sent in to see a middle-aged woman with complaints of sinus congestion. Sure enough, from the beginning, I could tell she was really stopped up with her nasally voice and my history and exam were consistent with her run of the mill viral upper respiratory infection. I began educating her on symptomatic management and the following exchange ensues:
Patient: ‘Do you think it might be the flu?’
Me: ‘It’s possible but unlikely; it’s really out of the typical season (it was June)’
Patient: ‘Yeah, I guess I wasn’t sure it was; I’ve been spraying Lysol everywhere and it doesn’t seem to be doing any good, and it says it kills the flu virus.’
Me: ‘Well, that’s something that could help disinfect the house and keep the virus from spreading.’
Patient: ‘I guess, I just wish it didn’t burn so much.’
Me: ‘…what do you mean, it burns?’
Patient: ‘You know, when I spray it in my nose it burns so bad.’
Yep. My patient thought that since Lysol kills influenza the best way to nip it in the bud was to flush her sinuses with it like a saline spray. It did not work, for the record. The fact that I didn’t immediately fall over laughing and instead seriously counseled her against ever doing that again is still the greatest feat of composure in my entire career.
When the label on Lysol says, ‘not for internal use’, they mean it.”
Dark Chunks Of Fungus
“I had a patient come into the ER with a makeshift bandage on his shin. He had fallen on rocks while hiking and left a three inch long, half inch deep gash in his leg. I went to pull the bandage off and as I was peeling it away I noticed the skin was completely black and there were dark chunks of fungus falling out of the wound. It looked necrotic, almost like it had been left alone for a week. I looked at this guy like he was crazy as he told me the wound was only a few hours old. He was pretty proud as he explained that he created a makeshift poultice by chewing up leaves and moss, mixing it with river mud and stuffing it into his leg. That’s what all the black mossy stuff was.
My hint to you, don’t do this.”
‘Put Them Back In The Sack’
“My mom had a gentleman walk himself into the erectile dysfunction one day after he tried to give himself a vasectomy with an animal neutering kit he bought on the internet. When she asked him why he told her that his wife wanted to have a sixth kid and it was too expensive to pay a doctor to do it. So he thought, how hard could it be to ‘do-it-yourself’.
I feel I should share, he tried to cut his two fellows out essentially. And yes, they did indeed put them back in the sack and he could still make babies. I now know that it’s relatively cheap to get a vasectomy, which makes this guy even dumber. I also now know there’s more than one way to neuter an animal.”
Brushing Your Teeth Is Not An Option
“I’m a dental student.
We had a patient who declined a much-needed cleaning saying he could do it just as well at home with a scalpel. He didn’t brush his teeth but every few weeks he would go at the accumulated plaque and tartar with a scalpel.
The same patient also insisted we do a procedure without local anesthetic. He was an amateur boxer and was ‘building up his pain tolerance’.
He also told us he smoked 20 blunts a day and only drank coke. We could tell.”
‘Keep The Oils Away’
“Parents sneaking essential oils onto their premature babies’ skin! They have central lines, these oils can wick onto the line and damage the line, cause infection, or interfere with medications. Infections in premies can mean death within hours. Premies have incomplete skin with much faster absorption rates than fully developed adult skin. These oils can cause burns and damage their insides. Your pyramid scheme company is not a reliable source for neonatology treatments. Please, dear God, keep oils off of any baby, but especially premies.”
The End Is Near
“I worked in pediatrics for a few years and we had this one family come in with a kid who was burned by one of those microwave ramen soups. They put duct tape on the now blistered skin to keep it from popping in the car.
I honestly don’t remember what our providers did but the kid ended up going to the hospital since the burns were on his arms, belly and inner thighs. The duct tape was on his wrist and forearm which was from what I can remember the smallest part of the burned areas but still, he was extremely tough considering I’ve spilled that ramen water on my foot before and basically accepted death.”
Those Pesky Spasms
“My grandpa thought a ‘leg discrepancy was causing my back pain, which was causing spasms’. He put several pieces of cardboard in my shoes to try to even out my legs which were already even.
He also thinks black beans cure everything.
My dad thought those pesky spasms were a pinched nerve, so he would take me to the chiropractor (his girlfriend) to get my neck cracked when it happened.
Seizures, people. They were seizures.”
Remove The Heart From His Junk
“One time, when I was in nursing school, I was doing ER clinical and a guy came in with ‘penile pain.’ Long story short, several days prior, he decided he wanted a penile texture implant to help enhance pleasure during intercourse for his lady friend. He and his buddy had one too many drinks (of course) and decided to do it themselves. So they went in his garage and took a box cutter to slice open the skin on the dorsal (top) side of his junk, made some room between the skin and underlying muscle, and put a small porcelain heart underneath. Then he superglued it shut. To make matters worse, the guy didn’t wait for it to heal and decided to take it for a test run.
He ended up with a major infection and presented several days later. I, unfortunately, don’t know the outcome, I was just there for the porcelain heart extraction. I couldn’t make this stuff up. I’ve now worked in a surgical/trauma ICU as a registered nurse for two years, and people never cease to amaze me. “
Plan B Gone Wrong
“I remember I was rolling in stomach pain and went to the doctor because my mom could not stop giving me chamomile tea all the time instead of actual medicine. It was not my stomach, I went directly to ER since one of my ovaries was full of cysts and some of them exploded.
I took the Plan B pill and according to the doctor, those cysts were caused by the pill. I don’t know what to think about that…
This year it was my second time taking this pill. My body recognized the medication and did not have another reaction than my period coming 3 days before the estimated date. From now on since I am childfree I will save money in order to go to a clinic and have spay or neuter surgery.”
“Sugar can be used to help heal certain types of wounds. A patient I saw had missed an appointment with part of their care team where they get their bandage changed. I noticed what appeared to be oozing around the edges of the bandage. I asked my patient about it, offered to change it for them (we didn’t typically do that in our clinic) and they said yes. I go get fresh bandages and what not, take the old one off and it’s just sticky and stringy (picture the slo-mo shots of caramel being pulled apart) and it smelled.
To be fair, most wounds smell, but this was different. I finally asked them what they used to change their bandage since I knew it wasn’t discharged. Maple syrup…they used maple syrup. I’m not sure if they used pure maple syrup but they said it was the ‘good stuff in a glass jar’ so who knows. Either way, it wasn’t sterile and this wasn’t a simple wound.
Can’t disclose more because of The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (the thing that doesn’t seem to exist on shows like Grey’s Anatomy).
Honey (certain varieties) can be used with wound healing so it’s possible they confused it with this but I don’t believe that’s what happened here. There is medical grade honey and studies show that it and medical grade sugar can actually be better for some wounds than antibiotics.
Sugar dressings can be used on various types of wounds, but it’s not just pouring some table sugar on it so don’t go trying this at home folks.
Honey dressings typically are less painful to administer than sugar because of the lack of crystallization. But that also means the sugar is better at cleansing. Your wound care specialist can determine which is the better route.”
“I’m still a student (audiology), but I had a very elderly patient come in with broken hearing aids. He said they were dirty so he washed them in the sink with soap and water.
Protip: Hearing aids are not waterproof. Yes, he was warned of this when he first got the hearing aids.
Thankfully he was still under warranty with the company and they were kind enough to let him slide on this one, otherwise, that would’ve been approximately $4500 down the drain.
We instruct patients on hearing aid use when they have the aids in and turned on for the first time. For some, especially older folks, it can be a bit of a change so we don’t expect them to remember everything. We include a handy little booklet that has all the information he could want, including cleaning information. This patient apparently just didn’t read it.”
Roots Like A Potato
“Background information for those who don’t know: a pessary is a device that women (usually older) can use to place inside their private and help support it. Sometimes with age and history of many childbirths, the ligaments that support the walls of the private within the body can become loose leading to prolapse (meaning it starts to fall down into itself like a telescope). The pessary acts to hold it up and keep this from happening.
Anyway, I’m an otolaryngologist but my buddy told me the story of an experience in the ER where a lady came in with the chief complaint of roots coming from down below. It turns out she had lost her pessary and decided to use a potato. It stayed in there for so long that it started to sprout.
This story made me ever so happy with my career decision to choose the opposite end of the body.”
Sort Of Like Erectile Dysfunction
“I’m a doctor but didn’t see this first hand, unfortunately. However, my friend in the emergency department saw a young 17-year-old boy that came in with ‘personal’ trauma and mild blood loss. She triaged him, taking him to a room with his parents and asked what he’d come in with. His mom turned around and said, ‘go on, tell the lady what you did’. He then proceeded to tell her that he tried to circumcise himself with scissors for religious reasons as he hadn’t been circumcised when he was younger but had to stop halfway due to pain. Eventually, the shame had grown enough that he had to tell his parents who immediately took him to ED.
Some antibiotics and a revision by urology later and he was able to be sent home. Revision surgery means they completed the job – his mom was Jewish; his dad was not If I recall. He was brought up secularly but wanted to take up his mom’s religion.
Another one I know slightly unrelated was an older man that came in with ‘penile swelling.’ He’d used an elastic band as a makeshift pleasure ring but neglected to take it off (I have no idea why (he was a little odd, to say the least). A week goes by and his junk started to look literally like an eggplant. He then came into the surgical assessment unit and was booked for surgery the next day, after we eventually picked our jaws off of the floor. He had literally killed all of the tissue in his private to the point it was almost falling off. One full penectomy later and he now only sits to pee.
I’m not sure how he tolerated the first day, it must have hurt so much before the tissue died.”
Through The Wire
“I had a young teenager with sickle cell disease who had been in the hospital for around a week already who decided to ‘manage’ his pain himself. This was a few years ago, but I caught him pretending to take his medicine, he would move his head back and gesture that the pill went into his mouth but really he either kept it in his hand or threw the pill behind his back and landed somewhere in his bed. He was also quite a talker, which I then assumed was a tactic to try and distract me. I kept seeing his odd behavior and caught him doing this 2 or 3 times by the middle of the shift so I was definitely onto him.
He had a peripherally inserted central catheter line (which is essentially a ‘long’ IV where the tubing goes all the way to your heart) in his left arm, and I noticed that it was quite a bit more swollen compared to his other arm. Sometimes clots can happen in PICC lines, so that was my biggest concern at first, but the line was drawing blood fine so I know it wasn’t clotted off. I told the doctor, then I drew blood from his PICC line and sent it down to the lab for it to be cultured to see if there were any bacteria. Low and behold, it came back positive for a bacteria that is commonly found in tap water (and usually not a source of infection in infected PICC lines). Fast forward a few hours later he confessed that with any medication (pill form) he can slip by the nurses, he saved for later in order to crush them up himself, try to dissolve it with sink water in the bathroom (every room had a private bathroom), and inject it in himself via his PICC line.”
Home Of A Bird
“When I was an Internal Medicine resident I came across a very nice 50-year-old Dominican lady, she was well mannered but one could tell she was not the sharpest tool in the shed. As I was prepping her chart for our first visit, I noticed that she’d been seen by every single digestive disease MD in our hospital system. Not only that, she’d had EVERY SINGLE PROCEDURE IN THE BOOK. Ranging from endoscopies up both holes and culminating in an exploratory laparotomy (you’re opened up to basically look inside you when we have no clue what’s going on). All of this because for years she had one single complaint, she reported severe gnawing pain in her stomach. At this point, I should mention that she was Spanish speaking only. Not only that she had a very heavy Dominican accent, and I was the first Hispanic doctor to ever see her. My first language is Spanish and even I had difficulty understanding her.
So this lady came in and after exchanging some first-time pleasantries and I politely asked her how she was doing. Sure enough, although she was smiling and said she felt well she pointed at her belly and said ‘it’ was biting again, and asked for the cream to kill ‘it’. At this point, I got intrigued. Her medication list only mentioned a cream used for herpes breakthroughs. The previous fellow only mentioned in his note that in every single visit she only asked for the cream and nothing else. When I asked what she meant by the biting and what she intended to do with the cream, she very calmly told me she intended to stick the cream up her bottom in order to kill the bird living inside her. After delving more deeply into her story, it turns out she didn’t have a medical condition.
Ever since she was a little girl, she believed that after eating whole quail egg, the bird had spawned inside her and gnawed away in her insides whenever she was very hungry. After a short visit to psych, she was diagnosed with a somatic type delusional disorder. No amount of medication or psychotherapy would cure her, but she was still a fully functional mother of 2 who paid her taxes and had two part-time jobs. I reached out to every digestive disease doctor in our hospital system once more, to make sure she never received an inappropriate invasive intervention. I’ve been following her now for three years and she’s happy as one can be, considering she has a bird living inside her.”