Working as a medical professional is often a very rewarding career; you get to help people stay healthy and save lives on a regular basis.
Some of those lives saved can seem like miracles, as people recover from seemingly terminal illnesses or injuries.
Reddit user u/marybroadmore asked:
"Doctors of Reddit, what is the most mind blowing recovery you've ever witnessed?"
*Content Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of injury to humans and animals.*
When I was a medical student on a cardiology rotation, we had a very nice 40 yr old lady that was being treated for a heart attack (kinda young, but ok). This type of heart attack, deemed an NSTEMI, is the type where she did not have to be urgently rushed to the cath lab. So she had hers the morning after she was admitted, seemingly fine before going down. While in the cath lab, she spontaneously went into cardiac arrest. They got her back after 2 shocks, multiple rounds of CPR, and a round of epi. Usually, if someone is coding for awhile, it doesn't look good for them. But she came back and was intubated, so it's more of a "watch and wait" deal after.
Well, overnight, she self extubated herself. When I rounded on her in the morning, she was awake and said she felt fine. Her only complaint was that she felt like she got burned on her chest, and that was irritating her a bit. Uhhh yea, that was the 200 J of electricity going through you a few hours ago. She then went on asking when she was going to be discharged because she needed to go home and take care of her two dogs.
The fact that she went into cardiac arrest in house and in a shockable rhythm definitely helped her chances of a good outcome. But it's still one of my cooler stories.. bc contrary to what people see in the TV shows, people don't just wake up, eager to take on the day, after cardiac arrest.
A True 180
Have seen a lot of remarkable recoveries back to baseline from people unconscious and intubated in ICU. Especially in young people who have high physiological reserve to bounce back from catastrophic events e.g. thyroid storm, aneurysms, ketoacidosis.
I'd say the most surprising recovery was in a drug & alcohol patient. Man in his twenties with a very difficult upbringing, dropped out of high school at 15 and was just hooked on meth and alcohol since. Very expensive habit so he'd commit crimes to fund the drugs, get out of prison and back to us for rehabilitation, commit another crime. A horrible cycle.
He wasn't motivated to recover because he didn't have much of a life to return to. Serious health problems from drug use, nobody would hire him due to his criminal record, parents in prison. Also seemed mildly intellectually impaired, possibly from chronic drug use. He only had his girlfriend.
Then his girlfriend died of a drug overdose. I thought he'd follow after because he was hanging on just for her. But he did a total 180. Booked himself into detox, attended all his appointments, got his high school equivalency. Stayed clean for years and got hired as a security guard. On discharge, he was with a new partner and they had a baby on the way. During his last appointment he'd dropped into the dollar store and had a bag with a stuffed elephant and pink blanket inside.
Changed Her MindGiphy
Not a doctor but a nurse who worked in long term care.
I had a patient who was apparently actively dying. She had stopped eating for 3-4 days and was on comfort measures only. This meant she was receiving morphine every hour and the rest of her medications were discontinued, and she was only being fed and given water as tolerated.
Out of nowhere one day she just sat up and said "I'm hungry," and like that she was back to normal. She lived for around another year or so after that.
One In A Million
Paramedic fireman here. Had a guy (65ish years old) who dropped dead while on a treadmill. Leads showed asystole, which means dead as hell, zero electrical activity in his heart. 1 round of CPR with 1 round of ALS meds, goes into a shockable rhythm, defibrillate ("shock") 1 time, guy gets a normal heart rhythm back with a pulse. Loaded em up, had a 5 minute transport. By the time we got to the hospital, this man was making jokes with us and would have walked in if we let him.
This is not how cardiac arrests go. You usually die. And if you live, your quality of life after is usually greatly reduced if not negligible. This was absolutely incredible.
Don't Try This One At Home
As a resident I admitted a patient for a COPD exacerbation. Pretty routine. What wasn't was her history. She had been discharged from the hospital 4 years before with hospice. She had biopsy proven small cell lung cancer that had metastasized to other organs. Essentially zero survival and she had gone home to receive medicine to make her comfortable. She hadn't taken any cancer treatment.
Four years later when I admitted her there was no trace of cancer. The only suggestion from the pulmonologist was her crack cocaine habit must have been lethal to the cancer. Or her body just found a way to fight it off. Basically we don't know how and her odds of doing it should be about zero.
Sorry i am not a doctor, but my brother had been given hours to live 3 times during his battle with cancer. I flew to see him and say goodbye all 3 times and another 20 odd times to give morale support over the two years he fought. One night in the hospital the doctors told us to say goodbye as he had only hours to live. We all fell asleep holding his hand and at 6am i opened my eyes and listened to see if i could hear breathing. It was quite dark and all i heard was my brother's voice saying "holy sh*t i am still here!!" He lived for another year.
A Chain Reaction
Not a doctor, but a relative. My grandma ended up in bed for a about a year when she was in her mid 70's. She had been declining for a fair while, and just kept getting more and more medication to take care of her different illnesses and discomfort. I went up there three months before this and I was sure I wouldn't see her again, she was almost comatose just lying in her bed barely being responsive.
At one point my 7 year old second cousin randomly overhears my mom telling my aunt that grandma started on yet another type of medication (far into double digits). 7 year old start crying because apparently she thinks that medicine is making grandma more sick and "everytime she gets more pills, she gets more tired".
My mom and aunt comfort this poor kid, telling her that it is not the medicine that is making her sick and whatever you tell a 7 year old to calm them down.
My mom is a nurse (or was back then, she is retired now), she worked with her best friend at a smaller private hospital in Denmark and a week later in the lunch room she is telling her friend the story about my cousin. The in house anaesthetists picks up on the convo, asks about what type of medication grandma is on, mom starts mentioning the ones she remembers. Which really gets this guys attention; basically my mom names a chain reaction; like medicine A has lack of energy as a side effect and another side effect, which is then treated with B that causes lack of energy and another side effect that is then treated with C etc. So basically if grandma didn't get A, she wouldn't need B, C, D or E and that is just the 5 medicines that my mom remembered of the top of her head.
Mom gets a list of all the medicines together for her colleague, apparently him and his doctor misses went over them as an after dinner activity and the next morning he had a three page letter written up that my mom could give grandma's doctor arguing why 25 out of 28 medications where at best unnecessary if not harmful.
Mum got the next day off, drove 450 km to see grandma's doctor, showed up with out an appointment, pulled a Karen, got to see him, showed him the letter and half an hour later left with a new medicine schedule to step grandma out of 25 different medicines and half the dose of the three remainings.
Two days later my grandma got out of bed for no apparent reason for the first time in six months, two months later she was walking the dog and baking again. 15 years later grandma is still alive, she is missing a leg now and 4 years ago she moved into a retirement home with my grandpa. I haven't seen her for 3 years, but she is doing good. She ended up getting compensated by the stated, can't remember the figures but it was the maximum amount (Mind you, not that high in Denmark).
Back Up On 4 Legs
Someone brought their cat in that had been missing for a week. It had pulled itself in through the cat flap that morning dragging both back legs, matted, thin, and covered in oil. Very high likelihood that it had been run over.
His right hind was obviously broken with the knee completely in the wrong place, couldn't immediately tell what was wrong with the other leg just by palpating. The owner didn't have the money to x-ray, much less do surgery and the cat was less than 1 year old, so I offered to have them sign it into my care so I would become financially responsible for the cat.
Took some x-rays, hoping for one shattered leg and one relatively normal one, as an amputation was looking pretty likely at this point. The other femur was still intact, but had come entirely out of it's hip joint, which pretty much skunked amputation as an option. I'm a passable soft tissue surgeon, but I am not an orthopedic surgeon by any means. So I contacted a friend and asked him if he wanted a crack at the leg. He managed to wire to together for a bit before the wires failed, but cats heal remarkably well, particularly young cats, and he managed to get a pretty functional limb out of the ordeal after several weeks of cage rest and popping the other hip back in.
He currently lives on a farm and catches rats, climbs trees, and gets on the barn roof just as well as the rest of the cats.
Cardiac care nurse here, got called to the ER to assist with a cardiac arrest of this patient in his 50's. He had a delay of 10 minutes (no oxygen to his brains for 10 minutes), the EMT already tried reviving him for 45 minutes on a flatline. After 15 minutes the doctor said, last check before we declare this patient deceased and when we did he actually had a pulse and a decent rhythm on the monitor. Mind you, we use an automatic CPR machine so we don't have to do manual compressions so we had to turn off the machine to check. He got wheeled to the ICU, ended up on the corony care 2 days later (pretty confused I might add) and a week later he walked out of the hospital when the doctors discharged him without any brain damage or visual physical damage.
Edit: they give him a pacemaker before his discharge.
When I was in trauma surgery in upstate by, got a notification about a man who was shot 3 times in the head. He comes in, literally one eye hanging out of the socket, blood everywhere, and he's slumped forward. Apparently he was shot in the temple, exited out his right eye socket, in the nose exited from the roof of the mouth, and In the cheek one with exit from the side of the head. At this point I'm thinking they just brought him in so we can pronounce him in the ER because he looked dead. I go to examine him and tilt his head back, and he's says "yoooo be gentle!!!!" I jump back and scream like a little boy, as did everyone in the room. Literally the bullets missed his brain in every single shot.