Doctors deal with just about anything that is thrown at them. From crazy injuries to nasty encounters, these professionals see it all. We go to them in time of need to help "fix" us. However, sometimes people think they are capable of treating themselves with a little DIY project, but that never seems to be a good idea. In this piece, doctors share the strangest way a patient has ever tried to cure their disease. Content has been edited for clarity.
Lysol Cures 99.9% Of Bacteria
“When I was in med school on my family medicine rotation, I was sent in to see a middle-aged woman with complaints of sinus congestion. Sure enough, from the beginning I can tell she’s really stopped up with her nasally voice and my history and exam are consistent with your run-of-the-mill viral upper respiratory infection. I begin educating her on symptomatic management and the following exchange ensues:
Patient: ‘Do you think it might be the flu?’
Me: ‘It’s possible, but unlikely. It’s really out of the typical season (it was June).’
Patient: ‘Yeah, I guess I wasn’t sure it was. I’ve been spraying Lysol everywhere and it doesn’t seem to be doing any good, and it says it kills the flu virus.’
Me: ‘Well, that’s something that could help disinfect the house and keep the virus from spreading.’
Patient: ‘I guess, I just wish it didn’t burn so much.’
Me: ‘…What do you mean, it burns?’
Patient: ‘You know, when I spray it up my nose it burns so bad’
Yep. My patient thought that since Lysol kills influenza, the best way to nip it in the bud was to flush her sinuses with it like a saline spray. It did not work, for the record. The fact that I didn’t immediately fall over laughing and instead seriously counseled her against ever doing that again is still the greatest feat of composure in my entire career.”
The Potato That Kept Growing
“Background info for those who don’t know: a pessary is a device that women (usually older) can use to place inside their genitals and help support it. Sometimes with age and history of many child births, the ligaments that support the walls of the female genitalia within the body can become loose leading to prolapse (meaning it starts to fall down into itself like a telescope). The pessary acts to hold it up and keep this from happening.
Anyway, I’m an ENT surgeon, but my buddy told me the story of an experience in the ER where a lady came in with the chief complaint of ‘roots coming from her lower extremities.’
Turns out she had lost her pessary and decided to use a potato. It stayed in there for so long that it started to sprout.
This story made me ever so happy with my career decision to choose the opposite end of the body.”
Duct Tape Fixes Everything
“This happened when I was still a med student doing a rotation in the ED.
Patient comes in and is pretty vague about his actual complaint, something about head pain, but he looks just fine sitting waiting to be seen. When I finally get to see him and ask him what actually happened, he removes the hat he was wearing and a chunk of skin about the size of my hand literally flaps off of his skull. This guy managed to basically scalp himself, and apparently it had been like that for 3 days.
According to him, it was caused by falling in his bathroom and hitting his head on the toilet. He had been previously duct taping it down or using the hat to hold the skin on, but it wasn’t sticking well and that’s when his wife convinced him to come to the hospital.”
Self-Made Tools Are Never The Right Answer
“One of my patients (grown adult) swallowed a thumb tack as a dare, but immediately afterward started having chest pain, probably from mucosal damage in his esophagus.
His idea was to try to take a self-made stack of maybe 7or 8 penny size magnets which he stuck down his throat to try to pull the thumbtack back out and ended up accidentally swallowing that too.
I consulted a Gastroenterologist and I could hear his facepalm on the other end of the phone.”
DIY Is Never A Good Idea
“We had a young teenager with sickle cell disease who had been in the hospital for around a week already who decided to ‘manage’ his pain himself. This was a few years ago, but I caught him pretending to take his medicine. He would tilt his head back and gesture that the pill went into his mouth, but really he either kept it in his hand or threw the pill behind his back and landed somewhere in his bed.
He was also quite a talker, which I then assumed was a tactic to try to distract me. I kept seeing his odd behavior and caught him doing this a 2-3 times by the middle of the shift, so I was definitely onto him. He had a PICC line (which is essentially a ‘long’ IV where the tubing goes all the way to your heart) in his left arm, and I noticed that it was quite a bit more swollen compared to his other arm. Sometimes clots can happen in PICC lines, so that was my biggest concern at first, but the line was drawing blood fine, so I know it wasn’t clotted off.
I told the doc, then I drew blood from his PICC line and sent it down to the lab for it to be cultured to see if there were any bacteria. Low and behold, it came back positive for a bacterium that is commonly found in tap water (and usually not a source of infection in infected PICC lines).
Fast-forward a few hours later: he confessed that with any medication (pill form) taken by the mouth, he can slip by the nurses, he saved for later in order to crush them up himself, try to dissolve it with sink water in the bathroom (every room had a private bathroom), and inject it in himself via his PICC line.”
Sir, That Is Not Breath Spray
“This guy had been coming in for coughing and shortness of breath for the past few months. His lungs sounded like absolutely horrible. We then got a chest x-ray that looked horrible, so I did a CT scan. Radiologist called it the worst case of necrotizing pneumonia he’d ever seen. Dude had like a 15% functional lung tissue left. The patient then mentioned things had been worse after he started using a new ‘breath freshener’ spray.
He whipped out one of those BluntEffects concentrated air freshener bottles, supposed to cover up weed smell. Even though it was labeled ‘Not For Internal Use,’ apparently he had been using it like Binaca spray, and had already gone through 3 bottles.”
The Potato Chip Diet
“I work with doctors helping their patients adapt to their doctor’s desired diets. Sometimes it’s elimination diets to help the patient and their family adapt to a Type 2 Diabetic approved diet. Sometimes I’m working to help find a cause of IBS, reduce Crohn’s symptoms, or work on autoimmune protocols. I spend a lot of time helping people with diet and nutrition. My business is based out of my gym, so my friends and family know they can talk to me about diet, exercise, and health issues.
My own mother phoned me one day. I could barely hear her over some loud crunching and crinkly sound in the mic. I asked what the noise was. Well, she was watching Dr Oz, and he’d said ‘hot peppers’ helped increased metabolism and had also talked about regularly including apple cider vinegar for digestive health. She wanted to lose weight and improve her digestive health. She’d already had a RNY gastric bypass surgery five years previously and has several autoimmune diseases. But Dr Oz said ‘peppers and vinegar.’
The sound I was hearing was from a bag of jalapeño and vinegar potato chips. My mother, trying to lose weight and help her post gastric bypass digestion, thought eating a bag of carbs deep-fried in an inflammatory oil, coated in an inflammatory nightshade pepper of which she has a known allergy, and doused with vinegar was going to help her lose weight. She thought the increased metabolism might increase her body’s ability to digest food faster because the procedure she had to reduce her ‘food in, food out’ process to about 45 minutes to help her lose weight and having a stomach only capable of holding 3oz of food couldn’t.”
Essential Oils Cure
“I worked on an oncology unit in the early 2000s and we had a lady come in with a massive fungating tumor in her head. Per her husband, she had found a small lesion on the roof of her mouth and rather than have radiation, she chose to ‘treat’ it with essential oils and frankincense.
So, a small patch of squamous cell carcinoma had become a huge tumor that had invaded her skull and eaten away her jaw and eye socket. Her husband finally didn’t listen to her wishes and brought her in for emergency treatment. When the Rad Onc doc on duty tried to open her mouth, her remaining teeth fell plink plink plink into his hand. She died in agony a day or two later.
Essential oils are for making your house smell nice, not for treating cancer.”
“Once upon a time, the blood thinner Coumodin® was still under patent and was crazy expensive. It’s used to prevent blood clots in patients who have a history of deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary emboli, strokes, and other clot related fun. It’s hard to get the dosage accurate, so patients on it get frequent follow-up visits to make sure that their blood is thin enough that it doesn’t clot too easily, but not so thin that it they’d be in danger of bleeding to death if they were to have an injury. This is not just a theoretical danger; the same chemical was sold as a rodenticide because rats who ate lots of it would die of bleeding (often internal bleeding) and it was believed that as they overdosed they would become extremely thirsty and would often exit their dens in search of water. The advantage was that your rats would not only die, but they’d not die inside your wall and stink the house up.
So, physician relative of mine was assigned to the Coumodin clinic where patients came in for routine monitoring. She was talking with a long term patient who confessed that the prescription was too expensive, so he had stopped filling it many months ago. His clotting times were perfectly in the middle of the therapeutic range; right where they should be. She looked at his chart, and saw that for many months his clotting times were fine; he was doing much better than the average patient. She asked him if he could explain it and he said that he routinely pricked his own finger at home with a sewing needle and carefully noticed how long it took the blood to get sticky and the puncture to stop bleeding. If it didn’t take ‘long enough,’ he would eat a small pinch of rat poison that he had purchased at the hardware store; if it took too long, he would eat less rat poison.”
Super Glue Super Hold
“One time, when I was in nursing school, I was doing ER clinical and a guy came in with ‘penile pain.’
Long story short, several days prior, he decided he wanted a penile texture implant to help enhance pleasure during the dirty for his lady friend. He and his buddy got belligerent (of course) and decided to do it themselves. They went in his garage and took a box cutter to slice open the skin on the dorsal (top) side of his junk, made some room between the skin and underlying muscle, and put a small porcelain heart underneath. He then super glued it shut.
To make matters worse, the guy didn’t wait for it to heal and decided to take it for a test run. He ended up with a major infection and presented several days later. I unfortunately don’t know the outcome, I was just there for the porcelain heart extraction.
You can’t make this up. I’ve now worked in a surgical/trauma ICU as an RN for two years and people never cease to amaze me.”
“It Fell Off”
“I was a brand-new nurse, starting my career in a small, Southern hospital. I had a patient who was admitted to my unit with sort of nonspecific complaints about a wound on her top half. She was a ‘Direct Admit,’ meaning that she was sent directly to the unit from a doctors’ office, rather than going through the emergency room. When someone is directly admitted, I don’t get a full report. All I can see are lab results and notes from previous doctor’s office visits. Basically, I’m flying blind. As I’m getting her settled into her room, I start asking a few background questions that will help me direct my assessment.
Me: ‘So, I see that you were admitted because you have a wound. Did you have an accident?’
Patient: ‘Oh no. It just kind of showed up.’
Me: ‘How long ago?’
Patient: ‘Oh, it’s been a while now. Maybe a few years?’
Me: ‘Oh. Okay. Well, if you’ve had it for years, what brought you in today? Has something changed? Is the wound draining? Changing color?’
Patient: ‘Well… it fell off.’
Me: ‘What did?’
Patient: ‘My bust.’
I help her get settled in the bed and move her shirt to take a look. Her bust, well, what was left of it, looked horrible. The entire portion below her ‘nips’ had totally eroded away. She explained that she’d been putting triple antibiotic cream on it and had started wrapping it in a baby diaper when it developed an odor. I kept my face very still, tried not to be visibly horrified, and listened to her talk about how she wanted to show it to her doctor at her yearly physicals but, for the last two years, her female doctor had been out of the office on the day of her exams. She didn’t feel comfortable showing her chest to a male doctor, so she let it go.
I nod, excuse myself from the room, and basically fly down the hall to the doctor’s office. I tell him that he needs to call his female nurse practitioner down to this patient’s room immediately ‘because she’s old and scared, and she won’t show you her, bust but it is falling off and looks like rotten cauliflower and no part of nursing school taught me how to make this better.’
It took them all of 5 minutes to diagnose her with a very advanced fulminating tumor. She was totally surprised and said that she ‘figured it was something like cancer.’ She placed herself on hospice and died less than two weeks later.”
A Bird Is Living Inside Of Me
“When I was an Internal Medicine resident I came across a very nice 50 year-old Dominican lady, she was well-mannered but one could tell she was not the sharpest tool in the shed. As I was prepping her chart for our first visit, I noticed that she’d been seen by every single digestive disease MD in our hospital system. Not only that, she’d had EVERY SINGLE PROCEDURE IN THE BOOK. Ranging from endoscopes up both holes and culminating in an exploratory laparotomy (you’re opened up to basically look inside you when we have no clue what’s going on). All of this because for years she had one single complaint, she reported severe gnawing pain in her stomach.
At this point, I should mention that she was Spanish speaking only. Not only that, she had a very heavy Dominican accent, and I was the first Hispanic doctor to ever see her. My first language is Spanish and even I had difficulty understanding her. So she comes in and after exchanging some first time pleasantries, I politely ask her how she’s doing.
Sure enough, although she was smiling and said she felt well, she pointed at her belly and said ‘it’ was biting again, and asked for the cream to kill ‘it.’ At this point, I got intrigued. Her medication list only mentioned a cream used for herpes breakthroughs. The previous fellow only mentioned in his note that in every single visit she only asked for the cream and nothing else. When I asked what she meant by the biting and what she intended to do with the cream, she very calmly tells me she intended to stick the cream up her butt in order to kill the bird living inside her.
After diving more deeply into her story, it turns out she didn’t have a medical condition. Ever since she was a little girl, she believed that after eating whole quail egg, the bird had spawned inside her and gnawed away in her insides whenever she was very hungry. After a short visit to psych, she was diagnosed with a somatic type delusional disorder.
No amount of medication or psychotherapy will cure her, but she was still a fully functional mother of two who paid her taxes and had to part-time jobs. I reached out to every digestive disease doctor in our hospital system once more, to make sure she never receives an inappropriate invasive intervention. I’ve been following her now for three years, and she’s happy as one can be, considering she has a bird living inside her.”
“Fish Out” The Baby
“During third year med school I was on a neonatology rotation, which meant lots of premature babies or high risk births.
We’d get ‘code green’ paged to us for ‘please come to delivery room as able’ and ‘code pink’ paged for ‘please come to delivery room STAT.’ There was a pager that was the standard one that got paged for this, and usually it was whichever of us med students who was on call carrying it. Our job was then to get one of the Nurse Practitioners and possibly a second nurse and head over with the incubator, etc. to take the baby and get him/her to the NICU.
About 6:00 PM one evening, as we’re doing handover rounds, that pager goes off with a code pink. Then the NP’s personal pager. Then the neonatologist’s personal pager.
The next 10 minutes are a bit of a scramble and not particularly interesting from the point of view I had (as I was assigned to send pages to additional people and fetch things), but in short:
A teenage lady of local aboriginal descent had come in suffering from very premature labor (I want to say 20 weeks, but could have been 22 or so). She and her ex-boyfriend had recently gotten back together. He had discovered she was pregnant. Believing that the baby was not his, he attempted to abort the baby by inserting a bamboo stick and trying to ‘fish it out.’ She did not want said abortion, so he attempted while she was asleep.
Baby and mother survived. Relationship did not.
Later testing showed the baby was indeed his for those wondering.”
A Mud Slide Of Diarrhea
“I was working as a field paramedic and I got called to a guys house. His problem originally was constipation. Four days of constipation. We get there and he’s sitting on the toilet, and says he can’t get up. First thought, he must have some other problem too, if he can’t get up….NOPE.
First thing he asks is if we can just reach up in there and pull the poop out. Then, he tells us he tried, but couldn’t get it loose. However, he did push it around. We of course say, ‘no, they’ll deal with that at the hospital. So why can’t you get up?’
Then he tells us. He tried some laxatives, one dose for each day he hadn’t poop… but he took them all at once.
Edible ones, that help loosen things up, starting from the top of the digestive track and working their way down.
They were working their way down. Uncontrollably.
It was like a flood being held back by one last huge boulder at the mouth of a cave. With spirts and sprays going AROUND the boulder, but the boulder was holding firm.
30 minute drive to the hospital later, the poop boulder he made by jamming his finger into his butt held firmly in place, but the diarrhea mud slide his super dose laxatives created were still making their way around the jam and spreading across the stretcher and ambulance floor.
Irresistible force met immovable object, in his butt.”
A Whole Clove Of Garlic
“I’m not a doctor but my dad is. We had a Russian Foreign exchange student come and stay with us this one semester. My mom (who was a foreign exchange student herself several times) was super excited and was talking about how this would be such a great opportunity, etc. The guy we got saddled with seemed nice at first, then we found out he was racist and a bit of a brat. Treated my mom like a servant, was always questioning things my dad said, made lots of racist comments when we watched the Olympics, man this guy was a nut.
Then, he got sick with a cold one day. My dad, a medical Doctor, told him to take some Nyquil and go to bed. But no, this guy wasn’t about to fall for his Harvard-educated medical advice and insisted the only thing he needed was a clove of garlic. That’s right, folks! Modern medicine can’t hold a candle to this clove of garlic which he proceeded to EAT RAW, LIKE, THE WHOLE CLOVE, DOWN IN ONE.
Fast forward 2 hours we see my dad standing by while our foreign exchange student empties the contents of his stomach, including one barely chewed clove of garlic, into the toilet. He was violently ill for another day then amazingly got better when he stopped eating vampire-deterrent neat from the jar.”
Inject The Protein
“Anesthesiologist here; we had a patient come in for I&D of bilateral deltoid abscesses. He apparently had thoughts of being a body builder, but instead of lifting weights or knowing someone who could hook him up with some quality steroids, he decided to bulk up by using some protein powder at GNC…and mixing it with water, drawing it up into a syringe, and injecting 20-40cc daily directly into the muscle.
If bulk was what he was going for, it definitely worked, temporarily. A rip-roaring localized infection makes you look plenty swole. They got almost a liter of pus mixed with liquefied protein powder out of each deltoid.
This also wasn’t the first time he’d been in for this problem.”