Here, grateful people share their most incredible medical recovery stories.
1. Never stop pushing.
I crushed my 2nd and 3rd lumbar 15yrs ago snowboarding. To keep this sweet and simple, got on my feet as quick as possible. It would take me upwards of half an hour to walk to the bathroom 1mm at a time, with a cane. The cane became an important part of my rehab as I would use it like a pair of num-chucks stretching the back and aligning muscles. It took 9 months before I was even remotely “normal” but to this day I have had zero problems with my back and I believe it had a lot to do with the fact I kept my back in motion with range.
2. Shot three times and still recovered.
When I was in trauma surgery in upstate by, got a notification about a man who was shot 3 times in the head. Apparently he was shot in the temple, exited out his right eye socket, in the nose exited from the roof of the mouth, and In the cheek one with exit from the side of the head. At this point I’m thinking they just brought him in so we can pronounce him in the ER because he looked dead. I go to examine him and tilt his head back, and he’s says “Yoooo, be gentle!!!!” I jump back and scream like a little boy, as did everyone in the room. The bullets missed his brain in every single shot.
3. Hit by a car while crossing the street.
I got hit by a car at 80km/hr as a pedestrian, went through the windshield of the car, and then underneath the rear of it for 80 meters. I had a serve brain injury, my left hand was as the doctor described mash potatoes, and my one of my legs was 360 degrees behind me. I was also in a coma for two weeks. This happened 3 days before Christmas. It was a long road to recovery, but today, as I stand, I am happy. I ski, ride my pedal bike everywhere, and thoroughly enjoy my life.
4. Drowned and lived to tell the story.
When I was 13, in 1988, I was playing around in my grandparent’s swimming pool with my little sister, doing flips and backflips into the shallow end. One time my foot slipped and I went head-first into the bottom, snapping my neck at C5, C6, and C7. C5 was badly fractured, C6 was all but crushed, and C7 was split in two.
My sister and I used to have this game where I would float face-down in the water for a few seconds, she’d come over and tap me on the shoulder, and I’d jump up, grab her, and throw her across the pool like in a scary movie or something. She saw me floating face down after the accident, and thought it was part of that game we played. When, after a few tries at getting me to grab her, I didn’t do anything, she just went inside the house and proceeded to watch The Real Ghostbusters (a mid/late 80s cartoon) on TV.
I drowned, and died. I remember the whole thing (story continued on the next page…).
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At 4:30, when her cartoon ended, she looked out and there I was, still floating around the pool, face down. She alerted my grandma. They both came outside and pulled me out of the pool. My grandma says I was blue when she pulled me out of the water. She started screaming.
Luckily, one of her neighbors is a volunteer fireman. He knew enough rescue techniques to cut a tracheotomy hole in my throat, and used a Bic pen to keep the airway open while he got me breathing.
An ambulance came and transported me to the local hospital, where I promptly died again in the ER. After many attempts, they were about to call me as a done deal. My mom asked for one more try. It worked.
U of M Life Flight came ASAP and transported me to the University of Michigan hospital.
I woke up like a week later, hooked to a ventilator (unable to breathe on my own) and a halo screwed into my skull, deaf on my left ear and blind in my left eye, no feeling at all on my left side, and barely able to feel (much less move) anything on my right.
Long story short, I made what could only be called a miraculous recovery. Over a few years, I had to re-learn to brush my teeth, get dressed, walk, wash myself, go to the bathroom, everything. I was always weak on my left side, but wasn’t totally paralyzed or anything.
11 years and some months later, I had one of those Ford Explorers that had the messed up Firestone tires. The night before New Year’s Eve, at roughly 3:30AM, the tire de-treaded, and I rolled end-over end through a ditch. I got flung out the window and they picked me up in a frozen corn field about 75 feet from where the truck stopped rolling.
I re-injured my old C5/C6/C7 injury, and took on quite a few others as well. A solid year of intensive physical therapy got me back on my feet again. Since I didn’t qualify for Social Security or Disability, I was back at work a just little over a year later.
No wheelchair, no cane, no walker… Some say I might have some minor brain damage, but not too bad.
5. Survived without a scratch.
One time I had a patient who was walking in the street, got hit by a car, thrown into oncoming traffic, bounced off another car, and then got pinned under a third. Or so the EMS report said. He had a dislocated shoulder and a non- displaced femur fracture. He was on cocaine, which probably explained how he was able to scream at the trauma team to leave him alone.
6. Motorcycle versus an SUV.
I had this patient before medical school when I was an EMT and he still sticks with me:
20 something year old male, motorcycle vs SUV; SUV won. We arrived on scene to a man face down. We were told he was wearing a helmet, but it was nowhere to be found. He was about 30 ft from his bike and there was a clear trail of blood to the bike because he wasn’t wearing leathers. We rolled him onto the board and that was the first beating heart I ever saw. His road rash was so bad it eroded his chest wall. Amazingly, he was still alive. Of course he had multiple injuries to his other extremities, mandible, zygomatic arches, etc. but we frankly didn’t care at the time. We were on scene for no more than 2 min before we sped off to the trauma center. I remember transferring the patient to the chief of trauma surgery whose first words when the trauma pad was removed were “Holy crap!” I thought for sure he died.
Fast forward 2 years when I was at my primary care physician’s office for a checkup after my medical school interview and saw a collection bin for a veteran’s wedding. Guess who? Yup, it was him. They had taken his left arm to reconstruct his chest since the nerves were shot but he recovered.
7. Some people are impossible to keep down.
We have a patient right now with active endocarditis, end stage renal disease on dialysis, HIV, and a carcinoid tumor. Totally noncompliant with antibiotics even though he has a PICC line and shows up for dialysis once a week maximum. Never got chemo or surgery for the cancer. Constantly shows up to the ED looking for pain meds or in hypertensive emergency. After treatment he just walks out again.
8. Sneezing may lead to heart attack.
I basically was born with a congenital birth defect which has an extremely high mortality rate. Like 1 in 120,000,000 of it happening and about 95% to 99% chance of dying. Not only did I survive it for 20 years, I played lacrosse for 4 years. Now the issue was that I was missing a major blood vessel on my heart that is required to pump blood (story continued on the same page…).
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My body compensated in such an extreme way that the blood vessel on the right side of the heart went down and around the heart and attached itself to aorta. My heart was basically circulating heart around itself and the rest of my body didn’t get enough blood.
So how it was found out? Blew my nose and full on heart attack.
Surgeons repeatedly stated and asked “How was I alive” and “You played lacrosse for 4 years”. Also, the main surgeon stated that anyone with this condition usually dies at birth. They only know of the condition from autopsies.
9. A hard noggin could save you.
I ran a call on a guy that was ejected out of a late 80’s mustang. The guy said the car rolled 2 times before pitching him out of the driver’s side window. He said he landed on his head and the 7 inch scalp avulsion. The car was completely crushed and sitting on its top. The guy wanted to refuse treatment and transport. GCS 15 and never lost consciousness. I insisted though that he be seen at the ER. He rode the whole way texting people. When I told him that he shouldn’t be alive he said, “Yeah I got a hard nugget.”
10. Super mom survives car accident.
When I was 18, my mom was at a stoplight when she was rear-ended by a diesel truck going 60…. Her back was broken and her brain was bleeding. At the hospital, her kidneys started to fail, she had internal bleeding, and her blood pressure was in the 20’s. The doctor told us these facts and told us to say good bye. A priest was there and offered her last rights. The next day she was stabilized and I can remember the doctor looking at her like what the heck?
11. Miraculous motor cycle accident.
Patient was driving a motorbike. We were informed that dispatch had been sent to pick up a motorbike vs logging truck, bike was behind the truck which had lost its load of logs at highway speeds. Trauma team is activated, we have called for blood.
Guy walked out of the ER after period of observation. When he saw the logging truck lose its load, he simply let go of his bike and fell of the back. Rolled a bit and got some bumps and bruises, but fine.
12. Has cystic fibrosis and doing great.
I was listed for a double lung transplant after 26 years of battling cystic fibrosis, a genetic lung disease that gets progressively worst. I had to fight every step of the way to get listed, get treated properly, and be taken care of. I waited for eleven months with no calls, not even a dry one. My mom, doctors and I were scared I was going to die before I got lungs. So we did something really risky– my mom and I packed up her small Honda, drove two thousand miles on a split second decision (decided on a Monday, left that Wednesday) to a transplant clinic on the East Coast that has a better record of transplant success and a general waiting time period of 4 weeks from the time you are listed to the time you receive your new lungs (story continued on the next page…).
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I stopped taking narcotics, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety pills due to their protocol, started working out every day (which started out slowly, but eventually progressed) and over the course of six months went from being told to go into hospice care to being too well for transplant! This was a bit over a year and a half ago, and while I still have lots of health problems and still spend a few months a year in the hospital, I am a completely new person and functioning like I never expected. I will need a lung transplant in the next few years, and it doesn’t cure me, just extends my life for longer, we hope. I have a wonderful boyfriend who has supported me through all of this and a family who is helpful and supportive. I did what I didn’t even know was possible, let alone my doctors back home.
13. Spinal injuries are no joke.
I ruptured my L4-L5 about 5 years ago. I completely lost all feeling in my right foot and about halfway up my right shin. after a few months, I started noticing more and more feeling coming back in my leg. It gradually progressed a little bit every day. now, I’d say I have about 85-90% of what I originally had. Big toe wants to stay pretty numb, though.
14. Heart attack can’t stop dad!
My dad had a massive heart attack a few years ago. He proceeded to drive around for several hours disoriented and confused to where the hospital was. He went to a closed fire station and drove around the city for who knows how long.
He had a complete 100% blockage in his Left Anterior Descending Artery. They call it the Widow Maker. Blessed to still have my old man around to say the least.
15. Broken neck in the luckiest way possible.
When I was in 9th grade a friend of mine got into a car wreck. It was a car full of teens in the middle of the day. There were no injuries, but one of the parents insisted that all of them go to the doctor and get x-rays. After hours of waiting around and taking turns, my friend goes in for her x-ray. When they look at the x-ray, they realize her neck is broken. It’s called a “hangman’s break” because that is how your neck breaks at the gallows. Her spine was entirely broken, just sitting on top of itself. All she had to do at any point was tilt her head up, sneeze, whatever, and she would have instantly died. It’s just ridiculous thinking about.
16. Motorcyclist hits minivan… and lives.
I was EMS for a few years and one day we came up on an accident on the highway involving a motor cyclist and a minivan, usually that is not good, at all… it’s always a mess… (story continued on the next page…)
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We get there and find out he hit the minivan at 80 MPH while it was stopped on the side of the road and flew through the back window, through to the front and survived without a scratch on him, no broken bone no AMS (altered mental status aka blunt head trauma)… he even got himself out the van and asked if the people inside were okay. He was wearing a helmet and I think that saved his life.
Blew my mind.
17. You see a lot of ridiculous things when you work in a hospital.
I did a medical rotation where my consultant was an endocrinologist. We had a young man with type 1 diabetes who would present almost weekly in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA – actually a medical emergency as can cause coma and death) from not taking his insulin and just eating whatever he wanted. Always self discharged once he felt better.
In my last week of the rotation, he came in after overdosing on IV opioids – found by his family after no one having any contact for about 24 hours.
His temperature was 24 degrees celsius in the ambulance and the pH of his blood was 6.76 (7.35-7.45 is normal, less than about 6.8 is not generally compatible with life). The paramedics (who all knew him) genuinely thought this was it for him, as did all the ICU. But as the old saying goes, you’re not dead until you’re warm and dead (in that at cold temperatures, your metabolic rate can be slowed to the point where it appears you’re deceased however on warming, your body resumes more normal metabolic function).
Warmed him up in the ICU, treated his DKA and he survived. I rotated away to another hospital before he was discharged but he was out of ICU when I left – awake and interactive.
18. Trains are no match for this person.
Nurse here. I saw a pedestrian vs train once. He was stumbling home drunk and passed out on the train tracks. He was hit straight by the front of the train, bounced to the side, got hung on the side of the train, and then dragged 100 yards while the train stopped. He wound up in a coma for a week and paralyzed from the waist down, but he lived with no major neurological deficits (other than the whole not able to move his legs thing).
19. Gone through everything and still alive.
I’ve been struck by three cars , worked in a coal mine until a shaft collapsed with my team in it, worked making fireworks until a stray spark detonated the ‘powder shack’ i was walking out of, I’ve fallen off of roofs, and was even a passenger in a jeep that flipped. Still alive.
20. Heart problems didn’t stop her.
My family has had trouble holding on to health insurance for many years, but my sister’s yearly heart checkups have been a priority — she was born with Ebstein’s anomaly of the tricuspid valve, which basically means blood leaks backwards and pumps oxygen very inefficiently. One year, her appointment got postponed a few months due to a switch in providers and all that stupid crap (story continued on the next page…).
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My sister was in 10th grade gym class and having trouble running every day. That’s what she told us — “I feel kinda sick after class” which we thought would mean she got lightheaded. Turns out she was puking every class due to the exertion. My parents immediately decided that checking up on her heart would be the best decision and thank god they did.
Her cardiologist said her heart was “the size of a small watermelon” and it was “an absolute wonder” she was only puking and not passing out or literally dropping dead if she was running a mile in less than 30 minutes (and I think her mile was under 15). He said it was one of the most advanced states of Ebstein’s he’d seen, if not the worst currently unoperated case in the country (US).
Basically, she had to have an emergency open-heart surgery (Cone procedure and Bidirectional Glenn at Boston Children’s), and now, 4 years later she’s still on medication and is looking to get a pacemaker. Unbelievably, the jerk gym teacher still gave her a B- final grade.
21. I think we found Spiderman.
Bit 7 times by a brown recluse spider when I was five. Don’t even have scars. Doctor said by the 3rd bite I should have been in convulsions. I just remember they itched a lot.
22. Surprise! You have blood clots.
My father in law went to the ER for some sort of pain and it was discovered that he had over 300 blood clots in his legs. Every single blood clot dissolved and he’s alive and well.
23. Shot 9 times and still survived.
I saw a guy who got shot 9 times, three of which were in the neck. Nothing important got hit, so we just cleaned out the wounds, packed and covered them, and that was it.
24. Lots a whole body amount of blood.
I looked after this young guy who stumbled onto oncoming high speed traffic drunk and got hit. We took him urgently to theatre and started resuscitating him while he got his laparotomy. He ended up getting 69 LITRES (not units!) of blood products back in the one operation. We completely depleted the states’ blood stores and we had to call in supplies from the next state. He had torn both his abdominal aorta and inferior vena cava. At one stage we were giving saline whilst waiting for blood to be driven to our hospital and were seeing the saline oozing out of him instead of blood (luckily not for longer than a few seconds before the blood came!). Still not sure how, but he made it out of hospital.