Doctors see insane medical anomalies on a daily basis. The strangest medical anomaly? Wildly underdramatic patients! From cardiac events to broken bones, these doctors share their craziest stories about underdramatic patients. Content has been edited for clarity.
“I Was Quite Overly Sensitive As A Child”
“I was raised as one of three daughters of two general practitioners. I am sure my parents were good doctors to other people, but when it came to their children, they tended to tell us, ‘You’ll be fine,’ and go about their day.
One time, my sister fell off of the balance beam and on her elbow during a gymnastics class, and my parents had no sympathy at all.
My parents told my sister, ‘It’s the weekend, and we don’t want to bother the doctors on the weekend shift.’
My sister lived with a pretty severe broken elbow for two or three days before my parents finally decided to take her to the hospital. They were shocked to find out her elbow was indeed broken.
Another time, when I was seven years old, I told my parents my left hip was hurting. I was quite overly sensitive as a child, so my parents put a hot water bottle on my hip and figured I would be okay. Shortly after, I got a fever, and it never went down. At a certain point, I could not move my leg at all anymore because my hip was in so much pain.
When my parents eventually took me to the hospital, they found out I had a severe infection in my hip joint and had sepsis. I spent the next two weeks in the hospital, and the following fourteen years harassing my parents.”
“Those Dang Cubs”
“I was a nurse, and I was called to the bedside for an eighty-year-old man who was having dips in his heart rate. His heart rate was extremely low, in the twenties and thirties, and the man was reportedly asymptomatic.
When I showed up to his room, he was just sitting there watching the Cubs game.
I introduced myself to the patient, and we talked while I took his hand and placed my index finger on his radial pulse. I turned to watch the game with him, and we started talking about baseball. It turned out we were both far from home, and we were both White Sox fans. Small world. It wasn’t too common to be a White Sox fan where we lived.
All of the sudden, the man’s pulse got slower and slower. I told another nurse to go grab the code cart in case we needed to transcutaneously pace and order an EKG.
I felt his pulse slow even more. After a few seconds, it completely stopped.
I waited for the next beat, but it never came.
Five or six seconds went by with no pulse, which felt like an eternity. The man began shaking and losing consciousness. Not knowing what else to do at the moment as he was still shaking, my neonatal training kicked in and I thought, ‘stimulate him.’
I applied capillary nail bed pressure as hard as I could and yelled the man’s name. His pulse came right back and he suddenly woke up as if nothing happened.
Upon waking up, the man emphatically said, ‘Those dang Cubs,’ and changed the channel.
It was insane.”
“I Figured It Could Have Been Much Worse”
“One time, I got my finger caught in a chain while working as an industrial mechanic. There were lacerations on the top and bottom of my finer, and x-rays showed my distal phalanges were broken into seven pieces.
I immediately applied pressure to my finger and held it tightly wrapped the entire way to the urgent care. The duty doctor at the urgent care immediately called for a hand specialist who asked if I did not receive a local anesthetic until he was able to examine the injury. The doctor had a calm demeanor and a good sense of humor. He scheduled surgery for three in the afternoon on the same day.
I never received local anesthetic before leaving the urgent care, and I assumed it was per the doctor’s order at urgent care.
When I arrived at the hospital for surgery, the doctor asked, ‘Is the area numbing up nicely?’
‘What?’, I questioned, ‘My finger isn’t numb at all. The hand specialist said I wasn’t supposed to get local anesthetic.’
The doctor was taken aback when I informed him of the hand specialist’s orders.
‘Do you have an aversion to the anesthetic, or did you just not want it?’ the doctor asked.
‘No, the doctors at urgent care never offered,’ I replied, ‘I didn’t want to cause a fuss and ask for it.’
The doctor promptly injected my finger with the anesthetic. My hand was then tourniquet, the wound debrided, and stitches were put in. While the doctor was stitching, we were making jokes back and forth. He was laughing so hard that he accidentally caught the webbing between my finger and thumb with the curved needle.
He and his assistant froze, and the only thing missing was the sound of a record scratch.
I broke the silence by saying, ‘How dumb is it to make the guy holding the sharp thing laugh while he is working,’ and laughed.
Beyond all expectations, I not only kept my fingertip, but my severed fingernail regrew. I still have some sensation in my fingertip, too. While I was in pain the entire time, I don’t like making a fuss. I figured it could have been much worse.”
“The Doctor Didn’t Believe Me”
“I was an underdramatic patient. I was twelve years old, and I had stomach cramps to the point of illness. I told my mom, and she became fairly concerned. She made an appointment with our general practitioner who immediately sent me to our local hospital.
We didn’t have a car, so my mom and I cycled for half an hour to get to the hospital. Our GP called ahead, so the hospital was waiting for me with a wheelchair, which I tried to refuse. The pain was in my stomach, there was nothing wrong with my legs and I could walk fine, thank you. The doctors weren’t buying it though, and I had to sit in a wheelchair.
During and after tests, I talked to the doctor who was helping me. He didn’t believe I cycled to the hospital until my mom confirmed it. He said he’d seen grown men twice my size come in with infection levels half of mine and be unable to move because of the pain.
The tests finally came back, and I had acute appendicitis. I had to have emergency surgery to remove the offending organ immediately. The same evening, I was asking whether I could go home yet or not, as I was very bored. The hospital released me two hours early the next day because I kept complaining.
The next day, I was back at school. Two days later, I was back to running and jumping without a care in the world.
A couple of weeks later, I had to go back for a final inspection and checkup.
The doctor said, ‘If you had waited even two more hours to come in, the infection likely would have been fatal. You are by far one of the toughest patients I have ever seen.’
Though, he might have been exaggerating, because I was just a little girl.
To this day, I don’t know how I wasn’t in very much pain.”
The Machete Man
“I once had a patient come to the trauma emergency room with an eighteen-inch machete blade firmly implanted across the top of his skull. He was driven to the hospital by a friend and walked into the emergency room by himself. The patient had normal vital signs in triage, a slight trickle of blood from the wound, and he denied any pain. He wasn’t in any apparent distress.
Due to a mass trauma event, the emergency room was insanely busy this night. It took us a while to get the patient into a bed. In the meantime, he calmly sat in the waiting area nearest to the triage station and watched television.
My co-workers and I were running around like crazy, phones ringing nonstop, and listened to patients complain about the wait time to be seen. Machete man just sat there exhibiting his true zen mastery of machete head wounds.
All these years later, I can still picture him with the machete lodged in his skull. He had an uncomplicated treatment course, and he suffered no impairment from the injury. The patient was cooperative and nice to all of his caregivers.
He also profusely thanked my co-workers and me for caring for him. He was probably one of the few patients who did this night.”
“I Was Too Stubborn To Leave”
“Growing up, I always had severe migraines. The migraines would mimic strokes and concussions, and they would cause seizures among other strange medical anomalies.
At the time of this incident, I was in high school and it was nearing the holiday season. My little sister was set to be in a holiday production for our local theatre. The play was a major production in our town, and three hundred to four hundred people would come to multiple showings. I knew I couldn’t miss the play.
During the play, there happened to be flashing lights combined with loud noises. I got a migraine, but I was too stubborn to leave. My aunt and father noticed something was very wrong once the lights in the theatre came back on and I wasn’t responsive. I had classic stroke symptoms like a droopy face and slurred speech. My family managed to get me into my father’s car so he could drive me to the emergency room.
Once we were at the emergency room, I couldn’t even talk, let alone walk on my own. My father was freaking out trying to get help from the hospital staff. Thankfully, a nice man outside and some doctors passing by stopped and helped him get me inside, but found there weren’t any chairs to set me in. Thankfully, the hospital staff found a cot and I was laid down as doctors and nurses looked me over.
As I was lying on the hospital bed, I began having a seizure. My father saw me, and he called for the nurses. The nurse’s eyes widened, and they ran with my bed screaming codes. To this day, I don’t remember this happening.
My father claims it was the scariest moment of his life. He said he’d never seen doctors move so fast, and nearly seven people were in my room within seconds with a crash cart next to me.
I didn’t regret going to my little sister’s play. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. However, I now know I need to be more cautious around loud noises and flashing lights.”
Movie Premiere Madness
“I broke my leg at my local cinema’s premiere of Harry Potter Deathly Hollows. There was a trivia competition in the theatre room and I won, so I rushed down the stairs like an idiot. I tripped and fell, injuring my leg.
My leg hurt pretty bad, but I didn’t react other than some slight groaning. I thought the injury was just a sprain. At the time, I was an accident-prone teenager who played sports, so I thought I was going to walk the injury off.
The cinema employees kept asking, ‘Are you okay? Your leg doesn’t look too good.’
I replied, ‘I promise, I’m fine. It doesn’t hurt as bad as you’d think.’
Well, the cinema employees didn’t believe me. They called an ambulance, and the EMTs thought they suspected a break in my leg.
‘You’re going to the emergency room,’ one of the EMTs explained as they wheeled me out to the ambulance.
A switch flipped in my head, and I started crying and blubbering all over the place. The EMTs were super nice, and they tried to assure me I would be getting pain medicine soon.
I stopped crying long enough to absolutely wail at full teenage girl volume, ‘I’m not crying because it hurts, I’m crying because I’m going to miss the movie!’
When I got to the hospital, I found out I fractured my tibia. I was still more upset about missing the movie than having a broken bone. If the cinema didn’t call the ambulance, I would have totally stayed.”
“He Was One Of The Toughest Patients I Had Ever Encountered”
“One time, I had a patient who tried extracting his tooth.
While attempting to extract the tooth, the patient pushed it up through an abscess and into his right maxillary sinus. To my surprise, the patient adamantly declined local anesthetic, no matter how much my staff pleaded with him.
Patient autonomy is a grey area in the United States. So, after receiving written consent from the patient to forgo anesthesia, I figured he would just have to learn the hard way.
Instead of performing a lateral window root tip retrieval, I took a surgical suction tip and removed all three fragments of the patient’s tooth through the alveolar ridge. I warned him several times beforehand about how the procedure is painful, but he wasn’t phased. The patient never flinched throughout the entire procedure.
I was able to complete the procedure, debride the infection, and graft the floor of the sinus with sutures without incident. Go figure.
He was one of the toughest patients I had ever encountered.”
“They Couldn’t Believe I Was Walking Still”
“I was an underdramatic patient. One time, I stepped down wrong on a stair and rolled my ankle. Or so I thought.
I was twenty-two years old and in good shape, so I figured after a few days my ankle would be fine. Apparently, I had a small break in the bone on the outside of my ankle and it was grinding together when I walked on it. It was uncomfortable, but I could walk, so I figured it was fine. I thought it was just a slow-healing sprain.
About a week or so later, I stepped down and all of a sudden, I heard a terrible crunching noise. The small break had continued to slowly worsen and the bone slid over, severing a tendon. The tendon rolled up into my calf, and the crunching sound was my bone grinding into a mess of a bad fracture.
Since this had been going on for weeks, I didn’t go to the hospital. Instead, I called and made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor for x-rays. I would never forget the technician’s face after she looked at the condition of my ankle. The doctor wouldn’t even do an x-ray, they just immediately scheduled me for surgery, Everyone in the office couldn’t believe I was still walking on the injury.
I thought it hurt less than the time I broke my toe, up until everything turned bad. I figured my ankle would eventually heal. Anyway, the surgeons had to reassemble my ankle, drill holes in my leg, and tie my tendon back into place. It was my right ankle, so I couldn’t drive for ages.
It was a total nightmare. Just always get x-rays after an injury, as you can never be too careful.”
“It Was Just A Crazy Night”
“My husband was a nurse. At the time, the hospital he worked at was severely understaffed.
About a month ago, he was working in the maternity ward. One of his patients was a fellow nurse he worked with who was about to give birth. At the same time, there were two other women in the ward about to give birth. My husband had to leave to help one of the other patients, as her baby was coming and there were complications.
Then, the other woman (not the nurse), began having her baby.
To my husband’s relief, someone else answered the call to the woman’s room, but he wasn’t sure who. My husband went back to the nurse patient’s room, and she wasn’t there. Then, he went to the other woman’s room. He found the pregnant nurse had delivered the woman’s baby, and she was now laying in the next bed about to give birth, too.
My husband must have been wearing a stupid look because the nurse looked at him and said, ‘What? You were busy,’
My husband then helped the nurse with her delivery. Overall, it was just a crazy night.”
“He Was Acting Totally Unphased”
“I was a paramedic in Germany. I once got a call about a man who was having a heart attack. My team drove out to the address, and we were greeted by a middle-aged gentleman with a patient’s chart and a suitcase.
Of course, one would have suspected a family member in the home was the patient with known heart problems.
I asked, ‘Where is the person having a heart attack? We need to get them out of here immediately.’
The man shook his head and said, ‘No, I’m the patient. I’m having a heart attack right now.’
His only symptom was a slight itch on the spine. My co-workers and I were understandably annoyed and didn’t believe the man, but we took him to the hospital anyway.
In the ambulance, I did an electrocardiogram on the man. Lo and behold, he was having a massive heart attack. If he didn’t call us out to his home, it likely would have been fatal. The man was acting totally unphased throughout the heart attack. He was joking around and telling stories the entire ride to the hospital.
I truly had never experienced anything like it before.”
“The Nurse Fainted On The Spot”
“A couple of years back, a co-worker I did construction work with accidentally hit himself in the lower abdomen with a powered nail tool. He had fluid leaking out from around the nail. When he took the nail out, even more fluid began coming out. We were pretty sure it was urine, so I took him to the emergency room.
At the emergency room, my co-worker very calmly held his finger over the wound.
He told a nurse, ‘I think I might have punctured my bladder or something.’
The nurse replied, ‘Puncturing your bladder isn’t very likely. Let’s go back and take a look.’
After their conversation, my co-worker removed his finger from the wound to show the nurse the leaking fluid. Once again, a solid stream of the liquid, most likely urine, came pouring out.
The nurse fainted on the spot.
The hospital had to do some minor surgery to close the hold. I would imagine my co-worker is someone’s underdramatic patient story.”
“It Still Makes Me Wonder”
“I once had a woman in her mid-seventies as a patient. She was generally healthy and was presented to the outpatient neurology clinic with an altered gait.
The patient was dragging her feet more than usual, and she felt like she was tripping while walking up the steps. The family described the tendency to repeat herself more often. The patient’s neurology examination was normal, other than a slightly odd dragging gait.
It honestly looked like she was faking the odd gait, but above-average amounts of liquid in areas surrounding the brain could give these types of symptoms. My team did a CT scan of the woman’s brain, and we found almost half of her brain was smushed to the other side of her head. The empty side of her head had filled up with water, and it had probably been growing for years.
The woman had no other symptoms, the only reason she came to the clinic was that her daughters were worried about her memory. She made a full recovery by draining the fluid, but it still makes me wonder how many people out there are walking around with half a smushed brain without knowing about it.”
“They Drove Themselves Down A Treacherous Canyon”
“I worked in a hospital situated outside of a small town. The underdramatic patients were always elderly individuals. About once a month, we would have an elderly person walk in and ask to be seen for symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, arm pain, and back pain.
These folks would drive themselves down a treacherous canyon from their little town to us. The hospital I worked at specialized in heart treatments, though they had a little hospital in the mountain town area. The drive was a little over an hour down a winding highway with a single narrow lane in each direction. The highway was surrounded by rock cliffs on one side, and a dizzying fall into a river on the other side.
Upon triage, the patient would be found to be having an active cardiac event, and we would ask them why they didn’t call emergency services.
The answer from the patient was always the same.
The patient would explain, ‘I can’t call an ambulance. I can’t afford it, and my insurance won’t cover it.’
Thinking about all of those patients still scares me, and it has been a decade since I have worked there.”
“I Was In Total Shock”
“I have seen my fair share of underdramatic patients. However, I met a patient who I would never forget when I did my OB/GYN rotation when I was in medical school.
The patient was a stoic woman, and she went into labor while she was at work earlier in the afternoon. She never called her husband to tell him the news.
So there she was, about to start pushing, and her husband called her.
She answered the phone and told her husband, ‘I’m having the baby.’
There was some pause, and the husband told her something.
The woman replied, ‘No, you don’t need to come here. You stay at home with our other child. I’ll be home tomorrow.’
Then she hung up and pushed out the baby. I was in total shock.”