Perhaps it's the white coat and near-decade of required school and training. Doctors seem infallible, but they make mistakes just like any human being. Getting a second opinion about a medical condition might not please your health insurance company - or the doctor who gave the first opinion - but it could save your life.
Doctors encounter some very strange cases in their line of work and sometimes fix the mistakes of others. Physicians on Reddit shared their "thank God they came in for a second opinion" stories. They recognized cancerous lumps, diabetes, and other serious disorders and problems other doctors missed or misdiagnosed. Several of these moments took place because a general practitioner or ER doctor - who didn't specialize in a particular area - failed to recognize the signs of a condition.
But as Redditor and ophthalmologist /u/def_1 noted, don't be too quick to accuse doctors of incompetence. "Diseases usually develop on a continuum... and one doctor might catch it at a later date because it has had more time to present itself," they said. "As a patient it can be frustrating, but be mindful that most doctors do want what's best for you and there may be a lot of things going on in the background you are unaware of."
From Redditor /u/skyskimmer12:
I'm an emergency medicine [doctor]... The patient was transferred from rural nowhere to our tertiary care facility (a big hospital with every specialist). The call was of really bad quality, but the transferring physician described a 21-year-old male who had a rapid heart rate and breathing rate, low blood pressure, low oxygen, confusion, and a severe opacification on his chest X-ray on the right side.
[The physician] diagnosed pneumonia. He gave him a ton of fluids, started antibiotics, and put him on a ventilator, but he wasn't getting better, and wanted to send him to us. Sure, send away.
An hour later the gentleman arrived, and looked young, fit, and not the type to just [perish] from pneumonia. We rolled him onto our stretcher and found... a huge stab wound in his back.
The X-ray finding was his entire right chest full of blood. We put a tube in it, gave him back some blood, and he had to go for surgery to fix the bleeding.
Lesson: look at your patient.
From Redditor /u/coltsblazers:
A lady was referred to me after two weeks of [treatment] for a red, painful eye. The [physician assistant] and MDs who saw her tried allergy meds and [an] antibiotic... thinking it was [an allergy] or bacterial conjunctivitis, or hoping it was [a] mild viral [problem] that would resolve on its own.
I took one look at her and knew it was a herpes simplex infection in her cornea. She was in pain and had been mistreated for two weeks. I got her on antivirals, [and] [we discussed] how it was odd she didn’t have any active herpetic sores, but had a really bad cough the ER said was just pneumonia and would go away with antibiotics.
I told her to get it checked with a pulmonologist because it didn’t sound like pneumonia and wasn’t getting better. I saw her three months later to monitor her corneal appearance and she came in using a wheelchair.
Turns out the pulmonologist was blown away the ER had dismissed her. She had a really rare small cell lung cancer. The reason the herpes infection manifested in the first place was her immune system was compromised. She told me the pulmonologist said I’d saved her life because they caught it early. It’s been a bit over a year. She’s still undergoing treatment, but her spirits are strong and she’s optimistic, as is the pulmonologist.
From Redditor /u/OscarDivine:
[A man in his] mid-30s walked into my office with what looked like a black eye and a broken blood vessel in the front of his left eye. He went to his primary [care doctor] and it was simply assumed that he got punched or hit or something, and he was dismissed. He was noted to have high blood pressure, [and] a [prescription] for medicine was written and a follow-up [ordered] in a few months.
The gentleman came in to see me to get another opinion on the matter. I looked at him and immediately started the line of questions: How long has it been there? Do you have a headache? When you plug your ears with your fingers do you hear a "whooshing" sound?
He had a cavernous sinus fistula. I sent him directly to the emergency room with his family of four in tow and he was in the [operating room] within an hour of arriving. Saved his eye and possibly his life that day.
The best news: he was a kitchen guy at my local diner that I frequent, and they still treat me like royalty there when I come to eat. They all remember the time I saved one of theirs.
From Redditor /u/an_annoyed_jalapeno:
I had a patient who was being treated for nine months or so for what his physician referred as “foot athlete” (patient’s words), and just as anyone would expect, he was taking terbinafine and applying isoconazol ointment.
The problem? He didn’t have fungus; he had a damn diabetic ulcer with necrotic borders already. I had to do surgery and luckily he saved the foot.