11 Emergency Room Stories That Are Almost Too Crazy to Be True
Nurses are known for being caring, empathic, organized, knowledgeable, and graceful under pressure, but let’s face it: Emergency room nurses have the best—and often grossest—stories. Just check these out. (Word of caution: These aren’t for the squeamish!)
As might be expected, many nursing stories involve the unfortunate placement of objects in orifices where they most certainly don’t belong. This one is no different. Rebecca Lee, a registered nurse from New York who also runs a natural health remedies resource, tells the story of when a gentleman came into the emergency room complaining of extreme rectal pain and a “foreign body” lodged in his anus. It turned out to be the leg of a wooden stool. How it got there? He “fell onto it” (when it was upside down), and it got “stuck” inside him. “He asked us not to tell his wife,” Lee says matter of factly, but here are some things you definitely should tell your spouse every day.
It was supposed to make him feel better
The most gruesome of case of something getting stuck where it shouldn’t be, says A.J. Marsden, PhD, a former United States Army surgical nurse who now serves as assistant professor of human services and psychology at Beacon College in Leesberg, Florida, was one that she is certain was a mistake. “This middle-aged man was experiencing terrible kidney stones,” Dr. Marsden recounts. “He was in such terrible pain that he didn’t know what to else to do, so he inserted a glass tube into his urethra.” If that wasn’t bad enough, as he did so, he involuntarily kegeled, causing the tube to get sucked up further into his urethra. (Yes, men can and should do Kegels! Just not under these circumstances.) The sudden movement caused the tube to shatter in his urethra. Needless to say, he went straight to the ER.
A worm’s eye view
Count this story among the secrets the emergency room staff won’t tell you, probably because they want to forget it ever happened. “One memorable day, a young lady arrived in the department weeping bitterly because she had something in her bottom,” Dr. Marsden recalls. Dr. Marsden had, by now, expected it to be something that the young lady had stuck in there herself. Or something that perhaps a lover had helped her place there. No. “I asked her to lower her trousers,” Dr. Marsden says, “and then I bent down to peer at the object. That’s when I realized the object was peering back at me.” The “object” was a worm. A very large parasitic worm. It is the one time Dr. Marsden can recall having to vomit after seeing a patient.
When objects don’t end up in orifices
All nurses have secrets they wish they could tell you about their jobs. Many have learned that when patients present with objects stuck in their bodies, it’s much better if the object is stuck in an orifice. When it’s not, it’s usually far more serious—like the time a patient was admitted with a fence post that had entered his torso just below his ribs and exited just above his opposite shoulder. The patient had been in a road accident and collided with a fence. That’s what he told Louis Davis, an ER nurse in the United Kingdom, when he arrived fully conscious at the ER. He also told Davis that he felt fine except, “I seem to have a splinter that I think you might need to remove.” Perhaps denial works, because the man survived (after spending a month in the intensive care unit).
The phantom limb
One patient was certain that his arm had been “lopped off” in a farming accident, recalls Davis. “He gestured to his left side and insisted it was true.” We were sitting around in the ER and looking at one another skeptically because “although the man did seem a bit lost and out of it, surely, this wasn’t true.” But then they took the grubby blanket he was clutching around his shoulders, and as they pulled it away…his left arm came with it. “Told you so,” the man said. Indeed. Check out more incredulous things that have happened at doctors’ offices.
Wife knows best
Believe it or not, there are times when a nurse may not the best person to do the job. That was the case when a patient came into the ER complaining about a problem with his artificial bladder, says Lee. The patient asked Lee to turn off the valve on the artificial sphincter at the tip of the contraption, underneath the patient’s genitals. Lee had never even seen an artificial sphincter, let alone an artificial bladder at the time, and stood there not quite knowing what to do. “Luckily,” she says, “his wife walked in and saved the day. Pulling his gown aside she said, ‘Never mind, I can do this myself.’” We can now count “knowledge of artificial body parts” among the signs you can definitely trust your partner.
Another DIY wife
“In 1974 when I was an orderly while attending nursing school, we had a gentleman brought in who had been injured in a car wreck,” recounts Benjamin Evans, DD, DNP, RN, president of the New Jersey State Nurses Association. “He needed facial surgery and a jaw wiring.” Evans noticed that the man’s wife seemed anxious. He could also tell that they were not financially well-off. Finally, just before the wiring was to take place, the wife spoke up, asking Evans if she could remove her husband’s dentures. It turned out that they shared the dentures—which they had purchased second-hand from a local funeral director. That’s certainly one way to cut back on costs, but we’re going to stick with these more sanitary money saving tips.
Where the “son” don’t shine
All diabetics should know the sneaky things that raise blood sugar levels, but this woman simply ignored them. “This one patient I had was extremely overweight and diabetic. No matter how much insulin we gave her, no matter how much we kept a sharp eye on her diet, we could not get her blood sugar levels to stabilize,” Lee recounts. It remained a mystery until Lee helped the woman to change her hospital gown. That’s when bits of fried rice and chicken wings began to fall out of crevices between her thighs and stomach. “It turned out her son had been sneaking food in for her, and she’d been hiding it in the folds of her skin.” Perhaps both mother and son should be paying more attention to these healthy eating habits.
How’d that get there?
One elderly patient came in alone and fairly disoriented, recalls Lee. “He was incontinent and couldn’t move well on his own. The hospital couldn’t locate any family, and he seemed to have no visitors.” But then one day, the man insisted that his daughter had stopped by. Lee humored him, patiently listening to him tell of his daughter’s visit, which included her giving him a five dollar bill. “He was so insistent,” Lee says, “that we actually searched everywhere for that five dollar bill. But we couldn’t find it.” Then later that day, when Lee was changing the patient’s diaper, a well-crumpled five dollar bill popped out from inside his belly button. “Afterwards, we looked at all the security cameras, but we never saw his daughter stop by, or anyone else for that matter.” Here are some other ways you can find extra money, right inside your own house.
A little flattery
Lee recalls another elderly male patient, but this one had quite a different attitude from the man with the mysterious money-producing navel. This one was having his diaper changed by Lee when he called out from where he was lying face down on the exam table, “I’m told that I have the nicest butt in the ER.” What could Lee say to that? When your own conversation turns awkward, here are some magical conversation skills that might come in handy.
And they called it “The Streak”
One of Lee’s patients stood six feet tall and weighed 300 pounds. A psychiatric patient, she had to be watched carefully because she had a tendency to run off, and apparently she could run quickly despite her size. “One time, she stripped off all of her clothes and took off running around the ER,” Lee recalls. “I was doing paperwork at the nurse’s station, and I looked up and could see that she was being chased by two of my colleagues.” It took more than ten minutes and three people to finally stop her. The funny thing as that anyone who was familiar with this patient just kind of sat there, not batting an eye. “For us, this was the norm.” Read on for more stories of inspiring nurses who went above and beyond for their patients.