Read these incredible, traumatic events that affected people's lives right down to their core.
(Content has been edited for clarity.)
Almost Losing A Child
“Hearing a doctor ask ‘should we start chest compressions?’ after declaring a ‘code blue’ on my son, just ten days shy of his second birthday. That was three days after a nearly fatal eight our tumor resection surgery.
That’s the part that still haunts me the most.
If that hadn’t been enough to leave lasting emotional and mental scars, then the following 18 months of chemo, transplant, radiation and more would have supplied plenty more nightmare fuel to the pile.
I’ve watched him puking up blood, lying motionless on a ventilator for three weeks, writhing in agony from opiate withdrawal and neuropathic pain from chemo and antibody treatment, clutching a banana to his chest because he was so hungry it was driving him mad, but his GI tract was so destroyed he couldn’t actually eat it. Extreme nausea, painful skin infections, mouth sores, neutropenia, joint pain so bad he couldn’t walk. SCREW CANCER.
He survived and is a thriving, happy young boy, and after a couple of hospitalizations (mine) brought about by crippling anxiety and depression the miracle of modern pharmaceuticals (legal ones even) has rendered me at least functional, and quite a bit numb. But I welcome it since I just don’t have any reserves left to tap and life (and my responsibilities) continue.”
Losing Your Father After Fighting So Hard To Save Him
“At the tender age of 18, I became an EMT and started working on an ambulance. I enjoyed it. I liked it so much I decided I would become a doctor someday. Five months later I did CPR on my dad after he had a massive heart attack. He didn’t make it, and the memory of him dying as I tried to save his life haunted me. I couldn’t do the job anymore. I got too emotional when trying to save lives. I couldn’t do anything medical.”
Witnessing A Shocking Scene
“When on a Cub Scout field trip to the ‘Corky the Clown’ Saturday morning cartoon show in the 1960s, I witnessed the bloody death of a young man who had robbed a corner grocery store in the city. Driving along in the back of the station wagon of our Den Mother, I heard yelling and turned to look.
A young man came running out of a store. Right behind him was a man wearing a grocer’s apron carrying a weapon. He fired the weapon at the young man’s head, and it exploded. I was perhaps 10 feet from the young man who was running on the sidewalk when he died. I just sat quietly with my eyes wide and mouth hanging open for at least two hours. I never told anyone what I had seen.
I will never forget the spray of blood and brains, and the young man just collapsing in on himself as he died.”
A Dog Takes On A Horse
“Pit bull attack. I was 12 years old and riding my horse when a dog came up and started nipping my horse’s feet. The dog then jumped up and bit his face. After that, the dog went berserk barking and lunging at my horse. The dog grabbed onto his nose and throat, and my horse reared up trying to throw it off. The dog chased us into a field where my horse was trying to fight it off. I was terrified and screaming for help; I guess no one heard me. Anyway, my horse took off running for its life through the trees with the dog in hot pursuit. Blood was flying in my face from my horse’s wounds, and I was holding on for dear life. I thought I would hit a tree and die, fall off and die; the dog will kill me, etc. After about ten miles we got to a clearing with a fence next to it. I jumped off the horse and rolled under the fence into the brush to hide. The dog was still attacking the horse, and they took off running. I crawled out and went up to the neighbor’s house, covered in my horse’s blood and missing my boots. I couldn’t talk when she answered the door. She called my family to get me. I couldn’t speak for about four hours; I remember feeling light-headed. I had to go with the responding officer to identify the dog. The owners were dumbfounded, they were visiting from the city, and their dog had never even seen a horse. The dog licked my hand as I sat in the living room, friendly as can be. That dog ripped my horse’s face open and missed the jugular in his neck by a quarter of an inch. Oh, and it was Christmas Eve.”
Impossible To Save Every Life
“One night in high school, I was driving my girlfriend back to her house. Being the cute little high schoolers we were, we couldn’t get off of each other. Stop at a three-way stop (the fourth side was a lake) and start kissing or tickling, something.
As I’m about to start driving, someone coming from the perpendicular side came speeding, like really fast and slammed into the curb. The car jumped up a little hill and landed in the lake.
I jumped out of the car and told my girlfriend to call the police. I jumped into the lake since the car was still somewhat above water. His head was moving around, and I was screaming at him to get out. As I started trying to get to him, the shallow part of the lake was dragging me in, and then the guy’s car dips into the water. It was 1 in the morning and was murky water, so I couldn’t see anything. Had to turn back.
Cops finally got there. The guy was dead, and about five minutes later, his body floated out of the car and about 150 feet down the lake.
Thought I could’ve saved him and blamed myself for letting him die.”
A Front Row Seat To Terrible History
“I lived across the street from the Pentagon on 9/11 and had a front row seat for the plane crash. I had already seen the second plane strike the World Trade Center on the news and could hear fighter jets and helicopters overhead, so I moved over to the window to see what was happening. I was on the phone giving my mom a play-by-play when the plane passed overhead and slammed into the side of the building. My building was one of two low rises on a hill on the other side of the expressway from the building. The plane was already so low, that I could see the rivets in the hull and the trees in the parking lot buckled under the pressure. For the curious, it was nose up just like it was about to land. My first thought was ‘Where the heck is he going? The airport is over there.’ That night the news was reporting as many as 300 dead. I had taken an intro stat class my freshman year that was one of those auditorium classes with a bunch of TAs assigned by section. I kept thinking I had just watched that many people vaporized.
The two things that screwed me up were the sound and the fact that a plane, just like the hundreds I saw daily, had just done the unthinkable. Reagan National Airport has a sound ordinance, and all planes must be on the ground by 10 PM. Most nights, you’d hear planes coming in fast and applying the airbrakes right before touch down. I assume this is done to get the planes to the far end of the runway and everyone on the ground before the fines start kicking in. That plane sounded the same way. Once service resumed, I found myself watching every plane, no matter where I was, to make sure they were on what I felt were normal flight paths. The nights were the worst, and I’d flinch every time I heard a plane decelerating. I couldn’t get out of my lease but tried to spend as little time there at night as possible as the noise was just too much. I could barely function, and the news coverage was relentless. One of the hardest things for me to deal with was the constant candlelight vigils in the parking lot and people coming to leave flowers and messages for the victims. I was unreasonably angry with them which is what finally led me to therapy. I’m a live and let live sort, but just could not see why they couldn’t let it go and move on. The therapist explained they hadn’t seen or experienced it like I had, so they needed to come to the site to make it ‘real’ for them. I ended up with a PTSD diagnosis and taking medication for about 18 months. The whole experience made me reevaluate my life.”
PTSD Never Really Goes Away
“Mortar shells exploding. When a door slams I will jump, and for a split second think I’m in Iraq. It’s gotten less pronounced through time, but still happens.”
Losing The Most Important Victim
“I was meeting my fiancée one evening. Standing on a corner as she was late, as usual. I see a car skip a red light and run straight into another at high speed. There were three casualties, one of whom was my significant other in the car that had been hit. She had catastrophic injuries which I couldn’t even begin to fix, so I just stayed with her, held her hand and talked as she passed away. She was the last person I treated; the first was the wasted driver who hit her car. Apparently, I saved his life.
Now people wonder why I don’t like driving, and why I’ll never drive after a drink.”
“This is legit. When I was 8 or so, I was at the circus, and this guy was doing tricks with an elephant. His final trick was he would rest his head on a podium, and the elephant would lightly put his foot on the man’s head. It would be pretty impressive if it worked. After researching things in recent years, they train the elephants with melons and then move on to heads. By the time they move on to heads, the elephants are so conditioned not to ‘crush the melon’ that it’s nearly 100% chance of success. Anyway, back on subject. So it worked well for a second, then the man screamed a command for the elephant to stop because I guess he was going to hard. The elephant lifted his foot for a second, then placed it back down, crushing the man’s head effortlessly. The noise was awful. I’m shivering just thinking about it. I now have an irrational fear of elephants and circuses. Years of therapy later, I can talk about it without freaking out.”
Got Hit By A Car
“My friends and I were walking home from the bar one night. All of us were pretty wasted when one of them attempts to cross the street without making sure no cars were coming. POW!!! He gets nailed by a car and goes flying 10 feet in the air. I thought I had just witnessed my friend die. We ran over to him, and luckily he was alive but unconscious. We could tell by the sketchy noises he was making. I was on the phone with 911 when I looked down and all of the sudden I noticed his shin bone sticking out like 6 inches. I vomited in the middle of the street. Then, my friend miraculously opened his eyes, looked up at me, and said ‘What the heck are we doing?’ As he casually tries to stand up like nothing had happened. Long story short, we keep him from standing up, and the ambulance came and got him. He’s fine now. But seeing someone fly through the air after being hit by a car. That stuff is wild.”
On The Wrong Side Of The Law(Men)
“More than a decade ago the police pretty much ruined my life. I was driving my girlfriend home from my house on Christmas Eve and got pulled over. For 45 minutes the cop made me stand outside the car in the cold while he repeatedly asked me ‘Where is the junk?’ I was wearing track pants and a long sleeve shirt. Wouldn’t let me get my jacket out of the car, all the while he is making threats and is for some reason convinced that I have junk. I eventually lost my temper and told him to screw off. He looked at me, smiled, and said, ‘Have a good night’ and left.
For the next week I was pulled over and ticketed every single time I drove through that three-mile stretch that this department patrols. They wrote me something like 25 different tickets in that span.
I went to court, and the prosecutor knew it was nonsense, the Judge knew it was nonsense, everyone in the room knew it was nonsense, but despite all of this, every single freaking ticket stuck and I lost my license for having too many points. I tried reasoning with the judge as to how absurd this looks just at face value while every cop in the room is giggling, yet it meant nothing.
License gone, my insurance dropped me, I couldn’t get back and forth to college, so I had to take a semester off.
Once I got my license back the only insurance company that would cover me quoted me a rate of more money than I ever made at the time so I still couldn’t drive, go to school, or work.
It took years and thousands upon thousands of dollars even to begin to fix my life, all because one cop wanted to be spiteful.”
Paranoid Of No Cameras
“I was involved in a vehicle pile up and ended up getting sued. I was one of 18 people this guy sued because his insurance refused to pay out the uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage because they thought it could be found out who caused the crash. The lawsuit dragged out for four years after the accident until after the third deposition; I was finally removed.
This made me so paranoid about being involved in an accident. Not getting hurt, but being sued. I’ve got dash cams in both of our cars, and I’ve got a GoPro that I keep on my motorcycle. I tied the dash cams into the car’s ignition, so it kicks on whenever the car ignition is switched to acc or running. I’m so worried about getting sued I want video of everything.
Thankfully, I’ve not been involved in an accident since adding these cameras. I have witnessed an accident while on my motorcycle with the GoPro. I made sure I gave my info to the cops and told them I had the accident on video. About three weeks after the accident I got a call for a copy of the video. I was told afterward that the video was a big key to ticketing the guy that ran the red light.”
How To Strain A Relationship
“One night my dad came into my room and handed me his car keys. He told me to drive around the lake and come home. I asked him why, but he wouldn’t say. I kept pushing him until finally he broke down and started crying. That’s when he showed me the weapon. He started crying about how his life had gone to substances, my mother was awful, and he had had enough of living and didn’t want me to be there when ‘it’ happened.
My mom was passed out in the other room on pills, and he said he was going to end ‘both their problems.’
I didn’t go for a drive around the lake. I can’t go into the details of that night without becoming drained, but nobody died. My relationship with him was severely damaged by the whole event (plus the few years all around it), and we have a distant relationship now.”
Hard To Trust
“My good friend brutally murdered his mother, then picked me up from school (I needed a ride and asked him the night before.) I knew something was wrong with him that day. He was shaky and pale, but I obviously never imagined. I found out on the local news that night. Over the years, I have realized that it has completely colored my perception of people. I inherently understand that most people are capable of anything. This was someone that I was very good friends with, someone I fully trusted, my (now) husband’s best friend from an early age. I don’t have a basic trust in people anymore. Sometimes I think it’s a good thing though.”
“When I was a little kid (like 5), my dad wanted to take me camping. Before he would do it, he decided we should do a trial run in the backyard. So we set the tent up, brought our German Shepard outside and had a ‘test camp’ night. My mom unlocked the door just in case I wanted to come inside or had to use the bathroom or whatever.
What are the odds that some trashed guy couldn’t remember what house he lived in, and decided that our house must’ve been where he lived? And even better, my mom unlocked the door, so he was able to walk right in.
Dude walked upstairs into my parent’s bedroom where my Mom was sleeping. My mom thought it was my dad at first, and then she realized this was some random wasted jerk walking around our house. My Mom started screaming bloody murder, and the guy was so trashed that he just decided he’d use our bathroom.
My dad is a firefighter. Responding to emergencies is what the guy does, and protecting his wife from danger is a natural instinct. My Dad busted our door down (despite it being unlocked), ran upstairs to her rescue, realized what happened and pinned the hammered guy down in our bathroom.
Now, remember, I’m 5. I wake up with our dog in the tent, but my Dad is gone. That alone is scary. But I can hear my Mom screaming, and my Dad is nowhere to be found. I hide in my sleeping bag and peep out the front of the tent. I can see a flashlight against our house, and it’s moving around. I begin to suspect that not only is my Dad gone, but now someone is outside and since my Mom is screaming I assume the worst. I start to realize someone is coming onto our property and I am certain they are going to come and do something to me. Well, at some point I become convinced I’m about to get killed or kidnapped or something horrible, and I am having the meltdown of my life. It keeps getting closer.
Finally, a woman peaks her head into the tent. She is a cop. I completely fall apart, and she tells me it’s okay, she’s got me, I’m going to be okay. From there, the police take over.
To this day, I am still terrified of the dark. There are times where I get scared that someone is in my house, and I become paralyzed. I don’t turn my lights off when I’m home and awake because the dark terrifies me and I don’t like the idea someone might be in my house. I’m 27, and I have just kinda learned to deal with this rather than try to get over it anymore.”
PTSD Doesn’t Only Affect Soldiers
“My parents did a great job of traumatizing me.
I lived with my father for most of my teenage years. He is a former sergeant in the army. He liked to use his military experiences in parenting. Our household was run as such.
Our house had cameras in every room and outside of the house as well. Each camera was equipped with a mic so he could listen to conversations in each room. All of the video and audio saved onto a massive hard drive in his computer room. There were also alarms on all of the windows and doors, including on the inside of the house. All of the video/audio/alarms could be accessed by him anywhere at anytime. The phone system was wiretapped, and he rigorously monitored internet usage. As you can imagine, I had absolutely no privacy whatsoever.
Everything in the house ran on a schedule as well. My father was a clean freak of sorts. The constant smell of Windex and bleach in the house is overwhelming. As with most kids, I had chores which involved cleaning the house. Cleaning things spotless wasn’t enough. He would always find a blemish to focus. And if he found it, I’d have to redo everything again. I’ve spent entire days cleaning the bathroom sink before. Often as a punishment for not cleaning things well enough or not keeping my room clean enough, he would lock the refrigerator and the food cabinets. And I would have to earn my right to be able to eat his food.
As you can imagine, I had a lot of mental breakdowns growing up from living like this. My breakdowns were usually met with force, a sinister mind game, or he would just outright kick me out. He kicked me out quite often for really ridiculous reasons, like finding a soda in my room. Sometimes instead of kicking me out, he would go through my room when I was at school and box/bag up everything I owned. When this happened, I usually got off the school bus to a shock of seeing all of my belonging at the end of the driveway with a free sign on it.
There are a ton of other things, but it’s getting tough for me mentally to keep remembering it.
Moving on to my stepfather.
He is your typical abusive alcoholic redneck. Big guy, like 6-feet-4-inches, a good 230 pounds. He was a very intimidating person. He didn’t like me whatsoever, so often I was the recipient of his wasted rages. He has beaten me many times, stabbed me, broken a bottle over my head, and pulled a weapon on me many times. I had to live with him and my mother for two years after high school and each night I barricaded my bedroom door shut and slept with my baseball bat next to my bed. I’m scared to death of him.
I’m now seemingly your typical 22-year-old girl. I’m a very happy and social type towards most people. No one would guess that I grew up the way I did. No one knows that I always struggle with PTSD. I get frequent flashbacks, I have multiple panic attacks a day, and depression is a constant. I’ve been in therapy for years and taken many anti-depressants/anxiety medications without much success. My most significant success with dealing with it was by drinking and abusing Xanax. It helped me forget about everything, but it’s obviously not the wisest of things to do. I’m trying hard to stay off both. I’m about a month clean right now.”