A collection of medical horror stories
My brother and I are both veterinary technicians.
He told me about a time when a rather fat pit bull was brought in by its owner for treatment of an accidental shotgun wound. Yeah, apparently the guy was hunting and somehow managed to hit his dog point-blank... But anyway, the dog got pretty lucky and the majority of the shot skimmed just past him, though needless to say he did have a fair amount of pellets in him.
When the vets examined the dog and had the technicians x-ray it, they noticed there appeared to be quite a bit of fluid in his abdomen. They tapped it (ie. stuck a needle in it to see what comes out) and were puzzled to see a fluid they had never seen come from an animal before. They had expected blood, but instead pulled a syringe-full of thin, yellow-ish fluid from his abdominal cavity.
It turned out the extreme heat from the (point-blank) shotgun blast had melted a bunch of the dog's fat into grease, which proceeded to slowly leak out from his body via all of his fancy new holes.
Nowhere near the most fucked up or disgusting thing I've seen on the job, but those experiences aren't something you can accurately put into words.
My aunt is a nurse, and a few months ago she told me about the worst thing she has ever had to deal with on the job. Hearing this story has given me such a deep level of respect for all of our healthcare workers. Two hysterical parents came into the emergency room one morning covered in their 2 year old's blood. The father had been backing out of the driveway and accidentally ran him over. When they brought him in, the boy was long gone, but since the parents were there, they spent half an hour trying to revive him. As my aunt is performing chest compressions, she can feel that there is nothing left of this little guy; he is completely crushed, and with each compression blood is spurting out of his mouth and onto her uniform. Meanwhile, the parents are witnessing all of this, and insisting that the nurses and doctors keep going a little bit longer. The mother even ran over and embraced the child, thinking that if she warmed him up he would come back. When her son's condition didn't change, her and the husband collapse on the floor screaming and crying, and the mother is screaming at the father for killing their child. I can't even imagine.
I've treated horrifying abuse cases (one child with burns up to his nipples - his parent's dipped him in a pot of boiling water because they were frustrated with his autism. He was an infant at the time), traumatic amputations (golf cart rollover "degloved" a girl's leg - meaning the tissue was stripped away, in some parts down to the bone), empty eye-sockets weeping puss... you get the idea.
The most disgusting thing I ever had to treat was a pilonidal cyst - an abscess that forms at the top of the gluteal cleft. These are fairly common and pretty standard - all disgusting, but not too bad. This one was special. We had seen her several times over the years (these things tend to recur) and were treating with a Wound VAC (like a vacuum attached to sponge stuck in the wound and sealed air-tight with plastic tape sheeting - the negative pressure encourages wound healing).
Anyway, we're doing the usual: taking off the Wound VAC to check the wound, clean it, and then reapply.
We take it off and the most horrible smell fills the room. We look at the cyst and it is weeping the most disgusting brown substance you can imagine.
It was a combination of blood, puss, and feces that had been festering under the vac.
The cyst had tunneled to her rectum. She basically had two buttholes, but one was also shitting blood and puss.
Side note: She was a VERY beautiful and sweet teenage girl, and even though we all wanted to vomit instantly, it was handled well by [almost] everyone. The PA and NP walked in and immediately walked out to gag around the corner (we just showed them pictures of it). She had no clue how disgusting of a wound she had UNTIL the plastic surgeon walked in.
He loudly said "HOLY SHIT," gagged, then kind of chuckled. He walked up to her and said "That's sick." The cat was definitely out of the bag. Poor thing.
I'm a radiologist (the MD who interprets the pictures, not the person who takes the picture) and I've been privy to all kinds of seriously fucked up things. Everyone gets imaged. So everyone eventually comes across either mine or my colleagues workstations. We see everything. I'll tell you just one of the more interesting and disgusting things I witnessed.
I work at a level one trauma center and this happened one particular trauma night when I was taking in-house call. You've never learned such a Pavlovian dread associated with a rather innocuous sound until you hear the almost sarcastic twitter of a trauma pager. You never know what the hell is gonna come through your CT scanner. All traumas get scanned these days. It's standard of care. So I have to sit there with a bunch of trauma surgeons breathing down my neck asking me if the patient is okay because they want to exclude something that will force them to do work.
The pager goes off and I instantly cringe. It's about 1:30 a.m. And I look to see that it was a young man found unresponsive at a train yard. And I was like, "Train yard, what the hell?" Soon enough he arrives. Normally, I won't venture out of my department. I'll wait for the patient to inevitably arrive on my scanner with gaggle of surgeons in tow, but this was strange enough that I decided to go on a field trip to the trauma bay.
I arrived to a mostly quiet trauma bay with a bunch of scrubs clad men and women standing around staring at a rather young man with a handsome face. His scalp and the very top-most part of his skull called the calvarium were missing apparently. Oh, but there weren't missing they were simply flapped back hanging by a measly piece of skin, I just couldn't see behind him. I could see the pulpy, hemorrhaging, throbbing mass of macerated brain exposed to the atmosphere. His fingers down to about the second joints were missing as well. The cuts here were clean like someone with a large pair of scissors sliced off the top of his head and his fingers when he was trying to defend himself.
One of the trauma surgeons explained to me that he was found with stable vital signs at the train yard on a particularly dark and stormy night. He was mildly hypothermic. They hypothesized that he had attempted to commit suicide by placing his forehead on the track and gripping the rail while a train passed by.
They scanned his head and we could see a bit better what was damaged. The striking thing about it was that just below the level of his injury his brain and everything else was pristine. No hemorrhages. No other signs of skull-based injury. Just the neatly sliced off top of his skull with clearly macerated brain tissue of what used to be frontal and parietal lobes.
He wasn't expected to live through the night. And he didn't. Even sadder still is that he just missed a crucial window for organ transplantation harvesting. He was young, otherwise healthy, and the rest of his body was relatively uninjured.