These Medical Professionals Are Recalling Some Of The Silliest Patient Lies They’ve Heard
by Trisha Leigh
There are a ton of tough aspects of working in healthcare. One of the upsides, I think, is that there can never be a lack of hilarious/appalling stories to be told after a shift in the emergency room.
These doctors, nurses, and other professionals probably think they’ve heard it all…but then someone comes in and forces them to admit that maybe they never will.
That poor man.
Not considering the psychiatric and the boring answers (like people who just swear with all their heart that they are taking their medications when they clearly aren’t, which is the vast majority), there’s not much, really. Only one really unique comes to mind.
It was a patient that was a really kind old man who always would talk a lot with us, telling stories, praising the beauty of everyone in a tender and respectable way, saying how really grateful for our work he was and so on… Said old man would always appear with really high blood pressure values, even though he would swear that he always used his medication correctly. And after we did so many changes with his medication in many different ways, it’s only natural to think that there’s some problem with how he’s tacking them, if he was doing it at all. However, one day, after noticing that he would always go to the bathroom before even reaching out to the receptionist, someone discovered he would always eat a load of pure salt before being seen by any of the doctors, trying to make his pressure intentionally go sky high. Later we also, obviously, discovered that he indeed would not take his medications correctly as well, in order to obtain this result again and again.
Turns out he suffered a lot from loneliness, and he was an old man that didn’t had much contact with his family anymore, but mostly because his family didn’t reached out to him almost at any given time, even though everyone lived close by. And in his desperation, sustaining dangerous high blood pressure was the best way that he had to obtain human contact within the emergency every week.
This was the most odd one, but it’s really common in general among elderly patients to appear lying about their symptoms, only trying to gather some attention and a private minute to speak about anything else. Most of the time they book an appointment only to talk about recent trivialities, which makes them clearly better, although by the end of the talk, it’s also easy to see how they gather back part of the sadness that the loneliness bring to them. Around my patients, at least, it’s common for many to cry as they leave.
Loneliness is a hell of both a simple and complex problem… And one that no one should be bound to live with…
You know the face.
A common one is about their smoking. Smoking is an enormous risk factor for fracture nonunion, meaning a fracture that doesn’t heal. When I walk into a nonunion patient’s exam room and it smells like a cigar den, I know they smoke. But they’ll tell me they don’t right to my face.
Before signing them up for revision surgery I’ll commonly order a urine test for nicotine metabolites. Often it’ll turn out positive and suddenly surprised pikachu face.
I cannot wrap my head around it.
Dad is a physician and has a million funny stories. He told me this one from a few decades ago:
Had a patient come into the ER with a towel over his groin, covered in blood. Claimed he was cutting vegetables in his kitchen and the knife slipped. Dad takes a look and the guy is butchered down there. Had to call a urologist in the middle of the night to consult.
Guy eventually confesses to trying to give himself a circumcision because he didn’t want to pay the $200 it would have cost. Urologist was able to help save… ‘him’, but it cost a helluva lot more than $200 for emergency penis surgery.
Those last two, though.
Patient says to me; I was outside gardening while naked and I slipped. That’s how a massive potato ended up in my ass. Anybody want fries while he is waiting to get it removed?
How did you get that stab wound in your abdomen? I put a knife on the kitchen counter and forgot it was there. Then I walked into it.
Me – Have you had anything to eat or drink today prior to your surgery? Patient- No (…with a half eaten candy bar in front of them). Me – Are you sure? Because if you have, you could vomit upon going to sleep and it could enter your lungs, causing you to die. Patient – then yes I have, I had half that candy bar.
This one guy repeatedly used to come in saying he hadn’t shit in 7 days. This would usually necessitate a rectal examination with a finger. Thats why he kept saying it. Patient used to come in every time the new doctors rotated in, who wouldn’t be wise to his tricks.
One guy came in feigning unconsciousness. Did not respond to even the most painful of stimuli (some of these were pretty painful). Did not budge. We were talking amongst ourselves about intubating him. He then opened his eyes and said “they did that last time, I didn’t like it”.
They’re just trying to help.
Honestly the “dumbest” lies are the one people who lie about how much alcohol or other drugs they use. Alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal can kill you, and if you use opioids from the street than you likely have a higher tolerance and may need more medications in the hospital so be honest, I truly don’t care how much you drink/ use, I just don’t want you to get worse for something we can plan for and prevent.
I had a patient that lied about having a job (?)
I asked because he had hepatitis A and I wanted to know if he needed a medical leave. He denied it even though I asked twice. Next day, he came back because he was going to get fired if he didn’t provide a doctor’s note.
ETA: Some clarification:
I’m in Venezuela, he wouldn’t have had to pay anything for that visit regardless of his employment status.
He isn’t an undocumented immigrant. It’s a very small community where everyone knows each other and he has lived there his whole life and many of his relatives have also been my patients. Also, undocumented immigrants aren’t really a thing here, some tourists may come without having the proper paperwork, but this isn’t really a desirable place for immigrants looking for work.
He said that he didn’t have a job, he didn’t say that he didn’t need a medical.
I asked what he did for work in his second visit, but I can’t remember what he told me.
There really isn’t a whole lot of stigma around Hep A around here, even if you work handling food. People just sort of feel sorry for the person and tell them to not eat yellow things. So, I don’t think it was because he was afraid of being shamed/reprimanded because of it, but I could be wrong.
I’m obligated to report viral hepatitis cases to the health ministry, so they make sure there isn’t an outbreak, and I told him this. So, he knew that it was going to be reporter either way.
Sometimes it’s just a miscommunication.
I had patients that truly thought they drank 3 beers a day. I had to explain that the standard “drink” we’re referring to is 12 oz of regular beer. They’d be drinking the “tall boys” (24-30oz) of “Ice” beer (another 1-2% ABV on top).
You had to learn to ask follow-ups or at least define terms.
Oh yeah that must be it.
Not me but an Anesthetist buddy screening a patient before getting anesthesia. “We see that your drug screen came positive for cocaine.”
“I don’t know how, I don’t do drugs.”
“We can’ t go forward with anesthesia, we won’t know how the anesthetic will react with the “coke.”
“Oh! I know! My BOYFRIEND does coke! I kissed him before I came in this morning, that must be how I tested positive!”
Maths are hard.
I’m just a med student but a doctor shared this with us, she’s a gynecologist and this women came to her complaining about how she hasn’t gotten her periods in few months and well she was showing menopausal symptoms and in fact she looked almost 50 but she kept saying she’s only 30 and she can’t have menopause.
It has a funny ending, when the doctor asked if the women had a kid and she said yes he’s 27 y/o. 😂😂😂 Idk why people lie about their age but this was a funny story for the whole class
No need to mention it.
My dad neglected to mention he had no teeth… since 1976. We found out in the ICU. In 2022.
Definitely wait for it.
Had a friend who is a EMT driver tell me about a call she responded to where the guy was barely coherent or audible in his 911 call, but managed to get 2 pieces of information out perfectly, his address and the word ‘stomach’. When they arrived the man was covered in a blanket, sweating profusely, though he looked like he hadn’t moved in days.
My friend said that she immediately observed that even with early signs of his skin showing jaundice symptoms, that his cheeks remained rosy red, and he avoided eye contact and answering any questions. The only words he would speak between groans were ‘poison’ and ‘stomach’.
My friend took a quick look around to see if there was any chemical bottles out but didn’t see anything. Just as she was returning to the ambulance she noticed that there was a large pot on the stove that had a low flame on it.
She turned the range off and removed the lid of the pot and was startled to see a dozen naked Barbie dolls, all of which had their heads removed. When she informed the man that she had turned off the range he became erratic and aggressive until he was dropped off at the ER.
Later in the day she ran into a friend that worked in radiology, who told her that the entire time the man only answered the word poison as to what he ingested. When they told him that they would need to xray him, his demeanor completely changed. Calmer, communicated clearer, but accepting that the truth was around the corner.
Xray results showed that he had ingested 18 barbie doll heads, and were locked up in his stomach for nearly two weeks. He explained that he sterilized the Barbies in hot water, and that they were the newer plastic because the older material was caustic to internal organs.
The surgeon apparently ended his conversation by asking him why he would ingest the Barbie doll heads. And the man replied… “Because I like the way it feels, when I s*%t them out.”
A tale as old as time.
A 13 yo girl that went to the ER to have a baby and said she didn’t knew she was pregnant and that she didn’t have sex. Mom was wondering why she was always wearing hoodies. I was like “ok then, keep your secrets” and informed authorities to investigate. Apparently the girl had a boyfriend her age and they just were really horny…
She came back another two times to deliver babies (at 17 and 21 yo). Same dad apparently working his ass off. She then opted tube ligation. Eventually became a nurse.
Sexual history. Teenage girl came in for lower abdominal pain. We did the usual history and physical examination. She adamantly denied sexual contact, history of vaginal discharge, and refused pelvic examination. She looked like she was in severe pain so a decision to operate was made.
As she was being wheeled off to the operating room, she finally admitted to sexual contact and consented to pelvic exam where we found a silicone c**k ring with spikes. She had a pelvic infection and did not need a surgery, just some antibiotics.
We’re not asking questions to be nosey, we’re asking because it’s relevant!
Seems a weird one.
Medical school student. Not a big deal but a patient lied to me about what she had eaten. She was obviously having some problem with her gallbladder. Typically this pain can be caused by greasy food.
So I asked the patient what she had eaten before she got this pain. Patient said she only ate a salad with very little ranch, that’s it. I even explained how greasy food can cause this pain but she’s adamant she only ate a salad.
Anyways I report back to my attending and we see her together. The attending asked her what she ate. The patient said salad then adds she also ate a burger! It wouldn’t have changed the plan but why lie??
I have no idea what is wrong with people, y’all.
But at least they’re funny.