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Doctors Describe The Worst Thing They've Seen In A Patient - That Other Doctors Missed

Updated March 11, 2021 20.1k votes 2k voters 55.2k views17 items

List RulesVote up the worst medical mistakes.

Everyone is human, we all make mistakes. But, sadly, in the case of doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals, those mistakes can sometimes cost lives. Luckily for these patients, they were able to find secondary doctors who caught errors and mistakes made by the first. In some cases, they get the problem fixed in the nick of time. It just goes to show the importance of getting a second opinion if you truly feel like something is wrong. 

So check out the stories below of the times healthcare providers discovered other doctors' mistakes, and try not to get too paranoid in the meantime.

  • 1

    Gallbladder Gone Bad

    Posted by u/aimeed72:

    I'm a nurse... My sister had her gallbladder out, routine surgery, and two days later woke up at 4 am in searing pain. She went to the ER by ambulance, and I met her there.

    The ER docs were all apparently convinced she was a drug seeker, and did not even conduct a physical exam beyond taking her vitals. They sedated her to shut her up because she was just yelling, “Help me! Help me! I'm dying!” They did eventually do an MRI but said it was negative and sent her home. She didn’t want to leave, insisting something was terribly wrong, but they said they would call security and have her thrown out.

    At this point, I’d like to mention that she had no history of drug or alcohol misuse.

    She continued to get worse at home, and the next day, went to a different hospital. They did a workup and found that the metal clip that closed off the bile duct during the surgery had cut right through the tissue, and she had a large bile leak that was literally burning all her abdominal organs. She had to have three surgeries to fix it and was hospitalized for nine days, not to mention left with chronic pain from adhesions and chemical burns.

    When the new hospital finally acquired the MRI from the original ER visit, she was told that the leak was small but clearly visible in that image.

    Big mistake?
  • 2

    She Lost Her Foot

    Posted by u/the_taco_belle:

    I work in EMS. We got a call for a female with leg pain. When we arrive on scene, this woman’s leg is three times the size of her other one, blue and purple, and she has no pulse in her foot. She fell on ice a few days prior and the urgent care didn’t do any X-rays, told her she had a sprain, and gave her a walking boot. In reality, her tibia and fibula were both so badly fractured they were cutting the blood vessels and muscle tissue. She lost her foot.

    I honestly don’t know why they did what they did, but it was serious malpractice. I never ended up having to testify but we were all deposed and our reports were used.

    Big mistake?
  • 3

    The Dentist Does What The Doctor Should Have

    Posted by u/kelleycat05:

    I’m a dental assistant. A patient came in and his color was off, his jaw hurt, and so did a tooth. He’d just come from the doctor who told him to see us. I was suspicious of a heart attack.

    I put the pulse ox on him [which measure oxygen levels in the blood] and almost fainted when I saw the results... 82% when it should be 100. I grabbed our emergency high flow and yelled for the AED and 911. The guy was having a heart attack.

    Luckily, he lived, and brought me a big old heart-shaped box of chocolate at Valentine's. I’ve never been so scared or angry for another person. The dentist I worked for called the MD and said, “My 25-year-old assistant just saved your patient’s life.”

    Big mistake?
  • 4

    Months And Months Of Neglect

    Posted by u/zeratmd:

    Resident doctor. We saw a kid in the ER for difficulty walking. He had been slowly losing the ability to walk over months, and also had random unexplained projectile vomiting episodes. Looking at his records, he saw his doctor several times, who X-rayed one hip... then the other hip... then gave some Zofran, etc.

    Turns out on exam he is blatantly ataxic (bad coordination) and can't even stand. Failed all our bedside neurological examinations for cerebellum function. It was obvious to me, and I'm not even good at this yet. Did a CT scan. Big-*ss tumor in his cerebellum. It was obstructing fluid drainage in his brain, too, raising his intracranial pressure and causing the vomiting. Had to call in the neurosurgeons overnight for emergency drain, and he went to ICU. Later, had more surgery for the tumor. My supervisor got pretty emotional about it, actually.

    ...To any med students reading this: 1. Do an exam. 2. It's okay to cry sometimes.

    Big mistake?