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26 Doctors Reveal Their Most Gruesome Cases That Should Have Ended In Death

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Doctors have to see disturbing things every single day. Here are some of the most gruesome stories they have from Ask Reddit that aren’t for the faint of heart.
Unsplash / Jilbert Ebrahimi

1. He had a bloody mass at the top of his neck

“3 AM on a Saturday. I was working in the emergency room of a level 1 trauma center and we had 3 people coming in after a gun battle. We only had 2 beds designated for severe trauma, so there was the typical discussion re: which 2 people to try to stabilize and which person to delegate to the make shift trauma bay. Do we focus on the most severely injured or the 2 most likely to survive? After what seemed to be a nearly comically drawn out and shakingly quiet/still wait, the first 2 victims arrived and the stillness flipped to chaos.

The first person wheeled in… just didn’t seem to have a head. There was this bloody mass at the top of his neck but it didn’t look human. I remember being so confused that we were using one of the bays for this person/body, who just could not still be alive. I was looking him over and I noticed his left thumb was was calmly and repeatedly cracking the knuckles on his left hand. It would squeeze one finger and rhythmically work down the other 4 and start over. He didn’t have any anatomy left that we could easily intubate and yet he was cracking his knuckles. I still can’t make sense of it. He didn’t stay alive much longer, maybe a couple of hours, but that knuckle cracking seemed like such a human thing to do for someone that had no reason to still be alive.” — redmoskeeto

2. She had a bullet hole in the center of her forehead

“In Brazil, you can to internship way earlier than in most of America and Europe med schools, so keep that in mind.

I was in my 4th year of med-school and in the first day as a intern in a trauma hospital (after training). There was a bus crash right before, so all the staff was occupied when a woman came in screaming: ‘I AM GOING TO DIE! I GOT SHOT IN THE HEAD!’

When I look up I see a really thin woman, deep eyes, white as snow skin… with a bullet hole in the center of her forehead. She told us she owned money to a drug dealer and he put a gun agains his head, shot and ran. Now, I believe because she has burn marks and gun powder right there in her skin (and a hole).

Now remind that I am a student, and there was no available Doctors in the moment. So I run to my professor (that was with another patient) and tell her story….and also that she is lucid, with normal life signs…and get a order to do a CT scan.

The CT shows that the bullet entered the forehead trough the first layer of the frontal bone, but not the second, and headed down trough her pallatus, trought and stopped at a vertebra (c5 if I recall correctly). No brain damage at all.

So we intern her and a trachesotomy is put in place, along with emergency reconstructive surgery (only a first, not definitive approach), along with a cervical collar.

After she is stable, 3 hours latter in her room (3rd floor) we go down to see other patients. The emergency then gets a call:

-Hello. We are from the X hospital (20km away from ours) and we found a patient of yours in our emergency. Then the nurses on the floor realize she was missing.

She jumped a 3rd storage floor, broke her ankle and got in buses until the other hospitals. Why?

‘I saw him in here, he came to finish the job.’

And before you ask, yes, some people lost their jobs.” — ElLocoS

3. His legs were mangled and his scalp was gone

“Dude laid down on the train tracks and was ran over. When the fire department arrived, the patient was fully conscious and was speaking to the firemen from underneath the train. One of his arms laid ~ 50 feet away. Both legs mangled. Scalp gone. Again, fully conscious and speaking. Stayed that way literally until EMS pulled into our ambulance bay and then he coded – too much blood loss. So we pumped him full of blood, got a pulse, and got him out of the ED ASAP.” — itstrueimwhite

4. He put a shotgun under his chin and pulled the trigger

“Had a patient 25/m come in for a suicide attempt. He put a 20 gauge shotgun under his chin and pulled the trigger. He must have flinched because he blew the entire front part of his face off – jaw, tongue, teeth, nose, both eyes, partial frontal skull. Brain was completely intact and he was fully alert and oriented. He was emergently cric’d (cricoidthyrotomy) and had to be transported face down on the gurney due to all the bleeding and to save his airway. Vital signs were stable after a shit ton of blood products and he was transported to a specialist plastic surgeon for a new face a couple days later. It was creepy walking into his room and just seeing a someone in bed with clear dressing over their head with no face and fully competent. Unforgettable nightmarish stuff right there.

Also had a 72/m using a circular saw on a ladder cutting a 2×4 above his head. He slipped and the circular saw went right into his face diagonally from his right cheek bone through his right eye to the left part of his forehead. He was able to turn off the saw, detach the blade from the saw so just the blade was in his face, call his wife that he had an accident, and then DROVE TO THE FUCKING HOSPITAL with the circular saw blade sticking out of his face. I wish I could have seen people’s reactions when he walked through the ED doors. He lost his right eye and was in surgery for over 7 hours to repair his sinuses and face. I forget the number of stitches he had but it was a retarded number like over 500 or something. That dude was a bad ass but also an idiot.” — konvictkarl

5. A knife was sticking out of his chest

“We had a patient with schizophrenia come in one night with Marine KBAR knife buried to the hilt and with the handle sticking out of his left chest.

He was a very sweet and gentle man, but ‘the devil’ had been telling him to stab himself in the heart, and one night he did. He went just little bit high, and the blade slipped perfectly between the large blood vessels coming out the top of his heart. A million to one shot.

After much discussion, x-rays, and more discussion, some brave soul (it wasn’t me) grabbed the knife by the handle and pulled it out. The patient apologized profusely throughout the ordeal for getting us all up in the middle of the night and how he wished he hadn’t listened to the devil.

He got his cut stitched up, some antibiotics, and (I realize this will open me to quite a bit of criticism) I have no idea what happened to him after that – I was doing critical care.” — falsetry

6. His body was completely cut in half

“Was working late in the ER when we got a trauma patient. Came in with the title ‘vehicle vs man’ with one of those foil ambulance blankets. Totally alert, answering to his name and doesn’t seem to be in pain.

We take the foil off and the guy is completely cut in half with one leg missing and the other hanging on by the skin. In rectal examination the rectum was no where to be found but instead we found a mass there that turned out to be a testicle. NO bleeding whatsoever. Apparently the guy was pinned to the wall by a cement mixer while working construction. Made it out alive with a wheelchair and colostomy bag.” — Browless87

7. A tree branch stuck out of his eye socket

“Still the craziest thing I’ve seen in 10 years as an anesthesiologist. We got called to a Level 1 trauma, where a man had fallen out of his hang glider from a couple of hundred feet. His wife saw the whole accident happen, and he fell into a grove of trees. Screaming, she runs over to him, where multiple tree branches had broken his fall in such a way that aside from a couple of scratches on his body and face, he seemed to be OK….except for one thing. In the trauma bay, he was conscious, talking, but there was a troublesome “pain in his face” that turned out to be a two inch thick tree branch protruding out of his left eye socket. We got him intubated, and took him to the CT scanner, where it turned out that the branch was not just a couple of inches long, but EIGHT INCHES ACROSS. It had gone through his eye socket, across to the other eye, through both frontal sinuses, and stopped just short of entering the cranial cavity and injuring his brain. After a 14 hour operation involving neurosurgeons, ophthalmologists, and plastic reconstructive surgeons, the guy came out with partial vision in the eye that was injured, full vision in the other eye, and walked out of the hospital a couple weeks later. TL;DR – Guy falls 200 feet out of the sky, lands on the ground after having his fall broken by trees, has an 8 inch x 2 inch branch stuck through his face and makes an almost full recovery.” — dhslax88

8. He tried to cut off his own head with a table saw

“Had a patient who tried to cut his own head off using a table saw while on the phone with his sister. HEMS picked him up, intubated him via his completely transected trachea and held the tube in manually for the 60 min flight to the hospital. There was so much soft tissue damage to his neck, they couldn’t secure the tube anywhere. Just a big jumbled mesh of open flesh. He was awake and coughing when he arrived in the ED, his trachea rhythmically jumping out of the giant hole in his neck due to the irritation from the tube. We anesthetized him, he went to the OR and had no damage to any vessels. Got a trach and was awake post op.” — StraghtNoChaser

9. She had seventeen bullet holes inside of her

“Trauma ER in the murder capital of the world. A lady comes in in a wheelchair with several bullet wounds. I suit up to assist the surgeon and orthopedic surgeon. After 13 hours we counted 17 bullet holes and we removed 10 bullets from chest and abdomen. Spleen removed, half of liver removed, 40cm of small intestine removed, uterus removed, left leg removed, double thoracostomy tube. No bullets touched the heart, large vessels or bigger respiratory bronchi. She woke up after two days and we were able to communicate via eye movement. We lost her to sepsis in the tenth day.” — sam537

10. A chunk of wood was jammed between her eyes

“I work at a trauma center as an anesthesiologist, so I see a LOt of crazy shit. People surviving stabbings, gun shot wounds to the head, a freeway collapsing on someone during construction. But one case will forever stick in my mind. I got called down to the ER to help manage an airway. The call said there was a woman who had a difficult airway due to trauma, and there was a splintered piece of wood in the way. I walk down, ask what the story is. Little old lady lost control of her car, ran off the road into the side of a house. She ran into a wooden porch that was positioned almost exactly at the level of her nose. So I approach the lady to see what we’re working with for an airway and she legit has a chunk of wood that has smashed her nose, is sitting right between her eyes. Thing must have been three inches wide, god knows how long, and about 1 inch from top to bottom. About four inches of board is sticking out of her face.

My immediate instinct is to say ‘holy shit.’ Fortunately I didn’t because it turned out the woman was conscious at that moment. I intubated her, she went off to the scanner, and then to the OR. Last I heard, after a series of reconstructive surgeries she was doing pretty well. I occasionally think back to that moment and just wonder how the hell that woman was alive.” — docbauies

11. It was his fourth overdose that week

“I’m in PA school. Had a patient on my ER rotation in his 50s came in as a heroin overdose. A significant amount of the heroin during that summer in my area had been laced with fentanyl.

Per the patient’s chart, this was his fourth overdose…. this week.

I ended up having to tell him that the heroin he had at home ‘wasn’t the same as normal heroin’ and he looked very hurt that his ‘friend’ gave him dangerous heroin.

Sad story.” — StMungosPA

12. A harpoon went straight through his neck

“Saw a patient with a harpoon through his neck. Somehow it missed all major blood vessels and bones so he’s actually conscious and talking.” — charlie523

13. A dead fetus was rotting inside of her birth canal

“I’m a veterinarian. In my humble opinion, I believe that cows are capable of surviving just about anything. They’re the most hardy animals on the planet.

One day, I walk into the clinic and stop by a stall to see a cow, completely calm and chewing her cud. The problem? Two legs protruding from her hind end. She had went into labor ONE MONTH prior and was unable to deliver the calf for whatever reason. The calf had since died in the birth canal and had been rotting there since. My lucky job that day was to dismantle and pull out rotting calf pieces (brain here, leg there, liver, etc). About three people threw up because of the smell.

Turned out that during the delivery, the calf had perforated into the mother’s abdomen and she was septic! With the removal of the calf, some heavy duty antibiotics, and lots of care from the staff, she survived. Cows are amazing.” — Avalanchian

14. His eyeball was completely gone

“A man in his late 20s early 30s took a shotgun and put it in his mouth. He pulled the trigger blowing out the back left side of his head, from an inch behind his left eye all the way to the middle of the back of his skull. I can’t describe what it’s like seeing the void missing down into someone’s head! He still had a face, but behind the bone structure and skin there was nothing left on his left side. Eyeball and mouth structure was gone. The top of his head, gone.

He lived! He was in our critical care unit for days, while doctors picked pieces of skull and dead/dying brain matter out of the gaping hole in his head. He was still ‘motioning’ and moving one of his eyes. Doctors told me he was a vegetable. Half of his head was blown off and he managed to stabilized and start to recover. After that… I don’t know how the story ends… or how soon.” — Spaceman4u

15. He was covered head to toe in chemical burns

“I know an old gentleman who lives out on his own in the bush outside of Prince George BC. This guy worked in mines for 60 years, most of that time as a millwright. His body is covered, head to toe with chemical burns, scars and deeps pits. He said it was from all the different little times he got the horrible chemicals used in the milling process on him. His face looks like a ghoul from fallout. Its actually really disturbing the first time you see it, but he’s an amazing guy and has so many interesting stories from ‘the good old days.'” — infinus5

16. He lost two legs and an arm

“Had a guy who was on a train platform and had a seizure. He fell onto the train tracks and was hit by a train. He lost two legs and an arm and was taken to the ER and survived the loss of three limbs and eventually was able to be discharged from the hospital.” — izanime99

17. A guard rail impaled her vagina during a car wreck

“Had a medical teacher in high school who used to be a nurse in a trauma center. She said after a while she got used to gunshots, stabbings, horrific car accidents, etc. But one car accident stuck with her, 3 teenagers (2 guys and a girl) were driving in a manual shift mustang. The girl didn’t wanna sit in the back so she sat on the armrest up front. They got into a wreck (hit the end of a guard rail) the girl flew off the armrest and the stick impaled her through her vagina. Broke her pelvis, tore her cervix in half, pretty much destroyed everything down there. The girl survived she just couldn’t ever have kids.” — P3ccavi

18. Her scalp was split open

“Patient was involved in an automobile accident. She was thrown out of the vehicle and one of the vehicles involved fell on her head. Her scalp was split open and separated from the skull. She did not look pretty afterwards but she survived with just bruises and scars to show for it.” — Dr_Cimarron

19. His face was struck with a chainsaw

“Dentist here, so I don’t reeeeeally deal with life or death stuff much. But once I did see a guy who’s face had been struck by a chainsaw.

It had kicked back off a knot or something in the tree he was cutting, and bounced off his face, cutting through his cheek. It took a bite out of his mandible but luckily it mostly did soft tissue damage.” — mdp300

20. She jumped off of a building

“Four story leaper. Her only damage? Bilateral femur fractures. Her first words to me: Am I going to be OK?” — onetimerone

21. She shot herself in the mouth

“Had a patient, 16yo female with a heavy depressive disorder. She had finally had it, found a .22 caliber gun, she put it in her mouth and shot. At her arrival to the ER, she had some bleeding through the mouth, but not enough to intubate, almost as if she had only been hit in the mouth. Her neurological examination was normal, save for extreme neck pain, and a rigid collar she had on. When we examined the CT, the bullet had impacted the lateral mass of C1, avoided all neurological and vascular structures, and was trapped inside the neck. The neurosurgeon team rebuilt her C1 and removed the bullet. To this day, she had no permanent sequels of that incident what so ever.” — Wittmann_Taicho

22. His body was stuffed underneath the train

“I’m a emergency doctor and while I had my fair share of patients lucky to be alive after serious accidents/injuries one stands out: I was called during the night to a train vs person accident. This was a common occurrence where I was working at that time because the train line went right next to a psychiatric ward and there were a lot of suicide attempts via jumping before a train. Everyone who works in the field knows that these attempts are very often successful and there is usual not a lot for us doctors to do at the place of the incident other than to declare time of death (‘the head is 50m away from the rest of the mangled body… yeah, he is dead alright.’). So, I was not really eager to arrive at the (presumably) grisly scene. But lo and behold, after arriving at the now standing freight train we hear a faint cry for help! This guy is still alive! We rush to where the sounds come from and there he is: under the train between the axles. Now, the time being nighttime I couldn’t quite see all parts of the patient (especially if all limbs were still attached to the body, I fully expected to see several severed appendages) but after I managed to pull him out with the help of my EMTs and the police he seemed almost perfectly fine. Turns out he was drunk after a night of drinking and knew a ‘shortcut’ to go home right across the train lines where he was hit by a passing freight train going full speed. He was dragged for several hundred meters under the train and was tumbling between the axles without getting under the actual wheels. All he had to show for was a broken arm and a lot of bruises but nothing major. After I gave him some morphine for the pain the first thing he asked what time it is to know whether the local pub had still open for another round ‘to calm his nerves.'” — waldorfastoria07

23. He came back to life after being declared dead

“Guy came in about 10 minutes away from death. He had been run over by a car. By the time we prepped him, he had passed. But per the doctor’s moral code, we tried to save him anyway. After hours of constant work, we gave up. We declared him dead and were packing up when he woke up. Like some horror movie type stuff. He just sat up straight and inhaled loudly, my assistant and I just looked at each other. It’s been a couple of months, and he’s still in ICU, but this memory will always give me goosebumps.” — Galaxy_Traveller

24. He should have been paralyzed or dead from infection

“Writing a case report about this guy but here goes the short version.

Guy falls drunk down a flight of stairs and wakes the next morning and goes to the ER. They do everything they should, head and neck radiographic studies, physical exam, everything seems fine except for the laceration on his forehead. They have him lean back in the gurney and inject anesthetic so they can stitch his laceration. He starts having trouble breathing (allergic reaction right? That’s what they thought.) Before long they have to intubate him and they send him over to our trauma center, but not before mistakenly intubating (putting the breathing tube) into the esophagus (not where it belongs) and (since it didn’t work to keep his oxygen up) they cut the front of his neck to put a tube in there.

We get him at this point, repeat the radiographs, find air in his abdomen (which suggests bowel perforation or some other trauma below the diaphragm) and head into surgery. He’s in a neck brace this whole time which is good because we get the new radiographs back and it turns out he has a broken neck. It was missed before supposedly because he has ankylosing spondylitis and it messes with X-ray images by making your spine look weird at baseline.

Regardless of the broken neck though, we have to find out where that air in his belly came from. And it was a lot. We thought this guy was just fat when he came in but it was all air. Turns out when they accidentally intubated his esophagus, they pushed so much pressure in trying to get air in that they perforated the esophagus with a bunch of little holes. Too small to stitch so all we could do was make him NPO (nothing por os – (by mouth)) and feed him directly into his stomach while he was with us and let the neurosurgeons fix his neck as best they could. When they open up the neck they find the real reason for the difficulty breathing was the huge collection of blood in front of the break was compressing his airway. Once it was out the swelling was gone and with the plates in place on his neck all we could do was hope that he wasn’t paralyzed from the broken neck, and that the perforations in his esophagus hadn’t infected his mediastinum (the part of the chest with a bunch of your vital structures in it) because trying to treat those with antibiotics is a beast and has a high mortality.

He wakes up, not paralyzed. A few days later, not dead of infection. Lucky SOB that one.” — UtMed

25. He was shot in the back with a bullet

“Had a patient who was shot in the back, the bullet landed just above his aortic arch, no more than 1 mm away. Guy actually did fine, but if he would’ve taken a slightly different sized breath that one time or was a tiny bit taller he’d have been killed on the spot.” — beastduels

26. He pulled out his own breathing tube

“I got called down to the Emergency Department around 2AM to admit a patient to the ICU. The patient had been found in a car in a parking lot, unconscious and obviously having trouble breathing. The guy had a huge mass in his right neck, around the size of a grapefruit. His oxygen level was frighteningly low, so the ED docs tried to intubate him. They couldn’t pass the tube due to the mass making his airway around the size of a drinking straw. After repeated attempts, they called in the surgeons on call, which consisted of a chief surgical resident and a surgical intern. Those two attempted a bedside crike but also failed due to the neck mass. Finally after calling in other ED docs, they managed to pass a small tube and hook the guy up to a ventilator.

When I arrive, he’s laying on the bed completely unresponsive. He has an ugly, gaping (but relatively shallow) wound in his throat packed with gauze from the failed crike. He has no reflexes at at all. His pupils are fixed and dilated. He isn’t breathing on his own, relying entirely on the ventilator. The only thing he has is a pulse. The guy is dead, his heart just doesn’t know it yet. We see this all the time… the patient will hold on for a little while until someone (ie family) decides to pull the breathing tube, at which point they’ll die. So we get him upstairs to the ICU and I go back to sleep. I wake up an couple hours later and hand my patients, including the guy off to the day team.

Later that afternoon I wake up again and check up on him. Turns out he woke up around noon. He pulled out his breathing tube on his own. After coughing for a minute or two, he proceeded to loudly cuss out every person within 50 feet, asking why they didn’t let him die. Turns out he’s had this neck cancer for a while, and just wants to let it kill him without doing anything about it. He just wanted to peacefully suffocate (??) and be left alone. He got out of bed, signed his AMA paper, and left the hospital. Never saw him again.” — Dr_Everyone TC mark

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