Working in a hospital can be an extremely tough job where life and death hang in the balance every day.
AskReddit asked hospital workers to share the most traumatic, emotionally scarring incidents they ever faced on the job.
Here are their answers.
1. Didn’t make it
“This 12-year-old boy was in an accident and he didn’t make it. When the time came to give his mother the news, she screamed so painfully, it shook me to the core. Even though I never had children, at that moment she screamed I could feel her pain and I had to take a break to cry in the locker room. I cried a lot. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.”
2. Penile pain
“ER call one night when I was a medical student. Chief complaint was penile pain. Guy’s mid-forties, seems otherwise normal, no obvious past medical or surgical history. Ask him about when it started and he tells me that it’s been hurting ever since he “cracked it” that morning. I’m assuming I misheard or that he misspoke, so I ask for clarification. He proceeds to explain that, ever since he was a teenager, he started waking up with morning wood, so he would “crack” his penis to make it go away so he could get on with his day. He demonstrates cracking by placing his two closed hands together on top of each other, then quickly bending the top one ninety degrees. He’s completely lost as to why it still hurts today when it’s been thirty years and the pain always went away by mid-morning before.”
3. Right in the cornea
“One of my colleagues told me about a guy that came in c/o eye pain and sensitivity.
Turns out he didn’t wear eye protection while doing some DIY home repair with a metal grinder of some sort. He had metal filings embedded in his cornea.
After numbing up his eye, they picked out some of the filings with a needle. My colleague was pretty sure that his coworker pierced through the cornea at some point.
I HATE eye stuff. I nearly puked when he told me this story.”
“I removed a guy’s sock once. “I haven’t taken those socks off in 3 months.” The flesh came off with the socks because over enough time it “soaked” into the sock so the cloth and flesh were one. It was all muscle and tendons underneath.”
5. Skin breakdown
“A woman I knew from a previous stay in our hospital was admitted. The woman was already about 95, basically tetraplegic from two strokes she had the year before, and “cared” for by her daughter. The daughter said that it’s quite nice that the mom can’t move anymore because she could just put her in a chair or a bed and she couldn’t get up and walk, so the daughter could go and work. People who don’t move spontaneously usually have severe problems with skin breakdown due to pressure ulcers and need to be moved around regularly, so that was kind of a red flag. With social services and our whole team, we were able to put the patient in a nursing home where she was cared for appropriately.
The ER-occurrence happened about three months later. We knew that the daughter wasn’t quite happy about everything because she wanted the mom to change her will in her favor. The mom was in no condition to ever be able to do that, but the daughter just didn’t realize that.
Well, she was sent to the ER from the nursing home with cardiogenic shock (meaning her heart was not working properly, and she was dying). The nursing home wanted to just let her go in her own bed at the home, but the daughter threatened to call her lawyer if she wasn’t moved to the hospital. So we saw her in the night, saw that she was in her last few hours on Earth and she was going to die (see above, she was old and sick and there wasn’t much we could do). The daughter demanded (and I mean with screaming and waving with her lawyer’s card) not to give her anything to lessen her symptoms. We also had to try and put a cannula in to “revive” her. So we had to try really hard, knowing it was basically torture for her mom – but the daughter had a certificate showing that she was the person allowed to decide on medical issues.
Best part is: daughter has a private practice for karma healing.”
“When my wife first got her RN she worked in a clinic and another nurse who had a guy come in who had sneezed hard enough that one of his eyes popped out. So here is this poor MD who has no idea what to do with it is on the phone with an ophthalmologist down in the cities (this was a pretty rural clinic). The ophthalmologist is talking him through popping it back in and apparently he basically said “just put it up to the socket and squeeze it lightly like a grape and it should pop back in.”
“40-year-old man motor vehicle accident, not the patient’s fault, car swerved into his car on the highway. Patient comes into the trauma room with an EMT still giving chest compressions, patient’s vitals crashed on the way to the hospital. Nurses take over the chest compressions once the patient gets on the hospital stretcher. They continue compressions for 35 minutes with no positive response. Up until this moment, I’ve seen this before so not a big deal. A young 12-year-old girl walks up behind me and sees the compressions going on and stays silent. The ER doctor looked at her and then took over compressions for about 5 minutes. He tired out and a nurse took over. The doctor looked around the room at everyone with the familiar look of “are we all ready to call it”. The room is pure silence except for the noise of chest compressions. 5 more minutes go by. The doctor stops the nurse doing compressions with only his hands. The young girl starts to cry softly behind me. The patient was a single father, that girl became an orphan in an instant. I had to leave the room.”
8. The sounds…
“Worked at a hospital for 3 years. One day, a man decided to commit suicide by jumping from the second floor inside of the hospital. He falls flat on his back/head, right behind me in the main hall. Lots of people were sitting/walking there
I remember the sounds, first, some yelling from people who saw him jump, then sounds like snapping multiple twigs of all sizes at the same time and a loud thump when he landed.
EDIT: So a lot of people are curious about this. This happened in Europe. Where I live, we count ground level, indicated as 0. then 1 for 1st floor and 2 for 2nd floor. If I had to guess, I’d say it was 12-15 meters from where the man “jumped”. People said he actually climbed on top of the railing and he just let himself go. I didn’t see the jump myself because I had my back turned to it.”
9. BB gun
“10-year-old boy shot in the head with a high-powered bb gun by his cousin. Came in fully alert, talking, normal mental state. Just a tiny BB hole between the eyebrows.
By the time he got back from CT his words were slurring and he was a little confused.
By the time Neurosurgery called back his eyes were pointing in 2 different directions.
By the time he was going up to the OR, he was starting to posture (abnormal body positioning due to primitive brain reflexes taking over when higher function shuts down).
This was all over the course of about 20-30 minutes. The CT showed the BB went straight into the skull and pretty much just ricocheted all over the place. AFAIK the kid lived, but of course he’s never gonna be the same.”
“Ex-wife is an ER nurse and this is the worst story she ever told me.
Guy was driving his Jeep Wrangler with the roof and doors off. He also wasn’t wearing his seatbelt, you can guess where this is going. What should have been a minor MVA ends with the Jeep rolling over. Not wearing his seat belt means the guy is tossed out. The roll bar of the Jeep rolls right over the guy’s sternum. Every rib, EVERY RIB, was broken in multiple places. He made it to the ER, but didn’t live long after.
Worst part: he was a firefighter at the station right next to the hospital. Everyone knew the guy and he was well liked.”
11. Dog attack
“FF/EMT turned ER Nurse here. Took care of a person who was attacked by several dogs. Responding officers had to use lethal force so that the medics could get the person into the ambulance. The dogs would end up testing positive for cocaine, steroids and other substances
We weren’t sure which hole in their “face” was the best to put a breathing tube into. I believe it was a 19-hour surgery.
She didn’t live too long after.”
12. Nigth shift
“In the early 80’s I was a night shift Orderly in a small hospital when an ambulance came in with two drowning victims. They were in an SUV that had rolled into the water and they were unable to escape. They had been under water for a long time so there was no attempt to resuscitate. The State Police had been called to collect a blood alcohol sample and to maintain the chain of custody someone had to stay with the bodies until the Trooper arrived, and I drew the short straw. For a half hour, I was shut in a small examination room with two people who I knew (small town) waiting, and drowning victims make noises. It was horrible having to see the parents arrive to identify their daughters and it was bad seeing a cardiac blood draw but the noises stuck with me for a long time. It didn’t help that I had been reading Stephen King’s Night Shift when the ambulance arrived.”
“Cousin told me this one. He was doing side work in an acute care nursing facility, and full time as a critical care nurse.
He is standing next to the bed of stroke victim. The guy is twisted into a knot, and suffering every moment of every day. There is no going back.
My cousin says to the man’s wife, “Look, this is as good as it gets. We can keep him alive for a long time, but every day will be a day of suffering. Maybe it is time to let him go.”
Her reply, “F_ck him. He cheated on me our whole marriage. That mother f_cker is getting the full ride. I only came out to see him suffer.”
He was stunned, but he couldn’t do a thing about it.”
“My partner is an ER nurse so I asked her – she said an older lady came in one day and said that she couldn’t get a cork out of her vagina. They asked how it got up there and she said when she shaved she puts a cork in to stop the shaving cream from getting in, but this time it wouldn’t come back out. Said she had been doing it for years.”
15. Broken penis
“Years ago we had a guy come into the ER with a broken penis….yep, a broken penis. He and his wife were having sexy time at what he described as “a very rapid pace” when he pulled back to far and came out when he went to shove it back in, he hit a dry spot on the side of her leg and bent his penis 90 degrees. The problem was that he had ruptured his urethra. Scarred for life is a good way to describe the effect on the entire staff.”
“I’ve seen worse stuff but the one that I can’t forget is a young lad, maybe 16-17, was standing on the top floor of a bus. Apparently, it braked hard and he went out the window. He was conscious when he came into the ER and screaming in pain and fear. His shirt was off already and he was lying face down on the trolley. It was obvious he had a spine fracture as there was a big deformity in his back. I was probably only 2 years out of med school then so hadn’t seen a lot of horrible stuff yet. But that was horrific for the fact that the injury was so life to change, visually horrible… absolutely awful.”