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Have you ever gone to the doctor and then didn’t do what they told you to do? Sure, sometimes they can be wrong, but that’s what second opinions are for, right?

And yeah, it’s expensive, but it’s also your life.

Recently, Guardian_Isis asked this question on reddit, “Medical professionals of Reddit, what was a time where a patient ignored you and almost died because of it?”

These 22 “brave” souls didn’t do what they were told and thankfully didn’t perish from their stupidity.

22. “What a bloody trooper.”

I am a nurse and I had a very polite and lovely patient trying to remove all manner of chest tubes and IVs after a motorcycle accident. He was obviously delirious from the pain meds and the head injury but very nice still. I left him in the care of my coworker for my lunch, ten mins into my lunch break I see him stagger past the break room door like something out of the Walking Dead, trailing blood everywhere, only to collapse out cold a couple of seconds later. Said he needed the bathroom!!

Idk how the fuck he pulled his own chest tubes out. Removing them always makes me cringe let alone doing it to himself!!! He was put back to bed, this time in the ICU, and got some more sedation and even tho him ripping it all out set him back a couple of weeks he still discharged and came to say hi and thanks on the way out. The happiest delirious patient I ever had.

What a bloody trooper. Haha

21. “they told him to refuse because he had a test upcoming in the week…”

We had a college student come into the ER and had a wonderful case of appendicitis. He needed to get surgery ASAP as surgery is way easier and safer if done before it ruptures.

He called his parents to let them know and they told him to refuse because he had a test upcoming in the week and they didn’t want him to miss it. He left the ER Against Medical Advice while we were all telling him that if your appendicitis gets worse and ruptures it can definitely lead to death.

The kid luckily comes back about 10 hours later after it ruptured, he gets the emergency surgery and the amount of time he got to spend in the hospital probably doubled.

20. “…she tried to eat it fast and rushed to the bathroom where she was found on the floor.”

Had a repeat patient (not quite frequent flyer status) as a medic that would always call for a severe allergic reaction to shellfish every other month or so. She had always had the allergy and knew her reactions were getting worse. After a year (6 or 7 calls) of this silliness, my crew and I stayed in the hospital ER with her and talked at length about the situation since she’d always stay mum about how it kept happening.

She told us she comes from a patriarchal culture and her father made this amazing seafood soup. If she didn’t eat it and “force her body not to reject his gift to the family” she would lose her car, phone, or whatever punishment her father deemed necessary. We pleaded with her to do whatever it took to show him it was deadly and carry her Epi-Pens with her.

Fast forward a few years when I altered course into nursing and joined that ER. Saw a familiar bloated face. Turns out she had gone off to college in another state and hadn’t been home for awhile, but had visited her folks for a holiday. Of course she had the soup and despite hitting herself with the Epi-Pen when her throat started tightening, the reaction continued. Her mom, who I had never seen before, told me she tried to eat it fast and rushed to the bathroom where she was found on the floor.

Medics couldn’t tube her in the field so tried medical management until they could drive her to our ER. Doc performed a tracheotomy at the bedside and she went to the ICU. Took a week for her to recover and I was told by the ICU nurses that her father “finally got it” that her allergy was a real medical condition.

19. “…still continued to kiss the baby right on the mouth.”

We had a mom in the NICU who would constantly kiss her premature baby on the mouth. Several nurses educated her around why that’s not safe for the baby, and thankfully documented their teachings. This was during cold and flu season, and became even more concerning when the mother was coming in with cold-like symptoms (coughing, sneezing and obvious congestion). She still continued to kiss the baby right on the mouth. The baby was almost ready to go home by this time, but got extremely sick.

The baby ended up on a ventilator and had quite the extended stay with many, many close calls.

18. “Some people just don’t think rules applies to them…”

My aunt had surgery to one eye, the recovery part was simple : stay on your tummy, head down, closed. She had to redo the surgery THREE times, she wouldn’t listen.

When I asked my mother why she wouldn’t listen to the Dr’s advice she told me something along the lines of : oh she did listen but she got tired of being on her stomach, or, she wanted to be at the restaurant with us etc.

Some people just don’t think rules applies to them, nothing will happen to them.

17. “Wasted 3-5 minutes and 6-10 million brain cells…”

Patient came to see me having a stroke due to a blocked brain artery.

I’d activated the Code Stroke team – everyone was ready in the theatre to get the clot out of her artery: nurses, anaesthetist, technician – but she (42) insisted on updating her Facebook status and “checking in” before allowing me to treat her.

Wasted 3-5 minutes and 6-10 million brain cells (if she had that many to start with).

16. “…ended up getting gangrene in the area and it had spread to his penis…”

Not a med professional, but my aunt is and I’d like to share her horrifying story.

She once had a patient, young guy in his early 20’s, who had very poor hygiene. Didn’t shower regularly, didn’t brush his teeth, wore the same clothes for days on end…etc.

IIRC he one day came in with a nasty rash on his lower abdomen/pubic area that was starting to show signs of infection. She provided antibiotics and instruction and extensively stressed to him to improve hygiene and keep the area clean otherwise it’ll just keep coming back or get worse.

Well, as the story goes, he didn’t pick up the prescription and apparently choose to just keep putting A&D Gold ointment on the area. She later found out he ended up in the ER after going into shock at work, turns out he ended up getting gangrene in the area and it had spread to his penis and scrotum which had to be removed.

15. “…the man who had gone off his medication claimed he was being poisoned by his roommate…”

Not necessarily the patient, but the caretakers at the facility where the patient was living. I used to visit different board and lodge facilities for adults with mental illnesses and meet with clients to discuss their mental health, help them set up job interviews, therapy sessions, and help them set up their medications for the week if they were unable to do it themselves. Most of these facilities were places for people who had left the hospital and were deemed independent and stable enough to have the freedom to come and go as they pleased in a shared living situation, much like a dorm. Despite having a place to stay and food provided, they were usually pretty poorly supervised by the mental health staff workers there. I often hated these places because, while they were ideal for some people who were truly getting back on their feet and thrived off being able to live a semi normal independent life, they were way too lax for many of the sicker more isolating patients who were not at all well and slipping under the radar. Some of this included them not taking their medication as directed, which was one of the requirements for keeping their housing, but unfortunately it was not strictly enforced.

There was one man who had paranoid schizophrenia who was extremely quiet and kept to himself. I had met with him a few times and he seemed to be going downhill in his appearance and general mood. I spoke with his doctor and urged the facility staff to closely monitor him and his medication intake, as I saw in his logs that he often skipped coming in to get his medication at all. I was told that they were going to be sitting down with him to remind him of his living agreement and that he had 30 days before losing his housing if he wasn’t med compliant. I was also told that his psychiatrist was aware and they may be sending him back to the hospital that week.

Apparently this never happened and he went out into the community and acquired a knife and used it to slice up his roommate while his roommate slept. He carved him from mouth to ear and stabbed him in the stomach several times. The man survived the attack but the man who had gone off his medication claimed he was being poisoned by his roommate through the window AC unit. For anyone with a violent incident like that on their medical report, it is incredibly unlikely he will ever be able to find a better rehabilitation house ever again that will accept him. The system basically screwed over two people that day, as the man who was hurt was already there for PTSD, and as you can imagine, it not only scarred him physically for life but exacerbated his illness with more trauma.

14. “re-stabbed himself with the knife”

Overheard in the ER I volunteer at:

*heated argument*

Dr: Sir, I’m telling you do not touch the knife. You could risk cutting an artery.

*patient shouts and apparently pulls out the knife.*

Dr: Damn it! Angie, get more gauze!

*Some incoherent shouting. I saw security walk by too. Patient shouts.*

Dr: Why did you put it back in?!

That’s right. He removed the knife, bled, and in the shouting match, re-stabbed himself with the knife in the same spot it came out of.

13. “…with identifiable sausages, egg, beans and possibly black pudding…”

Patient was supposed to have starved for eight hours for her morning scheduled breast surgery. During the procedure she regurgitated what can only be described as as a full partially digested English breakfast, with identifiable sausages, egg, beans and possibly black pudding, up into her unprotected airway and attempted to inhale the lot.

Managed to prevent the majority of it going down, but she needed HDU care for a day or so for her lungs to recover from the stomach acid.

12. “He decides after about 4 days of uncontrolled chest pain to call it in.”

EMT/paramedic student here.

So we had a patient who was morbidly obese and couldn’t get out of his house. He decides after about 4 days of uncontrolled chest pain to call it in. Well we get there and find evidence of several MIs but refuses care and wants us to leave.

About 45 mins later we get a call from the building he lived in and we got there and it was him in full blown cardiac arrest. This man was so obese that we couldn’t get him through the door and had to knockout a wall and lift him down off the second story with a lift. All the while me and my paramedic lead were bagging him through an ET tube.

Lots of firsts on that call first ET tube I put in and first IO is ever seen done in the field.

11. “…a patient who kept adjusting her insulin dosage against my advice…”

It happened so often it was almost a non-issue. We would basically just shrug our shoulders and and say welp.

– I had a patient who kept adjusting her insulin dosage against my advice because she was terrified of having her feet amputated like her mom. So she had several occasions of dangerously low blood sugar…one of which put her in the ICU

– had a lady who had the opposite problem: raging diabetes but in deep denial…so she would never take her insulin…so she was in the ICU multiple times for the diabetic ketoacidosis

– had a ton of patients on dialysis who skipped dialysis for whatever fucking reason…didn’t feel like going, had a fight with boyfriend who was her ride, took a vacation to a city without a dialysis unit, etc etc…so they would come in with their electrolytes all fucked and had to get emergency dialysis inpatient

– had a billion old fat men with chest pain for weeks refuse to come into the hospital to be evaluated for cardiovascular issues and either die at home or come back a week later with extensive MIs.

– half of my patients with COPD were still active smokers despite my exhortations…one had burn scars over a third of his body from the LAST time he smoked around his O2 tank

– had patients take extra doses of benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, etc.) and end up in the hospital with overdoses

10. “It turned out he had punctured some part of his digestive system…”

I worked in ER admissions throughout college.

A teenager and his parents came in because he went over the handlebars on his bike. The staff wanted to keep him in observation overnight, but his parents refused, even after they offered to put him in a recovery room that was near the ER and normally only used during the day for outpatient surgeries.

They came back the next day, and he was white as a ghost.

It turned out he had punctured some part of his digestive system and, I think, had some internal bleeding. It’s the only true emergency surgery I saw in the four years I worked there when the staff actually ran to the OR with a patient.

9. “Has he lost his stubborness? Nope.”

My grandpa is the patient.

“Come straight back if you have any chest pain.”

He didn’t go back and this is what followed:

Blood clot travelled to his brain.

Three strokes.

Bleeding on the brain.

Two more minor strokes.

Paralysed left arm and right foot.

He went from being a man nearing his 80’s who was Old Skool. He worked as a school crossing guard, grew all of his own vegetables, fed the birds, built tables, biked six miles on the weekends, walked everywhere, and was still able to play darts despite his eyesight being that of a visually impaired gnat because he knew the board so well.

He went from that to living in a care home and unable to talk. Has he lost his stubborness? Nope. He won’t do his rehabilitation and so even though he could get his speech back to a decent degree, he doesn’t want to do the therapy and using communication cards humiliates him, so we’re left trying to decipher random eyebrow movements so we can guess what he’s trying to say.

One of these days, I swear on my own bloody eyelashes, that I’m going to shake him until his teeth rattle. Him and his brothers. They’re all the bloody same. My uncle, granda’s younger brother, didn’t go to hospital at all and was found on his bedroom floor, whimpering.

He had flipping sepsis.

8. “…he tried to jump out of the ambulance en route to the other hospital.”

Had a patient signed out by another ER doc at shift change pending chest X-ray. CXR showed aortic dissection. This guy should’ve been dead already.

Being a small hospital (level 3 trauma center) in the middle of nowhere, we call the closest level 1 for a transfer. Ambulance shows up for transfer and the guy decides he’s not going. He’s got enemies in that city and they’ll kill him.

After a standoff in the ER hallway involving security, police, EMTs, multiple docs, nurses, and a very scared scribe (me) the guy (a very large man) gets on board with the plan and decides not to leave AMA.

Later, we find out from EMTs he tried to jump out of the ambulance en route to the other hospital. Once he arrived, he left AMA. No clue what happened to him after but damn the dissection was INSANE.

7. “He looked like a rotten wooden doll with the sunken eyes of an old man.”

Once I was the only doctor on duty in a rural village with diminished medical supplies. The village is called Shinafiyah and lies in the desert southern Iraq. A 4 years old child came to what was supposed to be an ER with diarrhea and some dehydration. They didn’t have tab water and they drink from a near-by river (directly that is). From what I gathered it seemed that the child had cholera. Cholera has some unique reputation in medicine that I will skip here for the sake of your appetite. I strongly urged his father to keep him longer for observation but he refused.

A few hours later he came back and the child was very ill and severely dehydrated. He was -as we describe such case medically- drowsy. He looked like a rotten wooden doll with the sunken eyes of an old man. I couldn’t get an IV access (an accessible vein for fluids) and didn’t have a central line set. I had to cannulate one of the large veins of his neck and he barely made it. Cholera wasn’t endemic (not usually seen) there, so I had to make some calls and provide some samples to be tested about 200 miles away and send the child with an ambulance after he was stable.

The father and his son came back a couple of weeks later to visit. I gave him some chlorine tablets and cookies for the kids.

6. “That toe was gangrenous and everything below the knee had to go.”

I was working on a general med/surg unit as a new nurse. An elderly diabetic patient ran over her second toe with the bedside table and the nail was ripped off. She was incredibly mean and didnt want anyone touching her or talking to her. I tried to explain the severity of her injury, especially because she was an uncontrolled diabetic and already had compromised circulation to her feet. She still refused to let me treat the wound. She also refused care from the physician. There was really nothing we could do more than a gentle cleansing with antibiotic ointment and sterile dressings which she eventually relented to. She was refusing everything and not demented or disoriented so we had to respect her wishes. She had overall poor hygiene and days later still refused more than just the bare minimum care.

She came back to the hospital about 2 months later with an amputated leg. That toe was gangrenous and everything below the knee had to go. The doc told her she likely would have been fine if she didn’t refuse treatment.

After her amputation she again tried to refuse care. We did what we had to do and eventually she was discharged back to the nursing home she came from. She sabotaged her own healing several times by introducing infection to her wounds because of neglect and carelessness.

5. “Once he woke up, he was mortified and asked that she not be allowed to visit him anymore.”

Like many others have stated, this happens so regularly that it’s almost hard to think of a specific instance. However, I do have one. It’s not about a patient, but it’s about a patient’s family member.

I had a patient in the ICU for some respiratory issue I can’t even really remember now. He had chronic pain and some mental health issues at baseline, and he had this codependent girlfriend who was a very nice lady but who was VERY present at his bedside all the time, constantly beside herself with worry that he wasn’t getting enough pain medication (he was) and that he wasn’t getting enough sleep (he wasn’t, but nobody does in the ICU). We kept reassuring her that we were giving him his meds and not to worry.

The day he transferred out of the ICU I was working a night shift and heard a code blue paged overhead. It was for him. He had gone into respiratory arrest, was fortunately found right away, intubated, resuscitated, and came right back to my ICU.

After some digging (and after he was able to wake up and give us some info), we found out that his girlfriend was worried he wasn’t going to be able to sleep, so she bought some seroquel on the street and gave it to him. And his dumb ass took it. He was already on his home dose of seroquel and opioids, plus some additional opioids for the acute pain of whatever was going on with him. The sedation from that extra seroquel in conjunction with the rest of his meds tipped his already not-so-great respiratory issues into a full arrest. Once he woke up, he was mortified and asked that she not be allowed to visit him anymore.

I had to call her and tell her she was not allowed to visit him anymore and that hospital security had been alerted. She was . . . not happy. The lesson: if someone is hospitalized, WE WILL PROVIDE THE APPROPRIATE MEDICATIONS. You do not need to bring in extra meds you bought on the street. We got it.

4. “So DON’T START SMOKING”

Resident doctor here. During my coronary care rotation: Me: « This heart attack was a warning. The most important thing for you to do, regardless of what medications we give you (which are also very important) , is to stop smoking. I know it’s very difficult and we can help you quit. » Patient : « Yeah, I’m gonna think about it ».

Comes back a few years later for another heart attack.

This happens on the regular. Sadly, unless a patient wants to quit smoking (and even when they do want to) it’s such a difficult habit to quit that it often takes major consequences before people realize the dangers.

PSA it’s much easier to never smoke than it is to quit. So DON’T START SMOKING.

3. “…patient apologizes profusely and signs consent.”

Patient came in and was discovered to have an abdominal bleed. Doc was in middle of surgery and patient’s vitals are good so we monitor and tell patient she will go up as soon as doc is finished. 2 hours later, OR sends for patient and she refuses. States if doc can make her wait, he can wait. She wants dinner and to go to bed. Nothing worked to change her mind. After several rounds of docs and nurses educating/begging etc, surgeon comes down to see what is going on. After speaking with her for a while, he comes out of the room and says to, “keep monitoring and don’t feed – she’ll come one way or another”.

Several hours later, I am taking a set of vitals and talking with patient when she just flatlines in the middle of a sentence. Luckily, she came back right away. Immediately, after she felt a little better, patient apologizes profusely and signs consent. Rushed to OR.

There was a lot more stubbornness and cursing on part of the patient but wanted to keep shorter. Just boggled my mind that she almost died out of spite.

2. “She is just blowing through the money dad left!!”

Not 100% what you’re asking for but like… 80%? Ah, like 50%. Anyway, when I worked in an assisted living facility, one of our residents (lil’ old people kind, not Step kind) came to the nurses’ station and said “You might want to check on Jane.”

Jane’s sitting in an armchair totally silent, staring ahead, left pupil blown, can’t speak.

911, CVA (turned out to be a TIA!! Yay!).

Procedure mandates we call family any time a resident is sent out. Cheap ass Daughter (CD) answered the phone. (SM is me, SeverelyModerate.)

SM: “Ma’am, I need to inform you we’ve had to send your mother to the emergency room.”

CAD: “What?! WHY??

SM: “Well, we have to wait for the doctors at the hospital to diagnose her but she appeared to be having a stroke.”

CAD: “Does she have to go to the emergency room for that? Can she not, just, go to an Urgent Care?”

SM: “Seeing as how a stroke is literally the death of brain tissue and she is acutely at risk for another stroke at any second, which could easily kill her, no ma’am. She cannot go to an urgent care clinic for this.”

CAD: huffy sigh “She is just blowing through the money dad left!!”

SM: “She’ll be at Madeup Hospital, on HIPAA Avenue if you’d like to meet the ambulance there.”

1. “IT’S JUST A COUGH I’M FINE”

Me. Didn’t almost die but I was very very sick.

I went for a mini vacation in Batam, Indonesia where our villa had a private pool. Throughout our 48 hour stay, I spent more time in the water than out. The time I wasn’t in the water, I was in our air conditioned villa room with just a t shirt (now damp) over my swimsuit. In the day it was blazing hot, and at night it was super windy because it was near the sea.

I am also asthmatic. While its mostly under control, I usually get a tight chest feeling when I am ill and haven’t had a full attack in years.

I fell sick after the trip, high fever runny nose, cough. I am also a healthcare professional, I studied life sciences and diagnotic testing, I am hardly bothered and can take care of myself when I get sick. Eventually the fever went away and I was left with a cough.

The week after the vacation, I was still having a “cough”, and we went to play paintball. Completely overexerted myself running, ducking, crawling, what have you. After the game, we went to a friend’s place to have lunch and chill. I fell asleep but woke up coughing with the feeling of something being stuck in my respiratory tract, i thought it was phlegm. Went to the bathroom to cough it out but nothing was happening. I lost track of time and apparently I was in the bathroom coughing away for about 30 minutes. Friends asked if I was alright and I just kept saying “yeah its just a cough, I think there’s some phlegm stuck and I’m trying to get it out”.

Finally went to see the the doctor (my regular GP) the next day. Turns out I was having a very serious asthma attack. I just couldn’t recognise it because I haven’t had one in many years. Worst thing is this was the same doctor who told me to always carry my inhaler around JUST IN CASE but I just wasn’t diligent about it.

Until now, my friends would yell “IT’S JUST A COUGH I’M FINE” whenever I make even the smallest cough or sneeze.

Now that I think about it, I actually could have died.

So yeah, go to the doctor if you think something’s wrong and TAKE THEIR DAMN ADVICE ALREADY!

The end.