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Doctors Share Unbelievable Patient Stories That Made Them Think, "How Are You Still Alive"

The human body is capable of some amazing things normally when you consider everything required to keep us going daily.

Doctors express amazement that some patients are still alive after battling difficult situations

The human body is capable of some amazing things normally when you consider everything required to keep us going daily. Sometimes we skin a knee or make it through something much, much worse by only the skin of our teeth.

To quote Ingrid Michaelson,

"We are so fragile
And our cracking bones make noise
And we are just
Breakable, breakable, breakable, girls and boys."

But every now and then you hear about someone who really beat the odds and survived the unsurvivable.

Who better to share those stories than doctors?

Reddit user TheDestroyer asked, "Doctors of Reddit, what made you say 'how are you still alive'?"

Here are some of their stories.

25. Be Still My Beating Heart

doctor enjoys pizza while stressed outGiphy

I had a guy with a Bowie knife sticking out of his chest. The knife was pulsating. I could literally count his pulse from across the room.


24. The Stories They Could Tell

women share stories and laughterGiphy

I used to do elder care and was constantly amazed at some of the tough cookies I took care of.

Man - 99 - Once ate dinner with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Made sure to serve me ice cream as his wife of 73 years lay dying (I was caring for her, she was in a coma and on her last journey), because it was a warm afternoon and manners must be followed, regardless of circumstances. I tried to refuse, but...he's 99 with a dying wife. It was strawberry.

Woman - 96 - Was in the Nursing Corps in the Navy/Marines in WWII. She married a Marine. She told me, "I always like 'em rough and ready!" Her lecherous grin spread its icy fingers into my soul, and I had to laugh.

Woman - 101 - Tried to attack me with a clothes iron because dementia can change people into superheroes when they think the care aide is a stranger breaking into their house.

Woman - 96 - An atheist Jew from New Jersey, with the accent to boot. WWII Navy nurse. She would threaten spam callers. Graphically. It was hilarious.


23. A Century Plus 10%

woman expresses one hundred percent accurateGiphy

Simply meeting someone who was 110 years old. (Wow!)


22. 100% Alive

nurse cries out in painGiphy

Guy comes in with a bit of chest pain. tells me the big coronary artery on the front of the heart was 100% blocked. I tell him "who told you that?" he says his doctor did about 10 years ago. I don't believe him since patients never ever get any of the stuff their doctor tells them right. I let the cardiac surgeon know what this guy said and he too goes "haha 100%? so he's dead?"

If the biggest coronary artery is totally occluded and for 10 years no less, you are a dead man. Lo and behold...we get an angiogram and it was 100% occluded. The artery on the back of the heart made a connection with the front of the heart to pick up the slack. It was some lucky stuff.


21. Grocery Games

grocery shopper moves swiftlyGiphy

Haemoglobin of 35 (3.5)! In a 35 year old guy with a chronic rectal bleed he refused to have looked into for months because he didn't want anyone lookin' at his bum hole. Finally brought to the ER by ambulance when he fainted (aka "started dying") in a grocery store.


20. Helpful

guy blinking memeGiphy

Patient stabbed himself in the neck with a thermometer that pierced his trachea. Missed all the important arteries (carotids, vertebrals); just hit some minor nerves.

Good guy patient provided his own temperature reads until they removed the thermometer.


19. Touchdown

doctor explains basics about mental healthGiphy

My best friends brother-in-law during the Superbowl was acting totally normal until about halfway through and started talking gibberish, walking into walls, taking all his clothes off, and generally being NOT himself.

It took about 5 EMT's to even get him in the ambulance because he was fighting them all off, and he continued to do so until they took him to the local hospital where he was put into a medically induced coma and airlifted to 'The S*** Is Real Hospital'. Turns out he had bacterial meningitis and he had been acting like that because his brain was had gotten so swollen.

Everyone was convinced he was going to die because of how severe it had gotten before he presented any symptoms. It took him weeks to recover, relearn how to talk, understand where he was, etc...but he did. He completely 100% recovered. Doctors think it was caused by a dog bite. Which I've never heard of... his wife and kids also tested negative thankfully.


18. Benefits of Obesity

softball player gestures with gloveGiphy

I'm an ER nurse. Had a guy walk up to the front desk after hitting himself in the throat with a chainsaw.

All the flesh of his neck was flayed open. I could see his trachea and his right jugular vein. If he had cut in just a tiny bit deeper, he would have sliced right into both.

The only thing that saved him was that he was a big fat guy with a huge neck. A skinnier man would have died very unpleasantly.


17. They're Called Internal Organs for a Reason

woman is done with situationGiphy

I was in school to be a paramedic and I was doing my externship in an ER. A guy came in happily complaining about a sore on his belly that wouldn't heal. He was really pleasant and didn't seem to be in much pain. When he lifted his shirt, we could see his liver.


16. Slight Overreaction

man expresses in light of a miracle


Guy had an argument with his girlfriend, wanted to leave the apartment. Instead of taking the door, was real angry and jumped off the balcony, fell down 40 feet directly on his heels on cement.

He ended up having an ankle sprain. I wondered how he managed previous issues in his life.


15. One for the Medical Books

parks and recreation character expresses amazementGiphy

Not a doctor: My grandfather had a heart attack. He went in for a simple stent in his heart. Hours go by and we hear code blue over the intercom. Doctor comes out to tell us his left ventricle has an inch and half tear in it. They had to transport him to another hospital ASAP. He died three times that night and went through 11 pints of blood. The surgeon successfully repaired the torn ventricle. They woke him up on my birthday and he sung me happy birthday. 3 weeks in Cardiac ICU my grandfather walked out. The surgeon told us for a man of 75 years to have lived through a left ventricle tear is unheard of. The doctor wrote a Journal on him as well. He's still alive today. He even got his hip replaced a year after.


14. Don't I Look OK?

man thinks he looks okGiphy

Saw a guy with a machete lodged up into his skull. Asked him if he was OK (not sarcastically, just threw a generic question to check his ability to respond), he said "yup!"


13. Small Mercies

man gestures to unqouteGiphy

A patient I took care of had a car fall on his face. He was underneath it working when it slid off of the jack. The only reason he survived was because he broke every bone in his face (he had a Lefort III) which allowed for his brain to swell (he also needed an additional surgery to relieve the pressure of cerebral edema, but the facial fractures did allow for a great deal of "give" in his skull). I was rotating through ICU so I first saw him just a day after the accident. His head was so swollen, he didn't even look human. Fast forward a few weeks later... I was rotating through a different unit in the hospital and came across the same patient. He was quickly recovering and had minimal neural deficits.


12. This End Up

seinfeld character expresses amazementGiphy

Pathologist here: Had a guy who had died suddenly and unexpectedly. I soon learned he was the recipient of a lung transplant about 15 years prior.

When I opened the man up, his transplanted lung was upside down. I flipped the lung into the proper position, and bloop. It flipped right back to upside down. That was quite alarming. The surgeons who originally performed the transplant incorrectly attached the organ. When he by chance entered the correct position, the lung flipped over, causing his pulmonary artery to seal shut, resulting in his death.

The man lived for 15 years with a lung that was dying to flip upside down. And it was only by sheer chance he didn't move in such a way that allowed it to do so until the fateful day of his death. It is one of the most fascinating cases I have ever witnessed.


11. Stroke Of Laughter

character expresses different strokesGiphy

Not a doctor or anything, but my grandmother has had 7 strokes. I couldn't help but laugh at the 7th one, she said, "Aww shit, I'm having another stroke". She said this during a phone call abruptly. She's a very tough lady, she runs a garden and eats her in vegetables.


10. Head Over Heels

gymnast makes incredible moveGiphy

Guy had an argument with his girlfriend, wanted to leave the apartment. Instead of taking the door, was real angry and jumped off the balcony, fell down 40 feet directly on his heels on cement.

He ended up having an ankle sprain. I wondered how he managed previous issues in his life.


9. Tickle Me ECMO

man's heart pounds out of chestGiphy

Had a gentleman in his late 50s come in with multiple myeloma. Short history of progressively worsening breathlessness, turned out he had a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in his lungs). He was a good candidate for surgery, so he had the blood clot removed but unfortunately the clot had caused such bad issues with his heart (acute right heart failure) that he couldn't be weaned off the bypass machine. Instead, he went to ICU on ECMO (like a circuit for your heart and lungs outside the body to give your heart/lungs time to 'rest'). His chest was still open (cannulated centrally) but covered up with sterile stuff.

After 3 days, he was booked to be weaned off the ECMO or at least have the tubes put in peripherally so his chest could be closed. Morning of the procedure while he's waiting to be moved, somehow the tubing of the ECMO machine broke (oxygenator tube) and blood spilled all over the floor and he went into cardiac arrest. The Cardiothoracics consultant had to do internal cardiac massage (basically CPR on the heart by squeezing it via his still open chest) until the circuit got fixed and he returned to a normal circulation. He ended up going to OT and having his chest closed but he had more clots pulled out of his pulmonary arteries (clots had recurred).

At this point I thought this guy was utterly screwed. I figured if he even lived long enough to be woken up he'd have some degree of ischeamic brain injury. After about 2 weeks the guy left ICU and a week later went to rehabilitation. Speaking, walking, cognitively largely intact.

It was one of the most unbelievable things I've ever seen during my short career.


8. Double Take

sister sister characters are alike but differentGiphy

As a very junior doctor I looked after this mega-alcoholic who needed ascities (fluid in the abdomen caused by liver failure) tapping out every month or so. He kept coming in a worse and worse shade of yellow/ green (jaundice), needing more and more fluid removed, still merrily drinking all the while. Well, the obvious happened, he died. Now he dead.

So I wander onto the ward a few weeks later, to find him sitting there in bed, green as you like, looking very alive.

Turned out is was his twin, also an alcoholic, also not to live much longer.

7. Mercury In Retrograde

sick doll gets temperature checkGiphy

Patient stabbed himself in the neck with a thermometer that pierced his trachea. Missed all the important arteries (carotids, vertebrals); just hit some minor nerves.

Good guy patient provided his own temperature reads until they removed the thermometer.


6. Happy Ending?

woman throws hands up into the airGiphy

Not a doctor but... encountered a woman that was shot blank in the head by her boyfriend. Bullet entered one of her eye sockets and exited above her and ear on the same side. She called 911 on her own and survived, was in ICU for weeks, and testified against the guy who is now thankfully in prison!


5. Just a Little More Time

doctor says no, noGiphy

About 20 years ago, I had a patient come in with obstruction of his colon by large colon cancer. The cancer had spread to his liver, and CT scan showed the liver basically replaced by metastatic tumor. So he wouldn't die of intestinal obstruction (I won't go into detail, but trust me, it is a very unpleasant way to die) the patient, his family, and I decided to try placing an expandable metal stent through the tumor. It worked! His obstruction was relieved and he was able to go home to spend his last days with his family.

18 months later the patient came in for an office visit...for heartburn. He was even more jaundiced than when I first met him, but he felt basically well and was eating well. The stent was still functioning. I never saw him again and assume he finally succumbed to his disease, but he got at least 18 months of precious and really GOOD time.


4. Helmet Reminder

man gestures snap, crackle, popGiphy

Paramedic of 15 years. Had an 8 year old kid on a ripstick (similar to a skateboard) lose control and roll into the path of an oncoming SUV in his neighborhood. He was hit by then run over by it. We arrived to find him face down under the vehicle, unconscious, barely breathing.

After all was said and done he had: bilateral femur fractures, one lower leg fracture, multiple rib fractures, a blown pupil, and open skull fracture, subdural brain bleed, a tension pneumo (air escaping lungs into the chest cavity--will squish the lungs and heart if untreated), and when we were bagging him (breathing for him) we felt subcutaneous emphysema (free air that crackles like rice crispies/bubble wrap) in his hip... yes hip.

We flew him to the children's hospital expecting him to die within the hour. He was in a coma for days and had to have multiple surgeries, but made a complete recovery (100% neurologically intact as well) and graduates high school in the spring. His was such an amazing case the hospital made him one of their "miracle kids of the year".

Parents- please make your kids wear helmets. Even in the neighborhood. It wouldn't have prevented all of his injuries, but would have substantially lessened the brain trauma he suffered.

-- firefightin

3. Pace Yourself

heart keeps poundingGiphy

Old guy comes in with his wife. She tells me "he passed out last week and I couldn't wake him up. After about two minutes he came around and he didn't want to go to the hospital so we booked an appointment to see you."

I'm a little concerned by this, and his heart rate is a little slow so I send him for an EKG (heart rhythm tracing). I get a call about an hour later from the cardiologist reviewing the EKG calmly thanking me for sending him in because the wiring in his heart essentially wasn't working and he could drop dead at any moment... again. Because the week before, he hadn't passed out - he'd died. Through some lucky miracle his heart started again. He's got a pacemaker now and he and his wife are doing just great.

2. Something Rotten

woman expresses pleasure to still be aliveGiphy

Responded to a well being check (basically check on someone no one has heard from in a while). Get there and police advise the woman is dead and appeared to be so for a while (middle of summer). Can smell her before getting close to house, put on protective gear and air packs to move the body. She is rotting, maggots and flies, can see organs. We go to carefully move her into body bag and she opens her eyes and gasps. She was alive and rotting alive, we got her to the hospital alive and she lived.

1. Thank Goodness There Weren't Any Fish

man catches fish from tankGiphy

(Worked) in diagnostic imaging at a hospital and we had a man come in for an x-ray complaining of chest pain. His records showed his last visit was two years prior when he got drunk and fell into a fish tank, breaking it. ER stitched him up and sent him home. Fast forward two years, and we are all gathered around the computer screen looking at an X-ray that showed a 12 inch long piece of fish tank glass sitting in his chest, with his aorta resting right on top of it (it was on an angle running from his left shoulder down towards his right hip). There were other shards of glass too, but this one was the biggest. Emergency surgery happened right away.