Most doctors have plenty of stories that can make you laugh or cry, shudder in horror or sigh with relief. So when we asked doctors and other healthcare workers on Reddit to share their craziest story of someone faking it, they did not disappoint.
Comments have been edited for clarity. The source can be found the end of the article.
We had a lady come in hysterical after a car accident. At first, we were convinced she had a complete spinal cord injury at the mid thoracic level. (We checked her reflexes, rectal tone, pinprick in the feet, etc.) We got a CT scan.
We had no explanation as to why she seemed to be paralyzed from the chest down. Then she sat right up and vomited. And then immediately went limp again. We admitted her. Within a day she had fully recovered.
I believe she was subconsciously terrified of being paralyzed and so her mind invented it. I don’t believe she was intentionally faking it. After awhile, it just faded away and she was normal again. One of the weirdest things I’ve ever witnessed firsthand.
Saw a guy fake a stroke convincingly enough that he got a very powerful clot-busting medication to try and reverse the effects of the stroke. His story only fell apart when he got a little cocky and started describing some visual symptoms that werent consistent with his other symptoms. Repeat imaging revealed his secret. I thought the neurologist was gonna murder that guy. Instead we just discharged him back to jail.
Had a patient about 2 years ago. Woman in her late 40s, had a good job, kids in university, divorced. She had insane uncontrollable asthma. No matter what we prescribed, she was having attacks, even wound up in ITU a few times. Went through everything we could think of with the team. Started doing really niche research. Brought her into the hospital as an in-patient to run more tests, etc.
The plan was to see her body’s reaction to a steroid. We would take a blood sample before, give the medicine, take another sample, give her more, take another sample, etc.
The first tests showed NO reaction to the steroid. It’s something we haven’t seen before, nothing in the literature….
Then I see her throwing her garbage away into a large, communal garbage. Odd, nurses + healthcare support workers + ward cleaners are quite good with this. I don’t know why I go to investigate, but I do.
Saw a tiny puddle of pink liquid at the bottom of her trash. Her steroids. She was drinking it in front of the nurses, then spitting it out into another solid (as in, not see-through) cup, and throwing that cup away.
I know it sounds obvious, but this woman was super normal and educated and just not someone who I pegged to be literally making herself unwell for attention. And by unwell, I mean to the point of putting her life at risk. Then I realized her kid took a semester off school to come home and look after her because she had such severe asthma attacks so often.
Not a doctor, but I worked as an Emergency Room secretary while I was finishing school. There were a few crazy ones, some people would come regularly looking for pain killers (or attention) and make a huge scene every time.
One guy in particular was actually someone I knew outside of work. It was the first time I had seen him there, but I knew he had had a few surgeries in the past, and that he had a lot of quirks.
Dude comes in with his wife in the odd hours of the night, really worked up, saying his shoulder was dislocated and having painful muscle spasms.
Goes back, doc checks him out, says he doesn’t have a dislocated shoulder, dude insists, doc takes an x-ray at his request, no dislocation, and my man loses his mind.
Starts screaming at the doctor that he is insinuating he is a liar in front of his wife. Doctor keeps it cool, tells him he’s not calling him a liar, just telling him his shoulder isn’t separated, and that he can give him IV acetaminophen if the pain is really bothering him. Dude asks if he can have dilaudid pills instead so he can just go home and go to bed. Doc says no, dude loses his mind again, screaming that he is going to sue to hospital and get the doc’s license revoked. Doc just says OK and tells him they are finished. Haven’t seen the guy since, but we are Facebook friends.
We had a young guy come in with severe lower leg pain and a red area the size of your palm over his shin. We start treatment for cellulitis as his story sounds like that, but over the course of four days it doesn’t get better or worse, despite very normal blood tests and no fevers. On the fourth day one of the nurses hears a banging noise coming from the toilets, and sees the patient walk out with a metal water bottle. We confront him and he confesses to hitting his leg repeatedly so he could get time off work and pain meds. We discharged him on the spot and gave him a very stern talking to about wasting resources and lying and drug seeking.
Lady was in a minor rear-end collision and claimed that she was unable to see ever since the accident. Not just claiming that her vision was blurry, she was claiming no light perception. Safe to say we were a little suspicious based on the mechanism and initial imaging. Called neuro-ophthalmology in to prove she was full of it. You cant just say, Patient full of crap in a medical record unless theyre there for constipation, but ophthalmology was able to write a beautiful note that said just that, without directly saying it.
My professor was a Paramedic for many years, and people fake a lot of illnesses. Sometimes for drugs and sometimes for attention.
It turns out, its really hard to act like youre unconscious, there is a lot of ways to tell. For example, unless they have practiced, they wont hit themselves. So if you hold their hand above their face and let go, they will move their hand out of the way of their face.
So, many years ago my professor arrived on a scene where someone hada seizure and was unconscious in a busy market.
He goes and checks the patient and he had good breathing and circulation. My professor was suspicious about the situation because of his years of experience. He lifts his hand and drops it. Sure enough, his hand misses his face and lands above his head. At this point, my professor knows hes not really unconscious.
My professor leans down and whispers in his ear, We can do this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is we will put you on oxygen and you will wake up, he hard way is we will do CPR and put 3,000 volts of electricity through your heart and it will hurt and you will wake up.
Simple to say, he woke up with oxygen and walked it off. A miracle!
This brings up memories of an old roommate. She told everyone that she had MS (multiple sclerosis) but took special therapy pills to make it go away. She had her pill bottle out and I asked her why it said Claritin on it. She said she wanted to be discreet and not call attention to herself when she had to take them during the day. I went and got my bottle of Claritin and asked her why the pills looked exactly the same. She said thats how all pills look. I told her she needs to stop lying to people, so later that day when people were over, she fell on the ground and started twitching, then glared at me and said I told you I have MS! Absolutely delusional.
My favorite story from one of these threads said that this lady came in looking for painkillers, saying she was having seizures. The doctor essentially said “you’re fine, you’re not having any seizures, go home.”
This lady flops on the ground and starts writhing around, pretending to have a seizure, before she eventually stops, going “unconscious.” The doctor says to the nurse in the room, “She’s not actually having a seizure, if she were she would have lost control of her bladder.” Right on cue… the lady wets herself.
Happened at the beginning of my 3rd year of medical school, not absurd, just stupid and funny.
Hospital was in a rough city with a huge narcotic problem and also a lot of sickle cell patients, the ED staff and hematologists were pretty familiar with their sickle cell patients so when a new person came in with no prior history at the hospital the doctors took note of it, rare to have your first sickle cell crisis at 30 years old.
Anyway, dude in his 30s came in describing symptoms kind of in line with a crisis episode, back pain, sore hands, but his timeline and history were kind of inconsistent and he kept abruptly changing which thing hurt the most, didn’t seem natural, and neither the ED nor the hematologists recognized him. Also, he was really evasive with where he normally got his care and didn’t seem to know anything about regular management of the condition. Stepped out of the room and peeked back through the curtain and dude sits up, starts texting his buddy, stretching, fixing his shoe, etc. No sign of pain at all.
“I’m allergic to tylenol, asprin, motrin, and morphine makes me itch and doesn’t do anything for my pain. I can’t quite remember the name of the last medication they used, it was the only thing that worked. Started with a “D” and I think it rhymed with bilaudid.”
Like, get the heck out of my emergency department, there’s actual sick people who need this bed.
“We’re gonna draw some labs and confirm the diagnosis because you haven’t been here before.” Nurse draws the labs, we leave and get a call 10 minutes later that the patient eloped from the hospital before the labs came back and before he received any medication.
He didn’t have sickle cell.
Not a doctor, but a dentist. Had a patient think I would prescribe her oxycodone for really sensitive teeth. She even pretended to spit out the water in the dental cup and said she was in so much pain and couldn’t drink or eat. I gave her advice on sensitivity and treatment alternatives, but she got angry when I said I don’t believe her (not the sensitivity part, but the part she needed strong painkillers to get through the day). I finally told her I might not be qualified enough to diagnose her issue, so I’d happily write a referral to an expensive neural pain management specialist. She quickly declined and was on her way.
My mom as a nurse would have to deal with people faking seizures all the time (people looking for a fix). They would call the doctor to, “Quick! Get the normalsaline!” Normal – Saline is just salt water that does nothing to you, but people would immediately stop “seizing” after getting it.
I had a patient once claim that we “fractured her tibial plateau” during a routine gallbladder removal.
She literally just called my office a day or so after the operation and told my nurse that. “You guys fractured my tibial plateau during the surgery.”
I called her right back, concerned that (while I knew nothing had happened to her leg in the OR) maybe something had happened after she left the hospital, like falling at home or something. And really all she would say is that her shin kinda hurt.
She didn’t even sound upset–it wasn’t like she was claiming this and then going, “And IMMA CALL MY LAWYER.” She was pretty much nonchalant about it.
I tried to have her come in and get x-rays, or even an exam, and asked her things like, “is your leg swollen, bruised? Is there a wound? Can you walk on it? Is it jutting out at a weird angle with bare bloody bone sticking out? Anything?”
Yeah, no, her shin just kinda hurt a little. But clearly a fractured tibial plateau. Wouldn’t come in. Didn’t go to the ED, her PCP’s office, or anything else. She came to her post op appointment about two weeks later walking under her own steam, nary a limp, and basically acted like the whole episode had never happened.
I still have absolutely no idea.
Im an Obstetrician and have had numerous women come to Labor and Delivery, sometimes by ambulance, huffing and puffing all the while screaming “I have to push” but they are NOT pregnant. This is a severe mental disorder called pseudociesis.
In high school I had to go to a suspension center for bad kids for a few weeks. The instructor once freaked out at a kid about opening a Sprite at lunch. Apparently she was allergic to lemons. She then made a point to let every new student know that she was allergic (many students came and went). One day a kid in the class brought a fake plastic lemon, went to the bathroom and rolled it in front of her on his way out. She proceeded to flop on the ground convulsing and “choking” until someone picked it up and said it’s a fake.
Not a doctor (I knooooooooow, I know), but when I was being monitored in the mother/baby unit of a hospital, my roommate was completely insane.
Her husband was deployed (and had JUST left. Like…that week) and she wanted him back home so she faked being in labor. She kept dumping water on herself and trying to convince the nurses that her water was breaking. When they’d tell her nothing was happening, she’d pretend like she couldn’t speak English.
A week later I was still in the hospital and the nurses were still joking about her.
Ive had patients try to pull weird shenanigans.
I had a young lady once show up in the unit as a transfer telling me she was fine, but that in a few hours her pancreatitis was going to flare up. She very politely asked me to please have IV dilaudid, phenergan, and Benadryl ready to be given all at the same time. It was the middle of the night and I didnt want to argue, so I told her the daytime faculty would be making that decision.
The next night she was going nuts about not getting any pain medication. At one point I got called in because she was apparently having a seizure. I went to examine her and she had some major hip-action thrusting going on. I just stood at the bedside while she looked directly at me throughout her circus act. Soon enough she stopped and I asked what was that about? To which she quickly replied I just had a seizure. She then started spitting out the corner of her mouth to try & make herself look like she was foaming or something.
I told her I was glad it was over and hoped it didnt happen again.
Im not a physician but a nurse. My favorite faker was a patient who came in exhibiting stroke symptoms perfectly. Looking back it was an amazing acting job. Received tPA coming though the door, and came to my floor. I knew something was up because when I went to draw blood his flaccid arm suddenly came alive. But you know with our current medical industry the customer is always right (lest you face lawsuits). When our neurologist told him to stop screwing around and we werent going to let him stay at the hospital for free, his paralysis instantly disappeared and he walked out the front door.
I saw this patient who had electrodes implanted into his brain for deep brain simulation (DBS) to treat his severe Parkinson’s. For those who don’t know, when you turn them on the motor symptom’s pretty much disappear. This patient was screened by several doctors to undergo this surgery. One time, when demonstrating the effect of DBS on this PD patient’s brain the resident forgot to turn them back on when they asked the patient to demonstrate the resolution of symptoms. The patient instantly lost his tremor and was able to walk normally.
This patient was so convincing that he tricked panels of doctors and for what? He didn’t need the surgery. Now he’s stuck with a huge bill and metal in his brain.
Guy from jail comes in all the time for a GI bleed. Admitted him to my service at least twice myself. His first visit he was admitted for 5 weeks because a source of the bleed couldnt be found despite undergoing multiple endoscopies, capsule endoscopy, colonoscopy, and a tagged red blood cell study. Strange thing was his hemoglobin kept dropping requiring multiple transfusions. He finally gets discharged. Comes back a couple of times for more occult bleeds. Finally someone catches the dude sucking blood out of his arm via his IV line.
Nurse here. We get a lot of people who really like being in hospital and will do anything to stay in (it’s the UK so all for free).
I used to work in an elderly care ward which sometimes admitted younger patients. We had a 40-ish year old woman who insisted she couldn’t go home because of her persistent vomiting. It took about 24 hours for us nurses to figure out her ‘vomit’ was juice poured into a sick bowl with a large amount of spit in it. It took the doctors a lot longer.