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16 Doctors Share Stories of Patients Who Should Be Dead

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Sometimes people seem to defy all odds and beat their really horrible circumstances. If someone gets shot 9 times, common sense says dead – but reality can say, “Not this time,” and those 9 bullet wounds just wind up being 9 scars.

Check out these 16 doctors, who shared some of the most death defying patient stories they ever encountered:

1.  Head case

When I was in trauma surgery in upstate by, got a notification about a man who was shot 3 times in the head. He comes in, literally one eye hanging out of the socket, blood everywhere, and he’s slumped forward. Apparently he was shot in the temple, exited out his right eye socket, in the nose exited from the roof of the mouth, and In the cheek one with exit from the side of the head. At this point I’m thinking they just brought him in so we can pronounce him in the ER because he looked dead. I go to examine him and tilt his head back, and he’s says “yoooo be gentle!!!!” I jump back and scream like a little boy, as did everyone in the room. Literally the bullets missed his brain in every single shot.

2. Hard nugget

Paramedic here. I ran a call on a guy that was ejected out of a late 80’s mustang. The guy said the car rolled 2 times before pitching him out of the driver’s side window. He said he landed on his head and the 7 inch scalp avulsion seemed to corroborate his story. The car was completely crushed and sitting on its top. The guy wanted to refuse treatment and transport. GCS 15 and never lost consciousness. I insisted though that he be seen at the ER. He rode the whole way texting people. When I told him that he shouldn’t be alive he said “Yeah I got a hard nugget”

3. Monthly Coma

We have a patient we see at our hospital monthly. Young guy, early 20’s, absolute turd to take care off. He has diabetes and essentially refuses to take his insulin. He comes in every time with diabetic ketoacidosis, which is essentially your body going into a coma like state due to your blood pH becoming acidotic and very elevated sugars.
The impressive part isn’t that he survives this, most people do. Its that this is a recurring event EVERY month and each time someone manages to find him/get him to the hospital. If he was ever alone when this occurred and no one found him in a timely fashion, he’d be toast. Been seeing him regularly at the hospital for the last 18 months Ive been here

4. …seriously?!

My friend’s father is an Orthopedic Surgeon and he told us a story that once a boyfriend and girlfriend came in because they tried an in-home abortion. By running her pelvis over with a car… Abortion worked but I hope they actually never reproduce.

5. “Generally not compatible with life”

I did a medical rotation where my consultant was an endocrinologist. We had a young man with type 1 diabetes who would present almost weekly in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA – actually a medical emergency as can cause coma and death) from not taking his insulin and just eating whatever he wanted. Always self discharged once he felt better.

In my last week of the rotation, he came in after overdosing on IV opioids – found by his family after no one having any contact for about 24 hours.

His temperature was 24 degrees celsius in the ambulance and the pH of his blood was 6.76 (7.35-7.45 is normal, less than about 6.8 is not generally compatible with life). The paramedics (who all knew him) genuinely thought this was it for him, as did all the ICU. But as the old saying goes, you’re not dead until you’re warm and dead (in that at cold temperatures, your metabolic rate can be slowed to the point where it appears you’re deceased however on warming, your body resumes more normal metabolic function).

Warmed him up in the ICU, treated his DKA and he survived. I rotated away to another hospital before he was discharged but he was out of ICU when I left – awake and interactive.

EDIT: To clairfy, 24 degrees celsius (normal is ~36-37.5)

6. Mind blown

I’m not a doctor but I was EMS for a few years and one day we came up on an accident on the highway involving a motor cyclist and a minivan, usually that is not good, at all…it’s always a mess.. We get there and find out he hit the minivan at 80 MPH while it was stopped on the side of the road and flew through the back window, through to the front and survived without a scratch on him, no broken bone no AMS (altered mental status aka blunt head trauma)… he even got himself out the van and asked if the people inside were okay. He was wearing a helmet and I think that saved his life.

Blew my effing mind.

7. Point blank

Not a doc, but I’m a paramedic. I had a patient shot 6 times in the chest with a 9mm @ point blank range. Homie was still yelling at the other dude (now in custody) how he was gonna get outta the hospital and find him. I was pretty dumb founded at how lucky this bastard was considering most people don’t yell after 6 shots in the chest.

8. To a stop

Since you didn’t specify how long they stayed alive… In med school I had a patient who got shot in the head a couple blocks away from the hospital. He was still able to talk for a few minutes after arrival, but it was clearly not a survivable injury. I stayed with him as his brain started to swell. I remember the moment his eyes became dull and his speech slurred to a stop.

9. Road Rash

I had this patient before medical school when I was an EMT and he still sticks with me:

20 something year old male, motorcycle vs SUV; SUV won. We arrived on scene to a man face down in a pool of blood, ~1L. We were told he was wearing a helmet, but it was nowhere to be found. He was about 30 ft from his bike and there was a clear trail of blood to the bike because he wasn’t wearing leathers. We rolled him onto the board and that was the first beating heart I ever saw. His road rash was so bad it eroded his chest wall and we were staring at his heart, a collapsed lung, his great vessels, and the branches of the brachial plexus. Amazingly, they were all intact. Of course he had multiple injuries to his other extremities, mandible, zygomatic arches, etc. but we frankly didn’t care at the time. We were on scene for no more than 2 min before we sped off to the trauma center. I remember transferring the patient to the chief of trauma surgery whose first words when the trauma pad was removed were “Holy s**t!” I thought for sure he died.

Fast forward 2 years when I was at my primary care physician’s office for a checkup after my medical school interview and saw a collection bin for a veteran’s wedding. Guess who? Yup, it was him. They had taken his left arm to reconstruct his chest since the nerves were shot and he recovered.

10. Nothing important

I saw a guy who got shot 9 times, three of which were in the neck. Nothing important got hit, so we just cleaned out the wounds, packed and covered them, and that was it.

11. Giant Heart

Not a doctor, but my sister’s cardiologist has this story now. My family has had trouble holding on to health insurance for many years, but my sister’s yearly heart checkups have been a priority — she was born with Ebstein’s anomaly of the tricuspid valve, which basically means blood leaks backwards and pumps oxygen very inefficiently. One year her appointment got postponed a few months due to a switch in providers and all that stupid shit.

My sister was in 10th grade gym class and having trouble running every day. That’s what she told us — “I feel kinda sick after class” which we thought would mean she got lightheaded. Turns out she was puking every class due to the exertion. My parents immediately decided that checking up on her heart would be the best decision and thank god they did.

Her cardiologist said her heart was “the size of a small watermelon” and it was “an absolute wonder” she was only puking and not passing out or literally dropping dead if she was running a mile in less than 30 minutes (and I think her mile was under 15). He said it was one of the most advanced states of Ebstein’s he’d seen, if not the worst currently unoperated case in the country (US).

Basically, she had to have an emergency open-heart surgery (Cone procedure and Bidirectional Glenn at Boston Children’s), and now, 4 years later she’s still on medication and is looking to get a pacemaker. Unbelievably, the asshole gym teacher still gave her a B- final grade.

12. Low on Blood

Anesthesiologist here.

I once had a 20-something year old Jehovah’s Witness as a patient who kept bleeding and bleeding after childbirth. Because of her religion she refused blood transfusions. After other measures failed, we finally took her to the operating room for an emergency hysterectomy that saved her life. In a pregnant woman, the normal hemoglobin (the protein in your blood that carries oxygen) count is between 9.5-15 g/dL. When we took her to the OR, her hemoglobin was 3.1 g/dL. In the ICU after, it was down to 2.6 g/dL.

I remember talking to her before going to the OR, and all she could do was lie flat in bed. If she did so much as lift her head, her heart rate would jump from about 130 to 180 and she started having chest pain. I also had to tell her A) that I didn’t know if she would live through the surgery, and B) that I wasn’t sure how much of an anesthetic I would be able to give her, so there was the possibility she might remember some of the procedure. Fortunately she did survive, and didn’t have any recall. If she wasn’t otherwise young and healthy, I’m sure she would have died.

(Edited a couple times for clarity.)

13. Call the ambulance

Not a doctor – friend who’s a crime scene tech.

They apparently tell this story to police now to remind them that unless somebody is 100% utterly dead (like head 20m from body) CALL THE AMBULANCE.

Police rock up to an address of a couple of druggies. Enter and its a mess. Mattress at the centre of the living room floor and blood EVERYWHERE. Cannot reach the mattress without stepping in it. Spray on the walls and ceiling. 2 bodies on the mattress both covered in blood. Cops have to go round and enter through the back door just to get near them without fucking up the scene.

Cops check, but no signs of life. Call detectives who arrive and start investigating the scene. About 1 hour into it and one of the ‘bodies’ takes a deep breath and starts to move. For some reason no-one decides to shoot what was obviously a zombie.

Turns out they got high and decided to end it all. Only one didn’t succeed and just had a really strong nap.

And that’s why police in my state can’t issue Life Extinct Certificates unless they are looking at a >3 year old skeleton.

14. Walks out again

We have a homeless patient right now with active endocarditis, end stage renal disease on dialysis, HIV, and a carcinoid tumor. Totally noncompliant with antibiotics even though he has a PICC line and shows up for dialysis once a week maximum. Never got chemo or surgery for the cancer. Constantly shows up to the ED looking for pain meds or in hypertensive emergency. After treatment he just walks out again. Gomers don’t die.

15. Chain of unfortunate events

One time I had a patient who was walking in the street, got hit by a car, thrown into oncoming traffic, bounced off another car, and then got pinned under a third. Or so the EMS report said. He had a dislocated shoulder and a non- displaced femur fracture. He was on cocaine, which probably explained how he was able to scream at the trauma team to leave him alone.

Edit: This happened a few months ago. Not Joe Black.

16. Level 1 Trauma

Nurse here, but I have some good stories coming from level 1 trauma center.

I had a pedestrian vs train once. He was stumbling home drunk and passed out on the train tracks. He was hit straight by the front of thevtrain, bounced to the side, got hung on the side of the train, and then dragged 100 yards while the train stopped. He wound up in a coma for a week and paralyzed from the waist down, but he lived with no major nerological deficits (other than the whole not able to move his legs thing).

Had a patient once with throat cancer and his tumor ate through his carotid artery. Due to the cancer and a previous surgery he had a fistula (a hole) in his neck. He and his wife were at home… he was dozing in the sun room. Wife goes to the kitchen and comes back to see him covered in blood and bloody handprints on the glass door where he tried to open it and get help. He had perfed his carotid artery and the blood was pouring (spurting?) out of his fistula. This tiny little old lady pulled the drapes from the window, jumped on his neck, and pushed her life alert button. Somehow she held pressure enough to keep him from bleeding out, and we actually save the man with very little neuro defiict. People perf carotids in the ICU and don’t survive the run to surgery… and he survived until EMSA got to him and got him to the hosptial, all because his wife thought quick and was remarkably strong.

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