Nurses are essential to the profession of healthcare and the infrastructure of hospitals in general. In addition to caring for patients during their hospital stay, they often get a closer look at what's ailing patients better than doctors do. While this means they're often on the front line of giving medical care, it also means they're subject to seeing some truly gnarly shit being wheeled in from the emergency room, after surgery, and during recovery.
So we asked a group of nurses to offer up the grossest, craziest, and most all-out bizarre things they've witnessed while on call. At the very least, you'll walk away from these anecdotes with an even greater respect for their struggle—and who knows, maybe you'll learn to take care of yourself a little better, too.
I had a guy whose penis was hacked off with a machete—ugly cut, terribly jagged. The penis looked so small and lost laying there on the gurney next to him. For sure, it couldn't be reattached—but that's what you get when you try to outrun the Zeta cartel.
We've been getting a lot of men who overdose on erectile-dysfunction meds, with erections that last hours as a result. It's very painful and psychologically upsetting, and a lot of the guys we see are crying and in panic. The only remedy is to put needles in each side of the dick and siphon the blood out. It's a lot of blood—like, fountains—and when the doctor describes the procedure to the patients, some protest and ask to wait it out instead. If they do that, though, the blood will clot and kill tissue, which means they could lose their penis. The whole thing is a bad scene, and every part of it is excruciatingly painful.
The hospital I used to work for was well known for its microvascular surgery—they did things like reattaching amputated limbs and digits, etc. We had this one guy who had a truck fall on him while he was working on it and both his ears were severed. He had them reattached, but developed venous congestion, which can quickly lead to loss of blood supply to the reattached area. We would treat this with leech therapy. Leeches release an enzyme that acts as a local anticoagulant. So this guy walked around the unit several times a day with a leech on each ear, like a nice pair of earrings. It worked. He went home with both ears.
I had a female patient in her mid 40s who would masturbate constantly. None of my co-workers caught her doing it, so they all assumed she liked me, which didn't help. They would say shit like, "Sarah and Bob kissin' in a tree…" I couldn't wait for her to be well again. It was ridiculous.
The usual shit—blood, bones, vomit, weird genitalia—doesn't phase me; it's the stuff I don't expect that does. I work in the emergency room of a large hospital, and we see a lot of poor and/or homeless people addicted to drugs and trying to score by making a bogus health claim. There was a girl that would come in regularly with a different story about how she fell every time. It's a front-row seat to a daily parade of despair, and it can be truly heartbreaking.
An adult male patient didn't want to use the bedpan, so he hung his ass over the bed and took a shit on the floor like a dog and then called me to "come pick it up."
We had a teenage girl come in with her mom, and the girl looked mortified. She looked fine physically, but it turned out that she threw out her back while twerking for some boys at the community pool. We couldn't do much for her, but I just wanted to hold the girl and tell her it was OK. The mom was really going in on her with the slut shaming, though—I really wanted to say to her, "I did much worse in junior high, and I turned out fine. I like to twerk, too—and I'm head nurse."
I work at a hospital in a remote desert town, so we don't see too much weirdness. But there's this one guy who tries to bring his cat into the ER. The vet is a half mile away, but he never gets the message. It never seems like there's anything seriously wrong with the cat, either—it's usually something like, "My cat has a slight cough."
Something happens to hospitalized old people at night. They're like gremlins … you would never believe how strong a confused older person is. I've been kicked, hit, bit, and spit on by someone's sweet nana after midnight. In the morning, they revert to their tender, caring little Mogwai selves.
I've seen so much stuff crammed into people's anal cavities that I'm rarely surprised by it anymore. We once had a guy who had a bad infection on his butt, as well as a brutal perirectal abscess caused by having his pets lick the open wounds. I typically have an iron stomach, but seeing that almost made me throw up. The thought of a dog licking its own butthole, and then licking these sores on this guy's butthole, made me feel disgusted and distraught.
A drunk, high, and barely conscious homeless man once whispered the lyrics of Iron Maiden's "Run to the Hills" to me. I couldn't stop smiling, and if it wasn't for ethics, moral decency, and HIPAA laws, I would've snapchatted it to all my friends.
We had a patient come in for an emergency C-section last week, and she pulled a joint out of her weave and tried to light up on the operating table.
A guy once used a call light as a lasso, swinging it around his head. He hit my co-worker in the face and fractured her cheek bone with it. That was a bummer.
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