Hospitals are not the most uplifting places to be but on occasion they are where absolute miracles happen. In these stories doctors reveal the strange and otherwise miraculous medical cases they've come across that left them speechless.
The Miracle Of Love
“There was an old couple – husband and wife – who had been married for 40 years. They were the kind of old couple who still loved each other deeply and went on dates together. They had a tradition where anytime they went out for supper, the husband would order pie for dessert. And although the wife always claimed she didn’t want any and refused to order any, she would swoop in and steal the first bite of his pie every single time, to his constant annoyance.
But then the husband began to develop a type of dementia and he started to slowly forget who his wife was. At first, he recognized this woman as being someone in his life he knew and loved, but when they met around the house he would still ask her where she was. Things like, ‘If you see my wife, let her know I’m looking for her.’ Eventually, it progressed to the point where he didn’t recognize his wife at all and became visibly distressed by living with a stranger.
So he moved out of the house and into an assisted living style apartment. She lived alone, visiting him whenever she could, but he never had any idea who she was. Even seeing pictures of them together from their past visibly confused and distressed him.
One of the doctors recommended that the wife should start taking him on a few dates as if they were strangers so that the husband could at least gain a new kind of familiarity with her presence and maybe become friends.
So she took him to a restaurant they had been going to their whole lives and had dinner. They had some nice conversation. Afterward, he ordered pie, and without thinking, she reached across the table and stole the first bite of it. The husband looked annoyed, but then suddenly seemed shocked and confused, and then started crying.
Everything came back. All the memories, all the love, all of it. Something about that action triggered something in him and he was able to get back to who he was. They moved back in together and were able to pick up their lives again.
Unfortunately, five years later, he began to regress again, but they still got five more years together than anybody thought they would be able to have which is really amazing and pretty miraculous.”
You Usually Don’t Spend That Much Time In Hospice
“One of my prior patients is a roofer who lived a life of heavy drinking, women, and illegal substances. He was infected with HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, was cirrhotic, and didn’t care about his health at all. He was ghostly thin and weighed 110 pounds on a six-foot frame, which included 20 pounds of ascites (fluid) in his abdomen. He was angry and didn’t listen to anyone, refusing therapy most of the time. I met him first in the ICU, where he had full-blown AIDS, end-stage liver disease, hepatorenal syndrome, unexplained lymph nodes all over his body, variceal hemorrhage, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. Prognosis of in-hospital death was >90% even with therapy.
I was involved in his care for about two weeks, and again he refused every therapy that his primary physicians suggested. I was surprised he lasted that long. Finally, he was so fed up of the noisiness in the ICU that he requested a transfer to palliative care, and was eventually sent to a hospice for patients with advanced HIV to live out his remaining few days.
One year later, I got a call from the hospice requesting a follow-up appointment for him. I was shocked that he was still alive and asked if I could talk to him. He was all better. Turns out he had the hots for his nurse in the hospice and did everything she asked in order to please her — including taking his medications for the first time! She had slowly nursed him back to health, convinced him to restart HIV meds, put him on a low salt diet for his liver disease, and then eventually got him up and mobile.
He spent another six months in a rehabilitation facility, then went back to work. He saw me in follow-up for a while as we treated his Hepatitis C, then his cirrhosis shockingly improved. After a couple of years, he moved away to another place to start a construction company and became rather successful financially, and remains abstinent on his former vices.
He’s the only person that I’ve seen come back from death.”
A Christmas Miracle
“When I was a child, I woke up the day after Christmas with a sore left elbow. I told my mother, and she assured me that I just slept awkwardly. I thought so too because I did this quite often and decided to tough it out.
After what seemed like a few weeks, I told her it was still hurting, so she took me to the hospital to get it checked out. It took a while because we didn’t go to the emergency room, as I had survived for two weeks already. My local hospital said, ‘We don’t see anything wrong, he seems fine. Are you sure it actually hurts buddy?’ I assured them that it did, so they referred me to Children’s Hospital, which was about an hour away.
We got an appointment with one of their specialists, and when they saw it they too decided that nothing was wrong me and they asked the same question the other doctors did. I was then referred to a bone specialist in the area, and it felt like forever to get an appointment with him.
The bone specialist could tell that we were fed up with the whole experience because he could tell I was in immense pain. He came to the conclusion that I had a hairline fracture beneath the surface of my bone. That didn’t make much sense to me, even as a child, but my mom took what she could get as this was the third doctor we’d been too. He put a cast from my wrist to my shoulder and said I’d be good as new in six weeks.
Six weeks later, I went to get my cast removed. My dad was able to come to this appointment (he worked lots of overtime at a factory at that point, so it was rare he could come to my appointments), and he said that when he got the cast off his leg when he broke it, it tickled and felt so good. My experience was the complete opposite. When the cast came off, my elbow hurt so bad that I sobbed for hours on end. The bone specialist was confused and didn’t know what else to do, so he sent me to the best bone center in the Southeast – Vanderbilt Medical Center.
At Vanderbilt, they ran tests that I had not yet been through, in addition to all of the ones I had before. One new test helped them determine that I had an aneurysmal bone cyst on my elbow. They told my mom that they had never seen a cyst of this type that wasn’t cancerous, so they would need to do a biopsy to check for cancer. They also told her that if the cyst was cancerous, it was almost infallible that the cancer had already spread to my bone, which would have been hard for them to treat on a 50-pound child.
I went in for the biopsy and achieved my first surgical experience. It took a while to receive the results, and in the meantime, my uncle gave me a pager. He was active in his church, and they had a prayer pager, which members would call when they prayed for the person who had it. While I had it, I was amazed at just how much it buzzed with different phone numbers. When the results finally came back, I remember my mother crying in the living room. My cyst was benign and it was the first benign ABC cyst Vanderbilt had ever seen. They told my mom that the next step was to just get it removed and that it would a very simple surgery. That surgery went as perfect as the first and I was free of the cyst. My only remaining duties were to report to physical therapy to strengthen my arm back as I had used a sling for months to keep it stationary.
My miraculous story could’ve required many more miracles, but I’m so thankful it didn’t.”
In The Knick Of Time
“At 17 I started going blind due to a rather large tumor taking up most of my sinus cavity. It was pressing against my optic nerves which is how we discovered it. This was called an angiofibroma. That is a story in and of itself as I was subject to a new method of incredibly invasive surgery where they basically remove the entire top/front of your face to get to it.
About a year later, I started to get a fever. I went to school trying to power through because my friend had gotten tickets to Kids in the Hall’s reunion tour (the Early 2000s). While at the show I felt worse. Nauseous high fever. I shouldn’t have been there. I got home about midnight and my parents were still up and when walking through the door they immediately got very worried. My face was noticeably swollen and my fever was at 105. Having been just under a year since my major cranial surgery they were very concerned.
We went to the ER at St Joseph’s in Phoenix. The doctors were slow to get me in until finally my dad started yelling for them to actually look at my face to see that the swelling was still increasing while sitting in the ER. The staff finally looked up from the computer and I remember the look on their face. The neurologists at Barrows were immediately notified and I was admitted into ICU as they were going to do an emergency surgery and there was no point switching rooms. My white blood cell count was so high that the blood draws looked watery.
The hypothesis was that even though it was a year since surgery some bacteria had gotten in and suddenly had explosive growth. They were going to go in, peel open my face again and scrape all of the tissue from my bones and go through a rigorous treatment of antibiotics.
My head was shaved, a catheter was put in, and anesthesia was administered.
The next thing I remember was waking up in a post-op room with another patient yelling and the nurses trying to deal with them. I felt my head for the staples and they weren’t there. Just bare skin. I asked what happened and the nurses, busy with the other patients, said that I didn’t have surgery. When I asked why they just said I just didn’t. Something happened.
So as I woke up further and got into a room, I finally saw my surgeon and the infectious disease doctor. They told me that while they knew where the infection was they still wanted to see if there was a location where it was more isolated. So they drew small blood samples from three areas in my head and all three samples came out clear of infection. In a matter of minutes, my swelling subsided and the fever was gone. The ID doctor said that there was no explanation as they had not administered any antibiotics. They put me on IV antibiotics for a few weeks but I was told that it was only to cover bases as they were completely confident that the infection was gone and they didn’t expect it to come back.
And it never did. It’s been 17 years.”
He Recovered From That?
“When I was fresh out of training (anesthesiologist), I had a patient in his 50s come in for a hip surgery. I met him and his teenage daughter the day of his surgery. He was a healthy guy except he had been in a car accident a few days prior (this is why he needed surgery). Other than a few rib fractures, all tests were normal.
I put him off to sleep, put in the breathing tube and was just starting to put in an IV when I watched his heart slow down then stop on the monitor. I immediately started what we call a code and began the cycle of chest compressions, meds, and shocking (when needed). We performed CPR for about 15 minutes while I tried to figure out what was going on. I kept picturing his daughter and how I was going to explain that I lost her dad on my table.
Out of desperation, I put down a TEE probe (looks at the heart through the esophagus to see if there was any trace cardiac activity). Instead, I found a huge fluid collection around his heart that was preventing his heart from beating. Within seconds, I told the surgeon, and he opened and drained the fluid. Still no organized heartbeat, but now his heart was fibrillating (moving in a way that doesn’t pump any blood). This meant he could be shocked and we did another 15 minutes of CPR with shocks. We were at 30 minutes and it was getting to where we all knew it was over. We all agreed to do one more round of CPR before calling it.
The dude’s heartbeat came back. It was faint but it was there. It took another hour to stabilize him enough to get him up to the intensive care unit but we made it. At this point, I was convinced he would stay intubated in the ICU and either never wake up or wake up profoundly disabled due to lack of oxygen from how long has heart stopped. I told his daughter what happened and that we would need to see how things progressed. I drove home and for only the second time in my medical career, I cried myself to sleep. Mostly for his daughter but I was devastated. I ran through every second of the case over and over looking for something I could have done differently.
I had cases the next day but had an hour in the morning beforehand, so I went to check up on him and see if he made it through the night.
The dude had pulled out his breathing tube around 3 am and was sitting up in bed arguing with his nurse about whether he could eat breakfast. His daughter was at his side shaking her head and teasing him. The relief I felt was something I won’t ever forget. I felt such a huge weight leave my body that I became dizzy and had to hold onto a chair to stay on my feet.
This kind of outcome is unheard of for the time of CPR this patient received. I told him that though I wasn’t religious, this case was the closest I’d come to seeing a miracle. I hugged him and his daughter and went about my day feeling like I’d stolen one back from the other side.”
That Makes For A Memorable Childbirth
“I attended the delivery of an extremely premature baby. It was 23 weeks early. The baby was born surrounded by the amniotic sac completely intact!
They put him on the warmer just floating there in a clear balloon of fluid. We had to manually rupture the sac and intubate the baby before he went to the NICU.
The baby was stabilized and did just fine, but I will never forget that image.”
“He Waited A Few Seconds And Then Flicked His Heart”
“I was an EMT for a while, and we were a downtown Los Angeles unit. We would post at the original LAC-USC trauma center between calls which was awesome because they had an observation booth as it was a teaching hospital.
One day, my partner and I were chilling in the ambulance waiting for a call when another unit came in with a patient with multiple bullet wounds to the chest and body. Well, they ended up cracking this person’s chest, put in a bilateral thoracotomy, and sewed together his heart and lungs as they were full of holes.
As a side note, 9mm is the worst to get shot by because it bounces around inside your chest cavity and just messes things up.
The lead trauma surgeon was working on this guy and got his heart all back together and while holding his heart, still in his chest, the doctor injected epinephrine into the myocardial tissue. He waited a few seconds and then flicked his heart and it started to beat, while he was still holding it. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Despite all of this, this particular one did not survive. I believe he was 15.”
Well, That Was Unexpected
“My brother had meningitis as a baby, which caused mild brain damage in his frontal lobe. He had poor motor skills, decision making, and was incredibly irrational. At 18, he couldn’t hop, had terrible balance, couldn’t click his fingers, and he struggled to catch a ball. Around that time, we found him collapsed in our house, and an ambulance was called. He had meningococcal, spent six days in a coma, wouldn’t cooperate with the doctors and put little into his recovery. The meningococcal caused more damage to his brain, but whatever happened this time reversed the previous brain damage. He could click, hop, play ball, and is now a stand-up surfer. His decision-making abilities and everything else are normal.
He’s one of the best engineers in his field, he is incredibly successful and talented, and such a driven human being, all of this wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for his brain being further damaged.”
This Patient Was A “Goner” Until He Wasn’t
“There was a guy on blood thinners for a heart condition who fell and suffered a traumatic bleed on the brain – a subdural hematoma. We rushed him to the OR and evacuated the clot without issue. We were just about to move him to a bed and to the ICU when the guy flatlined. We immediately called a code and began CPR. We performed CPR for almost a half hour and nothing. The guy was dead. The anesthesiologist looked at the clock to announce the time of death, and BEEP we got a pulse!
The guy’s heart amazingly started back up again, and we got a CT scan and the guy’s head bleed looked fine. That said, someone who had head trauma and coded for 30 minutes is basically a goner. I was convinced that he was done. Even more convinced when the next evening the guy codes again in the ICU for another five minutes of CPR before we brought him back again. He was then transferred to the cardiac unit because his brain issues were stable and obviously his heart was the problem.
I ended up rotating to a different hospital soon afterward, and a few months go by before I came back to our main hospital. Who rolled in through the door after falling while playing with his grandkids but that same guy! He was fine. I was utterly shocked at this modern day Lazarus. He was with it, and just joking around with me about how he was just going to sit on the floor from now on while playing with the grandkids.
The whole incident drove home the point to me to never be nihilistic about my patients, no matter how dire the situation may be!”
The One With Luck, And The One With Not
“In 1983, during my internship, two middle-aged men suffered a heart attack on the same night as I was in ER, and I was the first doctor to examine and initiate management for both of them.
One was pretty stable, with good cardiac functions, his EKG showed only the changes that are diagnostic of a heart attack. His enzymes were raised of course. He went into the Coronary Care Unit.
The other person was brought in the same night. His heart attack was far worse, his blood pressure was barely recordable, and the EKG showed serious abnormalities besides tell-tale heart attack pattern. Of course, cardiac enzymes were raised.
His lungs were getting flooded and he was unconscious. I was not hopeful nor was the cardiology resident who responded.
I would visit them both daily just to see how they were faring. The first person was doing fine.
The second person stayed in a very precarious state for days, Unconscious, with blood pressure propped up by meds and his heart contractions and rhythm barely managing to sustain his life with 24/7 IV medication. His progress was highly questionable.
After a few days, the first person had a cardiac arrest all of a sudden and died.
The second person made a surprisingly great recovery and was discharged some four weeks later.”
“Nothing Short Of Miraculous”
“A 21-year-old client of mine was hit twice by a car in five months while crossing the street. He had just gotten back on his feet from the first one when he got hit by the second car. This happened just before Thanksgiving.
The doctors told the family to get ready to pull the plug since it was unlikely he’d ever regain consciousness. The family was considering it when he came around. He was expected to be on a ventilator for the rest of his life. He couldn’t talk and could only blink responses and move his lips.
Two weeks later, he was off the ventilator. One month later, he was getting his trach tube removed. He has now has regained some use of one arm, less on other, and can feel his legs, and will soon undergo surgery to get a stimulator to assist his leg recovery.
Nothing short of miraculous.”
“Don’t Even Ask”
“A diabetic woman arrived at the hospital with a foot ulcer. This patient was known for not properly following the necessary recovery care. One day the wounds infected and progressed to a severe case of gangrene. This woman refused to do the amputation surgery and said she would take care of it by herself.
A few weeks later she returns to the hospital with her foot almost healed. I couldn’t believe this and I asked what she had done and she just told me: Don’t even ask.”