Being a doctor is stressful. In addition to wrestling with serious, sometimes life-or-death decisions, they frequently have to deal with people that aren't exactly friendly or forthcoming. Aside from having to deal with people that can often be difficult, they have to know how to cut through lies quickly and easily. Many people will lie to their doctors for a variety of reasons - maybe to get prescriptions for narcotics, as an excuse to shirk a responsibility, out of just plain craziness, or almost any other reason you can think of. Read on below to find out the most shocking times these doctors and nurses have found out that a patient was faking it, and a few occasions when physicians were shocked to find that their patients were actually telling the truth!
Hello, 911, I Need You To Call Comcast
“I’m an EMT, and about 85% of the calls we receive (at least in my town) are issues where they clearly aren’t severely injured and just think ‘If I call 911, I’ll get into the hospital faster.’ Pro tip: you still wait like everybody else unless you’re actually dying. Another part of this percentage of people are ones that just want attention/medication. We had a woman recently that decided that she was gonna have a seizure in the ambulance. A REAL seizure, put simply, usually looks like they’re just tensing up and twitching in one position. This lady was flailing every part of her body everywhere and trying to spit everywhere. Not only was it clearly fake, but we had to clean up the dang mess she made. We’d usually let it slide, but I pulled out a nasal airway packet and said loudly to my partner ‘We need to stabilize her breathing, I’ll put in the airway in a second, just let me apply the lubricant so it doesn’t tear open her nose like it usually does.’ The instant I said it, she stopped having her ‘seizure.’
We also had another woman that claimed she couldn’t get up after a fall in her house. We arrived to her entire house being locked, so we called through a window that was cracked to see if there was any other way inside besides breaking through her screen. She proceeds to stand up, go to the front door, unlock the door, walk back to where she was and lay back down. We did a generic checkup and there was clearly nothing wrong. When she said she didn’t want to go to the hospital and we were about to leave, she stopped us and asked us to call Comcast for her since we ‘are the EMS and are a higher priority.'”
A Little Blood Goes A Long Way
“Had a patient fake a ruptured ectopic pregnancy to get narcotics. Said she was diagnosed with an ectopic at another hospital and given medication to end it. Came in to our hospital in extreme abdominal pain, rolling around, yelling, had period bleeding, the whole nine yards. Gave her a bunch of pain medication so we could get an ultrasound. Ultrasound showed nothing. Urine pregnancy test showed nothing. Beta HCG was 0….. Turns out she was conveniently on her period which made the whole thing very convincing. Got records from the other hospital, patient had been there yesterday but was not pregnant for them, nor was she diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy. Definitely was a ‘wow she just made up this entire thing.’
We had a lovely conversation about all the results. She ended up screaming at me, threatening to sue me for all I’m worth and stormed out. Jokes on her I’m worth -200K of student loan debt.”
Those Pesky Pills
“Recently I had a patient (18, just got out of prison a week before) who came to the ER the day before I saw him after he got into a fight and needed stitches. He also said to the doctor who was there that night that he was very anxious so he was prescribed lorazepam.
He then came to the ER again the following day, saying he was still anxious. When I mentioned the fact that I had seen on the previous doctor’s note that he had been prescribed benzo, he says he ‘had lost the prescription because it had fell out of his pocket.’ However, I could see on the computer that he went to the pharmacy and got the medication the night before. He first denied it, saying that it must be a mistake and that someone else, with the same prescription, on that exact same day, with the exact same name, must have gone to the pharmacy and asked for the same medication.
Finally, he admitted that he went to the pharmacy, but that during the fight, his pills, which were in his pockets, were stolen. Let’s just say he was pretty speechless when I reminded him that he got the pills after the fight happened.
In the end, we flagged him to different pharmacies for suspected narcotics trafficking and he didn’t get any meds that night. Nevertheless he had the audacity to come back to the ER the same night during another shift.”
We Have A Code Blue
“I’m an EMS and I had a patient who was pretending to suddenly be paralyzed. Very dramatic, on the floor, saying she couldn’t feel anything below her neck. After assessing her, we had her stand and get on to the stretcher, which she did without difficulty despite being ‘totally paralyzed.’
In the ambulance, she told me how she ‘sometimes goes code blue,’ and how if she ‘goes code blue,’ I must NOT rub her chest or cause her pain. The best way to revive her was to turn the lights low, and talk softly and soothingly to her. She told me all about how she ‘went code blue’ in the hospital over a dozen times last time she was admitted, and how the doctors were so scared they almost couldn’t revive her.
During transport, I asked her for her birth date. Her eyes fluttered shut and she didn’t respond. We drove in silence for several minutes (while I worked on documenting the very detailed and unrealistic history/story she had been telling me).
Eventually her eyes fluttered open and her hand went to her chest. She says ‘oh! I think I went code blue there for a minute!’
I replied ‘nope! No worries, you didn’t! You’re totally fine and your vitals were pristine! You don’t have to worry, you’re safe! So what’s your birth date?’
She looked super annoyed.”
When You’re Crazy, You’re Crazy
“We have this patient that is a pretty classic case of Munchausen (i.e. she has a condition that drives her to pretend she has illnesses that she does not have) – She was operated on some 30 years ago for cerebral echinococcosis (dog tapeworm in brain for those w/o med ed).
A few months after the initial operation she had developed hydrocephalus (extra fluid in the brain) which required the implantation of a shunt to alleviate pressure. This was all fine and dandy until about 10 years ago when she started to (very regularly) come for a ‘check up’ which was usually: ‘You’re fine, go live your life.’ She wasn’t getting enough of the attention she so sorely needed, of which she had had a lot when she was still a child/teen with a few brain operations, so she decided to start getting various lab and imaging tests to ‘prove us wrong.’
On one of the readings a fellow radiologist stated that one of the (by the way LOOOONG dead) cysts was still possibly active, even though it was so calcified it was the same density as her thick skull, a sure sign that it was no longer viable, but whatever. It was nearly impossible to explain that there is no way this thing is still alive after 3 decades of antiparasitics and negative lab tests, so with a lot of pushiness, she got herself an exploratory brain surgery of the cyst (noninvasive thank god) which, of course, proved that she had a dead worm in her head.
Fast forward a few months later, she had obviously found out that the type of shunt we used to alleviate pressure in her brain can fail so she comes to us complaining of severe headaches and claiming textbook hydrocephalus symptoms. Then she claimed she cured it by SELF injecting diuretics (things that help with urine production) at home to help with the ‘swelling’… I was hard-pressed to find any injection site wounds on this crazy woman, but hey, since my attendings wanted it, I gave the wack job a spinal tap (a removal of fluid from the spinal column to remove pressure), after which she claimed she was headache free for about a month.
Surely enough one month later she comes back demanding we replace her shunt, saying this one must be broken. I say no, try to get her a psych consult which she declines (she’s not crazy, what was I thinking…). So I decide to go the other way… Prove to her that she is faking. I lay her down on her side and proceed to perform a mock-spinal tap (put a sterile needle in her back and fill a bottle with sodium chloride solution rather than her spinal fluid). I tell the patient to wait until tomorrow when she feels better to submit the ‘sample’ for lab testing… You can imagine the conversation that ensued on the next day… Anyway got rid of her, she is still lugging her 500 page personal record around, refusing the treatment she actually needs.
It was sad as I am very aware that Munchausen’s is not her fault, it’s just that I cannot treat imaginary illnesses at the cost of valuable time and hospital resources. I was firm and reassuring with her for more than 2 years and was begging her to get the psych consult she needed, there was nothing more I could do.”
How Did That Get Up There?
“Guy came in to the ED with a hand infection from shooting up. During my history-taking interview he denied ever having surgery before, but on the abdominal exam he had an obvious large abdominal surgery scar. When I asked him about it, he said he had surgery for liver cancer but couldn’t afford his follow up care.
Now, I was an intern, very junior in my training, and still not as jaded as I am now, so I was very concerned and asked him where he had been getting his cancer care so I could get the records and maybe try to get him an appointment in our system. He told me, signed a release, I faxed it over, and a little while later I received his records.
No liver cancer. None. The scar? It was from an ex lap (exploratory laparotomy, e.g. opening up the abdomen to see what badness is inside). He needed the ex lap for (something many of my colleagues may see coming) the removal of a rectally-inserted shampoo bottle.
That was one of the last times I took a patient’s entire story at face value. Now I’m more of a ‘trust, but verify’ type of person.”
“I worked in the ER, and I once had a patient state that they had been a victim of domestic abuse, which we take very seriously. Scratches and injuries were all over their body but there seemed to be an odd pattern to it. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but then I realized they were left handed and all the injured areas were right to left slashes and were only in areas that could be reached by the person. I asked more questions for clarification and the story kept changing.
A police officer arrived to take a statement and before they spoke with them, they finally admitted to me that they had been self inflicted so they could get the house in the divorce and keep their pot farm growing.”
But Casts R Cool
“Had this teenage girl, probably 16, come in saying that her wrist was broken. Her mom was behind her rolling her eyes after every time she would tell me how bad it hurt. She then proceeded to ‘flop it’ in an attempt to show me how bad it hurt when she did that. She said it was clearly broken and she would need a cast. I said I would take her back and let the doctor do some x-rays and do their thing. The mother asked to talk to me outside of the room and she told me her daughter’s friend recently got a cast and her daughter was notorious for being overly jealous. I just responded by saying that if they were anything wrong, it would show up in the x-ray. Guess what? She didn’t get a cast and threw a fit. Last I saw her she was crying and throwing a temper tantrum outside of the waiting room and being dragged out by her very embarrassed mom.”
Can You Pay Me Now?
“Had a patient fake having a stroke. Even received the clot buster medication, went through all the CTs and MRIs, the whole shebang. Faked the one-sided weakness, severe speech and language deficits. Didn’t help that her speech/language errors were grossly inconsistent. And that she kept forgetting which side was supposed to be her weaker side when working with PT/OT. Or that she was caught Googling aphasia symptoms on her phone (despite being completely unable to read simple words at eval.) She was trying to get on disability. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as she was told workman’s comp won’t pay and that she would not be able to drive for an indefinite amount of time (after just having such a severe stroke, after all) the next day her speech and language symptoms were completely resolved. A goddang Christmas miracle in July.
A couple years later, I see a woman for the exact same thing. Literally talking on the phone, chatting it up with family present but as soon as I come in her language falls apart. Even the elderly mother comments ‘It’s so strange how she was just talking to us just fine but you have her try to read or say a couple words aloud and it’s impossible! Why is that?’
‘…I’ll be right back.’
I check her chart and pull up old notes. My old notes. It’s the same woman as before. I tell the physician about her faking and he’s on the same page as me.
The best part was walking back into the room and having her ask ‘so when can I get outta here and start driving again?’
‘Oh dear, no!’ I wave the wasted time of a fake evaluation I just had to complete with her. ‘From the deficits I saw on your eval, as well as PT/OT documenting fluctuating vision issues, there’s no way any doctor will let you on the road for quite a while without some rehab prior!’
The look on her face when I said that made it almost worth all the time I had to waste on her jerking me around with her malingering.
I’m sure symptoms magically resolved the next day.”
The White Nose Powder Unicorn
“Had a patient who said he was going to test positive for coke.
Okay. We’re not the cops. We weren’t going to test him against his will but thanks for the info?
He explained that the reason he’d test positive isn’t because he sucks down coke like carbs, like his sister said. It’s because ‘his body makes it.’ He’s a medical miracle, he told us.
Every time we went in the room, the story got more elaborate. He’d talk how he’d been tested before and how specialists had flown in to see him and done surgery to examine his ‘coke gland’ or whatever it was. That they were writing papers about him.
All we really wanted was for him to understand that his pesky chest pain problem would get a whole lot better if he wasn’t constantly doing the home version of a cardiac stress test via the white nose powder. He didn’t want to hear it.”
It’s A Calm Kind Of Seizure
“EMS partner goes for a female caught shoplifting, now seizing. Get her into the back of the truck, and she starts randomly and violently shaking again. Partner (so sincerely, I don’t know how he managed it) says ‘oh my! What’s going on?’
Patient says: ‘oh I must be having another seizure!’
Partner: ‘oh ok! Well, let me know when it’s finished, okay?’
Patient: ‘yep! Ok!’
After a few minutes where the patient is still flopping around on the bed, partner says, sounding very caring and concerned, ‘do you think it’s stopping?’
Patient: ‘no not quite yet….maybe once we drive away….’
(For those unaware, a person having a tonic-clonic seizure can NOT hold a conversation …. Also, shoplifters ALWAYS seem to either spontaneously develop seizures or chest pain. It’s an epidemic really…).”
Where Is The Source?!
“I was covering overnight in an ICU. I get signout on our 40-odd super sick patients. The day team tells me about one patient: 40-something female, stable vitals, no real past medical history, but she’s having profuse bright red bloody diarrhea. ‘Don’t freak out, though, when you see the toilet bowl; she’s been totally stable for days.’ Apparently she’s already gotten a colonoscopy and an upper endoscopy and they haven’t found the source of her bleeding yet, but it doesn’t seem life-threatening. Sure enough, I do my 11pm rounds and when I get to her room she looks nervous and tells me she just had another bloody bowel movement, and I look at the toilet bowl and HOLY CRAP THAT’S A LOT OF BLOOD!! It looks like someone just dumped a bucket of crimson blood in the bowl. I would have immediately FREAKED OUT if it hadn’t been for the warning from the last team. I deal with the rest of the sick patients and don’t hear anything else about her overnight and go home the next day.
A couple months later I overhear a couple of my friends talking about her. Turns out they did multiple additional colonoscopies and upper endoscopies and capsule studies, tagged red blood cell scans, angiography including provocation studies (injecting medications to make her bleed) with interventional radiology (in short, just about everything) to try to find the source of the bleeding and nothing ever showed up). Eventually she apparently got a SIGMOID COLECTOMY (major surgery to remove a part of her colon) and the bleeding STILL persisted. Then one day, weeks after the colectomy, as she’s having ongoing sporadic bleeding nearly every day, nurses apparently found multiple syringes with dried blood among her personal effects. Turned out she was drawing her own blood and injecting it into the toilet bowl all along.
It’s crazy what a mentally ill person will do for attention.”
All The Cool Kids Have Them
“My Dad is an optometrist (eye doctor) and he deals with crazy patients all the time.
A parent walks in with their child who was around 7-8. The parent says something along the lines of ‘X complains about not being able to see the board.’ So my dad brings them in the exam room and asks the child ‘Does anyone you know have glasses?’
Kid answers ‘Well A B and C do.’ Yellow Flag because the kid mentions them by name and it seems like it’s a social thing. My dad uses a machine called a ‘phoropter’ which has a bunch of lenses in it of the different magnifications. Usually, the first thing he does is swap 0.0x and 1.0x magnification ask typical ‘which is clearer #1 or #2?’
The kid answers the number that corresponds with 0.0x mag lens about 5 more times. Red Flag. Dad brings out trial frames with 0.0x lenses.
The child puts them on and starts exclaiming how it’s so much clearer while my dad is just whispering to the parent that ‘those literally have no effect on his vision.’
The sad thing is this happens around twice a month.”
Cynicism Is A Tough Pill To Swallow
“I’m an ER nurse, and because so many people in the health-care industry are so jaded now, I once went in to get pain relief for a broken ankle and was accused of faking it.
I rolled my ankle so hard I snapped the bone, tendon, muscle… didn’t call an ambulance because I was in rural Canada and I didn’t know how far my travel insurance went as far as ambulances go, so I managed to struggle to a car and hospital. By the time we got there and inside my ankle was THREE times its usual size… I filled out the initial forms….. even though was in the worst pain of my life… sat at the triage desk with a friend holding up my ankle because any time it dropped even slightly I made a noise I’ve never made before and a nurse was asking me more questions about my travel insurance and forms… I said ‘look I’m not meaning to be rude but please may I have some pain relief to get in my system… I’ve already had basic analgesia can I have an endone? (Oxy)’
She scoffed at me and told me ‘you can’t walk into ED and demand pain meds people are going to think you’re a narcotics seeker.'”
“I am a nurse, and one time I had this guy who was super sick with a crazy low potassium who wouldn’t stop throwing up. I’m throwing every anti nausea medicine I can at him. Still puking nonstop. I’ve got a powerful potassium solution going in him through an IV but having to run it slow because it burns and so I know I’m really going to have to give him some potassium pills but it would defeat the purpose with all the puking plus potassium typically makes people nauseous anyways. So I’m doomed either way.
Anyways after messing with this guy for like 10 hours trying to get it under control, I walk in on him sticking his finger down his throat to make himself puke. He owned up to it after I caught him and somehow miraculously wasn’t nauseous the rest of the time I had him.”