Emergency rooms are a locale of terror and sadness. Patients forced to check in under emergency situations can lead to doctor's best stories.
Tales of life-saving brilliance and ingenious solutions to troubling diagnoses. Sometimes, however, there's times when patients decided they wanted all the glory, attempting to cure themselves with misguided homemade remedies.
Spoiler: They're all awful.
Reddit user, r/Shandrith, got all the horrific details when they asked:
Medical professionals of Reddit, what is the craziest DIY treatment you've seen a patient attempt?
25. Spritz AwayGiphy
I had a guy come in for coughing and shortness of breath for the past few months. His lungs sounded awful. Got a chest xray that looked horrible, so I did a CT scan. Radiologist called it the worst case of necrotizing pneumonia he'd ever seen. Dude had like a 15% functional lung tissue left. The patient then mentioned things had been worse after he started using a new "breath freshener" spray....
He whipped out one of those concentrated air freshener bottles, supposed to cover up weed smell. Labeled Not For Internal Use. Apparently he had been using it like Binaca spray, and had already gone through 3 bottles.
24. When Life Gives You Lemons...Giphy
Paramedic here. Once had to explain to a family that putting lemon juice in the eyes of an unconscious patient isn't an approved treatment method.
And no, it didn't work. (It was an interesting moment when I had to explain why his eyes hurt)
23. Super Glue Fixes EverythingGiphy
I work in dental and years ago had a patient attempt to super glue her front tooth back on after it broke in half.
She screwed up and ended up gluing the chunk to her upper lip.
22. Maybe Put The Cap Back On...Giphy
This happened when I was still a med student doing a rotation in the ED. Patient comes in and is pretty vague about his actual complaint, something about head pain but he looks just fine sitting waiting to be seen.
When I finally get to see him and ask him what actually happened. This guy managed to basically scalp himself, and apparently it had been like that for 3 days. According to him it was caused by falling in his bathroom and hitting his head on the toilet. He had been previously duct taping it down or using the hat to hold the skin on, but it wasn't sticking well and that's when his wife convinced him to come to the hospital.
21. Puff It OutGiphy
Adult patient had gas and poked a hole in his belly button with basically a knitting needle to release it.
Edit: it didn't work, he actually came in for the ensuing infection in his belly button.
20. Dogs Are Worthless
An old lady told me the rain hurt her arthritis. That's reasonable.
She also swore that dog spit had healing properties so she let her dogs lick her feet when she felt it coming on. She then wanted to show me a video of said dogs licking said feet.
I swiftly and politely declined.
19. All Good Stories Start With, "Get The Fish Hook"Giphy
A fifty year old man swallowed a chicken bone while eating, and it got stuck down his throat (upper oesophagus). Unable to take it out with his fingers or coughing, he got a fisher hook with a line and tried to rescue the bone with it.
He ended in an emergency department with both the bone and the hook in his oesophagus.
18. What Doesn't Kill You, Makes You SickerGiphy
He had a guy come in with an abscess on his right thumb. When I asked him what happened to his hand, he told me about his recent deep sea fishing trip and was given the responsibility of cutting the fish with an open wound in his hand. A sliver of fish got in there and became infected as it healed, so this guy gets the bright idea of doing a little DIY wound drainage by grabbing his pocket knife and cutting it open, leading to a greater infection.
17. Put A Sock In ItGiphy
In nursing school while I was on clinical rotation in urology, there was a man who ended up having his penis removed. It turned out he had an infection brewing for quite a while and thought the best course of action was placing a sock over his penis in hope that it would heal. He was generally confused and upset as to why this didn't work to heal the issue
16. Betrayed By Vick'sGiphy
My mom once melted Vick's Vapor Rub into my tea because she thought that would help my cold.
15. Super Man PotionGiphy
One of my first clinic patients was a dude who was injecting a mixture of testosterone, "human growth hormone," sesame oil, and sunflower oil into the base of his penis as a DIY penile enlargement therapy.
Well, it got infected so he ended up going to the ED for incision and drainage. I saw him as a post-ED visit and at that time, he figured that he shouldn't be injecting into his penis while it was healing. So instead, he was injecting his oil + sketchy hormones off the internet concoction everywhere else into his body (arms, legs, butt, shoulders, etc) because he figured it would still have some effect.
14. Making It WorseGiphy
As a child I got really bad sunburn.
The person looking after me coated my sunburn in baby oil to help it heal, and sent me back out into the sun.
I realised when I was older why my mum went nuts.
13. Okay MacGyverGiphy
A man who'd accidentally sliced his leg open at his workplace. He obviously figured that as surgeons use staples to close wounds, he'd cut out the trip to hospital and DIY. With an ordinary desk stapler. Arrived in ED with a pus filled wound with the odd discolored staple hanging off it some days later.
12. Somehow I Can Do Science FasterGiphy
Anesthesiologist here; we had a patient come in for I&D of bilateral deltoid abscesses. He apparently had thoughts of being a body builder, but instead of lifting weights or knowing someone who could hook him up with some quality steroids, he decided to bulk up by using some protein powder at GNC...
...and mixing it with water, drawing it up into a syringe, and injecting 20-40cc daily directly into the muscle. If bulk was what he was going for, it definitely worked, temporarily. A rip-roaring localized infection makes you look plenty swole. They got almost a liter of pus mixed with liquified protein powder out of each deltoid.
This also wasn't the first time he'd been in for this problem.
11. In No Way Is White Bread Good For YouGiphy
White bread soaked in milk placed on an armpit abscess to draw out the infection. Needed an I&D and a couple weeks of IV antibiotics by the time he got to us.
Either that or the guy who crashed his motorbike, scraped his leg all to hell, and then decided the best course of action was to self-cauterize it on the tailpipe.
10. Building Up Pain ToleranceGiphy
Dental student here.
We had a patient who declined a much needed cleaning saying he could do it just as well a home with a scalpel. Didn't brush his teeth but every few weeks he would go at the accumulated plaque and tartar with a scalpel.
Same patient also insisted we do a procedure without local anesthetic. He was an amateur boxer and was « building up his pain tolerance.
9. Bleach BlondGiphy
Pharmacist here. Worked in a shop where a woman asked for some advice about potential UTI or STI. Told me she had bathed her vagina in bleach for 5 mins to try and kill any bacteria. Miraculously, she hadn't done any lasting damage.
8. Take The HintGiphy
Had a patient come into the ER with a makeshift bandage on his shin. He had fallen on rocks while hiking and left a three inch long, half inch deep gash in his leg. I go to pull the bandage off and as I'm peeling it away I notice the skin is completely black. It looked necrotic, like it had been left alone for a week. I look at this guy like he's crazy as he tells me the wound is only a few hours old. He's pretty proud as he explains that he created a makeshift poultice by chewing up leaves and moss, mixing it with river mud and stuffing it into his leg. That's what all the black mossy stuff was.
Hint. Don't do this.
7. Cool DownGiphy
There's a myth that lowering someone's core temperature will save them from an opiate overdose.
As a result, many first responders have arrived on scenes to find friends/fellow users inserting ice into someone's rectum.
Sometimes they don't have ice around though. Which leads to getting inventive. Popsicles, frozen hot dogs. My personal favorite (which regrettably I didn't witness myself, it was told to me by another medic) was a bag of frozen French fries.
Cold will do nothing to help someone who is overdosing on heroin or other opiates. What they need is respiratory support (oxygen and/or artificial ventilation) and naloxone (Narcan). If you're a user or know one, and somebody ODs, call 9-1-1, perform mouth-to-mouth and give narcan if you have it, but leave the popsicles in the freezer.
6. Seriously, Go To The DoctorGiphy
I work in the er at a trauma center. This guy comes in with his little girl and says that she was bit in the face by the family German shepherd. I immediately take her back assuming that I need to control bleeding. What I encounter is a little girl with a laceration going all the way from over her left eye crossing her nose and mouth. It is not bleeding whatsoever and it seems to have a odd looking substance inside. So I obviously ask the dad what she got inside it.
He responds very proudly with, " Ah yes, I packed the wound with tobacco and super glue. "
My dad had an abscess on his face. It was huge, about the size of a golf ball and horribly red. It kept getting bigger. My mom (a nurse) kept telling him to go to the doctor, but my dad was a ridiculously cheap.
One day when she was gone, we noticed that a big white head had formed on the abscess, and it was apparently ready to bust. My dad went out to the garage, got his shop vac, placed it over the white head, and proceeded to suck out the abscess. It worked surprisingly well and healed up after that nicely.
Mom was still furious, though.
4. Don't Trust SommersGiphy
I work in oncology pharmacy. I had a patient die of totally treatable breast cancer because they decided to treat it with mistletoe instead of chemo. All because Suzanne Sommers did. Yeah. The thighmaster lady. Don't take medical advice from the thighmaster lady.
3. Tooth FairyGiphy
I had a dental patient with a dead front tooth that had turned black so she painted it with white nail polish daily.Jumpinalake
2. Toxic ShockerGiphy
A mentally-delayed woman came in septic to the ED. Did xrays, blood cultures, urine cultures, the works. Finally found this weird image on her pelvis film, and we had GYN come do a pelvic exam. They pulled out this blob with bones in it.
Y'all, I swear to God ....
It was a decomposing frog.
She put it in her vagina for "safekeeping".
She got toxic shock syndrome from a FROG.