"I have two stories (med student here):
A morbidly obese (that's an actual medical term) woman comes to the clinic complaining of a foul odor that she's noticed. And yeah, the attending doctor and I noticed it as well - a smell somewhere between rancid milk mixed with rotting fish and a disemboweled skunk swimming in garbage. We do the usual workup: take a good history, do a thorough physical (as best we can given she is huge and has folds and folds of fat and skin draped all over her) including a rectal/genital exam just in case there was some funky 'down there' growth, and run some simple labs. As me and the attending are discussing how we have no clue what is going on, the nurse comes out holding a green, soggy mush in her gloved hands and waves it in front of our faces (I nearly puked right there). It turns out the woman was using pieces of bread to soak up the sweat by putting them in between her fat folds. Apparently, she forgot about one of the parts, which then stayed there to marinate in her juices for weeks (as estimated by the patient). I was sent in to see if there were any more hidden pieces; luckily there wasn't, but having to lift up and search every fat fold was as embarrassing for her as it was disgusting for me.
A guy was wasted, fighting with his girlfriend, and decided to light up some M-80s and throw them at her. Well, he waited too long after lighting one and ended up blowing off his hand. He was brought to the ED, completely wasted and having lost a lot of blood. We stabilized him and took him to the OR. While the hand surgeons were cleaning off his stump of a hand, the surgery resident and I were fixing all his chest wounds. One of the hand surgeons said, 'Wow this is a mess. Did anyone at the scene find his thumb?' No one knew. We continued examining, cleaning and suturing his wounds, and lo and behold, buried in a deep wound in his upper abdomen was two-thirds of the guy's thumb. If he hadn't been so fat, his thumb would've likely entered his peritoneum."
"I want to tell this story because I feel there is very limited knowledge about when it is appropriate to WITHDRAW care on your family. If any of you take anything away from this, please write a living will and talk to your loved ones about your wishes.
A man brought his 92-year-old mom to our hospital because we were renowned for our outcomes. She had some pneumonia and was placed on a ventilator (breathing machine) to help breathe. Numerous antibiotics and prescriptions were given to help the lady as her son wanted 'everything done.' She stayed in our unit for weeks breathing and eating through tubes with incredibly advanced dementia. Every time we came into the room or spoke to her, you could just see the fear in her eyes. Every time we had to turn her vent settings up as she got closer to dying, we talked to the son about withdrawing care.
He denied. Never. This was his mom, and he did not want to let her go for any reason. He started yelling at the staff, and we had to show him out a few times. Yet since he was appointed as the decision maker in her living will, we had to continue to ask him to make decisions about his mom's care. When his mom was days away from death, maxed out on every prescription we can give, we asked him to withdraw care on his mom. He punched me in the face. Later that day we performed CPR on his mom, breaking 4 of her ribs and she died anyway. The rest of the family watched us do this in horror to their mom because the son COULD NOT withdraw care. When you are appointed to make decisions in a living will, it can only be up to you.
We could have withdrawn care weeks earlier, giving her a peaceful and restful death. If we are all going to die eventually, we should have the respectful choice to decide when we no longer wish to be cared for. It is therapeutic. Sometimes, enough is enough."
"As a paramedic, I responded to a call of 'traffic accident, baby ejected.' We prepared for the worst we could imagine. I arrived in about eight minutes; a trooper was on scene trying to clear the area of bystanders/gawkers and preserve the scene. He had covered the 'baby' with the yellow death-sheet troopers carry in their trunks. I lifted the sheet to check vitals/pronounce death, and it was not a baby, but the top half of the 19-year-old girl that was driving the small pickup truck about 50 yards away. She was driving, and arguing with her 19-year-old husband who was the passenger. They were doing about 55mph on a two-lane road and met an oncoming truck pulling a doublewide mobile home. She ran under the front corner of the mobile home, cutting her in half. Her bottom half remained in the driver's seat, while her unhurt husband watched as the truck then skidded another 50-60 yards, sideswiping a minivan, sending it into the ditch upside down.
When the truck came to rest, her bottom half fell out onto the ground. We also found a trail of ribs from the cab to the bed, and down the pavement to the top half. It looked like a movie set. Her top and bottom looked unhurt, but from mid-chest to about pelvis was strung along the road. The husband was freaking out about what he had just seen. He was babbling incoherently, running around swinging at people, just a mess. A witness who lived right in front of the scene started having chest pains and had to be transported. We took the husband, and I called medical control and got orders to give him something to calm him down, something paramedics normally can only give for grand-mal seizures. The driver of the big truck was fine but was also very very distraught at what he had just witnessed. That was 16 years ago, and I can still remember pulling up to that scene like it was yesterday."
"Autopsy tech/death investigator.
A morbidly obese man had died in a cheap motel room with the heat cranked up and wasn't found for several days.
By the time we got him to the morgue, he was bloated from decomposing and was purple and green all over. There was lots of skin slip.
Our forensic pathologist went to make the initial Y incision, and the force of the escaping gas blew gore all over us and the ceiling while making a sound like a wet balloon with the air being pinched out. We all paused for a moment as the worst stank I have ever smelled enveloped the room like something that had crawled out of Satan's butthole.
Then we burst out laughing because it was all we really could do.
It didn't help that he was leaking liquefied fat all over the floor, that crap is SLIPPERY! My boots have never been the same since."
"I was taking a call one night and woke up at 2 a.m. for a 'general surgery' call. Pretty vague, but at the time, I lived in a town that had large populations of young military guys and avid smack users, so late-night emergencies were common.
I got to the hospital, where a few more details awaited me -- 'Perirectal abscess.' For the uninitiated, this means that somewhere in the immediate vicinity of the butthole, there was a pocket of pus that needed draining. Our entire crew was less than thrilled.
I went down to the Emergency Room to transport the patient, and the only thing the ER nurse said as she handed me the chart was 'Have fun with this one.' Amongst healthcare professionals, vague statements like that are a bad sign.
My patient was a 314lb Native American woman who barely fit on the stretcher I was using to transport her. She was frantically rolling side to side and moaning in pain, pulling at her clothes and muttering Hail Mary's. I could barely get her name out of her after a few minutes of questioning, so after I confirmed her identity and what we were working on, I figured it was best just to get her to the anesthesiologist so we could knock her out and get this circus started.
She continued her theatrics the entire ten-minute ride to the Operating Room, nearly falling off the surgical table as we were trying to put her under anesthetic. We see patients like this a lot, though, chronic substance abusers who don't handle pain well and who have used so many substances that even increased levels of pain medication don't touch simply because of high tolerance levels.
It should be noted, tonight's surgical team was not exactly wet behind the ears. I'd been working in healthcare for several years already, mostly psych and medical settings. I've watched an 88-year-old man tear a one-inch-diameter catheter balloon out of his private parts while screaming 'You'll never make me talk!' I've been attacked by an HIV-positive neo-Nazi. I've seen some mess. The other nurse had been in the OR as a trauma specialist for over ten years; the anesthesiologist had done a residency at a Level 1 trauma center, or as we call them, 'Knife and Weapons Clubs.' The surgeon was ex-Army, and averaged about eight words and two facial expressions a week. None of us expected what was about to happen next.
We got the lady off to sleep, put her into the stirrups, and I began washing off the rectal area. It was red and inflamed, a little bit of pus was seeping through, but it was all pretty standard. Her chart had noted that she'd been injecting IV prescriptions through her perineum, so this was obviously an infection from dirty needles or bad substances, but overall, it didn't seem to warrant her repeated cries of 'Oh Jesus, kill me now.'
The surgeon stepped up with a scalpel, sunk just the tip in, and at that moment, the patient had a muscle twitch in her diaphragm, and just like that, everything broke loose.
Unbeknownst to us, the infection had actually tunneled nearly a foot into her abdomen, creating a vast cavern full of pus, rotten tissue, and fecal matter that had seeped outside of her colon. This godforsaken mixture came rocketing out of that little incision like we were recreating the funeral scene from Jane Austen's 'Mafia!'
We all wear waterproof gowns, face masks, gloves, hats, the works -- all of which were as helpful as rainboots against a firehose. The bed was in the middle of the room, an easy seven feet from the nearest wall, but by the time we were done, I was still finding bits of rotten flesh pasted against the back wall. As the surgeon continued to advance his blade, the torrent just continued. The patient kept seizing against the ventilator (not uncommon in surgery), and with every muscle contraction, she shot more of this brackish gray-brown fluid out onto the floor until, within minutes, it was seeping into the other nurse's shoes.
I was nearly 12 feet away, jaw dropped open within my surgical mask, watching the second nurse dry-heaving and the surgeon standing on tip-toes to keep this stuff from soaking his socks any further. The smell hit them first. 'Oh god, I just threw up in my mask!' The other nurse was out, she tore off her mask and sprinted out of the room, shoulders still heaving. Then it hit me, mouth still wide open, not able to believe the volume of fluid this woman's body contained. It was like getting a great big bite of the despair and apathy that permeated this woman's life. I couldn't breathe, my lungs simply refused to pull any more of that stuff in. The anesthesiologist went down next, an ex-NCAA D1 tailback, his six-foot-two frame shaking as he threw open the door to the OR suite in an attempt to get more air in, letting me glimpse the second nurse still throwing up in the sinks outside the door. Another geyser of pus splashed across the front of the surgeon. The YouTube clip of 'David at the dentist' keeps playing in my head -- 'Is this real life?'
In all operating rooms, everywhere in the world, regardless of socialized or privatized, secular or religious, big or small, there is one thing the same: Somewhere, there is a bottle of peppermint concentrate. Everyone in the department knows where it is, everyone knows what it is for, and everyone prays to the gods they never have to use it. In times like this, we rub it on the inside of our masks to keep the outside smells at bay long enough to finish the procedure and shower off.
I sprinted to our central supply, ripping open the drawer where this vial of ambrosia was kept and was greeted by -- an empty box. The bottle had been emptied and not replaced. Somewhere out there was a godless jerk who had used the last of the peppermint oil, and not replaced a single freaking drop of it. To this day, if I figure out who it was, I'll kill them with my bare hands, but not before cramming their head up the colon of every last smack user I can find, just so we're even.
I darted back into the room with the next best thing I could find -- a vial of Mastisol, which is an adhesive rub we sometimes use for bandaging. It's not as good as peppermint, but considering that over one-third of the floor was now thoroughly coated in what could easily be mistaken for a combination of bovine after-birth and maple syrup, we were out of options.
I started rubbing as much of the Mastisol as I could get on the inside of my mask, just glad to be smelling anything except whatever slimy demon spawn we'd just cut out of this woman. The anesthesiologist grabbed the vial next, dowsing the front of his mask in it so he could stand next to his machines long enough to make sure this woman didn't die on the table. It wasn't until later that we realized that Mastisol could give you a mild high from huffing it like this, but in retrospect, that's probably what got us through.
By this time, the smell had permeated out of our OR suite, and down the forty-foot hallway to the front desk, where the other nurse still sat, eyes bloodshot and watery, clenching her stomach desperately. Our suite looked like the underground river of ooze from Ghostbusters II, except dirty. Oh so dirty.
I stepped back into the OR suite, not wanting to leave the surgeon by himself in case he genuinely needed help. It was like one of those overly-artistic representations of a zombie apocalypse you see on fan-forums. Here's this one guy, in blue surgical garb, standing nearly ankle deep in lumps of dead tissue, fecal matter, and several liters of syrupy infection. He was performing surgery in the swamps of Dagobah, except the swamps had just come out of this woman's butt, and there was no Yoda. He and I didn't say a word for the next ten minutes as he scraped the inside of the abscess until all the dead tissue was out, the front of his gown a gruesome mixture of brown and red, his eyes squinted against the stinging vapors originating directly in front of him. I finished my required paperwork as quickly as I could, helped him stuff the recently-vacated opening full of gauze, taped this woman's buttocks closed to hold the dressing for as long as possible, woke her up, and immediately shipped off to the recovery ward.
Until then, I'd only heard of 'liquid showers.' Turns out 70% isopropyl liquid is the only thing that can even touch a scent like that once it's soaked into your skin. It takes four or five bottles to get clean, but it's worth it. It's probably the only scenario I can honestly endorse drinking a little of it, too.
As we left the locker room, the surgeon and I looked at each other, and he said the only negative sentence I heard him utter in two and a half years of working together:
'That was bad.'
The next morning the entire department (a fairly large floor within the hospital) still smelled. The housekeepers told me later that it took them nearly an hour to suction up all of the fluid and debris left behind. The OR suite itself was closed off and quarantined for two more days just to let the smell finally clear out.
I laugh now when I hear new recruits to health care talk about the worst thing they've seen. You ain't seen nothing, kid."
"I did not witness this first hand, but the most disgusting medical-related story I've heard from a practitioner who lived to tell the tale:
As part of my training to be an Assault Crisis Counselor, a doctor came in to give a presentation about STDs and STIs. Somehow he veered off the main topic and started telling us about the things he'd seen in his time. A female patient came in complaining of extreme abdominal pains. The patient disclosed that she was a woman of the night. The patient further revealed that in order to continue working while she was on her period, she would put a sponge as close to her cervix as possible to absorb the blood and other menstrual-related discharge. The patient then explained that she had inserted a sponge and was unable to remove it.
The doctor figured it would be a routine matter of removing a foreign object that had become lodged or stuck and takes the patient into an exam room to perform the extraction. When the doctor went to remove the sponge, it turns out that the patient had been using a CAR WASHING SPONGE to absorb her menstrual discharge and that the same sponge had been in her private parts for THREE MONTHS. When the doctor finally managed to remove the car sponge, which had turned into black, semi-solidified mass due to excess absorption of nastiness. It also released a torrent of fluids that had been marinating in this woman's hoo-ha for three months and the fluids 'gushed out' and nearly covered the entire floor of the exam room.
The doctor told us that it was the first time in his 20 years of practice that he vomited while performing a medical procedure and that the stench from that room was so foul and pungent that it filled the entire clinic and made a seasoned nurse, who was standing in the hallway, vomit.
As the doctor was retelling this horrifying life-tragedy that he survived, he didn't look a single person in the eye. His eyes were transfixed on some nonexistent point near the horizon of his traumatized memory."
"ER RN here. This, so far, is the only death I've experienced from work that I've lost a significant amount of sleep over. A 24-year-old male walks, again, walks, into the ER with complaints of flu-like symptoms for the past three days. He had decided to come in that day because he started to develop a 'rash' throughout his body that he was unfamiliar with. Sadly this rash was the result of a failed battle with bacterial meningitis, causing him to bleed internally and externally.
By the time we got him back to the ER, he had started crying blood, and the terror in his eyes was palpable. He went downhill fast. His lucidity diminished with his blood pressure, and the last thing he said before succumbing to pulseless V-tach was something about his mother that we could not make out. You could see his consciousness fade from his eyes as we started compressions. The code lasted close to an hour. At first, we could still keep his oxygen levels up with mechanical ventilation, defibrillation, and prescription, but blood was filling his airways faster than it could be suctioned out. He was bleeding too fast for any medications or fluids to keep his blood pressure up.
He died soaked in blood and nearly unrecognizable due to his now almost uniformly purple skin and swollen face. We later found out that he was studying neurobiology, had a devoted girlfriend that was for all intense and purposes a fiancee, a large family, and many friends. He was an athlete who lived healthily. He had beautiful curly hair. This made the death tragic in a way that you just don't experience when an 80-year-old dies. It made the unanswered pleads to God for help that had been sent echoing around the room by his family all the more bitter. I helped drag and push him into a body bag."
"My dad has been a nurse for nearly 20 years. He has moved around from working in the ER to radiology and now the ICU. He is one of the most well-respected nurses in the hospital. I would know because I worked at the same place as a phlebotomist.
Anyway, our hospital is a 'bariatric center of excellence' so you know what that entails: some pretty big patients.
So this one day, I go up onto the fourth floor in the neuro unit to get a blood draw and as soon as I step off the elevator, I smell poop. Foul, rotten egg smelling poop. I don't think much of it as the hospital is older and is poorly ventilated (I know, right?) But when I get home, I ask my dad about it since the ICU is on the same floor.
He said that they had a guy who was 550lbs in the unit, and he was having some abdominal pain. It turns out he hadn't had a bowel movement in almost a month. Before he was transferred to our ICU, other clinics had tried giving him a few enemas to no avail.
So my dad is saying that he is putting in one of those balloons into the guy's butthole so he can attach a bag, like a catheter. He turns around to check a monitor, and he hears this dripping noise behind him. Turns back around, and there is a river of poop falling from the bed. The entire floor is covered in a month's worth of poop, dripping, splashing, all over everything, including my poor dad. He and all the nurses roll up their scrubs like they're going clamming, and after an hour or so get this guy cleaned up. Housekeeping stopped by and just left a cart for them and said, 'Nope!'
I guess right after they finished cleaning it happened AGAIN. I don't even want to imagine the smell in that room if it was enough to stink up the whole fourth floor! I can't begin to describe the respect I have for nurses."
"I'm a nursing student. We just finished our first clinical placement at a nursing home. This didn't happen to me, but my friend did something ridiculously funny. She was dressing a man, and while pulling his pants up/down (not sure), he started to do a really big poo. So she put her hand out under his bum and caught it. The other nurse starts laughing her head off at my friend standing there with a huge poop in her hand. She asked her why she didn't just let it fall to the floor and all she could say was 'I panicked.'"
"A somewhat mentally deranged person that they had somehow deemed fit for society had to be vacated out of a house that was going to get demolished, and it was my job (and others on my team) to move out what could be saved.
We ended up essentially just taking him with us, as nothing could be saved (he had mostly just furniture, which reeked with the most pungent odors that you cannot imagine).
Here are some highlights (important note: I have an iron nose and stomach, I don't puke unless I'm very sick):
-Two of my co-workers immediately puked upon entering his house, and they were unable to enter without puking even after that. My boss and I had to check out the place ourselves.
-There was junk all over the house; it was difficult to move around. It was mostly newspapers, which leads me to my next point:
-This guy pooped and peed on the freaking floor and covered it with newspapers.
-The reason why he did this was because his toilet had entirely clogged up, and the high doorstep to the bathroom meant that there was about two to three inches of water, pee, diarrhea, and poop. When I initially opened the door to the bathroom, I had to go outside and get air immediately: I ended up gagging and very nearly puking from the concentrated fumes. My boss puked from just walking by the door after I had opened it.
-After evacuating him to his new place, we immediately washed the entire company car (big Toyota HiAce) because the whole car smelled like Satan's butthole---especially the place he had been sitting.
-Three weeks after the incident, after having washed the vehicle three times, we could still smell his god-forsaken aroma of fetid calamity. We ended up calling in a professional cleaning crew to fix it, as the stench permeated everything."