These people faced their worst medical nightmares—and, by some miracle, came away with some of the most jaw-dropping survival stories. Buckle up, because these horrific stories are not for the faint of heart.
1. Falling Down On The Job
We had a young man in his early 20s who was an electrician working on the roof of a three-level new home build. His boss didn’t supply harnessing—and a nightmare ensued.
He fell onto a concrete pad below. He broke every bone in his face, both wrists and one forearm. I didn’t meet him until three days later in the orthopedic ward, where the nurses were calling him "the boy who lived". He should not have survived, but by some miracle, he did.
2. Bouncing Baby Boy
I was working in the emergency department when a toddler came in after falling out of a 10-meter window completely unharmed. But that wasn't the worst part. The sad thing was they were from a rough neighborhood and the mom hadn’t even noticed. Apparently, some neighbors found him, checked him over, and sat with him for half an hour.
When the mom still didn’t show up, they went to find her. The child was admitted overnight, mostly for social reasons, but it’s just amazing how well kids bounce.
I had a guy who took a 10-inch metal pipe right between the eyes. When he came in, the pipe was sticking about four inches out of his face. Although he was a little pale, he was fully conscious and could move both eyes. When we got the images, the tip of the pipe was about 3 millimetres from entering his brainstem. Dude made a full recovery.
4. Hit And Run
When my brother was a child, he was hit by a speeding Range Rover. He bounced off the bonnet and went over the top and landed in the road. Miraculously, he didn't break a single bone. He barely even had a scratch on him.
5. Too Much And Not Enough
I had some blood work done because I feared I might have misread the directions on one of my medications and had taken too much. Not a lot, but enough to throw my potassium levels out of whack. I got the results later that day, and they told me I needed to get to the ER ASAP.
My potassium was critically low. The doctor even told me he had never seen anyone with such a low level who was still alive.
6. Youthful Resilience
I once had a kid with sepsis, oozing from every line and every orifice because his clotting factors were chewing up. He required ECMO, which is a lot like a bypass in that it diverts blood out of the body into a machine that oxygenates it and removes carbon dioxide. I was on service when the kid turned around. I still can’t believe he made it.
7. He Was Left Half A Man
There was a patient on our floor who'd been shot. The dude was just a torso. There was so much trauma or infection from whatever happened to him that the surgeons amputated EVERYTHING from the mid-abdomen and down. He had a few surgical drains and tubes to take care of functions like urinating and defecating because those parts simply weren’t there.
8. He Had A Face-Off
I was an X-ray technologist. A guy came into the emergency department who had attempted to take his life. He blasted himself under the chin. It took off his lower jaw, most of his upper teeth, part of his nose, and one eye but survived. After he came out of the MCU, he spent three years in a psych hospital.
Then, he went off his meds and fell on his sword, which, unfortunately, did the trick.
9. The Haymaker
A farmer was driving a tractor with one of those huge rolls of hay on the back. The hay was not secured correctly so when he stopped, it rolled forward over him and bent the farmer in half. We were amazed to find that all he had were two compression fractures in his lumbar region.
10. Septic Shocker
I had a patient who came in septic and was maxed on four pressors, intubated with 100% FiO2, nitric oxide, PEEP of 14, sedated, was COVID+, and had a pH of 6.8, which is not compatible with life. We had a blunt talk with a family member and said, "I’ve never seen a favorable outcome for someone in this condition". We started on CRRT the next day and, within a week, was extubated and following commands.
11. He’s Back!
Guy came in about 10 minutes away from meeting his maker. He had been run over by a car. By the time we prepped him, he had passed. But per the doctor's moral code, we tried to save him anyway. After hours of constant work, we gave up. We declared him unalive and were packing up when he woke up. Like some horror movie type stuff. He just sat up straight and inhaled loudly.
It still gives me goosebumps.
12. Dangerous Thoughts
My dad left for work, got a weird feeling, and drove back home. When he walked in, he entered a nightmare. Everyone in the house was unconscious. He had to drag or carry them all outside one by one and call the ambulance. It turns out that my mom and her entire family had severe carbon monoxide intake. Because he trusted his gut, they all survived.
13. Hit it One More Time
A patient had a severe cardiac arrest, also known as a STEMI. He was no longer alive and on the cath lab table. He had been defibrillated 48 times with no luck. We said we would do one more and then call it. On the 49th shock, miraculously, there was a sinus rhythm. It was unbelievable. The dude was playing golf two months later.
14. The Driftwood Splinter
I used to be a surgical resident in a small-town hospital. One evening, we got paged to see a patient for a speared piece of driftwood through the leg. We were thinking he might have had a nicked femoral artery and were discussing if the poor kid needed amputation when we saw him. He was standing on the skewered leg.
Turns out the wood missed every single one of the vital vessels and there was no fracture. He walked away with just a bit of muscular damage.
15. Open Wide
I worked in a trauma center as a scribe before starting med school. Basically, I was attached at the hip with a doctor to do their documentation. One guy crashed his car into a wooden fence, and a wooden fence post went in his mouth and came out the back of his neck. It was the kind of fence post that was double the size of his mouth.
It had basically pushed all of the important anatomy to the side as it impaled him. There were consulting doctors for like 10 different specialties working on this guy while he was laid up in the hospital. Several weeks later, after he had fully recovered, he walked back into the emergency department to thank everyone.
16. All In A Day’s Work
I am an emergency nurse. Once, we had a guy come in who had been cutting a tree with a chainsaw when it hit a knot in the wood and kicked up into his neck. This is where it gets downright incredible. He finished cutting the tree because he knew his wife would make him get rid of the chainsaw. Then, he put a towel over the wound and drove himself to the hospital.
The CT scan showed no vascular damage. We simply washed out the injury and he was sent home the next day.
17. A Few Pints Preserved Him
The EMTs had picked up an extremely inebriated native Alaskan guy wandering around in -30 temperatures. He was in shorts and a T-shirt. He had been wandering for hours and hours and had severe hyperthermia. He should have been a popsicle.
They did a blood test, and he was three times the limit that it takes to perish. They believed that the only reason he didn’t freeze was the booze acted like antifreeze and stopped his flesh from fully freezing.
18. A Real Heart Stopper
When I was a resident in the cardiac ICU, we had a guy come in who had had a coronary while driving. The problem was it was major, and he went into cardiac arrest—his heart completely stopped while he was driving. So, his car, of course, crashed.
By the miracle of a bystander performing CPR and medics who were very good at their job, this guy got his pulse back, made it to the hospital, eventually woke up, and in the end, walked out of the hospital. It was the craziest thing I had ever seen.
19. There Was A Helmet To Blame
A patient came in for a CT scan. He had been intubated by the Resus team. His motorcycle had smashed into a tree, and his helmet had dug into his head and caused a significant skull fracture and a TBI.
The anesthetist pulled up the gauze on his head so I could see his brain. The irony was that his helmet caused the damage, but—to be fair—he would have lost his head without the helmet.
20. Tums Wouldn’t Have Helped
A patient came in as a STEMI (acute heart attack). We took him to the cath lab for angioplasty and found he had a completely occluded left main stem, which supplies blood to about 70% of your heart, if not more. The patient didn't look particularly ill but was one of those "I thought it was just indigestion" people.
Their right coronary wasn't small, but it wasn't huge either. Most people who block their left main stem go into cardiac arrest and bite it.
21. Still Clot It
A few years back, I was a part of a clinical trial and had blood drawn about every two weeks. Everything seemed normal, except I was bruising more than usual. I didn’t think anything of it. Later that day, I got a call from the lab telling me that if I saw any more bruises pop up in the next 24 hours, I should go straight to the emergency room.
My blood work showed that I had absolutely no clotting factors at all. They canceled all bloodwork for a month, and somehow, my next routine blood draw came up fine, other than some routine anemia.
22. Close Call
In 2011, there was an explosion in Oslo, Norway. It took out a few people, however, this one woman's story is astounding. She got a piece of plank shot into her head. From her perspective, she hadn't noticed and probably thought she was only knocked over by the blast. It wasn't until later, when people pointed out to her that she had a massive wooden spike pointing out from her frontal lobe, that she found out about it.
The wooden spike had lodged itself between her skin and skull. It narrowly missed penetrating into her brain. She recovered just fine.
23. Perfect Fit
Last year, my aunt had a stroke that was so bad the doctors had to take out a chunk of her skull. If they’d hadn’t done that, the swelling would have ended her. She was paralyzed on one side for a bit, and she couldn't talk. But she had all kinds of therapy, and they were able to save the skull chunk and put it back in place. The turnaround was amazing.
Now, she's back to living alone and driving. She'll never go back to work in nursing, but chances are she'll be able to lead a decent life anyway. Neuroplasticity is a heck of a thing.
24. Too Sweet
When I was four, doctors discovered I had been living with celiac disease and diabetes mellitus since birth. At that time, I was a lot shorter than everyone else my age because I couldn't grow. They tested my blood sugar, and it turned out I had a blood sugar that was seven times more than what is considered normal.
That level was also way over what doctors would call "critical condition". I could've passed at any moment. The doctors said I was a one in a million. I'm 17 now and everything is going great!
25. The Underdog
I'm an obstetrician and I delivered a baby with infant leukemia. This baby looked like it had no chance of life with an enormous belly of fluid, fluid in the brain, a white blood cell count that was off the charts, and so on and so on. The baby was transferred to a university, and they started on chemo at one day of life. I saw the baby at six weeks, and it was completely cured and normal in appearance. Incredible.
26. A Real Brain Teaser
I was on call for a transplant as a coordinator, and we got an organ donor who was a 30-something-year-old who had been beaten up and left for a goner in an alleyway. They were non-responsive with very little brain activity, not to mention physical injuries that required life-support. But because they had brain activity, they were a DCD donor.
We had to wait to see if they woke up or had no brain activity. Surprisingly, the organ donor woke up. But that wasn't the wildest part. THEN, they sat up and started trying to take off all the equipment because their heart started beating on its own again. They WALKED out of the hospital two days later.
27. The Purge
I’m a nurse, and distinctly remember a guy in a nursing home. He was in his nineties with a lot of co-morbidities. They’d placed him in a side room. He was gray with purple mottled peripheries, awful vital signs, the usual. I went to check on him half an hour later, expecting him to have passed.
Nope. He'd gotten about half a litre of saliva and mucus all over his chest. He was alert and all his vital signs were fine. He was discharged a few days later.
28. Cyborg Survivor
A friend of mine was in a tractor accident as a kid. The tractor rolled, threw him from the seat, and then landed on top of him.
Somehow he survived and underwent nearly a year of surgery and physical therapy. By the end, he had to have his scalp, sternum, jaw, shins, and one of his forearms replaced with titanium. I called him a "cyborg" because he would show off his titanium parts by having people punch him in the chest or by shoving his head through stuff.
29. Wired Up
As a teen, my friend's son had all sorts of bladder and kidney infections. The doctors could not figure out what was causing them. Finally, they did a scan of his whole abdomen to try to see if there was an obstruction or something else going on. The results made everyone in the room gasp. Turns out he had inserted a long wire up his urethra—he said that it felt good.
Except then he lost his grip on the wire when it was almost all the way in, and he couldn't figure out how to remove it. He didn't tell a doctor or anyone because he was embarrassed and thought he would get yelled at. He did a LOT of damage up there, mostly due to infections. Lucky for him, things worked out and he’s okay now.
30. Take A Hike, I’m Gonna Live
Years ago, I woke up from a month-long coma due to an anoxic brain injury. I had zero brain function, and the neurologist was trying to get my wife to pull the plug. He told her, "This is the definition of brain loss. We can continue to keep him alive, but eventually, an infection will end his life". Those were the doctor's exact words and were seconded by the rest of my care team.
Luckily my wife—who has an amazingly strong person—told those doctors to take a hike and moved me into a long-term acute care hospital. Physical therapists started moving me around in what I can only assume was a Weekend at Bernie's type of situation, and in the immortal words, "I got bet'ah".
31. Against All Odds
We had a patient who was in a serious car accident. He had multiple serious injuries, the worst of which was a C spine fracture and spinal cord injury in the C1-C3 area, which is where the nerves innerving the diaphragm are. We were sure that, even if he survived his other injuries, he would be paralyzed from the head down, unable to breathe on his own.
He was hospitalized in our unit (CCU) for about two months and had many surgeries. We were able to transfer him to the long-term ICU. Then, he came back a few weeks later to a rehabilitation unit. We found out he somehow miraculously could not only breathe on his own, but he was also learning to walk again.
32. A Low Prop-Ability Of Survival
I'm a rescue flight mechanic in the Coast Guard H60 helicopter. We rescued a nine-year-old boy who went through a large vessel's prop. He had a laceration across the entirety of his back that exposed his vertebrae and both body cavities. His left thigh had two large lacerations, and his right arm had several large lacerations.
His left ankle was cut in half and twisted off to the side. After flying him from the Bahamas to Miami, we dropped him off at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Two days later, the hospital informed us he had survived. He was given over 3,000 stitches and had multiple transfusions. His vertebrae were chipped, but his spinal cord was not cut. The kid was lucky to live.
33. She Almost Lost Her Head
A woman had been in a car crash. She was checked out by paramedics at the scene and cleared. A couple of hours later, her head really hurt, so she was told to go to ER. She walked in with her skull quite literally not attached to her spine.
She had a C1 dislocation. In 99.9999999% of cases, that's instant demise. How she managed to survive many hours with her head detached from the rest of her body, none of us will ever know.
34. Just Plain Useless
My wife had a placental shift when she was seven months pregnant. At 3 am one morning, there was blood everywhere. I put her into the truck and drove as fast as I could to the local hospital. This was in northern rural Thailand. The "doctor " looked about 16 years old. He messed around with an ultrasound machine for a couple of minutes before telling my wife: "Yeah, sorry, the baby's gone".
I put my wife in a wheelchair, took her to the truck, and sped to the nearest international hospital in Udon Thani about two hours away where real doctors stabilized her. My son is now 10 and playing Minecraft.
35. A Tickle Under The Rib
I saw this one patient with a really odd condition. While she was asking me why she gets rib pain so often, she literally reached under her own rib and jiggled it with her fingers. Turns out, there were a lot of other things she could do that she shouldn’t ever be able to. I attributed it to a variant of Ehlers Danlos syndrome, which causes connective tissue abnormalities.
I was so distracted by the popping in and out of her rib that initially, I didn’t even notice how horrifying it was that she could get her hand under there.
36. Lemon Squeezy
I'm a 9-1-1 dispatcher. I heard the story second-hand, but my colleague had this one kid with a crazy high fever and he wouldn't stop crying. When the paramedics arrived at the scene, they were shocked. The mom was squeezing a lemon while rubbing it all over the baby's forehead because she claimed it was "supposed to keep the fever down".
The mom was completely at a loss as to why the baby wouldn't stop crying. She kept saying that it couldn't possibly be the lemon juice that she'd been squeezing into her son's eyes for the last 20 minutes...No siree.
37. An Abrupt Decision Saved My Wife
My wife was 34 weeks pregnant and went into the hospital for a routine appointment. She said she hadn't felt the baby move much recently but figured it was probably tired and thought nothing of it. The doctor did an ultrasound and made a disturbing discovery.
He discovered placental abruption. The baby had to come out immediately by caesarian, or the baby and my wife wouldn’t make it. If my wife hadn't mentioned it in passing, she and my son probably wouldn't be here.
I remember back when I was around 23, I was stubborn and didn't go to the doctors to figure out why I was feeling weak and numb all the time. I had also had some blackouts, but I brushed it off until I literally couldn’t get up to walk to the bathroom. Thinking it was just a cold or flu, I finally went to the emergency room.
My blood count was at three. A regular blood count should be around 14. The doctor said he didn't know how I was alive still. I was lucky I got there when I did.
39. The Levee
I was the patient. I had been puking for three days straight before going into urgent care. I wasn't even going to go in, but my family said I looked awful, and I eventually relented. They said I had appendicitis. Due to a mix up, I didn't get operated on for over a day later. When they went in, they got quite a shock. My appendix was gangrenous and had basically disintegrated.
Turns out it had ruptured days ago. Normally, this floods your body with toxins and you're a goner, but apparently my colon was positioned in such a way that it blocked that from happening. I was in the hospital for another week before my digestive system restarted, and I had to have bile pumped out of my stomach. All in all though, it wasn’t a terrible experience.
40. After Two Strikes, I Was Almost Out
A couple of months ago, I had a serious skydiving accident in which neither my primary nor reserve parachute opened properly. The reserve didn’t even open halfway. I ended up with a shattered femur, an open book pelvis, a burst fracture on my back, and some broken ribs. I will not be skydiving again, but I will be able to walk.
My wife was a flight nurse, and her fellow co-workers saved my life on the helicopter.
41. Cardiac Commotion
My husband was the patient. He was jogging and had a heart attack. After collapsing on the side of the road, a couple found him and called an ambulance. He then coded twice on the way to the hospital and had a balloon pump inserted on arrival. He had to undergo an emergency surgery to replace a heart valve just 12 hours later.
To make matters even worse, he then had secondary complications and ended up in the hospital for three months with a nasogastric tube. Everyone at the hospital was surprised that he made it. His doctor even wrote him a letter to congratulate him on his recovery.
42. Tight Squeeze
I’m a paramedic. I once went to a car wreck where a dude had driven head-first into the corner of a brick bridge. The collision took a huge wedge out of the bottom of the bridge and left the car about one quarter of its normal length. All the impact was on the driver’s side. I turned up only two minutes after the crash and fully expected it to be a fatality.
I walked around to the driver’s side and, somehow, he was fully conscious but squeezed into the only space left in the car. It took almost three hours to get him out. When we finally did manage to extract him, he had absolutely nothing wrong with him other than being an idiot driver. I still wonder how he survived that.
43. A Bumpy Ride
During one of my night shifts as a medical student, I had to take charge of a patient who came to the ER for a "car accident". Well, that’s quite common. But it gets weirder. What was not so common was that he came by himself—from miles away—by calling a taxi because his car was absolutely wrecked in the accident. Normally, when a car ends up upside down, after two or three roll-overs, the passengers aren't really fine.
This patient, however, was totally okay. No broken bones, no head trauma, no abdominal pain, nothing. He just came to the ER because he had little abrasions over his knees and one elbow hurt when it rubbed against his clothes. Three Band-Aids later, and he was good to go!
44. Vital Signs
My friend had been feeling cruddy for a long time, so he went to the doctor. The doctor ordered a bunch of blood tests and ordered them on a "rush" basis. The lab called the doctor to ream him out: "Why the heck did you make us rush these tests?" The doctor was confused. Their answer stunned him. The lab was like, "The guy is clearly gone now, so what's the rush?"
The doctor called my friend and told him not to drive, but to get himself to the emergency room ASAP. Turns out the guy was a Type 1 diabetic and hadn’t realized it until way later in life. Apparently, his bloodwork suggested he was a lifeless body rather than a living person. Luckily, everything worked out for him and he's still doing fine.
45. Car Troubles
I'm a firefighter, so I see my fair share of trauma. About a year ago, we had a call that made me stop in my tracks. It went out as an "individual who had a car fall on his face". He was in his garage while working underneath his car, which was supported by scissor jacks. Something to note: the car didn't have any tires on the front end where he was working.
One of the scissor jacks had slipped out from underneath the car, and the whole weight of the car landed directly onto the side of his head with no tires to stop the fall. We got our rubber airbags out, lifted the car, pulled him out, and got him onto a stretcher. After taking that much weight to the head, he somehow got out of it with just a fractured orbital and a laceration on his cheek.
46. They Had Me Seeing Red
Last year, I walked into the doctor’s office for a checkup and found that I had pretty much no red blood cells. The doctor kept me in the room for an hour, asking me questions, and kept wondering how I had managed to walk to the office alone, much less how I was standing in front of her and was not collapsed on the floor.
Apparently, I’d had SEVERE anemia for about five or so years and was just living with it. Coincidently, the year prior, my dog was in a similar place. We went to the vet because she was bleeding everywhere and discovered her white blood cell count was literally zero. I don’t know how either of us is alive right now, but we're both happy to still be here.
47. She Survived
A lady came into the emergency department with her throat cut open. She was, unfortunately, horrifyingly mistreated by her husband. The vile man had really done a number on her. The wound was so horrific and deep that it still baffles everyone how she survived. But that wasn't the craziest part.
Not only did she survive, but she was also conscious the entire time! Thanks to the quick actions of the paramedics, they were able to protect her airway and place a tracheostomy. Unfortunately, she was left with life-changing injuries, was unable to eat, and was completely unable to talk.
48. Sleeping Beauty
An elderly lady had a massive brain hemorrhage and was transferred to terminal care in the in-patient ward I was working at. Her prognosis was that she would pass at any moment. There was no treatment, she was comatose, but breathing spontaneously through a tracheotomy tube. A week passed with no medications, no food, no fluids.
Yet, she was still alive. Then, she began to stir, and became conscious. Delirious, but conscious. So, we started IV fluids, appropriate medications, and eventually physiotherapy. After a few months, she moved into the local nursing home and lived there for a few years. She had profound dementia but was able to move around.
I sometimes wonder if the air-moisturizing device in the room kept her hydrated, because a healthy person would generally not survive a week without fluids.
49. This Preemie Captured My Heart
I was a NICU nurse. We had a baby who was born with an undiagnosed congenital heart defect. It was a defect that, if not treated, would lead to them to losing their life. The baby was discharged home. The mom took the baby to the pediatrician the next day because she felt like something was wrong. The pediatrician blew her off and said they would follow up in a week.
The next day baby came into the NICU, basically DOA. There was a duct in the heart that had kept her alive her first days, but on the second day, the duct closed, and her little body went into shock. All babies have this duct that closes after a few days, and if their heart is healthy, all is well, but some defects need the duct to stay open to stay alive.
Her defect was lethal without a patent duct. I walked into the room that morning, and the room was trashed. The baby was swollen and didn’t even look like a baby, with every medication imaginable being pumped into her body. You could barely even see that there was a baby with all the machines hooked up to her keeping her alive.
Her little body was shutting down. She was sick for a very long time, and doctors told the mom she would never walk, talk, or live a normal life. She proved them wrong.
This little baby is three years old now and visited me yesterday. She's beautiful, living a full life, walking and talking with only a scar on her chest as a reminder of her first few months of life. The scar is a reminder that her heart is now perfect.
50. The Case Study
During my undergrad, my anatomy tutor told us of an interesting case study. A woman in the same department had been in a car accident, going a considerable speed. The seat belt failed to lock, and her face flew into the steering wheel. Her mouth, nose, cheekbones, and forehead were shattered. Yet, she suffered no brain damage. The reason why was pretty miraculous.
Apparently, the front of her face acted as a crumple zone and the fact that her skull shattered meant the cranial swelling didn't cause any damage because the brain had more space to swell into. She needed significant reconstructive surgery, but a year later, she and my tutor teamed up in a research project. They used her case as the basis for looking into new ways to treat severe head injuries.
Based on that research, they developed new treatment protocols depending on where the skull had taken damage. They basically found out that if you're going to have a head injury, you should try and get hit in the front of the face and not the temples because you're much more likely to survive.
51. Breathing A Sigh Of Relief
I was a phlebotomist during COVID. I watched six people lose their lives in one single weekend in my ICU mornings. There was one guy left. For two months, I drew his blood and his wife’s—who was a non-ICU COVID patient—for a month. I watched him get intubated, extubated, and reintubated. I remember telling his spouse whatever I could that wouldn't upset her.
While he was out, I would talk to him and tell him about his wife, how nice and wonderful she was, and how he had to keep going cause she really missed him. Everyone thought that, just like the rest, he wasn’t going to make it. He coded twice, at least during my shift, and he was only extubated for a few days because he was really struggling.
One day I came in after a weekend off, and he wasn’t there. I panicked and was told he was moved to the first floor. When I saw him, he was sitting up in bed and chatting with me after two weeks. I told him about his wife and anything he asked that I was allowed to tell him. He walked out of the hospital on his own. We all couldn’t believe he lived.
My grandma-in-law was in her early 80s, on blood thinners, and took a nasty fall and hit her head. Quite a common injury, unfortunately, and she was admitted to the hospital. The amazing part is that for three days her condition worsened and the signs that she had a brain haemorrhage went unnoticed. That is, until she became unresponsive.
Then we had all the bells and whistles. She was airlifted to a larger hospital, and I spent the day preparing my family for the worst. The bleeding had gone unchecked for a long time and if she did survive, we had to prepare for her to be different. That wonder woman woke up a few hours after surgery with zero impairments.
Her memory was intact, and she remembered everything right up to hospital admission. It was an amazing recovery that we're all very grateful for.
53. I Couldn’t Believe My Eyes
I was an eye doctor. I had an ex-law enforcement officer come in for an examination. I noticed the left side of his face was sort of gnarly. He took off his hat and had a rather sizeable crater missing from the side of his skull. He proceeded to tell me a chilling story.
He'd been blasted in the chest, and the projectile fragmented off his vest. One of the fragments went through his cheek, left eye, and brain and then exited his skull, taking a chunk of bone with it. I couldn’t wrap my head around it until I examined his retinas.
Sure enough, there was an entrance wound with a perfectly round scar, a literal trail through the vitreous, and a perfectly round exit wound. The eye was in otherwise perfect shape. The guy got a slug through his face, eyes, and brain and survived it.
54. Withering Away
A patient in his late 90s was admitted to our hospice for terminal care because of untreatable multilevel bowel obstruction. It was confirmed on a CT scan, and obvious from his swollen abdomen and profuse vomiting. The guy was, however, absolutely charming and completely at peace with this. He didn’t want discomfort and felt he’d had a good life.
He was scared to eat because of the vomiting it caused—if the bowel is blocked, then any eating has to go back out the way it came in. Other than that, he was comfy enough with just a little pain relief. He was also lovely to chat to, very reflective, and articulate in his speech and mannerisms. The surgeons at the local hospital had told him that he had days, possibly hours, to live.
He barely drank anything and ate literally nothing. Shockingly, this continued for two months. Though he lost a tremendous amount of weight and physical capability, it seemed that during this time his bowel obstruction had spontaneously unobstructed. We ended up getting him home.
55. The Human Kebab
This is a story about my dad's best friend, or as he's more commonly known, the "human kebab". So, this guy decided to take his dogs out on a walk on a particularly cold Scotland morning and, on his way out, slipped on some ice. Unfortunately, he landed on a metal pole that was being used to hold up flowers or something.
This pole went in through his side, just under the ribcage, I believe, and exited through his neck. After being rushed to the hospital and having x-rays and whatever done, the doctors concluded that the pole had missed all vital organs, veins, and arteries. They basically just had to pull it out. This all happened many years before I was born but I still find it hard to believe.
56. Free-Floating Fetus
I was a labor and delivery nurse and had a patient induced with Pitocin. She got her epidural, and everything was going great. She was a bigger lady, so keeping the baby on the monitor could be trying at times, but I was able to keep a decent reading. While I was in adjusting her meds, I noticed that there was a lot of artifact in the ultrasound, and the belly just didn’t look right.
I immediately called for the midwife and OB. The worst had happened. She had a uterine abruption. The baby was free floating in her abdomen, and the woman was actively bleeding. We did an emergency c-section immediately. From the time I saw the monitor go wonky to the time we had that baby out was about seven minutes. Luckily, both mom and baby survived.
I was the patient. At two and a half years old, I had a stroke. I was in a coma for about eight days. None of the doctors could believe it, probably because it’s unusual for someone to have a stroke that young. Before I woke up, a doctor even told my parents to prepare for my passing as it looked like I wouldn’t make it.
Well, I still had brain activity, which showed that I was reacting to my parents touching me and talking to me. Eventually, I opened my eyes and very slowly progressed to moving my limbs. I had to relearn how to walk and talk, as part of my brain had deteriorated. Surprisingly, I really don’t have any side effects. I’m very lucky.
I work in the quality department for a large hospital system. I do a lot of work with the trauma doctors, and this story takes the cake for me. A guy who crashed his four-wheeler into a fence was brought in to see us. One of the posts impaled him under the rib cage—it went up to his jaw and literally took off his rib cage.
His lungs and heart were still working when he came into the trauma bay. Everyone kept wondering how he was alive. They were able to rebuild him a new rib cage and he walked out a few months later. There was actually a TV crew from the show Trauma Life in the ER, so a tape of his treatment exists online somewhere.
59. A Lucky Coincidence
I was an operating room nurse. One day, I left my badge at home, and my boyfriend was bringing it to me. He was parked outside the hospital's back door, waiting for me. He called me and told me someone had just dumped someone out of a car at that door, and they were just lying on the ground.
The ER came and got them; later that night, they became my patient in the OR. When I saw her, I couldn't believe my eyes. The patient had necrotizing fasciitis down her whole leg and had tried to deal with the pain by injecting a little too much smack. Thankfully I had forgotten my badge that day, or who knows how long they would have been lying out there without any help.
60. The Shock Of His Life
A guy was working on a roof and a piece of gutter he was holding bumped a high voltage line that was supposed to be off. He was severely electrocuted. The hand holding the gutter was completely degloved, as were several spots on his torso. His whole body was covered in 2nd and 3rd-degree burns. Somehow he was not only alive but conscious.
However, his airway was burned and was swelling shut. Fortunately, the paramedic I was partnered with was an ace at intubation, got a tube placed in time, and we got him to the burn unit quickly. Last I heard, he had survived.
61. If At First You Don’t Succeed…
Paramedic here. We were dispatched to a "person who fell". Another update said "unconscious". The last update, which came about a minute or two before we got there, was "unconscious, not breathing, CPR in progress". A lady in her forties was deceased. Like, for real. She was cold, had rigor mortis, pupils were fixed and dilated, and the monitor was flatlining.
Not only was she gone, she’d been gone for a while. The fire department was doing CPR, but it seemed futile at that point. I called the hospital to talk to a doctor. I asked the physician on the other end, "Hey, can we get orders to stop resuscitation efforts on this patient?" The physician said, "Nah, she seems kind of young. And I know it’s probably futile but go ahead and keep working and bring her on in".
That was fine, no problem. We kept going and got the IV. I intubated her, gave her some epinephrine, put the thumper on her, gave some more epi, some bicarb...and I still to this day shiver at what happened next. Holy smokes, she had a pulse! A week later, the patient got discharged from the hospital to rehab with "only mild cognitive impairment".
Basically, she had to learn to use a spoon and fork again and she lost a week or two of her memory. That was it. Thank God for that doctor not wanting to give up.
62. Burning Up
We got a call for a young woman burning with fever, and I was already rolling my eyes—I mean, take your car and go to the hospital, or call the doctor for a home visit. An ambulance probably has better things to do. We arrived there, and there she was calmly sitting on a chair waiting for us. We took the temperature, and the fever wasn’t even that high. Now I'm extra ticked.
The nurse asked, "So, miss, what happened?" The lady said, "I went to the toilet to pee, and I expelled a blood clot". The nurse nodded, "Hmm, alright, maybe that would actually be worth checking. How about the fever? Since when have you had it?" The lady replied, completely calm, "Let's see...Yes, it was May. I had a miscarriage in May, and since then I’ve had a fever"".
Wait, what? It's November now. You have been feverish for six months?" The lady nodded, "I took Ketoprofen". This gal had a miscarriage, didn't check with a doctor and, despite the fever, proceeded to take Keto for over six months without giving it a second thought. The nurse was impressed she’d survived that long.
63. Septic Shutdown
My wife, who was 47 years old and in great shape, was complaining of stomach cramps. Diverticulitis had narrowed her colon, so her poop was nothing more than a thin ribbon. She didn't discuss this with her primary care physician. Two days before Christmas, she came home and said she thought she had the flu and just wanted to sleep.
When she was changing, I noticed her swollen belly. Her normal washboard stomach looked like she was five months pregnant. I took her to the ER. The ER was backed up, and "possible flu" was at the bottom of the triage list. The nurse kept asking, "How many months pregnant?" My wife had a full hysterectomy, so that was not possible and could not explain the rapid change to her belly.
Fourteen hours passed, and we finally got X-rays. The truth was far more horrifying than anyone realized. The radiologist noted "full of air", a ruptured colon, and "doesn't feel well". My wife was fully septic.
The ascending colon was removed, and an ileostomy was fitted. Sepsis shut down everything, and her heart kept pumping. She coded numerous times in recovery. Hospital folks told her she was a Christmas miracle. Her surgeon admitted, "You're the only one who survived a total septic shutdown".
During my intern year doing surgery, a guy got brought in for a wound to the head. He was working at a jeweler that got robbed. His co-worker too far gone to save, but the patient was brought into the trauma bay. It was pretty hectic because of the wound to the head but…well, he was alive. Not only was he alive, but he was following commands.
Despite that, he wasn’t speaking, which was probably from the shock. The authorities gave us a report that said the patient was likely shot with a .357 snub nose they recovered at the scene. So, we did our primary and secondary survey of the patient, and all this guy has is a single wound to his left frontal scalp where the round went in.
The surgical team hadn’t really seen something like this before. Sure, a shot to the head wasn’t new but this guy was otherwise completely fine. The decision was made to get a quick skull X-ray to verify where the round was before proceeding to the CT department. We couldn't believe what we saw. There was no slug.
And it wasn’t on the board, or the bed, or within the patient’s clothes. The man was shot in the head and the round bounced off his skull. The CT scan showed that there wasn’t even a fracture. It was wild. I’ve never seen anything like that since.
65. He Was Going To Be Left on the Side of the Road
My husband was hit by a car going 40mph and thrown roughly 20 feet forwards. The first I knew of it was a ring at my doorbell where a person said, "I’m with the ambulance and have your husband in the back". He’d forgotten his mobile phone and asked the ambulance to take a detour to let me know what was going on. I jumped in the back, and he was a mess.
He had a bleeding head injury and road burn on every possible part of him—on his hands, face, front and back of arms and legs, his rear, and his stomach. He was strapped down to the gurney in a neck support. He was rushed into an MRI because they were concerned about the head injury. There was nothing. He had an MRI of his abdomen to check for internal bleeding. Again, nothing.
He had a full body X-ray done, and there was not a bone broken on his body. He needed stitches, and the doctor who saw him just literally said he couldn’t believe he wasn’t more injured. The only thing he could think of was that he must have gone like a rag doll when he was hit, and the lack of tensing saved him from more severe injury. All his scuffs healed up, and he was absolutely fine.
66. Little Lazarus
My dad is a doctor and he told me this story. He has this 12-year-old patient, let's call him "Tim". Everyone in the hospital firmly believes he's immortal. Tim was born with a bad heart and is constantly in an out of the ICU. By "in and out of the ICU", I mean he goes in almost once or twice a month. Nine out of 10 admissions, Tim flatlines.
Strangely, Tim always comes back, even if they don't resuscitate him. I'd say Tim has flatlined about 15 times by now. It’s gotten to the point that whenever Tim flatlines, nobody panics. Not even his mom, who fell to the floor in tears the first three times he flatlined. During his last visit, one of the other doctors says, "Hey, guys, Tim's vitals are dropping".
My dad goes, "Again? Whew, that kid's definitely going for a record". Tim's pretty chill about it all. He talks about his ICU trips similar to how a normal kid talks about a mildly eventful day at school. Nobody knows how the heck Tim always come back. He just does. Frankly, I'm surprised the media hasn't done a story about it. It's absolutely incredible.
67. The Flood
During the first year of my core surgical training, I was on call in a very small rural hospital. This hospital only had two doctors on at night—me and a medical trainee. There were no emergency doctors. It was about 11 pm and this 26-year-old guy came in after being in a fight. Blood was pumping from his nose, which was clearly fractured.
I suspected he probably had other facial fractures underneath, but he was awake and talking to me, and otherwise seemed fine. I spent about 45 minutes trying to stop the bleeding, using all sorts of nose packs and pressure. I even tried a catheter balloon to try and tamponade it. It took a big turn for the worse. Nothing was working, and he was starting to go into shock.
I was basically freaking out at this point. Based on his vitals, I'd estimated he was on the verge of losing a critical amount of blood. The nearest proper surgical hospital was 45 minutes away, and my consultant was at home, which was 25 minutes from the hospital. Eventually, I got four bags of O-negative from the lab.
Then, I put the guy in the back of an ambulance, still bleeding, and sent him to the surgical centre in the city. I got a phone call about three hours later from a surgeon at the other hospital. He had brought the patient to the operating theatre and had been able to control the situation. The patient was probably 15 minutes away from being a goner.
If you come into that kind of small hospital with that much bleeding, all stats say you're in trouble. That guy was very lucky that his friends got him in so quickly.
68. Shades Of Gray
A guy collapsed in the garden of the bar I worked in. He hadn't been a customer, and as it was a foul day, we had no idea he was out there until a lady passing the pub spotted him and told us. I never ran so fast in my life.
He was entirely unresponsive to verbal, physical, and pain stimuli. He had aspirated vomit; I could hear it bubbling as he choked on it. When I got him on his side and got his mouth open, an absolute cascade of blood and barf hit me.
He'd bitten his tongue pretty much off from what I could see. His pulse was erratic, and I could hear him still choking. His pupils were dilated and not responding. He stopped breathing and was turning gray in front of my eyes. I was doing CPR for about five minutes until the ambulance came while he got grayer.
I was 100% convinced I was beating a goner. They took him away. I threw up, cried, threw my clothes away, and borrowed stuff from my boss to get home. I was shaking and resigned myself to never knowing what had happened, as he obviously couldn't give me a name, and he had no ID on him.
A month went by, and in walked a dude nobody knew. He was looking for the landlady. They got her. Then she phoned me. I walked in. IT WAS THE GUY. He'd been having a bad time and wound up overindulging on smack and coke. He couldn't remember a thing, and all the hospital had been able to tell him was where he had been found.
He was on a ventilator for at least a week and was technically gone twice. He brought me flowers, and I ugly cried for most of the day. I was convinced he was gone.
69. Blood Is Thicker Than Water
We had a guy come into the ER because he was feeling "kind of dizzy and out of breath". They ordered a standard array of labs, and when we drew his blood, we noticed something extremely worrying.
His blood seemed really thin and watery. That was because he had a 2.7 hemoglobin. Hemoglobin values measure "how much blood is in your blood" and, therefore, how much oxygen can be carried throughout your body.
A normal hemoglobin reading is roughly 12–16, depending on age and gender. Below ten is where they start considering the possibility of transfusion, and below eight is considered "critical". A 2.7 should no longer be alive, yet this man was both walking and conscious when he came in.
He even argued about being admitted overnight. We couldn’t even get his sample to run at first. We had to mess with the sensors for it to register. He survived and was transferred to another facility after transfusing a few units.
One time when I was on the trauma team, a man came in carrying a second blood-soaked man in his arms. We got him onto a stretcher, and it was clear he had a round to his chest and had gone into cardiac arrest. We started chest compressions and within minutes the consultant was performing an open thoracotomy in order to start cardiac massage.
Heart surgeons joined us quickly and got to work on the heart. They were fixing a hole in the right ventricle. All the while, bag after bag of O-negative was being pushed into the patient in an attempt to replace everything that had pumped out of his heart and into his chest cavity. About 20 minutes into this, the impossible happened. The heart started beating on its own.
The patient was taken directly to the operating theatre, and the hole in his heart was repaired. Somehow, his heart continued beating and after a couple weeks, the patient was returned to the trauma ward. He was wide awake and alert. Several weeks, some mild hypoxic brain injury, and a gnarly chest scar later, the patient walked out of the ward. He walked out with his dad, who turned out to be the man who had carried him in.
71. Cardiac Cocktail Of Doom
I was an EMT-B working for a county emergency system and worked with another EMT-B in a crew of two. We received a call for a 40-something male having difficulty breathing and some chest pain. Once we arrived at the scene and walked into the door to his kitchen, he was sitting in a tripod position at the kitchen table about 15 feet from us.
He was audibly wheezing and said it was really hard for him to breathe. We assisted him onto the stretcher and into the ambulance, gave the patient oxygen, and placed him on a 12-lead ECG, BP cuff, and pulse oximeter. We transmitted it to the nearby hospital and radioed dispatch to try and have a paramedic unit meet us en route.
They couldn’t, so we made it to the hospital in about five to 10 minutes. When we transferred him from our stretcher to the hospital bed, the worst happened. He went into cardiac arrest.
After the first round of CPR and cardiac meds, they were able to sustain a pulse. After a few hours of running other calls, we were at the same hospital, and the doctor said that the patient had a pulmonary embolism, widowmaker STEMI, and stroke on top of him coding. As far as I know, he survived.
72. Back In The Saddle
My dad got hit by a train while on his bicycle. The incident report said it was going 80mph. When we got to the hospital on the first day, the doctors basically told us to prepare for the end. His blood pressure was dropping like crazy, but they cut a hole in his stomach, and that seemed to stabilize things for the first night.
He woke up a few weeks later and had broken all his ribs on the right, some on the left, both collar bones, his right arm, collapsed both lungs, and he had a severe brain injury. After he woke up in the ICU, he was acting pretty crazy. The doctors told us he would never return to his job or regain the level of intelligence he had pre-accident.
Eventually, he left the ICU, went to the general ward, and then to two rehabs. He left the second rehab early and went back to his job as a VP, although his speech was still slightly impaired at the time. Then, he bought a new bike. As of this writing, he seems completely normal. Whatever the first responders did on that first day probably ensured that he got to live.
73. The Great Unknown
My husband took me to the local hospital's emergency room for ongoing severe lower abdominal pain. The nurses took blood, hooked me up to an IV, and gave me a little bit of pain medicine. A nurse I hadn't yet seen came into the ER room looking very nervous and told me I was being admitted because my platelet count was 6,000.
My husband and I were like, "What?" The nurse was very surprised I didn’t have other symptoms like bruising, nosebleeds, and blood in my urine or stool. He looked very concerned, and the medical team rushed to get me into a room. The only symptoms I had were fatigue and a heavy menstrual flow, but both symptoms had been my companions since I started my period at 11 years old.
The next morning, a hematologist came to my room and explained my diagnosis. They had no idea what caused it. He told me I was lucky to not have had crazy internal bleeding, bleeding into my brain, or a stroke. He prescribed a regimen of 60mg of Prednisone daily, which I was on for a year and a half.
The low platelet count made no progress. The doctors finally decided to proceed with an operation to remove my spleen. The recovery was brutal. Having a huge incision down the length of your abdomen makes everyday tasks very difficult and painful. Almost five years later, my platelet count is normal. My period is still the bane of my existence, though.
74. If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try And Try Again
I was a fireman. I responded to a shady hotel a town over for a man throwing up. Law enforcement passed us on the way, and we thought nothing of it because it was a shady area. We got to the scene, and officers said the guy wasn’t breathing. My officer and I started compressions while the ambulance got there. The paramedics expected a man throwing up, but all the radios were down.
They had NO idea what they were responding to. The ambulance crew pumped this guy full of meds and got an auto-CPR machine on him. The standard procedure was 30 minutes of on-scene CPR. However, the clock was set late because we couldn't contact dispatch, so it ended up being around 45 minutes of CPR with no resuscitation.
As we were loading this guy into the ambulance, we found out he had a lower GI bleed and had been bleeding excessively out of his rear. Prior to getting this patient into the back of the ambulance, the medics put on a 12-lead ECG. The graph showed the patient had a shockable pulse in the back of the ambulance. The medic decided "what the heck" and "might as well try".
The medics turned off the auto-CPR, shocked the patient, and to all of our bewilderment, the graph showed an extremely weak pulse. The medic put his finger against the patient's neck and said he could feel it. The pulse became stronger and stronger. The medics gave him nasal Narcan, and he started breathing on his own.
This happened in a developing country where I was a med student. It was a Saturday evening, and I was working a pediatrics shift. The neonatal service sent us a newborn who looked to have an infection. The baby was very likely to perish if he didn’t get the correct treatment. There was a huge problem, though. Our service was for older children and the treatment he needed was not within our expertise at all.
We didn’t have the necessary infrastructure to help a newborn. Heck, we didn’t even have all the necessary meds for our own patients. The newborn needed a heating bed if we were to have any chance of providing even the most basic treatment. So, after some tinkering, we improvised one by heating up some serums in our oven.
Then, we surrounded the little boy with them and gave him some antibiotics. Despite doing all that, we knew it was only a provisional solution. The baby’s inevitable demise would come sooner or later. Our shift ended a few hours later. We were quite sad about the little baby, and we told him "goodbye" as we left for the weekend.
To our surprise, when we returned on Monday, he was still alive. He was even showing stronger vital signs than many of the other kids. Technically speaking, it should have been impossible for the newborn to have survived that long. We were genuinely impressed by the amazing turn-around. Babies are really good fighters.
76. Out Of Air
In my first year of residency, I had a 63-year-old male patient who came to the emergency department because he had "trouble with his breathing". He had just walked two kilometers to the hospital.
This was in peak first wave COVID time, but the patient was noticed immediately because his oxygen saturation was 64%. A healthy adult should be >94%. Most people with a value of <80% are no longer alive or in the ICU on a ventilator.
I saw the patient after a few minutes and suspected COVID—for which he tested positive—but also diagnosed him with a massive myocardial infarction. I’m pretty sure he would have coded due to an arrhythmia if he had waited another hour or two to come to the hospital.
He was intubated, put on a ventilator, and had two new coronary stents within an hour. It took him two months to recover, but he survived.
Last December, I got bacterial meningitis and sepsis. My now-husband brought me to the local ER because after lying in bed all day, I had developed weird purple spots all over my arms and legs. The ER nurse who admitted me recognized the spots as a sign of Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation disorder (DIC). I was immediately given an IV in my neck and the staff brought out the really heavy-duty antibiotics.
I ended up staying six nights in the ICU and another six nights on the main floor. I lost a ton of weight and muscle mass, almost had to have a toe amputated, and needed a cane to walk for several weeks. But the week after I was released, my partner started feeling sick and we went back to the same hospital ER to make sure he didn’t have the same thing I did.
The doctor that day was the same one who had given me the neck IV. They spent more time staring at me in sheer disbelief than talking to my partner about his symptoms!
78. Handle With Care
I was a dumb 13-year-old reptile enthusiast with over 200 lizards and more than 15 snakes of my own. I would spend a lot of time hiking to find and photograph wild reptiles and amphibians. To make a long story short, I had experience handling a number of reptiles, and didn’t comprehend that a venomous snake was out of my league.
Picking up a cottonmouth as an inexperienced child resulted in two surgeries, three days in the ICU, 12 units of antivenom, and five months of physical therapy. The bite on my right thumb from a single fang has left my hand with 11 scars and a lot of nerve damage. I was told by the surgeon that if I had come in 15 minutes later, he wouldn’t have been able to do anything to help.
This was in 2012 and my surgeon, who had been practicing for 26 years up to that point, said mine was the second worst bite he’d dealt with in his career. I was beaten by a man who took a rattler to the leg and basically had the same surgery on his leg.
79. Never Give Up
I worked at a VA hospital. A 68-year-old male went into cardiac arrest, and Code Blue was called. Another second-year resident and I arrived on the scene with our interns and probably 20 medical students. Everyone got involved and had a chance to do CPR. Every medication in the crash cart was used.
After 60 minutes—much longer than a code would usually be run—we were showing off our knowledge and skills to our medical students. Seeing a weak pulseless rhythm, I decided to do a pericardiocentesis—draw fluid from the sac around the heart as a treatment for a possible tamponade. I removed about 20-25cc’s of clear fluid through a six-inch needle.
The other resident said to me, "That wasn’t enough to do anything". He was so wrong. Immediately, we had a measurable blood pressure, and the patient was sent to the ICU.
Over a year later, I was caring for a very ill woman at University Hospital across the street. Her well-dressed, articulate father came by to visit her, and we got to talking. He said, "I was real sick at the VA about a year ago, and those doctors saved my life". I realized it was the same man and was glad we hadn’t given up too soon.
80. Nap Time
A kid swallowed two bottles of sleep medicine and washed it down with cough syrup. Chewable pills were on the scene too, but he must not have fussed with them. After one stomach pump and tons of IV meds later, the kid was catatonic but alive. He blinked, but nobody was home. Every time he saw a doctor, he swatted at them.
He started tearing out his IVs while remaining completely vacant. Eventually, he got restraints put on his hands. When he started kicking the doctors, he got them on his legs. He started head-butting and biting, so he got one across his forehead, too. One day, he slipped the restraints and pulled his nasogastric tube out.
Everyone in the room panicked...until he shocked us to our core. He asked for pancakes like nothing had happened. The kid was lucky—there was no liver damage, no kidney damage, no brain damage, and no heart damage. If he hadn't been found by a family member, he would have suffered an excruciating demise. Instead, he walked out after 10 days in the psych ward.
We were playing indoor field hockey in high school gym class. We were supposed to be using foam or soft plastic equipment for safety. Someone grabbed the regulation-grade field hockey ball by mistake. Regular balls are solid plastic, maybe with a cork or rubber center.
I ended up taking a slapshot to the side of my head, behind my eye but in front of my temple, at maybe a meter away. It gets worse. The kid who took the shot played ice hockey just below the national level. My glasses exploded into many pieces. The frames snapped at different spots, the lenses shattered.
But after all that, I had only a mild concussion. The doctor said that if I hadn’t been wearing glasses and took that hit full force, it would've shattered my eye socket and ended me by hitting my temple.
82. He Somehow Pulled Through
I did some time as a correctional officer. It was pretty common to have inmates out at hospitals for various things. We were assigned to a guy who was terminal. He had a drain tube coming out the top of his head, and every time the nurses or doctor performed a check, you could see them getting more and more downcast.
His cranial pressure was far too high and was not going down, no matter what they did. He was 100% unresponsive. They had him hooked up to everything and called in his family, even waiting for some who were out of state to come in, so they could all say their goodbyes. They pulled the drain and the ventilator. Then, a miracle happened.
He started breathing on his own. He underwent a full recovery over the next week. The next time I saw him, it was to leave the hospital and go back to finish his sentence.
83. He Came Back From Behind
When I was a student paramedic, on my second week on the road, we got a call out to a 19-year-old who’d been besieged by a group of lads with a machete. He had a few cuts dotted around his body that were deep enough that you could see tissue but nothing severe. He was also half scalped and had a wound on his behind, which didn’t look too bad from the outside.
We didn’t realize the extent of his wounds until we got him in, and they did all of their immediate checks. The ultrasound found fluid where there wasn’t supposed to be any. It turned out the jab wound on his behind went in and up and caught this poor guy's main artery. So, he was essentially bleeding out at this point.
He was naturally tanned but was as white as a ghost by the time we reached the hospital. My mentor spoke to one of the doctors about a month or so later and found out that after all the necessary treatments and surgeries, he left the hospital alive and well only three weeks after the incident happened.
84. He Was Almost Screwed
When I had my first spontaneous pneumothorax, on the bed in front of me was a guy with his head swollen three times the size of an average head. Days later, he woke up and was speaking. He was changing a tire on his Audi A4. When the tire was taken down, and the car was on the jack, he remembered a screw that made a sound every time he turned the car to the left, so he hopped under the car.
He turned the screw and heard a squeaking sound from the direction of the jack. He turned to the sound and saw the jack turn to the side while the car fell. The Audi fell from about 55cm onto his face; his collarbone saved his life. The vehicle was lying on his face for about four hours until his grandfather came to get a drill. He lifted the car with his hands long enough to pull him out.
His eye was the reddest I've ever seen, and the back of his head was just crunched. He had multiple brain surgeries and had to re-learn many movements, especially eating, since they were forced to partially reconstruct his jaw on one side.
85. Lost Cause
I had a young woman who came in septic from pneumonia. She was on every medication to help her heart beat harder and constrict her blood vessels to keep her blood pressure up, but still deteriorating. Adult retrieval assessed her and declined our request for a machine that oxygenates her blood and pumps it for her heart because they thought it was futile.
The pressure required to force air into her lungs to help her breathe caused a severe collapsed lung and it began to shift her heart and major blood vessels until they stopped working correctly. She went into cardiac arrest three times and ended up ventilated for two months. There were multiple failed attempts to wean her off ventilation because her muscles and body had grown so weak from being bedridden.
Eventually, after a four-month stay, we got her to rehab. She is the sickest person I've looked after who lived.
86. Preemie Magic
I'm a pediatrics resident and kids have some magic. I took care of a 23-week-old preemie. The little dude was only about 21 ounces. Now, if you look at the most recent data, survival in this case is a little less than 50%. Long term issues are a near guarantee if they survive. This kid was on an oscillator, IV antibiotics, the works.
He suffered a perforation in his bowel. He also suffered a bleed in his brain, yet he pushed through. After having cared for him for three weeks as his primary resident, he was in an okay spot when I left my rotation. I went back after he’d had surgery and reached 36 weeks. He looked amazing.
He was left with mild nearsightedness from the treatment of his retinal disease. Our ophthalmologist said that he’d need glasses but, other than that, he’d have okay vision. His gut was great, and he no longer required an IV. His lungs had every reason to look horrible and they just...didn’t. A few markings but he sounded beautiful and had no supplemental oxygen.
It’s been a few days since then, and his brain bleed is resolving. His brain MRI looks wonderful, and he is acting like a normal 36-weeker. He will need to be watched closely but even my jaded, battle-weary attending is incredibly hopeful. This kid’s got every reason to have crippling medical issues, but all signs are pointing to him leading a normal baby life. It's amazing!
My story is about my grandfather who got into a terrible car accident. A motorcyclist who was road-raging on him circled the car several times, and my grandfather had a stroke and lost control of the vehicle. He plummeted into a metal pole at about 70 mph, and the car was ripped asunder. The pole basically split the entire crumple zone in half like a metallic banana peel.
My grandmother was in the passenger seat and escaped with merely both of her arms shattered from bracing for the impact. My grandfather, on the other hand, was lacerated. His arms broke, his ribcage broke, his lung was perforated, he had a massive aneurysm, and the doctors put him into a coma. And this dude was in his eighties when this happened.
The doctors told my family to make peace and start working on settling the estate. My grandpa had no chance at all. His injuries would have ended a 30-year-old man 99% of the time, and he already had other health issues with his heart and blood pressure before the crash. He also had diabetes. And gout. Basically, he was a body in a bed.
During our family reunion, my uncle pulled me aside and asked if I needed to talk "for my mental well-being". But I believed something he didn't. I just kinda laughed and continued eating fried chicken. I said, "Uncle Gerry, pap-pap is basically Rasputin. He broke his spine on a mountain and survived that after being dragged back to the hunting camp, by your brother, in the dark of night. And he regained full mobility. He'll be fine".
He sighed, probably thinking that I was in denial. The next day, my father was in the kitchen, crying on a stool. I grabbed some bacon, and he looked up and cried, "He's…He's awake!" I said, "Well, yeah. I told Gerry yesterday. He's the incarnation of Rasputin. You all know this. Like he'd pass from a car crash". The man was up and moving in three weeks.
My grandpa lived for another decade before passing peacefully of extreme old age. His doctors were completely flabbergasted, as were his kids. Nobody respects Rasputin nowadays.
During the second year of my neurosurgery residency, a woman got shot by her husband, who then turned the barrel on himself. In the ER, the patient was barely breathing and had a dangerously low level of hemoglobin. Her scans were difficult to parse, but we rushed her to surgery.
We made an incision. We found some small fragments of casing but no big slug. When I went back to repair the portion of skull that we’d cut out, I found the slug embedded in her skull. As we get older, our skull thickens, but this girl was young. She just had an abnormally thick portion of her skull in the area where she was shot.
After the case was over, I looked back at her CT and it was a miraculous abnormality. The patient ended up surviving with no neurological deficits. At this time, she is a completely normal and high functioning individual in society. The strange, thickened portion of her skull saved her life. If she would have been shot anywhere else in her head at point blank, she would have undoubtedly lost her life.
I’m not one for fate or higher power but this story always gives me goose bumps.
89. Blown Away
During surgical intern year, a guy came in from a hang-gliding accident where he fell when a strong gust of wind blew him out of the sky. Luckily, he fell into a grove of trees. He presented to the trauma bay with a stick coming out of his eye and saying that he couldn’t see out of that eye but had vision in the other.
Initially, we were impressed that he survived a 100-foot fall from the sky, but then we got the scan back and our jaws dropped. Turned out the stick actually went through his eye, across his skull, and almost to the other side—it was embedded about deep inside his head.
Amazingly, he was still conscious and talking before he underwent a 15-hour surgery involving neurosurgery and ophthalmology. Aside from losing the one eye, he made a full recovery.
90. Almost Eaten Alive
I was a nurse specializing in wounds. I had a patient who shouldn’t have survived. She was a regular lady, a little overweight with some mild hypertension, but nothing crazy. She was an intelligent woman who worked a full-time job as an aviation mechanic. She came in and got an awful diagnosis.
She had necrotizing fasciitis—flesh-eating bacteria that started from a bug bite/cut on her stomach after swimming in one of the local lakes in our state. She had a 10% chance of survival.
Her peritoneum was exposed completely. It had eaten her skin and soft tissues across her abdomen, all the way across from top to bottom, around her flanks, the tops of her thighs, and under her bosom. The wound measured about 70.0cm by 120.0cm with a depth of 7.0cm or so in some parts.
After many months of wound care, skin grafts, and PT/OT, she walked right out of the facility. She was left scarred but completely fine!
91. A Race Against Time
When I was eight years old, my dad was running his first and last marathon. My mom, brother, and I were at the finish line waiting for him to appear out of this tunnel, signs in hand that read "Go, Dad Go"! I spotted him and excitedly pointed him out to my mom and brother. Only a few moments passed before my dad started to drift off to the side, his eyes glazed over.
Before we could figure out what was wrong with him, he collapsed into the side rails that separated the spectators from the track. He had a sudden cardiac arrest, and the ONLY reason he’s alive today is that he collapsed at the feet of a cardiologist who jumped the rails to resuscitate him.
He was in a coma for a week or so, and to this day, he doesn’t remember anything after the first half of the race.
92. Miracle In The Morgue
I was sitting with a cancer patient who came through the ER because of complications with their chemo treatment that day. I heard over the radio that EMS was coming in with a code, no sinus rhythm, no heartbeat, no pulse, and no blood pressure. It was a classic DOA scenario. They bagged them and eventually trached them, but nothing worked. The doctor called the time.
My cancer patient passed at almost the same time due to complications. I went down to the hospital morgue to pay my respects. After about ten minutes of me crying over this child, I heard banging from one of the freezers where the bodies were stored.
I put my fear aside and opened it. This guy was alive and breathing. I almost passed out. I hit the panic button, and everything went crazy. Doctors, nurses, and security were in the room in less than a minute.
This guy had two rare conditions that would cause their heart to slow down to where it was undetectable by a pulse oximeter. At the same time, the signals from his brain to his heart would desync, causing a false negative on an EKG, basically leading to a fake demise.
93. Push, Baby, Push
My wife was five months pregnant and had been complaining about hip pain. She was convinced it was normal hip pain and just part of being pregnant. She had a low fever for three days when I finally convinced her to go to the doctor. She went in the next day and the doctor got her in for a CT scan. The scan revealed that her appendix had ruptured three days prior.
The doctor and surgeon explained that her blood was septic and that her life was in danger. They told us that the baby would not live, and my wife’s life was their primary focus. The surgeon did his thing and came out. He said that the most inexplicable thing happened.
He said that wife AND baby were going to be just fine. Apparently, the baby positioned himself and pushed in such a way that it contained the infection. The baby stayed in this position for the three days, which is the only reason they’re both here today.
94. What Actually Happened?
I was a director of one of the largest museums in the United States and walked out on stage to give a pretty controversial presentation. I was already pretty nervous. That's when a loud bang reverberates from the center of my head.
I don’t feel my body drop but I can tell I’ve hit the floor, my vision blurs and turns red, and in the three seconds after the bang, I conclude that I’ve been shot and have seconds to live.
I’m a very large man and as I’m fading out, I see my friend, the museum nurse trying to pull me up. I was in shock and the pain didn’t really faze me, but wow did it hurt. It was indescribable agony. I accepted very calmly that my nurse friend’s face was the last thing I’d ever see and then I faded out.
I woke up four hours later in a hospital after an emergency surgery. Turns out, I hadn’t been shot after all! I somehow had an abscessed wisdom tooth that had become highly infected, and the abscess exploded upwards into my head, splitting the tooth from tip to jaw and breaking my left maxilla. It erupted with such force that my eyes bled, and the pain knocked me out.
While I was out, my wisdom tooth was pulled without anesthetic and the infection drained. I get phantom twitches just thinking about it.
95. Too Close For Comfort
About four years ago, my girlfriend randomly developed a sharp pain in her upper thigh one night. She was in decent shape so it came out of nowhere. Her left leg swelled up and the pain kept getting worse. Being the self-proclaimed medical expert that I am, I somehow came to the conclusion it was a pinched nerve and that she should just walk it off.
I came up with a believable explanation and that was that for about another hour. We were visiting my parents, and the pain had been getting worse. My mother insisted I take her to the emergency room just to be safe, and she even offered to pay and all. I was unsure but decided it was one of those things where I should just take the motherly advice.
We made it to the hospital emergency room, and it was like 9 pm on a Tuesday. She got helped relatively quickly and they ran an ultrasound on her thigh. What they found was utterly disturbing. Turns out, she had a giant blood clot that got stuck in a vein on the way to her brain. If it had made it there, she would have lost her life, guaranteed.
So a quick surgery was ordered, and they found out yet another pressing issue—she also has a condition called DVT, and daily, self-injected shots were prescribed. Not long after her first hospital visit, she required a second surgery to sever one of her main veins, which the doctors then stretched and reattached at its two ends.
96. And This Is Why We Wash Our Hands
Sometimes, surgeons are the ones in for an unpleasant surprise. My father is a physician and, although he's not a surgeon, he did some surgery while in medical school. He told me a story about a patient he had once who had necrotizing fasciitis—a.k.a. a really nasty flesh-eating disease. I almost wish that he hadn’t told me this story.
The patient had gotten a cut while gardening and never cleaned the wound properly. My dad told us that he had to peel back layers just to get at it. First, he peeled off the bandages that the patient had self-applied. Then there was a layer of holy book pages that he also had to peel off. Layer upon layer, bandage upon bandage.
Finally, beneath all that, was the wound itself. No amount of med school training could have prepared my father for what he saw. The wound was covered in maggots. Apparently, they were eating the necrotic tissue generated by the disease. He said that once they removed the maggots, they were able to begin the surgery to remove the infected areas.
Oddly enough, this patient had the maggots to thank for keeping his appendages intact. Because the maggots had eaten away the rotted and infected flesh, my dad and his team didn't have to amputate the patient’s limb. After this operation, though, my dad decided to not pursue surgery and focus on becoming a specialist.
97. Hard To Stomach
I was doing my internship in a local hospital. There are multiple stories about unlikely survival, but there's one that takes the cake.
A 31-year-old man was gunned down, then dropped at the local ER by the same guys who blasted him. In total, he had ten wounds across his thorax, abdomen, pelvis, and legs. The projectiles went through almost every single organ and also broke a femur and a tibia.
He was in hypovolemic shock and needed emergency surgery and blood transfusions. He spent three months in the ICU and was then placed on the surgery floor of the hospital. He had more than 25 surgical interventions from three different teams and over 50 bags of blood.
At one point, one of the teams realized they couldn't completely close his abdomen after one particular surgery and decided to leave his abdomen open. Several operations later, he developed a hostile abdomen, where the abdominal wall is scarred, and everything inside is topped up with fibrous tissue, to the point that going in for yet another surgery is a nightmare experience. Oh, but that wasn't all.
He also had multiple infections, both nosocomial and from his digestive tract. One slug entered through his abdomen, pierced his behind, and exited through one of his rear cheeks. During the healing process, the wound became a fistula that continuously dripped pus and mucus riddled with bacteria in and out of the abdominal cavity to the point he fell into septic shock twice.
Regular antibiotics weren't doing their job anymore, so Infectiology had to be called in regularly as he needed a strong antibiotic cocktail. Although he was still not completely out of the woods, at least the surgeons were able to close his abdomen successfully, his infection was currently under control, and his legs were finally healing properly.
If the local gangs don't invade the hospital and off him before he's discharged—because it almost happened a month into his stay—he’ll probably live.
98. More Than Just A Headache
About a week before Valentine’s Day, my mom started complaining of a headache. It wasn't out of the ordinary because my mom got bad headaches for as long as I could remember. She was a tough lady and just always pushed through them. However, this one was different. She was sensitive to light and didn't really have an appetite.
This headache went on for about two days before she decided to go to the ER. The doctor at the ER told her she just had a head cold and prescribed some OTC medicine, which happened to be Mucinex. We took my mom back home and gave her the meds the doctor told us to. A day later, she started getting worse.
The pain in her head was so bad that she just wanted to lay in bed with the room completely dark. We took her back to the ER, and she saw the same ER doctor again. Once again, he told her she just had a severe head cold. He did not run any scans or tests. So again, we took her back home. She was still walking on her own and was talking normally.
Another day or so went by, and she still was not getting any better. In fact, she was consistently getting worse and worse. Finally, we talked her into going back to the ER because this whole situation was scaring us. This time we saw a different doctor. When he walked into the room and saw how my mom looked and how much pain she was in, he immediately wanted her to do a CT scan.
He told us she had a burst brain aneurysm deep in her brain and that her brain was bleeding on the inside. I'll never forget the look on this doctor’s face. He was pale as a ghost because he said he had never seen or heard of anyone living with a burst brain aneurysm. He couldn't believe she was up, walking around, and still talking. He told us she should no longer be alive.
We were in shock. My mother had been dealing with this FOR A WHOLE WEEK. The doctor and nurses prepared my mom to be taken by helicopter to see one of the best brain surgeons in the state and have immediate brain surgery. However, when they got there, she ended up having a massive stroke, which was what they were trying to avoid from happening. T
he stroke affected her vocal cords and the right side of her body. She lived through all of that and still hadn’t had her brain surgery. She finally made it through the eight-hour surgery beautifully. The doctor said it couldn't have gone any better. My mother had to be in ICU for over a month. It was painful to see her in that state, but at least she survived.
After the ICU, she went to two different rehab facilities and fought hard to learn to walk again, but she is alive and well.
99. Pump Up The Spam
I am a hematologist. I had a 38-year-old patient who presented with a swollen abdomen, extreme fatigue, peripheral edema, and multiple enlarged lymph nodes. He looked like he was done for: a huge purple potato with toothpicks for limbs and inflated gloves for hands. He didn’t look human at all. After a lymph node biopsy, the diagnosis came.
He had Hodgkin's Lymphoma (HL). HL is one of the few curable diseases if treated correctly. It usually takes six to eight rounds of chemotherapy. However, his subtype was rather aggressive and with a poor prognosis, so his chances were grim, to say the least. One course of chemo takes about a month.
Because he saw his status not improving after two weeks—after only half a round—he wanted to be discharged to "pass in his bed in his home". So, he called his friend to pick him up, and off they went. One month later, a healthy-looking man—fit and groomed—approached me and told me he'd like to continue his chemotherapy because he was feeling great.
I had no idea who I was talking to until he introduced himself as my HL patient. My jaw dropped to the floor, and I rushed to schedule his next rounds of chemo. I asked him what changed his mind about staying, and he told me that on the way home—after about an hour on the road—he had a weird appetite, so he asked his friend to pick up about a dozen cans of Spam.
He devoured them on the way home. Seeing that, his friend told him when they got home, "Well, if you can cram that in your stomach, I'm pretty sure you can take at least two more rounds of chemo". So there he was—the living proof that Spam changes lives.
At the end of his final round of chemo, he had a complete response (CR). A CR that lasts to this day—five years later—is pretty much equivalent to "cured" in his case.
I had a rare type of ovarian cancer that presented as tumors called "teratoma". They were bilateral and massive, which is even more rare. When I was diagnosed, all they could see on the imaging were masses with various densities and lots of inflammation. Everyone was trying to be optimistic to my face, but I could tell it was really bad.
They told me they couldn't give me a realistic scenario until after the surgery. They said they needed to go in and take out anything and everything the tumors were involved in. I was 35 at the time and said, "If you see that it's that bad, just sew me up and that's it". I didn't want chemo and radiation, or to be left with no kidneys, bladder, or intestines.
When I was put under, there was a team of about 20 people there. There was every type of specialist oncologist surgeon you could imagine. There were even pathologists to do all the slides in the OR. Everyone looked at me like I was already gone. I asked for a Valium and went under. When I woke up, my world changed. I hurt really bad but felt better. It was so odd, like I’d had the flu and it was just gone all of a sudden.
I looked around and all the nurses and doctors were there. Some of them had obviously been crying but they looked happy. I was doped up, obviously, and was struggling to put two and two together. Then, I really opened my eyes, and someone started clapping and they all wanted to hold my hand.
I was like, "Okay. I didn’t make it?" The main surgeon was holding tears back and told me that it was all going to be okay. She explained to me I had massive teratomas and while we had caught them still in the benign stage, they had been adhered to stuff. That’s why the scans looked like my abdomen was riddled with late-stage cancer.
She started crying really hard and laughing at the same time and said, "You're going to be totally okay, pending the final pathology on all the lymph nodes". It gets better. Later, the nurse told me that when they opened me up and figured out what it was, a cheer went up in the OR. They did a radical hysterectomy, and I was supposed to be in the hospital for four days.
Five hours after surgery, I told them to pull the urinary catheter and had them help me up. I refused to use the bathroom in my room and insisted I walk myself to the toilet at the end of the hall every time I had to go. I was discharged the very next afternoon and never looked back. That is about as close as I ever want to come to passing until I actually do pass.
I'm living the very best life I can now. I sold everything I owned and moved the horses and my truck to Scotland. I'm getting my doctorate and dealing with all the demons in my life. The amount of power I have now is incredible and the world seems more vibrant. It’s hard to explain, but a lot of the fears I had are gone now.
It seems a lot like what the astronauts get. When your perspective becomes vast, and you realize the world is a small speck in the universe and you get a profound sense of the world's humanity. The only downside is that sometimes it makes normal stuff seem totally trivial. But that’s a price I will gladly pay to see the forest instead of just the trees.
I was very vocal about what happened to me after and encouraged people to go get their yearly exams. As a result, two people I know went to do their exams and the doctors caught cervical cancer early. They are both doing great now.
101. In Need Of More Stress
I was a 27-year-old healthy male. I walked into the ER complaining of light-headedness and chills while COVID positive—and stopped living an hour later in triage.
What they quickly discovered was that I was in shock, had renal and liver failure, my blood pressure MAP was 43, my O2 SAT was 80%, and I was severely hypoglycemic. What actually put me on the floor, though, was hyperkalemia (super high blood potassium), which triggered a cardiac arrest.
After about 20 minutes of CPR, they brought me back, put me on a ventilator, dialysis, and three blood pressors, and then promptly forgot to tell my wife that anything had happened.
Over the next three hours, my blood pressure refused to increase, and they decided to medivac me to Mass General so that they could put me on ECMO, a type of life support that oxygenates and pumps blood for you. It's considered a last resort, and the chances of coming off ECMO alive are 50/50 at best.
When I got to MGH, they determined that I didn't need ECMO yet, and tried to keep me stable enough to avoid it. In what was described in the doctors' notes as "a miraculous overnight turnaround," I recovered enough to be taken off the ventilator, off the blood pressors, and out of the coma the next day. That's when the doctors made a stunning realization.
We discovered that I have a rare genetic condition called Addison's Disease, in which my body doesn't produce cortisol. It turns out cortisol—known as the "stress hormone"—is a bit of an undersell; it performs critical self-regulating functions in nearly all body systems.
When I entered the ER, I was in a condition known as an "adrenal crisis", where my body needed more cortisol than it had to spare, so systems started shutting down because of the lack. Thankfully, part of the care given prior to my Medflight included stress-dose steroids, one of which was hydrocortisone—synthetic cortisol.
Apparently, 100mg of the one thing your body REALLY NEEDS is enough to turn you into a case study. My story is now being used as a teaching case at Mass General as a way to educate more people about Addison's Disease.
102. Sheer Determination
A little over a year ago, my little sister was hit head-on by a driver in a collision. The guy had gotten the wrong way onto the highway and my sister had just worked second shift. The collision happened at about 3 am, and no one found them until 5 am. They thought that my sister was gone when they pulled her out of the car.
However, several transfusions on the way to the hospital later, she actually made it there. When I got to the hospital at about 8 pm that day, everyone still thought that she wasn't going to make it through. The nurse who admitted her actually came in that night, during her time off, to check on my sister and see if she made it.
I've never seen anyone look that bad. Literally her entire body was black from bruising. She lost her spleen, half of her liver, she had lacerations internally on her stomach, and the entire left side of her body was pretty much crushed. Her hip was broken, her pelvis was fractured in two places, and I can't remember how many surgeries she had over the course of the next two weeks, but it was a lot.
That time period is pretty much a blur for me, because she was in a coma for a lot of it and sleeping on a chair beside a hospital bed in the ICU is not the most comfortable thing in the world. I'm pretty sure I didn't sleep for five days. However, my sister finally pulled through. She woke up out of her coma on day four.
The bad thing is that my sister’s allergic to morphine, so they had her on two sedatives, two different pain meds, and an allergy medication. To say that she was out of it would be an understatement. Her doctor told her that she wouldn't be able to eat for at least two weeks, but she started eating after about a week.
They told her she wouldn't leave intensive care for over a month. She left after two weeks and was home after three. She was told that she wouldn't walk for at least a year, because of all of the damage to her body, all of the pins and plates that she had, all of the surgery she would need, and time for her hip and pelvis to heal.
After 11 weeks, she took her first steps, completely unassisted, and never turned back. At the time she had a three-year-old and an eight-month-old who didn't really understand what was happening. It was really hard, especially because my sister couldn't even hold the baby without being in massive pain. That went on for a couple months.
I think it was probably four or five months before she slept in her bed again. The way she handled her recovery truly amazed everyone at the hospital and every one of my family members.
103. Dancing With The Reaper
I’m a paramedic. We were dispatched to a case of shortness of breath, which usually turns out to be nothing, so I wasn't all that ramped up when we arrived on-scene. The situation changed so quickly. The fire department beat us there and when we pulled into the parking lot, the junior firefighter was running out to the ambulance to get to us. The guy says, "We gotta get him outta here".
At the door, the Engine Captain was looking stressed and says, fittingly, "We gotta get him outta here". That didn’t sound good either, but he wasn’t a medic, whose opinion was the only one that really mattered. Brian, the medic, was an absolute rockstar whose judgement I'd trust under any circumstance. Brian said, "No joke, we gotta get him outta here".
The patient was a 19-year-old male. He had pale, cool, and sweaty skin, and was vey confused. He had a low blood oxygen level, and we were eight minutes away from the hospital. If I have learned one thing in the last 12 years, it's this: If your patient tells you they're going to pass, believe them.
En route, the kid’s heart rate tanked, his pulses faded, and his breathing slowed dramatically. As I am sure you know, those are all bad. We started CPR. It got super strange. When we compressed, the kid opened his eyes and pushed us away. Doing CPR on a patient who is watching you do CPR on them is an interesting experience. Eventually, he quit pushing us away, so our job got easier.
We worked him all the way to the hospital. The emergency department worked him for an hour and a half—the epinephrine, fluids, and other meds briefly produced pulses before they'd fade away again. There was a period of V-fib in there, too. It was horrible. Eventually, they managed to stabilize him, but it didn't look good for our friend.
He began to seize, and it looked like he was going to come out with considerable neurological deficit. As you can probably guess, he lived. But what caused it? The problem was a huge clot blocking blood flow between his heart and his lungs. The kid had a known bleeding disorder that he hadn’t managed.
They told us on-scene that he would joke that someday, he'd just keel over and be gone. Well, not this time. He walked out of the hospital a week or so later without any deficits. I have no idea how.
104. Jumped To The Wrong Conclusion
I was a firefighter/paramedic. The wildest thing I’ve seen someone survive was a BASE jump where the chute didn’t deploy. The wildest part was that I didn’t find out he had survived for about ten years.
One Halloween night at around 11:30 pm, we got dispatched to a person down near a popular BASE jumping area in my station's first due. There was no further information on the call, so we showed up to find a group of people huddled around another person.
Several of the people standing around had parachute rigs on, so we quickly clued into the fact that this was a fall from a significant height. When we reached the patient, they had already removed his rig, but he was lying there with open bilateral femur fractures. Both arms were badly deformed and obviously broken, and one of his eyes had popped out of its socket.
He had agonal respirations of about 8-10 BPM, diminished perfusion, and the pupil of the eye that was intact was unresponsive. His friends said they were standing at the top of the cliff, getting ready to jump, when this guy tripped and fell backward off the cliff. He fell about 400 feet onto the rocky outcroppings at the bottom and tumbled a bit further to where we found him.
This location was about 15 minutes off the main road, so we ordered a helicopter to transport him to the nearest trauma center. I intubated the guy, and we did our best to stabilize all the broken bones. Around that time, we got him all packaged up. The helicopter was arriving, so we handed him off to them, and they flew him to the local trauma center.
I followed up the next day with the nurses at the hospital, and he was still alive but basically had ruptured a few organs and was on life support. They expected the family to "pull the plug" later that day. Ten years later, I was doing a skills verifier course to renew my license, and the preceptor was giving a side class on how to remove a parachute from a downed skydiver without damaging the rig.
They’re VERY expensive and often get cut off haphazardly by first responders, even on minor injuries. So, we were talking about skydiving and people who have crashed and survived and crashed and lost their lives, and someone asked the guy about BASE jumping.
A conversation took place, and, eventually, the preceptor proclaimed no one had ever lost their life in the county BASE jumping. This was my moment. I piped in with an "Actshoeally", and I went on to tell the story about the guy whose chute didn’t open. His response floored me.
He said, "He didn’t pass. I know him. He still jumps with us". Suffice it to say my jaw is on the floor, I promptly sent a group text to all guys on my crew from that night, and they all were in disbelief too. Apparently, the guy made a full recovery even though it took several years of rehab, and he was back to jumping.
105. She Was Working Her Guts Out
I lived in a pretty rural town. My mom was overworking herself and had worked a week straight with only about three hours of sleep a night. After years of letting work ruin her health habits, she got a hole in her intestinal tract. She went to the ER because she was feeling awful.
The doctor said, "Hmmm, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you have a hole in your intestine somewhere, but that's impossible. The pain alone would make it impossible for you to walk or move". He released my mom with some pain medication which made her stool harder.
Another two weeks later, my mother was septic and was going to drop. She was trying to do her job when she felt she was going to collapse. She called her boss, told her she was leaving, and drove back to the ER, half passing out, half screaming in agony.
They couldn’t handle what they saw in the X-ray, so they sent her to Vancouver. While stool was leaking in my mom's body cavity, her body did this really unusual thing to survive. Some people's bodies make calcium to block off stuff; my mom's body made a bunch of scar tissue.
Her intestines, ovaries, and her body cavity all fused together in a bid to cut her other organs off from the infection. They pulled people out of retirement to see what her body had done. Nobody could believe she was fully septic for two weeks and kept working 18+ hours a day.
It took a while to get her stable, but every single specialist, nurse, and doctor who was familiar with her case couldn't believe she survived.
106. Not The Target
I had an Iraqi casualty back in 2006. He was an 11-year-old civilian who walked over a pressure-plated IED. My teammates and I had just been inserted on a rooftop a block away for a mission that involved monitoring a dangerous stretch of highway and taking out anyone who attempted to set anything up on that stretch.
We were a block away and we heard, saw, and felt the blast. We got permission to leave our position and move to that location, effectively ending the mission. We arrived on-scene at the same moment as our mounted Quick Reaction Force arrived. As we turned the corner onto the street in question, we saw this guy laying on the sidewalk near a blast crater that was about three and a half meters wide and fairly deep.
As we approached, it became evident that the guy was just a kid. My first thought was, "Nope. No way". But he was breathing, rapidly and shallowly. Both lower extremities were gone just above the knees, there was severe penetration trauma to the thorax, abdomen and pelvis, and a severe cranial fracture. Basically, he had been thrown up into the air a considerable distance, landing where we found him.
Interventions were as follows: We put a tourniquet on both legs, dressed three of the more suspect wounds, did field chest tubes, colloidal drip, and pushed some epi. It was bad. Really bad. I've seen worse, but not often. We made the decision to race him back to the nearest base instead of having the Iraqi authorities take him to an Iraqi hospital.
It was the right decision. The kid ended up being flown to the hospital in Balad, and eventually got flown out of country. His parents were also eventually flown out. He was touch-and-go for four days and was in the ICU for two weeks. He had several significant procedures over the course of 30 days, including two state-of-the-art prostheses.
Amazingly, there were no long-term cognitive consequences stemming from the head trauma. He currently lives in Jordan with his parents and extended family, I think.
107. Chest Deep In Trouble
I worked in cardiology. The aortic valve in the heart is the valve that pushes blood that is oxygenated from the lungs into your body; it is also very susceptible to infection. A young patient came in and had to have a valve replacement. They were healthy, so open heart surgery was recommended. They had the procedure, and all was good...or so we thought.
They were healing well but then messaged us about a small spot on the wound. They were advised to keep watching it and let us know if it got worse. Eventually, the spot opened up, and the doctor took a look. While it didn't seem too bad, the wound tunneled. It was bad enough that it affected their sternum. The patient had to have their sternum taken out to stop infection.
That meant that their chest was entirely without protection, mainly the heart. Even a slight bump could send their heart into a fatal arrhythmia. The patient is alive and well today after infectious disease intervention and is set for titanium to protect the chest once the infection has been clear for a bit. I
still don't know how they managed to walk around without any protection for their heart, though.
108. An Underwater Miracle
I was a pediatric nurse. We had a kid come in after spending roughly five minutes underwater and nearly drowning. The whole family couldn't swim but were posing for a photo in a local lake, hip-deep in the water. After taking a step back for the final picture, the water got deeper, and they all plunged.
The boy we got as a patient was pulled out unconscious after five minutes and was rushed to the hospital. His EEG (brain waves) weren’t great, but not terrible, either. He was in a coma for around two weeks and had to be sedated and restrained because he relived the drowning repeatedly and hurt himself while flailing and throwing fists.
When that got better, the doctors lowered the sedation dose, and he suddenly woke up after those two weeks. He was fully aware and responding. Before that, we had to hold him down with four nurses for a simple blood draw, and suddenly, the kid was holding a conversation with you and asking when he could go home.
Everyone involved was tearing up to see him come alive again with no physical harm.